As the preseason gets underway and everyone gets hyped for the start of the 2017 NFL season, we’re ranking each and every position for you as you get ready for your drafts. We’re releasing the top-60 running backs 20 at a time. We’ve already done the top-20. Now we’ll take a look at our top-40.
Tier 4: If One of These Guys Is your RB1, You Screwed Up Big.
21. Darren McFadden (Dallas Cowboys) – With news of Ezekiel Elliot’s six game suspension, we now turn to next-man-up Darren McFadden. There’s a lot to be said for a fast start in fantasy football, and there’s a lot of wisdom in owning (temporarily) the main cog in the Dallas backfield. Still, Mcfadden is not without risk. Alfred Morris has flashed some in the preseason, and there is a chance this will turn into an RBBC until Elliott returns.
22. Bilal Powell (New York Jets) – Powell performed well down the stretch last year, and he projects to get plenty of opportunity as a talented pass-catching back this year. With the Jets’ WR1 Quincy Enunwa now out for the season, Powell may well be in for a ton of targets. Still, aging stud Matt Forte is the nominal starter, and Powell’s ceiling is severely limited as long as Forte is healthy.
23. Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts) – Frank Gore is old, and nearly used up, like that horse from True Grit. His 2,965 career attempts are the tenth most of all time, and far more than any other current player in the league. At some point, he’s going to give out. Still, Gore doesn’t have to get a ton of yardage to be useful, as he plays on a high octane offense with ample chances to score.
24. Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers) – Sparq stud McCaffrey will enter his rookie season as a part of one of the NFL’s more run-heavy offenses. Still, there are a lot of mouths to feed with Jonathan Stewart as the nominal starter, and Cam Newton himself stealing carries. McCaffrey has the talent to be something special, but as with many of the rookies on this list, he probably won’t emerge this year.
25. Joe Mixon (Cincinnati Bengals) – I like Mixon most out of all the rookie RBs drafted this year, though like McCaffrey, he may not produce until next year. Stuck behind Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard to start the season, Mixon will not have fantasy relevance until later in the year, if at all.
26. Danny Woodhead (Baltimore Ravens) – Possibly due to looking like the frontman for a Hoobastank cover band, Danny Woodhead is an extremely underrated RB asset. After a top ten finish in 2015 and an injury-spoiled 2016 campaign, woodhead now finds himself in Baltimore. This is a very, very good thing for Danny Woodhead. You see, Danny boy does two things well– he catches the ball, and he runs the ball at the goal line. Baltimore is the throwingest team in the league. Also, they’ve just lost Kenneth Dixon who along with Terrance West was projected to create an unwieldy chimera in the backfield. With West as his only competition, I expect Danny Woodhead to go bananas. Seriously, he has top ten potential and can be had at around ADP 84. Yes, he is 32 years old, but he hasn’t had a lot of carries over the years, so I’m buying with confidence.
27. Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings) – Another talented rookie in a bad situation, Cook is someone to watch. True, he’s on the team with the fewest rushing yards in the league last year, but that was mainly because backup Jerrick McKinnon was the starter for most of the year, and he sucks at football. Cook should get quite a bit of work this year, though the Vikings also acquired bruiser Latavius Murray in the offseason and he threatens to steal more than a few goal line carries from Cook.
28. Robert Kelley (Washington Redskins) – Kelley emerged late last year and was serviceable, if not amazing. The Redskins drafted Samaje Perine this year., and many expect Kelley to be overtaken as starter by the end of the season. Still, for the moment Kelley is the starter, and that’s not nothing.
29. Eddie Lacy (Seattle Seahawks) – Do you remember when Lacy used to be a fantasy football stud? Yeah, it’s getting harder and harder for me too. After floundering under injuries and misuse in Green Bay, LAcy’s found himself a new home in Seattle this year, where he’ll be competing with Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise for carries behind the worst offensive line in the league. There is a real possibility that Rawls starts over Lacy this year, especially if Lacy can’t get his weight under control. I’d avoid this backfield, personally.
30. Matt Forte (New York Jets) – Entering his age 31 season on the worst team in the league with injury concerns and competition in Bilal Powell makes forte a risky gamble this year.
31. Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers) – True, the panthers went out and drafted themselves a shiny new Christian McCaffrey this year with the 8th overall pick. Still, Jonathan Stewart is practically free in drafts, and should have similar production to last year where he finished as the RB23 in standard on the force of his nine TDs.
32. Paul Perkins (New York Giants) – Perkins is not a special talent, but the Giants’ overloaded WR corps means that he should rarely see stacked boxes. Still his TD upside is low.
33. Tevin Coleman (Atlanta Falcons) – Coleman is the Ying to Devonta Freeman’s yang. He finished as the RB18 last year. We believe the Falcons are going to take a step back this year, but there’s no denying that Coleman has RB2 upside, and if Freeman were to go down with an injury, Coleman would become a borderline RB1.
34. Ameer Abdullah (Detroit Lions) – Abdullah has been the victim of bad injury luck in his first two years in the NFL. Coming into 2017, he’s all but assured a two-down back role on a decent offense. The only problem is that Detroit had the fewest rushing attempts in the league last year.
35. Terrance West (Baltimore Ravens) – West is a safe bet to retain the two-down role on a pass-first offense. His ceiling is not that impressive, but he’s cheap enough. With his main competitor for touches — Kenneth Dixon — out for the year he should return mid to low RB2 value.
Tier 5: Scatbacks and Old Fogeys
36. LeGarrette Blount (Philadelphia Eagles) – Blount won a lot of fantasy leagues last year, scoring a gaudy eighteen touchdowns. The problem? Sixteen of those were on red zone carries. This year he finds himself in a new situation with more competition on a much worse offense. In order to produce, Blount will need the Eagles to provide him with frequent goal-line carries– something I’m not confident will happen.
37. Adrian Peterson (New Orleans Saints) – Peterson was out for the entire season last year with injury, and there is a real fear that he’s fallen off a cliff. True, he did finish as the RB2 overall in 2015, but that was less a result of transcendent play on hs part, and more due to the fact that all of his competition was injured. Now at 32, he finds himself on a new team with a ton of competition. Mark Ingram is likely to be the early carry back, and rookie Alvin Kamara will be in on third downs. This does not leave much of a role for Peterson. Because Peterson was at one point a pro-bowl caliber rusher, his name alone is inflating his ADP, don’t get sucked in. If you find yourself tempted to draft peterson, just remind yourself that he once arrived to his own birthday party riding a camel and dressed as Aladdin. Burn that image into your brain, and draft someone else.
38. Theo Riddick (Detroit Lions) – With the departure of TD hog slot man Anquan Boldin, Riddick may pick up more red zone targets in this high powered passing offense. Still, his ceiling is pretty low.
39. Doug Martin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Martin is suspended the first three games after failing a PED test. Very inconsistent throughout his career, there is a real risk that he does not immediately return to a starters’ role.
40. Latavius Murray (Minnesota Vikings) – Entering his fourth season, Murray now finds himself on a new team in a new role. He’s been injured for most of training camp so far, and Dalvin Cook has begun to get some serious praise during that time. Murray’s role at best will be as a touchdown dependant thumper.
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