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Here at Triple Coverage sports, we are gearing up for one of the most important times of the year. The beginning of the NFL season, and the start of another year of fantasy football. Now if you are like us and hope NEED to win your league we have begun compiling our top 10 lists for your reading pleasure.
Today we focus on running backs. With the recent trend of picking wide receivers near the top of the draft taking off there has been a lack of respect for the running back. Gone are the days when you picked workhorse backs like LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander and Larry Johnson in the first two rounds and rode them to a championship. However, if you are like me and still abide by the rule “running backs win fantasy championships” then you are in luck. Here are some of the backs you should be looking at if you want to show those receiver loving friends of yours what’s what.
- Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley comes in at number one on my top-10 fantasy running backs list. While I am normally a firm believer in the dreaded sophomore slump, Gurley is destined for stardom and, if he remains healthy, the former 10th overall pick will be a major contributor on offense for the Rams as they begin their first season back in Los Angeles. Also, with rookie QB Jared Goff (presumably) starting look for the Gurley to get the ball early and often and build on his 1,106 yard, 10 touchdown rookie season.
2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Look, there are some certainties in life. Death, Taxes, and Adrian Peterson being a top-five fantasy running back. The 31-year-old, entering his 10th year in the league is once again poised to have a dominant year. While QB Teddy Bridgewater has shown signs of promise in his young career this is still Peterson’s team and I would expect him to get more than his fair share of touches.
3. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
That’s right folks, Ezekiel Elliott, a rookie, is coming in at number three. Now this may surprise some, but given Le’Veon Bell’s looming suspension (more on him later) that opens up a space at the top of the draft board. Elliott was a monster at Ohio State and is coming into the best possible situation, running behind a Cowboys offensive line that made Joseph Randle (remember him) and Darren McFadden look good. Do not let the rookie label scare you, the Cowboys strong offensive line combined with Elliott’s undeniable talent will make for fantasy gold this year.
4. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
Another second-year player with potential breakout ability. Johnson is not as sure a thing as Gurley, but did impress in his time last year to the tune of 125 carries, 581 yards, and 8 touchdowns. The issue here is that he will be in a crowded backfield with Chris Johnson (no relation), who was having a good season until a fractured tibia put him out of action for the year. To me David Johnson is a lot like Jeremy Hill of the Cincinnati Bengals. Both burst onto the scene in their rookie years showing they were hard runners with a nose for the end zone. Hill struggled last year from a fantasy standpoint and I fear Johnson may also have some dry spells in his second year. For now, Johnson is in the four spot based on potential and a lack of sure things at running back, but don’t say I didn’t warn you if he struggles.
5. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
Here is where the running back category gets a little tricky. As of this moment, the top 5 is rounded out with the breakout star from last season but this is subject to change. Freeman flew out of the gates last year, carrying the Atlanta Falcons, and his fantasy owners, to good records. Many will say that as the season went on Freeman’s production dropped, and that his overall rushing stats are not to impressive (1,056 yards, 11 touchdowns) but, when you factor in his importance in the passing game suddenly his stats become much more impressive (1,634 all-purpose yards, 14 touchdowns). While he will be pushed by Tevin Coleman, the Falcons week 1 starter last year, Freeman is still invaluable to the Falcons passing game and his receiving production should help cover up some of his weaker rushing games.
6. Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
The first player not on the same team as last year to make this list is Lamar Miller, who is now a Houston Texan after leaving the Miami Dolphins in free agency. Miller has long been a player to watch but never quite realized his full potential in Miami. Now he is in Houston as part of the revamped Texan offence, that now features Brock Osweiler at QB, Miller will look to buck the trend of being good but not great and has a chance to shine as the feature back in Houston taking over for the departed Arian Foster.
7. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Ingram is a similar case to Devonta Freeman in the sense that he is crucial to the Saints passing offence. He provides Drew Brees with the safety net out of the backfield that he loves going to so much. His season was cut short due to injury, but if healthy Ingram is threat for over 1000 yards on the ground and over 500 yards through the air making him a very valuable commodity in the fantasy world. You would like to see a few more touchdowns out of him this year, but those should come based on how often he touches the ball.
8. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Charles is another player coming off a season-ending injury last year but the Chiefs most dynamic offensive weapon was electric before his injury posting 364 yards and four touchdowns. The Chiefs still have Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, and both played well in Charles absence, but Charles is still the lead dog in KC. Plus Andy Reid loves to run the football (just ask anyone who owned Travis Kelce or Jeremy Maclin last season) so expect Charles to pick up right where he left off before he got injured.
9. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug “don’t call me muscle hamster” Martin comes in at number nine. Martin was a workhorse for the Bucs last year as he helped ease both Jameis Winston’s transition to the NFL and the poor taste left in his fantasy owners mouth after two subpar years. Martin was back with a vengeance last season rushing for 1,402 yards. With Winston entering his second year in the league the Bucs will not need to lean on Martin as much but I anticipate his numbers will be roughly around where they were last year, and he would be a great pick up should you miss out on any of the top tier backs.
10. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
McCoy had an up and down first year with the Buffalo Bills after being traded by the Philadelphia Eagles. McCoy posted 895 yards, with 3 touchdowns on the ground and had to compete with Karlos Williams for touches. I expect things to be a little different in Buffalo this year. ‘Shady’ is now in his second year with the Bills and should be more used to playing with Tyrod Taylor, and perhaps more importantly, be over his exit from the Eagles so hopefully LeSean is back to focusing on football. Williams being suspended for the first four games of the season also doesn’t hurt McCoy’s fantasy output.
WILDCARD: Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers running back will most likely be suspended for the first four games of the NFL season, but make no mistake, when Bell does play he would be the top fantasy back, and would likely top these rankings ahead of Gurley. Bell would be worth a pick after outside the first round. Plus, he could be a major steal if other teams pass on him as his pay off when he does come back could put your team over the top as you push for the playoffs.
Honourable Mentions: Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks; Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers; Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers