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2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

2017 Fantasy Dilemma: Who Is The Best Running Back To Draft?

Best Running Back
Photo Credit: Brook Ward

We need to start this article properly, and in the right setting.

I was sitting in my plush red leather sofa seat, whiskey swirling in one hand and a fine Cuban in the other. I ran a hand through my hair and then marveled at the softness of my robe. Men and women alike flocked to listen to me regal them on how I drafted David Johnson with my first round pick last year.

Their faces stared back at me shocked when I told them how I scoffed at pre-draft rankings and passed on the like of Antonio Brown, Todd Gurley (laughs), Julio Jones, LeVeon Bell, and Adrian Peterson. It was a true conquest for the ages and one that will go down in the annals of history next to many other great victories. Napoleon bends his knee to me.

If I am patting myself on the back, I am doing it in style. Yes, David Johnson was a bit of an unknown but now this year he is a part of a trio at the top of the draft boards. He joins Ezekiel Elliott and LeVeon Bell as the best running backs going into the season. Who will be the best as your Fantasy Football season concludes?

Pull out your hypothetical whiskey and Cuban and let’s go on this journey together.

Who is the Best Running Back to Draft?

Comparison

David Johnson (ADP: 1.3)

16 GP: 1,293 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. 80 catches for 879 yards and four touchdowns

LeVeon Bell (ADP 1.8)

12 GP: 1,268 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. 75 receptions for 616 yards and two touchdowns

Ezekiel Elliott (ADP 3.0)

15 GP: 1,631 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. 32 catches for 363 yards and one touchdown

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

 

David Johnson was a god send for owners last season. He could be had in the late first/early second round and was a scoring machine. He scored a total of 20 touchdowns and amassed 2,172 total yards and his output powered many owners to a championship,

He had this type of success when quarterback Carson Palmer was struggling and the team was not having success. The Arizona Cardinals did not get any better on offense this off-season, but that will not affect Johnson at all. Head coach Bruce Arians has talked about getting Johnson more carries this season, and Johnson thinks he can handle the load.

Owners will need to handcuff him in the late rounds in case he breaks down under the added workload. He is young but it is something owners need to be aware of. Johnson will likely stay healthy but insuring him never hurts.

LeVeon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Then there is LeVeon Bell. He is the best pure running back in the game when he is healthy and not suspended. The Pittsburgh Steelers did not give Bell a long term contract this offseason, and he will be playing under the franchise tag. He may hold out, so owners need to keep an eye on the situation as it progresses.

If Bell shows up to training camp and is ready for the start of the season, he will be neck and neck with Johnson in terms of potential production this season. Bell has the best jump cut in the game, allowing him to find holes in the defense and gash them for huge gains. He also has the ability to be a great receiver.

In just 12 games, Bell had similar rushing yards and catches as Johnson, and if he plays 16 games this season, 2,500 total yards would not be a stretch for Bell.

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

 

Finally, Elliott had the most impressive rookie season in recent memory. He was in the perfect situation as the Dallas Cowboys have the best offensive line in the game. However, that was not the sole reason for this strong season. Elliott was simply brilliant as a rookie and showed great vision and running ability.

In no way was he a fluke but Johnson and Bell showed a better value due to their receiving ability. Elliott’s rookie rushing numbers will be his peak as the Cowboys start to let Dak Prescott lead the offense more.

Analysis

Johnson looks to be primed for another 2,000 total yards this season, as long as he is a focal point in the passing game. His ability to catch the ball masked the fact that he had only four games with over 100 rushing yards. It helps that he is the center of the offense, a passing and receiving threat in the red zone, and will get a lot of touches.

As long as Carson Palmer can stay under center and keep defenses honest, there is no reason that Johnson will not get similar numbers to last season.

Games against the Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys (ah who am I kidding that defense way overachieved), and the New York Giants will be tough. Johnson’s dual-threat nature removes any dud games.

He never had a game under 10 Fantasy points, per NFL.com standard scoring. He will not get the ridiculous amount of touchdowns he had last year but there is no reason to look at Johnson as anything but the best bet for Fantasy player of the year.

 

LeVeon Bell still haunts Rex Ryan’s dreams. Well, every defensive coordinator’s dreams. Bell comes with baggage due to his injury history and some immaturity.

A groin injury sidelined him in the playoffs, but he had surgery and looks to be healthy for the start of the season. Injuries will always be a concern with him.

He has such a heavy workload and is still only a year removed from a torn MCL, so owners will need to worry a little about an injury creeping up. Bell produces a lot when he is on the field as he had six games over 100 yards. Like Johnson, Bell has the insurance of catching passes to negate any bad rushing days.

James Conner will be a necessary handcuff for Bell. The Steelers offense will do enough to keep Conner relevant if Bell goes down. DeAngelo Williams was a Top 3 back during the first three weeks of the season in 2016.

A Week 14-16 slate of the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, and Houston Texans is not appealing, however. As long as Bell stays healthy, he will be a Top 3 back this season, even with the tough end of season schedule. Wear and tear may worry some owners as he has 846 touches the last three seasons.

 

Finally, there is Ezekiel Elliott. He may have all the running ability that Johnson and Bell have but lacks the pass catching numbers. The Cowboys face a brutal schedule that has the NFC and AFC West along with the suddenly competitive NFC East.

Dak Prescott should also take more control of the offense, but overall the Cowboys overachieved in 2016 and will take a step back in 2017. A tougher schedule and defenses adjusting to Dak and Zeke should lead to lesser numbers. He will still be great but number three is where Elliott belongs.

 

Verdict/Projections

I love consistency in Fantasy Football. David Johnson can put up other-worldly numbers once again and Bell is a close second. However, his workload and injuries keep him as the 1B running back for the year.

David Johnson

16 GP: 1,200 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. 80 catches for 900 yards and five touchdowns (344 Fantasy points)

LeVeon Bell

15 GP: 1,400 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. 70 catches for 700 yards and four touchdowns (294 Fantasy points)

Ezekiel Elliott

16 GP: 1,300 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. 35 catches for 400 yards and one touchdown (248 Fantasy points)

 

2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit
Positional Rankings | Sleepers | Busts | Player Analysis | Strategy | Preseason Analysis | Mock Drafts | Tools

 

If you are looking for a place to conduct a mock draft or need assistance with drafting in general, check out the Fantasy Pros Draft Wizard. This is a terrific tool that will help you dominate your league, along with So-Called Fantasy Experts, of course.

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Robert Golinvaux

Robert is currently a student at the University of Kansas. He has been a Fantasy Football writer for three years and still believes that Eddie Lacy is a top-three running back. Follow him on Twitter for any questions or article suggestions.
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