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Top 10 Rookie Running Backs

Posted: September 2nd 2017   |   Modified: September 2nd 2017

Rookie Running Back Rankings


In the early beginnings of fantasy football, the landscape was dominated by running backs. The common strategy used to be drafting two running backs with your first two picks. This was a tried and true strategy for years as the NFL was more run centric and feature more bell cow running backs. Since the turn of the century, however, we have seen more and more emphasis on the passing game. In fact, since 2001, we have seen the singe season record for touchdowns in a season broken twice, we have seen a receiver put up 1,964 receiving yards in a season, and 19 of the top 20 single season passing yards have all come during this time. Combine that with the fact that teams are now treating the running back position as a committee approach, fantasy players’ stance on running backs have now shifted.

However, that could all change this year.

The 2017 running back class has the potential to be very, very special. There is a lot of hype surrounding the top names, but I believe there is a lot of depth behind the top guys, that could be sneaky good plays and help a lot teams win. In fact, not only do I think it would be wise to grab some of these players, but it maybe even necessary. Consider this, since 2012 there has been 14 rookie running backs who have finished the year as a RB 2 or better in standard formats. That’s about three rookie running backs a year who are top 24 options or better.

As we head into draft season, I’m aiming to have at least three rookie running backs on all my teams. However, as the running back landscape has changed in recent weeks, paired with rising ADP, it may be difficult to pull this off. Though, several of backs could be true game changers and elevate your fantasy team to the top of the standings, and if that’s the case, then they are well worth their ADP price.

Below are my top 10 rookie running backs heading into the season.

 1) Leonard Fournette - The consensus top running back heading into the 2017 draft. You don’t spend the fourth overall selection on a player and not use him, and Jaguars tend to do just that. Fournette figures to be the Jags workhorse back to help take pressure off quarterback Blake Bortles. He should also be line for a lot of goal line work, although the Jags finished 31st in the league with only 2.5 red zone trips per game, so it remains to be seen how much goal line work that will be. It also remains to be seen how Fournette will be used in the passing game, as he was very limited in that role at LSU.

 2) Christian McCaffrey- McCaffrey had an incredible career at Stanford where he displayed his all-around athletic ability and skills as he holds the NCAA single season record for all-purpose yards with 3,864. McCaffrey shown amazing vision, speed, and receiving chops at Stanford that Carolina would be wise to use. With Jonathon Stewart still on the roster I do believe McCaffrey’s touchdown and touches will be limited, but in PPR formats he could return his ADP value. I would say 50 catches this year is his floor.

3) Dalvin Cook- Cook was my favorite running back coming into the draft, and was surprised by his fall into the second round. Party due to his underwhelming combine performance. But don’t let that fool you, Cook can flat out ball. At Florida St, Cook displayed everything you want from a lead back; vision, elusiveness, tough running, and pass catching ability. Cook looks to have a stranglehold on the Vikings running back position, even with Latavius Murray back from ankle surgery.

 4) Kareem Hunt- Hunt came from a smaller school in Toledo and put up some gaudy numbers, with over 1,800 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 41 receptions in his final season. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the most elusive back in the 2017 draft class, forcing 97 missed tackles. He has just been named as the Chiefs starting running back following the Spencer Ware season ending surgery. Andy Reid has a long and successful history of utilizing running backs as dual threats, most notably Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, and Jamaal Charles. Now the feature back, Hunt features unlimited upside with his ability as a runner and a receiver.

 5) Joe Mixon- Like him or hate him, Joe Mixon is an incredible football player. Many analysts say on skill alone he was the most talented running back in this draft class. At 6’0 228 pounds, he has the size to run through arm tackles and the speed to run away from defenders. He has also incredible receiving skills showing off his soft hands to the tune of 37 receptions for over 500 yards and five scores. However, the Bengels may not give Mixon the keys to be the number one back just yet as they do still have Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard on the roster. Even if Mixon does eventually land the number one spot, he may find little running room as the Bengals have lost two Pro-Bowl players on their offensive line in Andre Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler.

 6) Samaje Perine- A big bruiser of a running back, Perine stands at 5’11 and 236 pounds, he will be a load to take down in this league. He currently holds the NCAA single game rushing record of 427 yards, a record he set as a freshman at Oklahoma. Not a particularly fast player, but he makes up for it in brute strength (30 reps at 225lbs at the combine). He has the potential to see goal line carries and could eventually replace Rob Kelly as the lead back in D.C.

7) Jamaal Williams- Williams possess the ideal size you would want in a lead back (6’0, 212lbs). Green Bay abandoned the run halfway through the season once Lacy and Starks were hurt. They also used a converted wide receiver in Ty Montgomery as a “running back”. If Green Bay wants to have any balance in their offense they’re going to need to have a back who is capable of handling the rock 15-20 times a game and Williams offers that. Another guy owners will have to be patient on, but it seems to be only a matter of time before Willilams gets his chance.

 8) Alvin Kamara-New Orleans- New Orleans traded up in the 3rd to round to grab this scat back from Tennessee. A better receiver than a running back, Kamara could find himself a nice role and fantasy relevancy as the third down back in New Orleans. We have seen plenty of success for running backs in this role as Reggie Bush,Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, and Tim Hightower have all thrived. In my opinion, he is currently being under-drafted and is someone who should be watched closely.

9) Marlon Mack-Indianapolis- At some point Frank Gore is going to break, right? He can’t just keep this pace up at the age of 34. As potentially the lead back in one of the best offenses in football, Mack would be a wise investment for very little cost.

 10) Joe Williams-San Francisco- Williams is an interesting story; he had briefly quit football at Utah during the 2016 season, only to come back 5 weeks later. Williams was off many team’s board due to his sudden “retirement” from football, including San Francisco’s. However, new head coach Kyle Shannon saw something in Williams, and went to bat for him inside the team’s war room. He begged and pleaded to General Manager John Lynch, who had Williams off his board, to take a chance on Williams in the fourth round, to which Lynch obliged. I’m not sure if that speaks to the level of confidence they have in Williams or the lack of confidence they have in Carlos Hyde, but when the head coach speaks up for player like that, then it’s time to take note. Shannon clearly believes in him and seems to be his guy, so it stands to reason that William will certainly have a role during the season which could expand if/when Hyde gets injured.






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