1) David Johnson – Cardinals
In the 2016 season, Johnson averaged 132 combined yards from scrimmage and 1.25 touchdowns. What separates him from the other competitors for the top spot for NFL fantasy runningbacks is his ability to consistently pile up yards in both the running and the passing game.
2) LeSean McCoy – Bills
McCoy is still at the tail end of his prime, and last year he averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Active in the rushing and passing game, he ought to be the focal point of the Bills’ offense this year, especially with some of their issues at quarterback.
3) Le’Veon Bell – Steelers
There’s an argument to be made that Bell deserves the top spot. From a pure yardage production standpoint, he outpaces even David Johnson. What drops him to the 3rd spot are two things: Slight difficulty scoring touchdowns (0.65 per game for his career) and some lingering drama with his camp holdout.
4) Jordan Howard – Bears
While Howard isn’t the receiver that any of the top 3 guys are, he makes up for it on the ground. As a rookie, Howard racked up 1300+ yards in only 14 games as the starting running back. All reports out of training camp are positive, and Howard should be the engine for the entire Chicago offense this year.
5) Melvin Gordon – Chargers
Gordon had a breakout second season for the Chargers, scoring 12 touchdowns and accumulating 1300+ all purpose yards in 13 games. What elevates him over other names on this list is the frequency with which he receives red zone targets and carries, which should keep the touchdowns flowing in 2017.
6) Jay Ajayi – Dolphins
Ajayi was the epitome of ‘boom or bust’ in 2016, producing 3 games of 200+ yards but also failing to tally 80+ yards in any other games. So there’s some risk in his profile. But you can’t ignore the upside that those breakout games suggest, and this year the Dolphins should trust Ajayi more than they did in 2016.
7) Devonta Freeman – Falcons
By pure production alone, Freeman is clearly one of the top 3 NFL Fantasy runningbacks, having produced 1500+ yards and 13+ touchdowns in each of the last two years. The issue here is the emergence of Tevin Coleman as a complementary back, giving the Falcons the option of lessening Freeman’s workload. Nevertheless, expect Freeman to put up big numbers this year in the potent Falcons offense.
8) Leonard Fournette – Jaguars
Fornette has a chance to be this year’s Ezekiel Elliot, as everything suggests the rookie will take to the NFL game immediately. Expectations should be tempered by the fact that Jacksonville’s offense isn’t nearly as strong as the Cowboys’ was, but Fournette should be a steady performer from week 1.
9) DeMarco Murray – Titans
After a short and unproductive stint in Philadelphia, Murray bounced back strongly in 2016 with the Titans. He’ll need to hold off promising backup Derrick Henry, but Murray still has the tools to put up a premium fantasy stat line.
10) Todd Gurley – Rams
No healthy player was more disappointing in 2016 than Todd Gurley. His drop from 4.8 yards per carry to 3.2 is hard to explain, and worrisome. However, his talent remains, and the Rams aren’t giving up on him. Expect Gurley to bounce back to closer to his 2015 form in 2017.
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