Fantasy Football 2017: RB rankings
Counting down top fantasy backs of 2017
Ready to project the top fantasy running backs for 2017? Ben Standig is. Here are his top names for the upcoming season.
9. Leonard Fournette, TBD
Yes, this is something of a cheat, but as long as the incoming rookie and likely first RB selected in the 2017 NFL Draft doesn't land in a timeshare, look out. At least for the hype if nothing else, especially after Ezekiel Elliott's monster debut in Dallas. Though he missed time with an ankle injury, the 6-foot-1, 235-pounder averaged 6.5 yards per carry for the second straight season. That includes his massive 2015 season with 23 touchdowns and 1,953 rushing yards. Cleveland, Jacksonville and Carolina are teams holding top-10 picks that should be interested.
8. Melvin Gordon, Chargers
Made up for never finding the end zone as a rookie to scoring 10 times before suffering a season-ending injury hip injury. Gordon's 3.9 yards per carry isn't exciting and the Chargers made a head coaching change, but the dual threat should be good to go next season -- assuming Philip Rivers doesn't force his way out.
7. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins
Preseason hopes were curtailed when Miami added Arian Foster, but the second-year back eventually got his turn and ran with it. Not once, not twice, but three times did Ajayi top 200 yards in a single game. There were other weeks of ordinary work, but the highs overwhelmed all and leave owners dreaming of his upside while working with an impressive offensive line.
6. DeMarco Murray, Titans
Bounce back season and then some for the ex-Cowboy. Led the AFC with 1,287 rushing yards and scored 12 touchdowns overall, his second-highest season total for his career. That's also the third time in four seasons Murray has at least nine touchdowns and 50 receptions in the same season. It's worth noting Derrick Henry could steal some work. Assuming quarterback Marcus Mariota returns without issue from a fractured right foot, Tennessee's offense should remain potent with Murray the focal point.
5. LeSean McCoy, Bills
The season didn't look very special when McCoy opened with under 60 rushing yards in his first two games. The finish changed the outlook. Specifically, totaling over 100 yards in four his last five full games. McCoy had six of his 13 touchdowns in that stretch and finished with a league-best 5.4 yards per carry. Buffalo is entering a transition period after the firing of Coach Rex Ryan, but there shouldn't be any doubt for the next guy who leads the Bills offensively.
4. Jordan Howard, Bears
Ultimately beating out Jeremy Langford for the lead back role in Chicago was one thing. Finishing second in rushing with 1,313 yards is next level stunner. Howard also finished second in yards per carry (5.2) among the top 20 runners. Who opens 2017 as the Bears starting quarterback could drop the 2016 fifth round pick down a few spots, but don't expect a sophomore slump.
3. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
Looks like selecting a running back high in the NFL Draft isn't such a bad thing after all. Sure, it helps having an all-world offensive line on your side, but Elliott, who led the league with 1,631 yards, was no mere by-product of blocking artistry. The Cowboys offense should only become more explosive when fellow rookie Dak Prescott truly learns the league, which will only open the attack, which means even bigger running lane for the Ohio State product.
2. David Johnson, Cardinals
The top fantasy running back in 2016 -- and by a healthy margin -- showed his all-everything skills are frightening for opposing defenders and heaven sent for fantasy players. That's especially true in points-per-reception leagues as Johnson hauled in 80 receptions for 879 yards. Those dazzling stats are on top of 1,239 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. Sweet Fancy Moses that's some good work. Only the minor concern of his late season knee injury and the rest of Arizona's offense keeps him out of the top spot.
1. Le'Veon Bell, Steelers
Owners that risked selecting Bell in the early rounds knowing the Steelers standout would miss time with a suspension were richly rewarded in winning time. He rushed for at least 93 yards from Week 11-16 and totaled a whopping 298 yards from scrimmage with three touchdowns in Week 14 at Buffalo. Heck, Bell finished fifth in yards (1,268) despite missing four games. If he can avoid any off the field issues, we're talking about the No. 1 in most formats.
Possible other RB1 options
Devonta Freeman (Falcons), Todd Gurley (Rams), Lamar Miller (Texans), Carlos Hyde (49ers), Mark Ingram (Saints), Dalvin Cook (rookie) -- Gurley is the best to crack the top eight come draft day assuming Los Angeles comes up with a viable new coach and offensive game plan. The game-breaking Cook is one of possibly four running backs who could hear their name called in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.