Fantasy Football 2017 – Running Backs

Fantasy Football 2017 – Running Backs

The impact of running backs have drastically decreased due to a pass heavy league. Moreover, there are a lot of time shares in the league that limit the value of most backs. In the current NFL, you really need to have running backs that can run and catch the ball out of the backfield for fantasy purposes. Cowbell backs who do both are fantasy gold since there are so few of them in the league. In general, you need a high pick in the first round to nab them. However, there is a ridiculously talented group of running backs entering the league this year. It may be a league winning decision if you draft a rookie and hit on the correct one this year. Of course, a lot of work is needed during the season monitoring handcuffs and touches of fluid running back situations throughout the league. The strategy for the running backs should be to try your best to get two backs in the first three tiers then hope you hit on one or two backs in the last tier.

Tier 1
David Johnson Ari
Le’Veon Bell Pit

Tier 1 is a two back list this year. Both of these backs are great on the ground and in the catching game. For Le’Veon Bell, he has held out all of the preseason. The rust and lack of work usually does not bode well for players who hold out. Nevertheless, no one is going to pass on Bell if they cannot get their hands on Johnson.

Jordan Howard

Tier 2

LeSean McCoy Buf
Melvin Gordon LAC
Ezekiel Elliott Dal
Devonta Freeman Atl
Jordan Howard Chi
Jay Ajayi Mia
DeMarco Murray Ten

McCoy had a big comeback season in 2016. However, he has had a lot of work in his career. Moreover, Buffalo is rebuilding so the supporting cast around him is questionable. Consequently, I would try to stay away from him this season unless he falls in the draft. Melvin Gordon had a much better sophomore season than he did his rookie year. He produced like a top back. Nevertheless, his yard per carry were still only 3.9 yards. If the line play improves in San Diego, he has top 5 potential. Ezekiel Elliott is a tricky case this year. When he is on the field, he belongs with David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell in Tier 1. As it stands, he is slated to miss the first six games. As such, his draft position has dropped. It is not crazy to still draft him at the end of the first round or early second round. If you have a chance at him at the end of the second round or the third round, he will be difficult to resist. Devonta Freeman had a big year in 2016 and is one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL. However, the Falcons offense cannot perform better than it did last year. Moreover, Freeman shares caries with Tevin Coleman. As such, Freeman will likely not match last year’s stats. Of course, he is still a solid pick. Jordan Howard had a great rookie season after taking over the job. He had a stellar 5.2 yards per carry. He has a chance to bust out even more. The only big negative is the question marks surrounding the rest of the offense. Jay Ajayi had his issues at the beginning of last season before he rolled in the middle of the season. He tailed off significantly in the last month of the season. He has a lot of potential but I still do not think he is a given. The standard deviation on his projected production is still very high. Demarco Murray had a big comeback season in 2016. He will not produce the stats he did behind the great Dallas offensive line. Nonetheless, he is reliable and productive. He is one of the safer picks in this tier although with less upside as some of the other backs.


Tier 3
Leonard Fournette Jax
Todd Gurley LAR
Lamar Miller Hou
Isaiah Crowell Cle
Christian McCaffrey Car
Marshawn Lynch Oak
Joe Mixon Cin
Carlos Hyde SF
Ty Montgomery GB
Spencer Ware KC
Dalvin Cook Min

Fournette is the top rookie heading into the season. He is a classic pure runner but did not make a big impact catching the ball out of the backfield in college. He might be a better version of Gurley. However, Gurley tailed off considerably after a fast start to his career. Nevertheless, Fournette should get a lot of volume in Jacksonville. Even though his quarterback situation is suspect, they do have talent at the skill positions to provide enough support so opponents cannot load the box. I am not sure if he will be the most productive rookie but he should be the most certain to provide at least RB2 to RB1 stats. After Fournette, the next rookies are Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon, and Dalvin Cook. McCaffrey has looked great in preseason. He is also playing with Cam and a number 1 offense two years ago. He could be in line for the best rookie season. In terms of Mixon, he has looked good but he will probably split carries with Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill. The Bengals running situation has been very frustrating for fantasy owners in the past. Like McCaffrey, I like Cook a lot. He has differentiated himself in Minnesota, especially with the injury to free agent signing Latavius Murray. Moreover, his fantasy production extends to the passing game as he can line up as a receiver. He will be used similar to how Darren Sproles has been used in his career. In terms of Gurley, he is still very talented but the offense around him is garbage. It has limited his production. If Goff can take a leap forward with his new receiving weapons, Gurley could be in line for a big fantasy season. However, it is a flip of a coin because I do not really trust Goff despite his strides in the preseason. Lamar Miller had a lot of hype going into last season that propelled him to the top of draft boards. At this tier, he is a solid pick as a post hype player. He is entering his second season in Bill O’Brien’s system. If the quarterback play dramatically improves with Tom Savage or rookie Deshaun Watson, Miller could have the big season everyone expected last year.

Despite the futility of the Browns, Crowell produced very solid fantasy stats last year. The Browns improved their team so I expect him to produce similar results this year. In regards to Marshawn Lynch, he took last year off. He did not look great in the last season he played. A year off might have rejuvenated him but the Raiders are not going to use him like the cowbell back he has been in the past. He is more of a name than a given. I would let another fantasy owner take him unless he falls in your draft. Similar to Lamar Miller, Carlos Hyde is another post hype player. He should be solid despite the lack of talent around him. Nevertheless, his ceiling is capped by the lack of support. Ty Montgomery’s conversion to running back was a primary reason for the turnaround for the Packers in the second half of last year. Nonetheless, I am not so sure he can duplicate his production or maintain his role. Green Bay tends to churn their backs often. I will probably pass on Montgomery. Spencer Ware had a good season for Kansas City last year. However, he did not blow anyone away. I am not very sure the Chiefs will use him as their primary back.

Doug Martin

Tier 4
Mike Gillislee NE
Eddie Lacy Sea
Mark Ingram NO
C.J. Anderson Den
Adrian Peterson NO
LeGarrette Blount Phi
Tevin Coleman Atl
Paul Perkins NYG
Ameer Abdullah Det
Jay Prosch Hou
Danny Woodhead Bal
Bilal Powell NYJ
Frank Gore Ind
Doug Martin TB
Rob Kelley Was
Latavius Murray Min
Kenneth Dixon Bal
Derrick Henry Ten
Jeremy Hill Cin
Darren McFadden Dal
Samaje Perine Was
Jonathan Stewart Car
Matt Forte NYJ
Dion Lewis NE
Thomas Rawls Sea
Darren Sproles Phi
James White NE
Jamaal Charles Den
Terrance West Bal
Kareem Hunt KC
Rex Burkhead NE
Jacquizz Rodgers TB
C.J. Prosise Sea
Theo Riddick Det
Duke Johnson Jr. Cle
Jamaal Williams GB
Joe Williams SF
Wayne Gallman NYG

The rest of the running backs are either in time shares with no clear indication of who is the lead back or a handcuff. Here are some of my thoughts and buzz I have heard. In terms of the New England backs, Mike Gillislee is being tabbed as the replacement for Lagarette Blount. However, I usually stay away from any New England players for fantasy outside of Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski. They are totally unpredictable as an offense and can change the focal points of their attack week to week. As such, it is a nightmare for fantasy owners to anticipate and adjust their weekly lineups. Their running back can rush for 200 yards one week and then have less than 5 touches the following week. In regards to the running situation in Seattle, Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, or C.J. Prosise could emerge as the lead back. I would lean towards Rawls. Regardless, any lead back’s production will be limited by the poor offensive line. In terms of the New Orleans running situation, I expect them to have a good running game. Although Mark Ingram should be the primary back, Adrian Peterson was a big free agent signing and should have something left in the tank. Accordingly, they are going to limit each other’s stats unless one underperforms or gets hurt. It is a flip of the coin guess picking either of them. C.J. Anderson is an interesting name. He has always had a lot of talent. He was huge in the Broncos postseason run to a Super Bowl title. However, he was a bust last season. He could be a great pick as a comeback player this year. On the other hand, he could easily flame out again. Jamaal Charles best days are behind him but he does provide an alternative for the Broncos if Anderson flops.

LeGarette Blount could be a solid pick. However, he has not produced nearly as well in his career outside of New England. Moreover, he has not looked that great in preseason. Tevin Coleman is the best handcuff in football. He put up very useful fantasy stats despite being the second back in Atlanta. If Freeman ever gets hurt, Coleman is gold. However, I do not think he duplicates last year’s stats if his role remains the same. I expect some regression to the Atlanta offense because it is extremely difficult for them to play better than they did last year. Paul Perkins had a lot of expectations going into this season. Unfortunately, he has looked bad. Wayne Gallman has been getting a lot of buzz from the Giants. Nevertheless, the offensive line has been terrible like it was last year. Unless it changes, no Giants running back will be all that relevant for fantasy purposes. Ameer Abdullah is a popular sleeper pick. He has talent but has been injury pone. He is a good gamble in this tier. Terrance West is the lead back in Baltimore from last year. However, he is less than impressive. I expect Danny Woodhead to be productive as a flex play. Bilal Powell is a good player. Unfortunately, he will play for one of the worst offenses in the league. As such, neither he or Matt Forte are much more than flex plays. Frank Gore’s best days are behind him but he still put up decent RB2 stats. Nevertheless, I would not rely too much on him. His advanced age provides a lot of downside. Doug Martin could be a good pick for a rebound year. The Buccaneers have said good things about his conditioning. However, he is suspended the first three games. Accordingly, Jacquizz Rodgers will start the season as the primary back. He will have the opportunity to secure touches for the rest of the season if he plays well. Similarly, Darren McFadden will get the chance to produce with Ezekiel Elliott suspended the first part of the season.

In terms of the Washington running game, Rob Kelley played well at the end of last year. He will start the year as the lead back. Nevertheless, he is nothing special and could be replaced if someone starts to play better behind him. Jeremy Hill is a good handcuff pick because I doubt the Bengals go heavy on rookie Joe Mixon when they like to split carries. Other good handcuff picks are Kareem Hunt in Kansas City and Jamaal Williams in Green Bay.

Overall in this tier, I would definitely target Mark Ingram first despite Adrian Peterson in the picture. Then, I would pick from C.J. Anderson, Thomas Rawls (Lacy or Prosise if you believe one of them will take the job), Ameer Abdullah, Rob Kelley, Doug Martin, or Lagarette Blount as running backs with a lot of fantasy upside. Next, I would pick Darren McFadden because he can be very productive behind the Dallas line in the early season when Ezekiel is out.  With the same logic, I would take a flier on Jacquizz Rodgers. Then, I would go for the better handcuffs: Tevin Coleman, Jeremy Hill, Kareem Hunt, and Jamaal Williams. Finally, I would take a flier on some of the rest of the names depending on how many more backs I feel I need to speculate on. With the injury to Spencer Ware, Kareem Hunt moves up the list. I would put him in the back end of Tier 3.
For tiers for other positions:
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends, Defenses, and Kickers

Pat Wong

About Pat Wong

Patrick is a contributor for Rookerville. He is an avid sports fan. Before joining Rookerville, he was part of a defunct New York Yankees message board, NYYankeefans, where he was its top poster and was inducted in its Hall of Fame for his contributions. Patrick is also a passionate fan of movies. He has enjoyed reading movie reviews over the years and is excited about the opportunity to review movies. Patrick is also a passionate foodie. He is Yelp Elite for three years in a row and shares his great finds in New York and his travels.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: