Properly, it was enjoyable whereas it lasted. When my total participant rankings got here out on Monday, I had Le’Veon Bell as my prime participant, forward of Todd Gurley. My reasoning was that Bell had an extended, extra reliable observe file of prime efficiency, and that his receiving prowess spelled the distinction in PPR codecs (to which The Put up’s fantasy protection defaults).
It didn’t take lengthy in any respect, nevertheless, for information to reach that Bell and Steelers had did not agree on a long-term contract, that means that, for a second straight season, he’ll get the one-year franchise tag. Nevertheless, as with 2017, Bell possible received’t be in any hurry to signal his franchise-tag tender and will effectively skip coaching camp once more. Extra ominously, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter posited, Bell would possibly truly sit out the primary half of the season, all the higher to hit free company subsequent spring in good well being.
It’s much more possible that Bell will play a full season, however the uncertainty is sufficient to push him beneath Gurley, given how shut the gamers already had been, when it comes to expectations. These two, plus David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott, type a “Massive 4” on the RB spot, after which drafters have a wide range of methods to presumably go. Right here’s how I see it:
1. Todd Gurley, Rams (Off week: 12)
Gamers who end first in fantasy scoring don’t normally repeat the next season, which may very well be a degree in favor of Bell, however Gurley advocates may level to the truth that their man has much more tread on his tires, with 914 touches over three seasons to Bell’s 1,541 over 5. Gurley’s first two seasons noticed him look explosive as a rookie earlier than happening with the Rams’ desultory ship in 2016. A training change and important additions on the offensive line and at WR propelled the workforce to the league’s greatest offense final yr. These components are nonetheless in place, with Sammy Watkins changed by Brandin Cooks and QB Jared Goff a yr extra skilled, so Gurley, who completed second to Alvin Kamara in RB receiving yardage, must be set for an additional big marketing campaign.
2. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers (7)
Assuming that Bell exhibits up as anticipated for Week 1, homeowners know what they’re getting: a participant who might be relied upon to get one of many NFL’s greatest workloads and produce. That features a main function within the Steelers’ passing sport, as Bell has averaged 81 receptions on 102 targets over his previous three absolutely wholesome seasons, making him pure gold in PPR. It helps that Pittsburgh sports activities one of many league’s greatest offensive strains, plus a prime QB in Ben Roethlisberger and main expertise at WR, that means that Bell ought to have shot at topping his single-season excessive of 11 mixed TDs (maybe the one flaw in his fantasy résumé).
3. David Johnson, Cardinals (9)
You haven’t forgotten how unimaginable Johnson was in 2016, have you ever? In his second season, he totaled 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns, and he went No. 1 total in most 2017 fantasy drafts. His homeowners final yr don’t should be reminded what occurred subsequent, as Johnson suffered a Week 1 wrist harm that wound up ending his season. That was a disastrous end result, however the excellent news, no less than for this season’s homeowners, is that Johnson’s decrease physique was unscathed and there’s no motive to assume he received’t be as efficient as once we final noticed him. Properly, one motive may very well be Arizona’s query marks at QB, WR, TE and offensive line, to not point out a brand new teaching workers headed by former defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, however there’s little doubt that Johnson might be used as a workhorse.
4. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (8)
Elliott slides to fourth right here as a result of Dallas hasn’t used him a lot as a receiver, however as a runner he arguably takes a backseat to nobody, main the NFL in speeding yards per sport in every of his first two seasons. As with Johnson, there are some questions on how efficient the general offense of his workforce might be, however Elliott has QB in Dak Prescott and a training workers dedicated to giving him all of the carries he can deal with, together with, in fact, close to the objective line. The previous Ohio State star has truly displayed good receiving abilities, notably on display performs, and with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten gone, it will be shocking if the Cowboys didn’t enhance Elliott’s utilization within the passing sport.
5. Saquon Barkley, Giants (9)
I’m bullish on Barkley as a result of I anticipate him to get a large workload instantly, together with loads of cross targets. One thing just like the 80 receptions that went to Christian McCaffrey, final yr’s No. Eight choose, is hardly unthinkable, and Barkley might be anticipated to get many extra carries than his Panthers counterpart, who had 117 in 2017. Hey, the G-Males didn’t spend a No. 2 total choose on an RB, with tempting choices at QB, simply to trot out the likes of Jonathan Stewart (described as “plodding” in offseason coaching classes) and Wayne Gallman. There’s motive to be involved about Barkley’s capability to run between the tackles, plus New York’s partially rebuilt however nonetheless sketchy offensive line, however these points existed at Penn State and hardly prevented him from wanting like a generational expertise.
6. Alvin Kamara, Saints (6)
In distinction to Barkley, and virtually everybody else, Kamara evokes large optimism due to the power he confirmed final season to do extra with much less. A lot much less, in truth, than your common stud again, as Kamara obtained simply 201 touches as a rookie however was exceptionally environment friendly, averaging a league-leading 6.1 yards per carry and a gaudy 10.2 yards per reception, with 13 complete TDs. These charge stats merely should come down, however presumably not drastically as Kamara might conceivably be a barely bulkier model of Jamaal Charles, and he’s in line for extra touches this yr, particularly as Mark Ingram sits out the primary 4 video games with a suspension. At worst, Kamara, who was second amongst RBs final season with 81 receptions, might be a magnet once more for Drew Brees‘s dump-off passes, giving him a wonderful ground in PPR codecs and making him a safer first-round choose than some would possibly assume.
7. Kareem Hunt, Chiefs (12)
Hunt had an odd NFL debut final yr, bursting onto the scene with 775 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns in his first 5 video games earlier than falling into a chronic midseason swoon, with simply 522 yards and no scores at all around the subsequent seven video games. Hunt managed to proper the ship simply in time to indicate he wasn’t a flash within the pan, closing the season sturdy and successful the NFL’s speeding crown, albeit with the fewest yards (1,327) to prime the league since Barry Sanders took the title with 1,304 speeding yards in 1990. Then again, being in comparison with Sanders isn’t a nasty factor for an RB, and Hunt’s rookie efficiency assured him a busy function in what must be a dynamic offense, even when Spencer Ware’s return from harm siphons away some touches.
8. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars (9)
Regardless of lacking three video games as a rookie, Fournette completed ninth in PPR scoring amongst RBs, and he was seventh in per-game scoring. After all, the missed video games are a priority, notably as they stemmed from ankle woes which have dogged the again since his time at LSU, however Fournette confirmed that, when wholesome, he can trample NFL defenders simply as totally as would-be SEC tacklers. He scored 9 speeding TDs, with one other one by the air, and seems to be pretty much as good a guess as any to steer the league in end-zone journeys, which performs practically as effectively in PPR as in customary. Jacksonville’s ferocious protection ought to recurrently tilt the sphere in its offense’s favor, and the workforce upgraded its offensive line with path-clearing guard Andrew Norwell.
9. Dalvin Cook dinner, Vikings (10)
We’re left with what-ifs from Cook dinner’s rookie marketing campaign — this simply in: final yr’s class of first-year RBs was a doozy — as a result of he tore an ACL a mere 4 video games in. In that span, although, he was terrific, racking up 444 yards and two TDs whereas averaging 4.Eight yards per carry and searching very very like a bellcow again. We simply don’t know if he would have continued to play that effectively all season, and whereas Cook dinner is predicted to be absolutely recovered in time for the beginning of this season, it takes a little bit of a leap of religion to seize him with a excessive choose. That’s a leap price taking, although, as Cook dinner is ready to be the function again in an efficient offense that misplaced Jerick McKinnon to free company.
10. Melvin Gordon, Chargers (8)
We’re nonetheless ready for Gordon to common a lot as 4 yards per carry, however so long as the Chargers are joyful to feed him the ball, we might as effectively be content material with the outcomes (for those who sense a begrudging tone, you might be appropriate). Gordon went from 295 touches in 2016, with a seventh-place end amongst RBs, to 342 final yr and the fifth spot. One other top-10 season seems to be within the playing cards, provided that Los Angeles didn’t herald a lot backfield competitors, including seventh-round choose Justin Jackson to a depth chart that features undersized change-of-pace again Austin Ekeler. The Bolts did enhance their offensive line, no less than on paper, and have the makings of a protection that would permit Gordon to salt away second-half leads.
11. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers (4): With offseason addition C.J. Anderson reportedly slated for a large function, McCaffrey won’t be requested to do much more than he was as a rookie, however that was ok for 10th place at his place, and he must be a extra well-rounded runner this season.
12. Devonta Freeman, Falcons (8): Freeman had a comparatively disappointing 2017 season, by which he nonetheless completed 13th in RB scoring. His season mirrored the general stumbles of Atlanta’s assault underneath much-maligned offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who has pledged to get his RBs extra concerned on cross performs.
13. Jerick McKinnon, 49ers (11): San Francisco paid a hefty sum to carry McKinnon over from Minnesota, so coach Kyle Shanahan is presumed to have a giant function in thoughts for him, however some see bust potential in a transformed QB who has but to indicate he generally is a headlining again.
14. Joe Mixon, Bengals (9): Mixon principally did not dwell as much as the hype as a rookie, amid decidedly adversarial circumstances in Cincy’s struggling offense, and can get one other season to indicate what he can do with 200-plus touches.
15. Jordan Howard, Bears (5): An terrible pass-catcher, no less than to this point in his NFL profession, Howard earns his preserve the old school means, churning out yards and touchdowns along with his legs, and he figures to take care of a giant function at the same time as new Chicago coach Matt Nagy installs a extra numerous scheme.
16. Kenyan Drake, Dolphins (11): Miami was gradual to embrace Drake as its function again, even after buying and selling away Jay Ajayi halfway by final season, and now he should stave off playing-time challengers each younger (rookie Kalen Ballage) and previous (Frank Gore), whereas exhibiting that his sturdy closing stretch of video games was an indication of issues to come back.
17. Derrius Guice, Redskins (4): Bodily runner ought to step into a serious function on early downs, and might want to, provided that he caught simply 32 balls in three seasons at LSU.
18. Lamar Miller, Texans (10): Miller hasn’t blossomed in Houston the way in which many fantasy gamers had hoped, however ought to make for a secure RB2 choose, particularly with D’Onta Foreman working his means again from a torn Achilles and no lock to start out the season on the energetic record.
19. Dion Lewis, Titans (8): Signed to a $20 million contract to type a committee with Derrick Henry, Lewis must be the member who catches extra passes, and he confirmed with the Patriots that he can run between the tackles as effectively.
20. Ronald Jones, Buccaneers (5): His draft slot (38th total) says he ought to rapidly take over as Tampa Bay’s lead again, as does the truth that his competitors consists of Peyton Barber, Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers.
21. Sony Michel, Patriots (11): Michel flaunts an excellent larger draft slot (31st total), a results of mouth-watering faculty tape, however Michel should wrest his touches from Rex Burkhead and James White, with Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill nonetheless within the combine in the intervening time, whereas the ever-inscrutable Invoice Belichick pulls the strings.
22. Alex Collins, Ravens (10): An sudden vibrant spot for Baltimore’s 2017 offense, Collins’s reward is to start out the season because the clear early-downs again, with shot at 40-plus receptions.
23. Rashaad Penny, Seahawks (7): Seattle stunned analysts by taking Penny within the first spherical, and Pete Carroll has talked up his three-down potential, however a wholesome Chris Carson might need one thing of his personal to say about that, and the road nonetheless must show it’s able to run-blocking.
24. Tevin Coleman, Falcons (8): Atlanta’s No. 2 again will get sufficient work to be penciled in for 1,000 complete yards, 30 catches and 10 TDs, and he might attain way more if Freeman, who missed two video games final yr, goes down for any time frame.
25. Derrick Henry, Titans (8): Simply when Henry was free of being DeMarco Murray‘s apprentice, he was thrust again right into a timeshare with Lewis, however this time Henry has likelihood of getting the lion’s share of the work.
26. LeSean McCoy, Payments (11): Given his age, mileage, alarming drop final yr in per-carry common and Buffalo’s gloomy outlook, McCoy was already a dangerous choose earlier than troubling allegations surfaced that, if borne out, might land him a prolonged suspension.
27. Mark Ingram, Saints (6): We all know Ingram will begin the yr on a suspension, and it’s not a lock that, even after he returns, he absolutely escapes Sean Payton’s doghouse.
28. Jay Ajayi, Eagles (9): With LeGarrette Blount gone, Ajayi ought to get a lot of the short-yardage work, and he might earn way more than that in a high-wattage offense, however Doug Pederson appears to choose a spread-it-around strategy.
29. Marshawn Lynch, Raiders (7): After popping out of retirement to play for his hometown squad, Lynch was used to little impact within the early going, however befitting a participant who’s “all about that motion, boss,” he perked up when given a heavier workload, averaging 4.6 yards on 135 carries, with 5 TDs, over his ultimate eight video games.
30. Royce Freeman, Broncos (10): Third-round choose ought to emerge with a helpful function after competing with Devontae Booker and, to a seemingly lesser extent, De’Angelo Henderson for primacy in Denver’s backfield.