By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
This season could easily be called, “The Return of the Running Back.”
And what a return they made.
After seeing a season in which only one running back scored over 300 fantasy points, this year saw a running back eclipse 400 points – and four others topped 300 points. Outside of those five running backs, the position was rather bland.
Injuries and inconsistent offensive line play made a mockery of the position in 2016. Adrian Peterson went down early in the season and missed 12 games (13 counting week 17); Todd Gurley and Lamar Miller were wildly inconsistent and provided agony to many a fantasy football owner; Eddie Lacy went on injured reserve after week 6; and Doug Martin, Jamaal Charles, and C.J. Anderson also made homes on IR.
But with all of the injuries and inconsistency brought a wave of unexpected performances. Danny Woodhead went down in week 2 and Melvin Gordon floated to the top of the depth chart and scored his first NFL touchdown. He then added 11 more, en route to a seventh place finish in 2016. Jeremy Langford, the Chicago Bears starting running back to start the year, got hurt and lost his job to rookie Jordan Howard. Howard proceeded to finish second in the NFL in rushing and ninth amongst fantasy running backs. Dion Lewis didn’t return as fast as anticipated from his torn ACL which allowed LeGarrette Blount to run amuck on NFL defenses, scoring 18 touchdowns and finishing eighth.
With the bad comes the good. For most. If you invested heavily in any of the injured starters, there was little to feel good about, just the agony of watching everyone else in your league advance to the playoffs. But if you’re in a keeper league, the replacements were likely low draft picks, thus helping you out for more than one year. If you haven’t caught the appeal of keeper leagues yet, get up to speed people!
Heading into 2017, I think it’s safe to say four running backs will land in the 1st round. David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy put together outstanding 2016 campaigns that fantasy owners will remember and expect them to repeat. But will they? Bell is a free agent – but let’s be real, the Steelers aren’t letting him get away – and McCoy will have a new head coach who may want run a different offense, thus featuring McCoy differently. Johnson and Elliott seem to be the surest bets, but who of the low level picks make the leap to the top 10 in 2017? Paul Perkins? Kenneth Dixon? Maybe a rookie like Dalvin Cook or Leonard Fournette? Time will tell.
Below are how the RBs of 2016 finished. Scoring is from weeks 1-16 and scoring is in Club Fantasy format:
|28||Duke Johnson Jr.||CLE||143.8|