Rankings by: Alex Cannata
Response by: Caleb Edelman
Intro by: Colin Chiles
The next installment of our fantasy guide series is what might be the most shallow position in all of fantasy, and maybe because of that, the most important.THIS time we’re going to add a little drama to the rankings, as we probably should have in the first article. We will be starting with #20. Take it away Alex…
20) C.J. Anderson
C.J. is a solid running back in a questionable situation. If Jamaal Charles and Devontae Booker stay out of the way, then Anderson should stay startable through volume alone.
19) Doug Martin
Even with the 3-game suspension to start the season Martin has a ton of upside. Expect him to be back to his normal self after Week 3.
18) Eddie Lacy
The supposedly skinnier Eddie Lacy gets a new shot in Seattle. When Lacy is right he can be a very effective runner. When he’s not he can be a very effective cheeseburger murderer.
17) Christian McCaffrey
McCaffrey’s value is going to come down to if he’s a good gadget player getting 8 carries per game or if he’s going to get the 18-22 carries per game that you’d want from a starter. I’ll bet that McCaffrey is limited as a ball carrier in 2017 as Jonathan Stewart continues to produce.
16) Marshawn Lynch
What does Lynch have left in the tank? Will the Raiders give him a full complement of carries? If Lynch gets hurt early does he just hang his cleats up? Plenty of questions about Lynch, but the offensive lines and the upside aren’t. Plus he spent at least some of his year off in Scotland, doing wheelies and playing chicken with busses while on a bike. so if that’s not an upside then I don’t know what is.
15) Dalvin Cook
The Vikings’ run game was a train wreck in 2016. It should be better this year and Cook is much better than the RBs that they had. Cook needs to fully overtake Latavius Murray to give owners confidence, but I see him as the RB to own on the Vikings
14) Joe Mixon
Mixon is most likely the best all-around talent in that Cincinnati backfield. Don’t be surprised when Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard end up being a headache for Mixon owners, and not the other way around.
13) DeMarco Murray
Both Murray and the Titans’ offensive line were pleasant surprises in 2016. My worry with Murray is that Derrick Henry cuts into his workload even more this year.
12) Ezekiel Elliot
Zeke’s situation isn’t as flawless as people think, but he still has arguably the best tackle, guard, and center in the league blocking for him. When he’s out there, he’s a clear top RB. The suspension hurts. If you are in a keeper situation where you feel great about being able to make the playoffs without him, then I’d bump Zeke up to #3 overall. Getting a heathy elite RB Week 8 sounds fantastic to me. But using your 2nd round pick on a player that likely won’t play until Week 8 might be doom for most teams.
11) Jordan Howard
Howard in my opinion is 2017’s most overrated running back. He’s a Solid player in an average situation. He really relied on some un-repeatable production while the Bears were getting blown out in 2016.
10) Carlos Hyde
When he’s on the field he’s a great running back. However, injuries and San Francisco being a dumpster fire are the only things holding him back.
9) Lamar Miller
Lamar was one of the more polarizing running backs over the last year. He’s a good running back on a team that should be a solid situation. That’s enough to vault him into the top 10 for me.
8) Devonta Freeman
Devonta is a solid player that has been in a pretty good situation. Tevin Coleman’s potential workload increase is a risk, and honestly the Falcons had an amazing year last year that they might have trouble recreating.
7) Jay Ajayi
I’ll bet against three more 200 yard games in 2017, but Ajayi should have more than enough work to produce again. Plus Jay Cutler is his QB now, and have you seen that ass???
6) Leonard Fournette
Expect Jacksonville to have their first huge season from a running back since Maurice Jones-Drew. Fournette is a monster, not even Blake Bortles can slow him down.
5) Todd Gurley
2016 was brutal, but I’m betting on the talent with Gurley. His situation couldn’t be any worse but he is so talented.
4) Melvin Gordon
Ignore the yards per carry, he’s a dynamic do-it-all running back. Expect a big season, even if the Chargers only win 5 games in front of 12 fans (eight of which will be kids of Philip Rivers).
3) LeSean McCoy
Somehow still really good at football and Shady just continues to show the elusiveness year over year. My only concerns are injuries and any decline due to workload.
2) David Johnson
Johnson is a great running back that took the league by storm in 2016. Do the TDs keep up in a offense that looks to be merely average?
1) Le’Veon Bell
Bell is an excellent running back, in an excellent situation. His only negatives are a propensity to injury and the potential for suspension. When he’s on the field he’s as good as it gets.
Alex’s Overall Running Back Analysis:
Easily the most important situation in fantasy, you want to get this right. Take running backs early and often, don’t be afraid of the injury risk. This is a position where you want to be able to withstand the barrage of injuries and disappointments that will inevitably take down plenty of runners. Use later picks on high-upside running backs and valuable handcuffs for your starters.
I agree that you want to get RB right, I can see the case for this being the most important position in fantasy. But literally all the top running backs (excluding David Johnson) have concerns whether it is due to injury history, impending suspensions, a terrible offense, or because they face competition for a full-time role. This makes me want to target WRs early and just hope that I get lucky with a breakout RB this year or have a handcuff land a starting role. In my humble opinion, Devonta Freeman and Christian McCaffrey are ranked way too low here and I could easily see moving each up around 5 spots. I’m passing on Fournette, Hyde, and Howard at these prices.