Club Fantasy – 2016 Year-End Recap: Running Backs

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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.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Buffalo Bills

David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals led all running backs in scoring in 2016.

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.

melvingordon

Melvin Gordon, a surprise breakout in 2016, scored 12 touchdowns, en route to a 7th place finish in Fantasy Football.

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:

Running backs Team Points
1 David Johnson ARI 410.4
2 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 345.4
3 Le’Veon Bell PIT 330.4
4 LeSean McCoy BUF 311.7
5 DeMarco Murray TEN 304.9
6 Devonta Freeman ATL 259.4
7 Melvin Gordon SD 256.6
8 LeGarrette Blount NE 229.8
9 Jordan Howard CHI 228.6
10 Mark Ingram NO 223.0
11 Jay Ajayi MIA 217.4
12 Frank Gore IND 208.7
12 Latavius Murray OAK 208.7
14 Lamar Miller HOU 199.1
15 Carlos Hyde SF 196.1
16 Spencer Ware KC 195.8
17 Isaiah Crowell CLE 195.3
18 Matt Forte NYJ 187.6
19 Todd Gurley LA 186.5
20 Jeremy Hill CIN 182.3
21 Tevin Coleman ATL 178.2
22 Bilal Powell NYJ 176.3
23 Terrance West BAL 165.5
24 Theo Riddick DET 161.8
25 Darren Sproles PHI 157.9
26 James White NE 154.7
27 Ryan Mathews PHI 148.6
28 Duke Johnson Jr. CLE 143.8
29 T.J. Yeldon JAX 137.7
30 Chris Thompson WSH 137.3
31 Christine Michael GB 136.4
32 Jonathan Stewart CAR 134.2
33 Ty Montgomery GB 133.4
34 Robert Kelley WSH 131.3
35 Rashad Jennings NYG 125.7
36 Matt Asiata MIN 125.0
37 Jerick McKinnon MIN 122.4
38 Giovani Bernard CIN 122.3
39 Tim Hightower NO 121.9
40 Devontae Booker DEN 117.8
41 Jalen Richard OAK 116.7
42 Mike Gillislee BUF 113.7
43 C.J. Anderson DEN 104.5
44 Robert Turbin IND 97.0
45 Chris Ivory JAX 96.5
46 Derrick Henry TEN 91.9
47 Damien Williams MIA 89.6
48 Kenneth Dixon BAL 87.1
49 Jacquizz Rodgers TB 85.9
50 Doug Martin TB 85.5
51 Travaris Cadet NO 83.2
52 Shaun Draughn SF 82.0
53 Matt Jones WSH 79.3
54 DeAngelo Williams PIT 77.7
55 DeAndre Washington OAK 77.5
56 Fozzy Whittaker CAR 73.2
57 Zach Zenner DET 72.0
58 Kyle Juszczyk BAL 71.7
59 Thomas Rawls SEA 70.1
60 Charles Sims TB 67.9
61 Paul Perkins NYG 66.6
62 Charcandrick West KC 65.5
62 Jeremy Langford CHI 65.5
64 C.J. Prosise SEA 63.0
65 James Starks GB 58.9
66 Jamize Olawale OAK 57.4
67 John Kuhn NO 56.7
68 Alfred Blue HOU 55.0
69 Wendell Smallwood PHI 52.7
70 Justin Forsett DEN 52.6
71 Dwayne Washington DET 48.7
72 Kenyan Drake MIA 48.5
73 Dion Lewis NE 47.5
73 Rex Burkhead CIN 47.5
75 Eddie Lacy GB 44.8