In this installment we take a look at running backs. 2016, seemed to be the resurgence in the running game in the NFL. With rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Jordan Howard helping to re-energize the position.
1. David Johnson, Cardinals- I knew Johnson could be one of the most dynamic backs in 2016, and I was not wrong. My only concern was his durability, and he put that to bed with a superstar season. Even with a shaky Carson Palmer, Johnson should be the consensus #1 pick in next year’s draft.
2. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys- He was the easiest prediction to make, running behind the league’s #1 offensive line, Ezekiel Elliott did not disappoint. It took him a few weeks, but he quickly adapted to the NFL game. I expect him to get even better and stronger going into 2017.
3. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers- As long as he doesn’t catch another suspension, Bell should be a top 5 pick in your 2017 draft. Playing in one of the NFL’s top offenses doesn’t hurt.
4. DeMarco Murray, Titans- Murray bounced back nicely, running behind a dominant offensive line. No reason to think why he shouldn’t continue as one of the premier NFL rushers.
5. Melvin Gordon, Chargers- Gordon broke out in year 2, and should be a top running back in the league for years to come. He got banged up at the end of the season, but should be ready to go for 2017.
6. Devonta Freeman, Falcons- My number one concern with Freeman was his durability, and Devonta answered that with another solid season. His only downside is fellow running back Tevon Coleman. With the Falcons offense hitting on all cylinders, expect Freeman to be a top 5 back for 2017.
7. Jordan Howard, Bears- Howard has proven he can be a RB1, very capable of putting up huge numbers any given week. He will probably get a little stronger going into year 2, and hopefully will have some more playmakers on offense.
8. Adrian Peterson, Vikings- AP is now at that age where you really don’t know what you are going to get from him from year to year. When RBs drop off, the change is usually really sudden. I probably wouldn’t take him in the first 3 rounds.
9. LeSean McCoy, Bills- McCoy has always been one of the most talented runners, but with that also goes the concern about his durability.
10. Todd Gurley, Rams- Hopefully with Goff in year 2, Gurley will stop seeing stacked fronts. He also plays in a division with the Seahawks, and Cardinals, which have top 5 defenses.
11 Latavius Murray, Raiders- Murry is solid, but kind of fades at times. He also gets carries/goal line looks vultured from Richard. He is a starting RB, but there is some risk there.
12. Jeremy Hill, Bengals- Hill proved to be the more durable back in Cincinnati, which means, he was on the field to get you points. I don’t see this changing for 2017.
13. LeGarrette Blount, Patriots- Not sure where to rank Blount. He had a magical season. You just don’t know with New England, and they love to change things up from week to week.
14. Lamar Miller, Texans- I expected a little more out of Miller, but I did not foresee his QB being the dud that he was. The Texans do like to run the ball, and that should continue in 2017.
15. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins- Showed he can carry the load for the most part. He should grow in Adam Gase’s offense.
16. Carlos Hyde, 49ers- Not sure if the 49ers will be fantasy relevant in 2017, but despite not being so in 2016, Gore had some nice games. He also disappeared at times.
17. Matt Forte, Jets- The Jets are a mess, and Forte was one of the bright spots. He had some injury issues down the stretch, but battled through them. Forte will be a steal if he comes back ready to go, and the Jets upgrade their QB.
18. Mark Ingram, Saints- Ingram was kind of hit and miss in 2016, not sure if it was on him or on the offensive line/play calling. Even though he might be the starting RB, he is more like an RB2.
19. KC RB- Will it be Spencer Ware, Jamal Charles, or someone else? Kansas City loves to run the ball and the running back is usually a huge part of the offense. Depending on who it is, and when they commit to them, they may be higher on this list.
20. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers- Stewart had a decent season despite some offensive woes. Depending on what players they add in the offseason, he could scoot up a couple spots.
There are a bunch of teams that normally run the ball prolifically, that haven’t due to a lack at the running back position. I expect Seattle, Denver, the Giants to get back to that in 2017. There will be some dynamic backs coming into the season for 2017. Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey as two of them. Keep your sights on where those two land.