Uselessly Early 2017 RB Ranks
I am in a 12 Team PPR League so I ranked my Top 24 (i.e. RB1s and RB2s) under that assumption. This list is not necessarily as I expect the RBs to finish the season, but more so in order of how confidently I would draft them. Basically, I tried to take a lot of unknowns into account (injuries, suspensions, roster changes, etc) and then rank accordingly. If you haven’t already, you can check out My Uselessly Early WR Rankings here or on Reddit.
1 / Le’Veon Bell / PIT
Lev Bell is so patient in the hole he borders on procrastination (most likely weed induced). He can run, catch, score, and his vision is unequaled in the league. I already know what you are going to say: “But, J.D., what about his history of suspensions, injuries, and his recent surgery?” My response is twofold. First, it’s Mr. Davis to you. And second, I don’t care, I will roll the dice — they are loaded. Bell is a unique, once in a decade talent. He can miss 4 games and still drag your sorry team to the championship. His skill and workload when he is on the field is that good. He is my first back off the board.
2 / David Johnson / ARI
DJ is a very close second. My league is housed on FleaFlicker. The platform certainly has its problems, but its customization options suit our needs (any suggestions on a platform that has the customization ability of FleaFlicker and performs well on mobile devices would be greatly appreciated!). I give that lead in for the following point. One week last year, FleaFlicker, in all its FleaFlickery glory, predicted a 21 reception game from DJ. That is absurd, I know. But, is it really thaaaat absurd? He is the focal point of a very capable offense on what should be a competitive team. He is a machine that runs on getting fed the football and is showing no sign of slowing down. I bet the Cardinals front office is thanking their lucky stars the Lions snagged Abdullah from them — go watch All or Nothing on Amazon if you haven’t already.
3 / Ezekiel Elliott / DAL
Zeke is a freak. Let me throw some numbers at you. 1,808 yards 18 touchdowns; 1,631 yards 15 touchdowns; 1,470 yards 14 touchdowns. Those are the rookie numbers for Eric Dickerson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Barry Sanders. He is a stud. He is also a wildcard. His first campaign was surrounded by abuse allegations and recently, Zeke pulled his best Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson halftime show impersonation at a St. Patrick’s Day party. There has been a lot of smoke around Zeke, and not just the type billowing out of the pot shops he has been known to frequent. Let’s hope there is no fire, or Zeke the Freak might go the way of Ray Rice and end up Zeke the Plumber.
4 / Melvin Gordon / LAC
The 3rd Big Ten Alum in my top 4. I originally had Gordon a few spots back because of the presence of Danny Woodhead and the unlikelihood the Chargers offense would provide him as many goal line opportunities as it did last year. Now, Woodhead is a Raven and Gordon jumped up on my board. I think the secret to his success is his first name. Any kid named Melvin would have plenty of incentives to run hard, run fast, and bulk up.
5 / Carlos Hyde / SF
I am an unabashed OSU homer and these are my rankings so I get to do what I please. I do not hide my Buckeye pride so take this as you will. Praise be to Kyle Shanahan. Hyde’s new coach will bring the best out of the 49ers best offensive weapon — look what he did for Julio, Ryan, Freeman and Coleman. Hyde will finish as a RB1 this year and I truly think he has top-5 potential. With that being said, this jump in the rankings might be one year early.
6 / Jordan Howard / CHI
Another 2016 standout Rookie. I may be reaching a bit by putting him here in the six spot over the likes of McCoy, Murray, Miller and I have even seen Ajayi (more to come later) ranked in this high, but I like this kid. He runs the ball hard. If he can grow as a receiver, watch out. I also don’t think he will be negatively impacted by garbage time too much. There are two different forms of garbage time, one where you air it out trying to come back, and the second where you are down so much and your team is so bad that you let your young kids play and see what you got. The Bears fall into this second category.
7 / LeSean McCoy / BUF
8 / DeMarco Murray / TEN
I am grouping these two together because I see a lot of similarities. Both are entering seasons where they will be 29 years old and are coming off a year where they saw a lot of work. It is weird to suggest two guys younger than I am are getting old. I don’t expect the wheels to come off either one, but I would not be surprised if their loads decrease or they lose half-a-step as the season grinds on.
9 / Lamar Miller / HOU
I think Lamar Miller ends up being a huge benefactor of Cleveland taking Brock off the Texan’s hands. The Texans’ ‘Make a Wish’ Osweiler deal was an abject failure. To be fair, the team had a ton of pressure to sign a QB last year and if they did nothing, people would be bashing them for that. Hopkins will return and resemble Hopkins again and Fuller looked promising in his first campaign. Miller didn’t meet expectations last year because the Texans could not throw. Miraculously, Osweiler ended up being a step down from Hoyer. Moving Osweiler was an addition by subtraction and Miller will see more holes as teams are forced to start defending the pass again.
10 / Leonard Fournette / TBD
Step 1 - Draft. Step 2 - Plant into Lineup. Step 3 - Keep healthy and water appropriately. Step 4 — Grow your top-10 running back. The Year of the Rookie Running Back returns to your screens for the 2017 sequel.
11 / Devonta Freeman / ATL
If Cerberus only had two heads, that dirty dog would look a lot like Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Best tandem in the league on the best offense in the league. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Atlanta, but there is also a lot of points to spread in the food bowls. Both Freeman and Coleman are one injury away from being a top-7 back. I do not think anyone in the Falcons offense will suffer too much after Shanahan’s departure.
12 / Jay Ajayi / MIA
I don’t dislike this guy. He just gives me a feeling of unease. Yes, he had the best yards after contact mark last year. I get it. I also remember the Dolphins trying their damndest to push him out at the beginning of the year. Show me again and make me a believer. I will take him if the price is right, but I am not yet ready to reach for him and let him anchor my RB corps.
13 / CJ Anderson / DEN
Booker had his chance and spoiled it. CJ comes back as the top-billing for the Broncos. I think he will build off his good performance last year. If CJ is my RB2, I will be a very happy guy.
14 / Spencer Ware / KC
Spencer has played second fiddle to Charles for what seems like an eternity. Now that the Chiefs have released Charles, Spencer is top dog. I think Ware makes the most this opportunity. Spencer started the season hot last year and waned a bit toward the end. If he can keep his foot on the pedal all year, I expect Ware to be a high-end RB2.
15 / Isaiah Crowell / CLE
Feed da’ Crow! If you have read any of my other comments out here or on Reddit, you will already know the Circus is big on Crowell. Don’t like him here? That is fine. Leave him so I can draft him. Browns have reinforced their O-line and Crowell hits those holes hard. If the Browns improve overall as a team, and I mean, how could they not show at least some improvement, The Crow will spread them wings and fly.
16 / Todd Gurley / LA
Jared Goff. Woof. Todd Gurley may have been knee-capped by poor quarterback play more so than any other running back in the league. He faced stacked boxes play in and play out. Gurley sure as hell has the talent. The reason why I have him so low is because I think his production relies too much on factors outside of his control. Keep grinding, Gurley.
17 / Mark Ingram / NO
Mark Ingram has been consistent. That is the word I would use for Mark Ingram: consistent. Like a bran muffin will always be bland, Ingram is a safe bet to be... consistent. His upside to end up as a RB1 or even a top tier RB2 is limited by his consistency.
18 / Tevin Coleman / ATL
Last year’s split ended up being 60/40 in favor of Freeman and it remains to be seen what Shanahan’s departure will mean to the Atlanta Offense and its running back duo. Nevertheless, I’d draft Coleman as my RB2. See Freeman’s blurb above for more.
19 / LeGarrette Blount / FA
Only Ezekiel Elliott ended the season with more carries than LeGarrette Blount. He touted the rock often for the Patriots last year. He also eclipsed 1000 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. As I am writing this, I am considering moving him up. Then, I remember he was a Patriot. The numbers I cited are facts, but they are also a Bill Belichick fiction. I don’t think he replicates what he did anywhere else, or even if he stays in New England. He will be a 1st and 2nd down and goal line back wherever he ends up. Don’t expect another 18 TD year, he probably won’t even see 12.
20 / Adrian Peterson / FA
As Smeagol might say, It’s tricksy, precious. I honestly do not know where to put AP in my rankings. I have had him higher, and at one point I deleted him altogether. More than likely, I will avoid him at all costs in the draft. He is 31 years old. He is coming off another major injury. He hasn’t even signed with a team at this point. Then again, he is AP. If you have Bell, DJ, or Zeke as your RB1, he is worth a flyer. Draft at your own risk, this one does not come with a warranty.
21 / Robert Kelly / WAS
Fat Rob showed his chops at the end of last season and he looked pretty-good doing it. There is only a small sample size here, so I do not have a lot of insight. He has potential and I like him as a late RB2 pick in the Redskin offense.
22 / Green Bay’s Starting RB Placeholder / GB
Lacy is now gone. Not really surprised, McCarthy refrained from giving him the ball anyway fearing he might eat it. I do not think Montgomery is going to be the Pack’s starting back midway through the season. It remains to be seen if they will address the need in the free agency market, or draft a running back. Regardless of what they do, any starting back in an Aaron Rodgers’ offense deserves a spot on this list. I have Montgomery right around here, depending on whom it ends up being will ultimately decide this placeholder’s spot.
23 / Dalvin Cook / TBD
His ultimate place on this list largely depends on what team drafts him and how they use him. The kid is a talent and has potential to make an immediate impact on the team that drafts him. He may drop off this list entirely based on where the Florida State standout ends up.
24 / Ameer Abdullah / DET
Abdullah showed flashes of why the Lions drafted him before his injury last season. I suspect he will come back healthy and improve in his third-year. The kid is explosive and he is not a lock to finish as a RB2, he may very well end up being a risky flex. I like to think he shows some real growth in 2017. Now, if only he didn’t hold the football like it was smothered in smallpox…
Honorable Mention / Eddie Lacy / SEA
I am not going to heap a bunch of tired re-run weight jokes on Eddie. There is already a gluttony of that type of childish criticism out there. But, this guy really does seem to want to have his cake and eat it too doesn’t he? He is leaning way too heavily on the laurels of his first two seasons in a ‘what have you done for me lately league?’ To be fair, his ankle really did weigh him down last season. Now, Lacy is with Seattle. He did not end up with that fat paycheck, and now he has to squeeze into a crowded Seahawks backfield. He has burned me like a bad hamburger too many times in the past. I am passing on this ‘too big’ of a risk kind of player.
Keep an eye out for My Uselessly Early 2017 QB Rankings next Sunday.
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