2017 fantasy football position rankings: Running Backs

Continuing our series of position rankings for the upcoming 2017 fantasy football season, we’ll take a look at running backs before turning to wide receivers next week. We’ve ranked the QBs from 1 to 32. We’ll rank the running backs from 1-36, the wide receivers 1-36 and the tight ends 1-24. Defenses and kickers will be ranked 1-12.

The top three running backs are so close, but I give the edge to David Johnson since he had 80 receptions last year and caught passes for more yards than Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Jordan Reed.

1. David Johnson, Cardinals—He nearly carried the ball 300 times last season and caught 80 passes. There’s no reason to think he won’t be used to that degree yet again.

2. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers—No worries about an early-season suspension this time around. I had him No. 1 early in my rankings, but Johnson’s touches gave him the edge at this point.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys—Elliott couldn’t have had a better rookie season. Given that, you have to assume he has just a tiny bit of regression. The Cowboys will also want to save him from too much work by using Darren McFadden to relieve some pressure.

4. LeSean McCoy, Bills—Mike Gillislee is in New England now, so if McCoy can stay healthy he might get even more work than he already does.

5. Jordan Howard, Bears—Howard gained the most yardage between the tackles in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus. He should see an increase in touches given that he’ll likely be playing with a rookie quarterback at some point.

Jordan Howard #24 of the Chicago Bears is hit by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21 of the Green Bay Packers as he scores a touchdown in the 4th quarter at Soldier Field on December 18, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 30-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

6. Melvin Gordon, Chargers—Gordon’s value has been improved by this offseason. Danny Woodhead is a Raven and the Chargers didn’t draft a running back, they drafted two offensive linemen. Gordon will continue to dominate touches in the backfield.

7. Devonta Freeman, Falcons—Have no fear of Tevin Coleman, Freeman actually is more productive when Coleman gets touches. If the Falcons can continue to run a potent offense without Kyle Shanahan, Freeman will do well.

Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons fails to reach the pylon against Vinnie Sunseri #40 of the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at the Georgia Dome on December 18, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

8. DeMarco Murray, Titans—He surprised some people last season, given his average draft position was in mid-to-later rounds. Murray suffered from Chip Kelly’s sideways run scheme the year before so he was undervalued in drafts in 2016. He seems to be back to his Cowboys-era self.

9. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins—Three games rushing for at least 200 yards can’t be ignored. Plus, it looks as if he’s making strides in the passing game. He showed his ability as a pass catcher in college so if he improves in that portion of his game he could be remarkable.

10. Lamar Miller, Texans—The addition of D’Onta Foreman may end up helping Miller stay fresh all season. Quality touches will be the key to his success in addition to decent volume.

11. Todd Gurley, Rams—He remains an RB1 despite his rough season last year. That’s because the volume is still there. His bad season probably means he can be had in the second round. But he’ll end up being undervalued if he goes after the first.

Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams rushes for a first down during the fourth quarter of the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum on November 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

 

12. Spencer Ware, Chiefs—He got great news when the Chiefs didn’t re-sign Jamaal Charles, but they did end up drafting Kareem Hunt. Keep an eye on training camp to make sure Ware holds firm to the starting spot.

13. C.J. Anderson, Broncos

14. Isaiah Crowell, Browns

15. Carlos Hyde, 49ers

16. Mark Ingram, Saints

17. Tevin Coleman, Falcons

18. Adrian Peterson, Saints

19. Latavius Murray, Vikings

20. Eddie Lacy, Seahawks

21. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars

22. Marshawn Lynch, Raiders

23. Doug Martin, Buccaneers

24. Mike Gillislee, Patriots

25. Robert Kelley, Redskins

26. Ty Montgomery, Packers

27. Jeremy Hill, Bengals

28. Derrick Henry, Titans

29. Frank Gore, Colts

30. Bilal Powell, Jets

31. Ameer Abdullah, Lions

32. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers

33. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers

34. Paul Perkins, Giants

35. Matt Forte, Jets

36. Joe Mixon, Bengals

Fantasy football Week 1 recap and waiver wire suggestions

The fantasy football season opened up the throttle on Sunday, and there were definitely some high-octane performances.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/R Brent Smith)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/R Brent Smith)

Andrew Luck started his attempt at a bounce-back year with a stellar performance; he threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns without committing a turnover. Drew Brees might have been the top scorer of the week had he not lost a fumble. He threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns, including a 98-yard score to Brandin Cooks. And A.J. Green had a brilliant start, catching 12 of his 13 targets for 180 yards and a 54-yard touchdown.

A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown over Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown over Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The best performance by a running back came from the waiver wire pickup of the week, Spencer Ware. Once word got out that Jamaal Charles wasn’t quite ready, owners rushed to pick up his main backup before the season kicked off.
Ware didn’t disappoint as he rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown while catching seven passes for an additional 129 yards.

At the tight end spot, both of the Colts’ ends found paydirt. Dwayne Allen caught four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown while Jack Doyle had three catches for 35 yards and two scores.

The top defense of the week started slow but turned it on in the second half. Minnesota allowed 16 points to the Titans but forced three turnovers and added two sacks in addition to scoring two touchdowns.

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter celebrates as he scores a touchdown on a 24-yard run after a fumble recovery against the Tennessee Titans in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Vikings won 25-16. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter celebrates as he scores a touchdown on a 24-yard run after a fumble recovery against the Tennessee Titans in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Vikings won 25-16. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

It wasn’t all positive in the fantasy world. Quite a few players had some games to forget:
At the top of that list has to be Dez Bryant, who caught just one pass for 8 yards in the Cowboys’ loss to the Giants. He had a touchdown called back when it was reviewed and determined that he didn’t control the ball before touching out of bounds in the end zone.

Brandon Marshall, the top option for the Jets, had just three catches for 32 yards despite being targeted eight times.

Sammy Watkins also disappointed as he caught four passes for 43 yards. Additionally, Tyler Lockett, who was expected to break out for the Seahawks, had just three catches for 17 yards.

At running back, we saw Devonta Freeman produce just 40 total yards as Tevin Coleman gained 117 yards on 13 touches for the Falcons.

In Tennessee, Adrian Peterson rushed for just 31 yards as the Titans were able to key on the run with Shaun Hill starting at quarterback for the Vikings.

A striking theme from Sunday was the great performances from second-year players. Jameis Winston, David Johnson, Melvin Gordon, Donte Moncrief and Stefon Diggs all produced well to start their sophomore seasons.

Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rolls out of the pocket agains the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on September 11, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rolls out of the pocket agains the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on September 11, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Cooks, also in his second season, had 143 yards and two touchdowns.
Unfortunately we saw Keenan Allen go down with a torn ACL after catching six passes for 63 yards. And word broke on Monday that Robert Griffin III could be done for the season with a shoulder fracture. Russell Wilson also has a sprained ankle to be monitored.

With that, look to the waiver wire:

Quarterbacks
Alex Smith, Chiefs (363 passing yards, 3 total TDs)
Carson Wentz, Eagles (278, TD)
Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots (264, TD)
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (227, 0 turnovers)

Wide receivers
Will Fuller, Texans (5 catches, 107 yards, TD)
Mike Wallace, Ravens (6-91, TD)
Chris Hogan, Patriots (60, TD)
Nelson Agholor, Eagles (57, TD)
Sterling Shepard, Giants (43, TD)
Victor Cruz, Giants (34, TD)
Tajae Sharpe, Titans (7-76)
Michael Thomas, Saints (6-58)

Running backs
Tevin Coleman, Falcons (117 total yards, 13 touches)
Jalen Richard, Raiders (95, TD, 5 touches)
Shane Vereen, Giants (61, 9 touches)