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I remember at one time, you had a ton of dominant three down running backs. So many injuries and unproductivity (Jamaal Charles, Le’Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Foster, Eddie Lacy, CJ Anderson, DeMarco Murray) are pushing fantasy owners to wait on selecting a running back. In today’s game, there are a surplus of NFL teams that use a running back “by committee” approach to keep them healthy throughout the season. Five to eight running backs use to be selected in the first round in past years, now they’re selected in the second, third, and fourth rounds.
Here are my top five fantasy running backs
1.) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (Bye week 6) – At 31 years old, AP is still on top of his game and his numbers last season (327 attempts, 1,485 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns) were remarkable. I would love to see him get more involved in the passing game (only 30 receptions last season) but as long as he’s the first option to score a touchdown in the red zone, he’ll always be the first running back selected in fantasy drafts.
2.) Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (Bye week 8) – Fantasy wise, I love the guy but hate the team he plays for. His stats last season as a rookie were fantastic (229 attempts, 1,106 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games) but now that he has a rookie quarterback in Jared Goff, he’ll be relied on more than ever to produce and catch the ball from the backfield (only caught 21 passes last season).
3.) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (Bye week 8) – If he was not facing a suspension, Bell would be No. 1 on my list. He did state that he will win the appeal and won’t miss any games as a result of the situation. If that’s true, Bell is the best all-around running back in football, plus he’s in the best offense and should go in the top five in all fantasy drafts.
4.) Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (Bye week 7) – Don’t let Elliott’s domestic violence case steer you away from taking him in the late first/early second round in drafts. Dallas has the strongest offensive line in the league so the sky is the limit for Elliott. Just ask Darren McFadden who ran over 1,000 yards last season for the Cowboys in only 11 starts.
5.) David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (Bye week 9) – What I love about Johnson is he’s a stud as a receiver and was far better as a runner than we expected. He’s a big running back who stepped into the starting job last December and exploded, eclipsing over 100 yards in his first four starts. I am worried that he’ll lose touches to Chris “CJ2K” Johnson and Andre Ellington during the season, but he should get the goal line carries that would make him a good low end RB1.
Here are my top 5 sleepers
1.) Duke Johnson Jr, Cleveland Browns (Bye Week 13) – Whoever the quarterback will be for Cleveland, he is going to need Johnson’s pass catching skills to excel. Even though the Browns want to split carries between Isiah Crowell and Johnson, I see the Browns trailing a lot during the season, which will benefit Johnson more.
2.) Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions (Bye week 10) – Abdullah is expected to be the Lions featured running back now that Joique Bell is gone. He did have a lackluster rookie year and some maybe skeptical to draft him. Abdullah got stronger during the offseason and still has unbreakable speed, which makes him a potential sleeper pick.
3.) Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (Bye week 13) – Should DeMarco Murray experience any challenges or become banged up as his past history has proven so, Henry will claim the starting role and not look back. The Titans drafted him for a reason so he should be owned in leagues.
4.) C.J. Prosise, Seattle Seahawks (Bye week 5) – In order to keep starter Thomas Rauls healthy, it would make sense to see Prosise get some carries during the game and especially later downs. Rawls will not be playing any preseason games, so Prosise could definitely benefit from that as well.
5.) Paul Perkins, New York Giants (Bye week 8) – The Giants backfield will be very interesting this season. As of right now, Rashad Jennings is the starter, but he’s 31 years old and could be considered a liability. Shane Vereen has his role as the third down running back, and Andre Williams will also be used in short yardage. Perkins might be able to do everything for the backfield, plus coaches are talking about him being a complete back. He may not start immediately, but his playing time should grow during the season.