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Fantasy Football Rankings 2017: Post-Free Agency Running Backs

Though a few big-names remain homeless, the main waves of free agency have come crashing down.  Thus, it’s crucial to reexamine our original 2017 Fantasy Football Rankings with all of these movers & shakers in mind.  Indeed, the draft and training camps will alter these lists even further, but this stage of the offseason deserves to be captured on it’s own.

As such, The Wolf will be releasing a new set of Post Free Agency rankings throughout the next two weeks, beginning with Quarterbacks on Tuesday, Running Backs on Thursday, and Wide Receivers, Tight Ends and a Post-Free Agency Top-100 Big Board all the following week. These are THE most in-depth rankings out there, and, as such, each position will be broken into multiple pages via tiers, with a cumulative cheatsheet at the end of each group.

Particularly at Running Back, a few huge questions remain to be answered: Which lead backs will feast on the absolutely delicious, RB1 set-ups in Green Bay and Oakland? Who’ll be Tampa Bay’s featured guy? Where will Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and LeGarrette Blount ultimately land?   And, as discussed with Dane Brugler, CBS’ Senior Draft Analyst, on our latest Fantasy Fullback Dive, a talented and deep rookie running back class will certainly send shockwaves through this list.

More so than any other position, these rankings will ultimately undergo another major face lift, but plenty of important movement needs to be captured nonetheless.

Emoji Key:

 ↗= riser

 ↘= faller

🔥 = guys we are higher on

 💩= guys we are lower on

**Scoring Note – These rankings assume 1/2 PPR mentality, as it’s both the best scoring format and also the most common.

2017 Running Back Rankings: The RB1s

Below are the true horses you’ll be able rely on for sturdy weekly production in your top running back spot. After a ridiculously barren 2015 RB pool, 2016 marked a running back renaissance of sorts. Numerous young, exciting talents ascended into lead horse roles, while some older busts were revived from the dead.  Ultimately, this has left us with a deeper RB1 pool to chose from, although the drop-off after these nine is fairly steep.

Tier One – The Elite 

Three down workhorses in explosive offenses — the most valuable commodity in all the Rotosphere.

1. David Johnson↗ (ARI) vs. 2. Le’Veon Bell (PIT)

I lump these two together given they’re the only names to consider at one or two, regardless of format. Both will approach 2,000 total yards, carry 100 catch upside, and are near locks for 20+ fantasy points any given week, with the upside for an insane 50 pointer at any point. The recipe is simple: strong and versatile individual talent, utilized heavily and creatively, in an explosive offense that yields numerous scoring chances. There is really no debate.

Which one should be #1, however, is certainly worth an argument. Personally, I feel David Johnson seems sturdier both on and off the field. Yes, Le’Veon has dominated for multiple seasons now & there’s literally no question what he’ll provide every single Sunday when active. But he’s one puff away from a year-long ban, and his injury history isn’t exactly clean.

You’re getting a smokeshow fantasy product either way — whether you prefer blondes or brunettes is up to you. Until recently…

David Johnson Stock Up Update: As discussed on the Fantasy Fullback Dive in our first-ever “Football Fantasy,” Bruce Arians remains fully intent on once again riding his unstoppable workhorse into the ground:

“He’s still too young to overuse,” Arians said of David Johnson on Wednesday at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix. “I want to have 30 touches out of him, if possible, because that’s going to be a lot of offense. When he has his hand on the ball, either as a wide receiver, coming out of the backfield, in the slot, and running, that’s a lot of potential offense for us.”

Though coach speak runs rampant around this time of year, Arians is generally blunt and holds to his word. More importantly, this heavily suggests Arians and the team have no longterm concerns over Johnson’s Week 17 knee scare, and have no plans to “ease him” back in.

Furthering the fantasy erection, Johnson loved the idea of such high usage:

“I’m still young,” Johnson said. “I’m still on my first contract. So I feel I can definitely handle 30 touches. I did it last year, basically, with running the ball and catching it out of the backfield.”

And if you somehow still needed help with completion, Johnson already told reporters he’s back to “full throttle” while setting a lofty 2017 goal to record 1,000 receiving yards:

“The biggest thing is my route running,” Johnson said. “I remember all the routes I messed up on and I probably would have had 1,000 yards this year. That’s where I want to get, 1,000 yards receiving and rushing. So I feel like the biggest thing I want to work on is those routes.”

I absolutely love that, coming off a historic 2,112 total yard, 20 total TD season, Johnson is wholly unsatisfied and thinking more about how to improve. With his health confirmed and mammoth workload potentially expanding, Johnson has become the indisputable No. 1 selection.

Tier 1.5

3. Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)

If anyone could push Johnson or Bell for a top-two spot, it’s Ezekiel; the sensational sophomore should be locked into at least #3 overall regardless after leading the league in rushing yardage as a rookie.  His power-running skill set, this mauling line, and the offense’s run-centric approach make Elliott a near fool-proof investment.  Coach Jason Garrett has already confirmed the back won’t see a reduced workload, stating:

“Well, he certainly handled the opportunities we gave him really well, both as a runner, blocker and as a receiver,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We thought he got better and better as the game went on and really as the year went on as well. I thought he handled it really well. He’s one of those players you want to have on the field, you want to give opportunities because he makes such a big difference to your football team.”

Despite so much in his favor, it’d be foolish to pretend Zeke’s without any risk.  Just last August reports surfaced that the Cowboys were concern with his “patterns of behavior” off the field, while domestic abuse allegations against him are still being looked into by the NFL.  Elliott also got caught on camera exposing a woman’s breasts numerous times… not the best look for someone already in hot water.  His chipmunk cheeks also have seemed to be carrying a few extra acorns this preseason as compared to his shredded college days, and maintaining his shape will be important.

Should he make it through the offseason clean and in shape, Zeke will be one of the safest 2017 fantasy investments at a very high-risk position. Let’s see it happen before going all-in.

Read on to Page Two to find out who else we consider Lock RB1s for 2017

 

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