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2017 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: RB2s UPDATED

Most sites will call these the “Way Too Early” Fantasy Football Rankings; we call them not soon enough.  After all, in the wise words of actor Peter Bergman, “When you are not practicing, remember somewhere someone is…and when you meet him, he will win.”

The Wolf will NOT get out practiced when it comes to fantasy football, and nor should you. 

True, fantasy values are far from set; plenty of these player will shoot up or plummet downward  in the rankings with each spin of the coaching carousel, free agency wheel, or NFL Draft cycle. Still, there’s plenty of value to a “Stream of Gut” rankings list: a collection of your unbiased, pure gut feelings about particular players, written before your mind can be swayed as the “advice” begins pouring down. This way, the foundation for all your rankings is wholly built upon your own, independent thoughts.

Without further adieu, welcome to the 2017 Fantasy Football Rankings. These rankings assume 1/2 point PPR scoring to achieve a happy medium between the two formats. As a huge sucker for tiers, I’ll be releasing different positional groups each day (i.e. WR1s, WR2s, Flex Plays) before ultimately combining them all into a final Big Board by the end of the month.

 

2/6 Update – Dion Lewis plummets 

After sinking to third fiddle behind James White and LeGarrette Blount as the playoffs progressed, Patriots RB Dion Lewis was removed from RB2 territory and falls to the bottom of mere flex consideration; I clearly overreacted to Lewis’ massive Houston game. This backfield is obviously a complete mystery, and Lewis could both rise up or fall further depending on where Blount lands and what White’s massive Super Bowl performance ultimately means for 2017. Clearly, the lead back will have some value given the offense’s explosiveness, but who that will be is a complete guess.

Previously in 2017 Running Back Rankings…

Part I – RB1s (#1 – #9)

 

Part II – RB2s

Unlike the previous nine backs, who are general locks for weekly production, the following guys come with a bit more risk or uncertainty, whether in health or role. Consequently, these ball-carriers should be considered #2 options instead of true anchors, despite plenty of RB1 ceilings.

Note – Some of the below are actually situations (i.e. Tampa Bay, Green Bay, and Baltimore) and not actual players, as the backfield is highly unsettled; yet, the surrounding talent and/or coaching scheme makes these backfield opportunities potential goldmines, and they are listed to keep on your mind.

Tier Three:  High-end RB2s with RB1 upside

11. Latavius Murray (or lead Oakland back)

Though an impending free agent, Latavius has already expressed a desire to remain in Oakland:

 

Meanwhile, former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has been let go after being publicly criticized by head coach Jack Del Rio for not feeding Murray enough:

True, new coordinator Todd Downing is a bit of a mystery, but you’d have to imagine Del Rio picked a philosophical match as his play caller. If so, Murray would still be in the dream set up of an explosive offense (pending Carr’s health) + mauling offensive line that already helped facilitate his RB13 finish in 2016, despite only playing in 14 games. We saw the TD upside (12, nearly one per game), and an uptick in volume would make Murray a sneaky RB1 breakout candidate. DeAndre Washington did look strong to finish the year, so monitoring workload reports is crucial here.

 

12. Lamar Miller (HOU)

Love the post hype bounce back appeal if his underwhelming 2016 makes him a third rounder. The expected volume was there, but the efficiency lacked. Perhaps Miller will come in motivated and in ridiculous shape, ala Shady this past season.

13. Mark Ingram (NO) 

Outscored Ajayi in 2016, and, most importantly, made it through all 16 games for just the second time in his career. Ingram maintained his strong 2015 receiving presence, hauling in 46 balls for 319 yards and 4 TDs, in addition to his first season of over 1,000 on the ground + 6 more TDs.

14. Todd Gurley (LAR)

Tracking Los Angeles’ overall offensive skill and line additions this offseason will be crucial, as a Gurley bounce back requires some massive upgrades. He’s equally capable of a huge rebound OR second straight disaster, pending the moves the Rams make.  Clearly, I believe they’ll make some upgrades under new leadership, but I fully reserve the right to send Gurley plummeting if not.

Tier 3.5

15. Thomas Rawls (SEA)

I’m such a Rawls guy, but his inconsistency is maddening. When he hits, few match his violent, explosive style, and he can churn out 150+ yard efforts with the best of them. Yet, he rarely strings together massive, hell, even useful, efforts in a row, and his consistency will be even trickier to project with the lightning-quick CJ Prosise returning. Looking into the crystal ball, I see a productive committee in which both guys are highly usable, and a strong double digit TD rebound for Rawls.

16. CJ Anderson (DEN) 

So injury prone, despite looking strong in his 2016 starts. New Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy shouldn’t hurt by any means (more in depth analysis on that coming soon), and Devontae Booker completely floundered, so the door is open for more RB1 games, but Anderson has yet to make it through a full season.

Tier Four – Less clear, still attractive RB2s

The following situations are highly unsettled, but carry significant (re: RB1) upside if the right talent fills the gap (we’ll do a whole article on Value Holes soon enough) OR if workloads shake out appropriately. 

17. Tampa Bay RB, Doug Martin?

I love Dirk Koetter RBs. Even in committees, Koetter funnels volume to his RBs, which produced a monstrous 2015 revival of Doug Martin and made Maurice Jones Drew a dynamite fantasy product for years in Jacksonville; even Jacquizz Rodgers produced RB1 weeks as the lead guy in Martin’s 2016 absence.  Whether the ultimate starter is Martin or a fresh face, someone in Tampa Bay will be, at minimum, a weekly RB2… should they invest in an explosive rookie or free agent, we’d have real top-10 RB upside here. This will be among the most important backfields to monitor this offseason.

18. Kansas City RB, Spencer Ware? Jamaal Charles? 

Given his high usage of backs in the passing game, Andy Reid has facilitated monstrous fantasy seasons (Brian Westbrook, JaCha in 2014). As such, owners need to heavily monitor the workload distribution in KC / health of Charles entering 2017.  The early assumption is Ware plays the lead back, 15-18 carry role, while Charles and Tyreek Hill are sprinkled in.

19. Tevin Coleman (ATL)

Love his sturdy RB2 appeal even when in a committee, and top-five RB ceiling in the event of a Devonta injury.  One of the best middle round investments owners can make. Big Coleman guy.

20. Bilal Powell (NYJ)

I absolutely love Powell’s talent; he’s incredibly shifty in the hole and deceptively powerful for his size, ala Dion Lewis. This ranking assumes he enters 2017 as the starter, which is admittedly a huge leap to take, especially with Chan Gailey since departed. Nonetheless, I’d be a heavy investor in Powell if the workload and coordinator fit are right. Look at his 2016 game logs in Forte’s absence:

  • Week 14 @ SF:  179 total yards, 2 TDs (5 receptions)
  • Week 15 vs MIA: 162 total yards, 11 receptions
  • Week 16 @ NE: 74 total yards, 2 catches
  • Week 17  vs. BUF: 137 total yards, 1 TD (3 receptions)

Monstrous upside if he’s fed properly. Fingers crossed they find the right play caller.

21. Ameer Abdullah and 22. Theo Riddick (DET)

If Abdullah is fully healthy and in the starter’s seat, he’ll shoot up these rankings rapidly.  Though the time was brief, this offense was humming through the sophomore against the Colts: 17 touches (5 receptions), 120 yards, and a TD.

Unbelievably, Theo Riddick also had his best game while sharing duties in Week One: 12 touches (5 receptions), 108 yards, 2 TDs (one receiving).

Of course, these joint numbers were put up against one of the softest teams in the league. But this offense was built to operate through these two backs, and this is a rare committee that is better together. One can only imagine the tandem numbers they’d put up if both can stay on the field all season– that’s the major rub here given both’s smaller frames & historic injury concerns. (Zach Zenner could get annoying at the goal line too). I’m expecting this backfield to come at a discount, making it a juicy opportunity.

23. Ty Montgomery? (GB) 

Eddie Lacy’s tub ass hits free agency in 2017, which factors heavily into Mongtogomery’s fantasy value.  Should the converted wideout be the main backfield option, he’ll skyrocket into the “RB2 w/ RB1 upside” group. If Lacy returns, or even worse, the team pursues a more legitimate backfield mate, Montgomery could suffer.  TDs are often plentiful in an Aaron Rodgers-led offense, so this is a must-watch backfield.

24. Robert Kelley (WAS)

Fairly solid talent in fairly solid offense = fairly solid RB2.

25. Ravens RB, Kenneth Dixon?

If the John Harbaugh’s early offseason comments are any indication , owners can expect some major shakeups in the Baltimore backfield:

“We need another back. What type of back is that? I think we’re talking about it. We have a pretty good idea of the type of back we want to add. Marty believes in running the football, and I believe in running the football. We have not run the football well enough or enough, really, for the last two years. That has to change.”

Work. Horse. Anyone?

The same report mentioned Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott were high on the Ravens’ wish lists the past two years, and a first round talent addition here could instantly create an RB1 investing opportunity. For now, we rank with Dixon in mind.

 

Where is The Wolf crazy? Where is he dead right? Any names glaringly missing so far? 

Be sure to tune in tomorrow as we finish off the 2017 Running Back Rankings (for now) with the last names to consider for starting lineups.