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 and our top-40. Now we’ll take a look at our top-60.
41. Chris Thompson (Washington Redskins) – Thompson is an electrifying player, but his upside is capped by his strictly third-down role.
42. Duke Johnson Jr. (Cleveland Browns) – Johnson is one of my favorite last-round stashes. He costs almost nothing, and could easily become a top flex play with some positive TD regression.
43. Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans) – Let’s get this out of the way: Derrick Henry is something special, and he’s going to be an NFL stud. The question is, will he be a stud this year? I don’t think so. Teammate DeMarco Murray is ahead of him on the depth chart, and as long as Murray is healthy, he’s going to get the bulk of the carries. True, we saw Henry come on a bt at the end of 2016 when Murray got a little banged up, but the increase in carries that Henry should see this year aren’t likely to be enough to justify his ADP.
44. Darren Sproles (Philadelphia Eagles) – Even at 34 years old, Sproles is still a safe bet to produce high end flex value, and with a ADP around 180, he’s basically free.
45. Dion Lewis (New England Patriots) – Don’t watch this play. It’s one of several of Dion Lewis’ 2015 unbelievable highlights. You shouldn’t watch it, because it will make you want to draft Lewis, and that is probably not a good idea, given the fact that he has not flashed that ankle-breaking agility since his 2015 injury, and with the rise of fellow scatback James White in 2016, there does not seem to be a path to any sort of regular touches for Lewis this year. It’s a shame, what a beautiful play.
46. James White (New England Patriots) – White scored three touchdowns (including the game winner) in Super Bowl LI, and there was serious talk that he should have been the MVP instead of Tom Brady. Don’t let this one game trick you into drafting White in 2017. White’s 2016 season was barely fantasy flex-worthy, and with several new passing game additions as well as a healthy Dion Lewis to leech catches, White might even score fewer fantasy points this year.
47. Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati Bengals) – Hill is the nominal lead back for two-down duties to kick off the season in Cincinnati. However, he’s been largely ineffective and with the arrival of rookie phenom Joe Mixon, most analysts believe Hill will not be starting by the end of the year.
48. C.J. Prosise (Seattle Seahawks) – The seattle backfield is a mess. It may be worthwhile, however, to keep an eye on Prosise during the preseason. He’s basically free at his ADP, and with Seattle projecting the worst offensive line in the league for 2017, there are likely to be plenty of short dump offs (a specialty of Prosise) in Seattle this year.
49. Giovani Bernard (Cincinnati Bengals) – Like with C. J. Prosise, Bernard is someone to keep an eye on due to his late round ADP and his stranglehold on third down duties on a passing team with a terrible offensive line.
Tier 6: One Of These Guys Will Be An RB1 This Year, But You Won’t Draft Him
50. Jacquizz Rodgers (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – After teammate Doug Martin went down with injury in 2016, Jacquizz Rodgers started three games in which he averaged 123 yards from scrimmage and .3 touchdowns a game. Wow. With Martin out for the first three games of the season, and Rodgers presumably taking over the lead role during that time, there is a real chance that he could run away with the job. This is the kind of upside I’m looking for in the late rounds of my draft.
51. Wendell Smallwood (Philadelphia Eagles) – The Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in football, and they do not have a clear-cut lead back. There is a chance (however small) that someone like Smallwood might distinguish themselves, and should that happen, there could be some real upside.
52. Robert Turbin (Indianapolis Colts) – Turbin had eight touchdowns last year on a mere 73 touches. These numbers are completely unsustainable unless you play the John Kuhn/ Matt Asiata touchdown vulture role in your offense. Either way, I don’t see a path to fantasy relevance for Turbin this year.
53. Jalen Richard (Oakland Raiders) – Richard is likely to play the same role this year as he did last year: a backup to the main Oakland RB. This is a problem. While fantasy owners may be enticed by Oakland’s ascendant offense, and their top-tier offensive line, the problem is that for someone like Richardson to become fantasy relevant, he would need both Marshawn Lynch and DeAndre Washington to get injured. I mean, it’s not impossible, but…
54. Kareem Hunt (Kansas City Chief) – Hunt has talent, but he’ll start the year behind Spencer Ware. In order to become relevant he’ll either need Ware to underperform or get hurt. Purely a speculative pick in 2017.
55. Ryan Mathews (Philadelphia Eagles) – LeGarrette Blount’s arrival is almost a guarantee that Mathews will be cut before the season starts. If you’re drafting him, you’re praying that he goes to an RB-needy team where he might have a significant role.
56. Charles Sims (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Sims’ path to fantasy relevant is through not only a Doug Martin but also a Jacquizz Rodgers injury. I mean, it’s not impossible (it happened last year), but well– how many times can lightning strike the same place?
57. DeAndre Washington (Oakland Raiders) – See Jalen Richard, above.
58. Jonathan Williams (Buffalo Bills) – Bafflingly, the direct backup to Lesean McCoy in Buffalo has paid serious fantasy dividends with Karlos Williams scoring nine TDs in 2015 and Mike Gillislee scoring another nine times in 2016. That ain’t normal. Williams is going undrafted in most leagues and could be a sneaky bye week filler kind of guy who would become a top tier RB2 were McCoy to miss time for any reason.
59. Thomas Rawls (Seattle Seahawks) – Rawls burst onto the scene in a big way at the end of 2015. However, like Icarus, he flew too close to the sun and plummeted to earth. Rawls’ late 2015 injury affected him throughout 2016, and now here we are, ranking him at nimber 58 out of 60. There is real upside here, but it would have to come in the form of straight up outplaying Eddie Lacy, an Eddie Lacy Injury, or barring either of those, Eddie Lacy getting indigestion or an asthma attack or something..
60. Samajae Perine (Washington Redskins) – Perine is a good bet to take over lead back duties at some time this season, but even then he’d still likely be part of an RBBC. The value just isn’t there as long as Rob Kelley is still around.