It’s my favorite time of year again. No not football season…sort of. It’s fantasy football season. My fellow colleague and I created an IDP league over a decade ago and we’ve been tweaking the scoring every year to make it the most “Realistic” fantasy football experience. Our last 2 MVP’s were Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. I love competing against people and finding the gems on the waiver wire in order to beat my opponents and make the playoffs.
I’ve been playing fantasy for over a decade and have won multiple leagues and on Yahoo accumulated a record of 144-78. Yahoo ranks this as the Diamond level which I find pretty cool. Needless to say, I love talking fantasy football and trying to accurately predict who will have the best seasons.
I’m going to give a few of my top picks at each position in the coming days/weeks as well as offer any advice during the season. Today I want to take a look at the Running Backs who I’m looking at in the first 2 rounds.
RB Fantasy Rankings:
1.) LeVeon Bell was the 2nd points leader by a RB last season in my league and there’s no reason he won’t be a “Bell” cow again. He’s 26 and looking for a new contract. If he doesn’t resign in Pittsburgh, I would think they would try to get as much production out of him as possible. It’s either him or Gurley at the top for me.
2.) Todd Gurley led my league in points last year for RB’s and was 2nd in our MVP standings. I expect him to continue his dominance and reach at least 1200 yards rushing again. I only drop him at 2 because of personal preference with PPR or .5PPR. At the top you can go either way and be golden.
3.) Ezekiel Elliot will be back for a full season and in full vengeance mode. The Dallas O-line is the best in the NFL and the additions of Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns will keep opposing defenses from loading the box which should allow Elliot to post his best season to date. I would strongly consider him for the top spot in any fantasy format.
4.) David Johnson had a huge let down for fantasy owners last season after getting hurt for the year in game 1. I look for him to bounce back and continue to offer a high ceiling, if he can stay on the field. I don’t expect him to have MVP type numbers from 2 seasons ago but as long as he’s on the field he’ll be a top fantasy option once again. (Fingers Crossed)
5.) Melvin Gordon was able to play the entire season injury free and fantasy owners were able to enjoy what Gordon brings to the table. The offense took a hit with the injury to Hunter Henry however they Chargers still have plenty of weapons. The offensive saw a major overhaul with additions of C Mike Pouncey and LT Russell Okung. Add in getting 2nd round pick Forrest Lamp back from injury and the Chargers should have one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. Melvin Gordon should be able to thrive this year.
6.) Kareem Hunt was a huge excitement last year. The Rookie out of Toledo took the AFC West and NFL by storm on route to leading the league in Rushing Yards with 1,327 while adding 455 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns. Andy Reid loves utilizing running backs and with Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Sammy Watkins all over the field, it’ll be tough for opposing teams to game plan against Hunt. Kareem Hunt does have an off the field issue as well as a hamstring issue he dealt with this offseason. It’ll be interesting if he’ll get as many touches with Sammy Watkins in town but Kareem Hunt should still be a solid RB1 in 2018.
7.) Alvin Kamara had a breakout season last year posting over 1,500 all purpose yards. Once the Saints weren’t trying to manage 3 running backs by committee, the offense opened up for Kamara as he solidified his role in Sean Payton’s system. With Ingram slated to miss the first 4 games, the obvious early season value is there and once Ingram comes back he looks to stay heavily involved in the offense. PPR ranks would have Kamara higher but he still has to share the rock with another top end RB so I think he fits nicely here.
8.) Leonard Fournette missed 3 games last year and was able to rush for over 1,000 yards while adding another 302 through the air. The Jags lost their top 2 wide outs (even though Robinson didn’t play last year) so the offense will have much more emphasis on Fournette to carry the load. The opportunities with be there for him and with the RPO’s still being a trend in the NFL I look for him to solidify himself as one of the premiere backs in the NFL.
9.) Christian McCaffery is getting some hit or miss dialogue going in terms of fantasy this year but I love McCaffery this year in PPR or .5PPR formats. The main reason is because when David Johnson had his breakout season the Arizona Cardinals had a terrible offensive line. Carson Palmer was having to check down to the RB because he was under an insane amount of pressure on almost every snap. The Panthers look to have a porous O-line now due to injuries and losing Andrew Norwell in the offseason. I like the outlook fantasy wise for the pass-catching option in CMC as well as his ability to make big plays happen. Also, sharing the load with C.J. Anderson should give him value throughout the entire season.
10.) Devonta Freeman has obvious concussion concerns but in a 10 man league he wouldn’t be a bad 2nd round pick. He’s still in line to carry the bulk of the load this year and with Hooper looking to emerge as a pass catching option along with any series with Calvin Ridley on the field and Freeman could be in line to have a really solid year. The addition of Brandon Fusco as the starting RG should help open up the running game even more, something Sarkisian and Quinn have made an emphasis on in the offseason. The major concern is injuries and one has to think if he gets another concussion that the value pick here is Tevin Coleman.
Tevin Coleman is the primary pass catching back in Atlanta and injury concerns would give Coleman starting duties. He has shown he is capable of producing when given the opportunity to fill-in for Freeman as well as bringing value as the 2nd back as well. Coleman would be a good later round pick to stash or use in 3 or 4 deep RB leagues.
Saquon Barkley has a lot of hype going for him, but I’m never really high on drafting rookies in the 1st round. It worked out last season but it doesn’t work out every year. Maybe Barkley has a top 10 fantasy season or maybe he just has a really good season. I’d take him in the 2nd round though because it is always best to have #1s on your team.
Jordan Howard definitely deserves to be higher on this list but with a new OC who’s looking to throw the ball more, it looks like his touches are going to shrink a little. Though it’s hard argue against back to back 1,100+ yard seasons and 16 total touchdowns.
Dalvin Cook was on pace to have one of the better years last season until he tore his ACL. I’m hesitant with guys coming back from knee injuries but if he is 100% and ready to go he will be in line for a huge year even with Latavius Murray splitting time.
Joe Mixon will probably flourish this season and if he’s available in the 3rd round I’d pick him up. He probably won’t be so I’m probably going to miss out on him and draft a top-tier WR.
Derrick Henry was a good draft and stash pick last year and now that he’s the top back in Tennessee within an offensive system focused on pounding the rock. He should have every opportunity to get goal line TDs as well as bulk yardage from the amount of carries alone. Henry has a lot of upside this year and could be in line for a breakout season.
*All stats from NFL.com