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By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

2017 started off horribly for running backs. David Johnson, the star running back of the Arizona Cardinals and the 1st overall pick in most 2017 fantasy football drafts, went down in Week 1 after only scoring 13 points. This likely derailed many fantasy owners’ seasons.

Unfortunately Johnson wasn’t the only RB with bad injury luck. Every year, we see a number of RBs go down with injuries, but in 2017 we saw more of the workhorses we rely on spend significant amounts of time on injured reserve. This is why we always preach that you should load up on depth at running back. It’s the most fragile position in fantasy football.

The Baltimore Ravens acquired free agent scat back Danny Woodhead with hopes that he would provide a spark for the offense. Woodhead suffered a severe hamstring injury early in the season and scored only 52.7 points for the year. His injury paved the way for Javorius “Buck” Allen’s return to fantasy relevance, but more importantly, the breakout of journeyman Alex Collins.

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RB Dalvin Cook was on his way to joining the other standout rookies with a phenomenal season of his own. Then he tore his ACL in Week 4 and that was all she wrote. (Photo cred: http://www.vikingsterritory.com)

Minnesota Vikings standout rookie Dalvin Cook was on his way to a likely top 10 finish when he he tore his ACL in Week 4. Luckily for the Vikings, they signed free agent RB Latavius Murray before the 2017 draft. Murray and change-of-pace back Jerick McKinnon proved worthy replacements for the rookie phenom throughout the season. McKinnon, who had been unable to seize similar opportunities in the past when Adrian Peterson went down with injuries, surged in a more prominent role en route to a RB17 finish. The four-year vet is a free agent heading into next year.

One of the most impactful injuries occurred in Kansas City. The Chiefs were poised to enter 2017 with Spencer Ware as their lead back. Ware flashed in 2016, finishing as RB16, but fumbled a little too much. The Chiefs decided to draft Toledo standout Kareem Hunt in the third round in the 2017 NFL Draft. Ware tore his PCL in the preseason and the Chiefs’ ROI on Hunt was about to be realized. The rookie burst onto the scene and was RB1 from Weeks 1 through 8. Due to inept play-calling, Hunt only provided RB40 value from Weeks 8 through 13. Thankfully, he would recover and finish the season as RB3 after ending the season with 96.3 fantasy points from Weeks 13 to 16.

Of course we can’t dismiss the suspension heard ’round the world. Ezekiel Elliott, the star running back of the Dallas Cowboys, was suspended for the first six games of the 2017 season. His draft stock plummeted as a result, going from a no doubt first rounder to a third rounder in most leagues. Through a series of injunctions, the suspension was delayed and delayed until Elliott finally caved and began serving his suspension in Week 10. He would finish with an average of 21.79 points, which over a full season, would’ve added a fourth player to eclipse the 300 point threshold. Ah, what could’ve been.

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RB Todd Gurley reemerged as one of the best, if not the best, RBs in the game today. Armed with improved QB play and new head coach, Gurley became fantasy’s number 1 RB. (Photo cred: http://www.theundefeated.com)

How about a couple of breakouts? Todd Gurley returned to his rookie form with the addition of new head coach Sean McVay and completely dominated fantasy football. He even scored a whopping 131.1 points during the fantasy playoffs. He single-handily carried fantasy owners to victory — and as someone who lost not one, but two championships to owners with Todd Gurley, I can attest to this statement.

It was also the year of the rookie running back. We know what Hunt accomplished, but Saints rookie Alvin Kamara was another stalwart. Sharing a backfield with Mark Ingram mattered none, as Kamara and Ingram would finish as RB4 and RB5. Jaguars rookie Leonard Fournette led the NFL’s best rushing attack, and despite missing three games, Fournette eclipsed 1,000 yards. Averaged over an entire season, his points per game would’ve given him a RB6 finish. Panthers rookie Christian McCaffrey finished 3rd among running backs in receptions en route to an RB9 finish. What will next year bring? Just know that Penn State RB Saquon Barkley could be overvalued heading into 2018 drafts. Where exactly he lands will obviously play a huge role in what he’s able to accomplish in his first year.

One thing The Commish and I talked a lot about heading into the 2016 season was that wide receivers presented more value as they get more usage in today’s NFL. That theory seemed to be debunked as in 2016, only Antonio Brown surpassed 300 fantasy points, while five RBs surpassed that, including David Johnson’s position leading 410.4. 2017 saw only three RBs cross the 300 point plateau, with Todd Gurley scoring a position leading 401.3, while two WRs surpassed 300. Safe to say, RBs are back on top.

IngramKamara

Saints RBs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara became the first running back tandem in NFL history to both record over 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same season. Kamara finished as RB4 and Ingram RB5. (Photo cred: http://www.topglobalnews.org)

A strange thing has happened in the NFL over the last few years. While the league has become more pass driven, more and more RBs are being utilized in the passing game to generate more usage and take advantage of match ups with slow linebackers or overmatched slot receivers. But here’s the thing: there are only so many multi-talented RBs to go around for 32 teams (the Saints lucked out and have two). Only 11 RBs scored more than 200 points. And that’s really the biggest difference between the RB position and the WR position. There’s so much more depth at WR that if you can’t land one or two of the top backs, just load up at WR and say a few prayers.

With David Johnson and Dalvin Cook returning from injury and a new crop of RBs coming into the NFL, RBs should dominate the top of fantasy drafts in 2018. The consensus top 5 RBs — Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Kareem Hunt — will likely be the first five players chosen in your drafts. Antonio Brown can easily make a case to be in this group, but you get the point.

Despite all of the injuries, 22 of the top 30 RBs should’ve been drafted in standard 10 team leagues, 24 in 12 team leagues. Even without the injuries, we knew who were going to be the top guys. Trust your rankings. Some guys will pop, as witnessed by the injuries, but this is why we rank multiple players from every team. Know who the backups are to the starters because while they may not be as talented, there are opportunities. McKinnon and Murray are prime examples of this. When The Commish and I do our team previews in the offseason, this is something we highlight. Of course, things change throughout training camp, so be sure to follow us across social media — @ClubFantasyFFL — for updates along the way.

Below are how the running backs of 2017 finished. Scoring is from Weeks 1-16 and follows the Club Fantasy format:

Rank Player Points Overall Avg Pts/Game
1 Todd Gurley (LAR) 401.30 26.75
2 Le’Veon Bell (PIT) 349.60 23.31
3 Kareem Hunt (KC) 303.70 20.25
4 Alvin Kamara (NO) 293.60 19.57
5 Mark Ingram (NO) 278.60 18.57
6 Melvin Gordon (LAC) 275.70 18.38
7 LeSean McCoy (BUF) 266.40 17.76
8 Leonard Fournette (JAX) 226.60 18.88
9 Christian McCaffrey (CAR) 218.20 14.55
10 Carlos Hyde (SF) 214.00 14.27
11 Jordan Howard (CHI) 207.30 13.82
12 Duke Johnson Jr. (CLE) 196.60 13.11
13 Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) 196.10 21.79
14 Lamar Miller (HOU) 189.80 12.65
15 Dion Lewis (NE) 181.70 12.11
16 Devonta Freeman (ATL) 178.40 13.72
17 Jerick McKinnon (MIN) 175.70 11.71
18 DeMarco Murray (TEN) 175.50 11.70
19 C.J. Anderson (DEN) 173.00 11.53
20 Javorius Allen (BAL) 162.40 10.83
21 Tevin Coleman (ATL) 162.00 11.57
22 Frank Gore (IND) 161.50 10.77
23 Alex Collins (BAL) 157.40 11.24
24 Marshawn Lynch (OAK) 154.30 11.02
25 Chris Thompson (WSH) 153.40 15.34
26 Theo Riddick (DET) 149.80 9.99
27 Tarik Cohen (CHI) 149.44 9.96
28 Bilal Powell (NYJ) 146.60 10.47
29 Isaiah Crowell (CLE) 143.40 9.56
30 Giovani Bernard (CIN) 142.70 9.51
31 Jay Ajayi (MIA/PHI) 139.10 9.94
32 Kenyan Drake (MIA) 136.30 9.09
33 Latavius Murray (MIN) 135.10 9.01
34 Joe Mixon (CIN) 134.60 10.35
35 James White (NE) 134.00 9.57
36 Jamaal Williams (GB) 132.50 8.83
37 Rex Burkhead (NE) 129.80 12.98
38 Derrick Henry (TEN) 124.30 8.29
39 Jonathan Stewart (CAR) 123.20 8.21
40 Matt Forte (NYJ) 120.40 10.03
41 Orleans Darkwa (NYG) 118.30 8.45
42 Ameer Abdullah (DET) 114.50 8.81
43 Samaje Perine (WSH) 112.20 7.48
44 Austin Ekeler (LAC) 106.90 7.13
45 LeGarrette Blount (PHI) 103.80 6.92
46 Wayne Gallman (NYG) 96.00 8.00
47 Rod Smith (DAL) 94.40 6.29
48 Corey Clement (PHI) 92.40 6.16
49 Matt Breida (SF) 92.10 6.14
50 Ty Montgomery (GB) 91.60 11.45
51 Marlon Mack (IND) 91.50 7.04
52 J.D. McKissic (SEA) 91.40 7.62
53 T.J. Yeldon (JAX) 90.40 10.04
54 Andre Ellington (ARI/HOU) 87.40 7.95
55 Jalen Richard (OAK) 86.50 5.77
56 Devontae Booker (DEN) 85.80 7.15
57 Chris Ivory (JAX) 84.70 6.05
58 Aaron Jones (GB) 84.00 7.00
59 Adrian Peterson (NO/ARI) 82.90 8.29
60 DeAndre Washington (OAK) 82.70 5.91
61 Shane Vereen (NYG) 82.30 5.49
62 Doug Martin (TB) 76.30 7.63
63 Elijah McGuire (NYJ) 74.20 4.95
64 Alfred Morris (DAL) 74.10 6.18
65 Charcandrick West (KC) 73.20 5.63
66 Charles Sims (TB) 72.80 4.85
67 Peyton Barber (TB) 70.80 4.72
68 Mike Gillislee (NE) 68.80 7.64
69 Jamaal Charles (DEN) 67.50 4.82
70 Dalvin Cook (MIN) 67.40 16.85
71 Kyle Juszczyk (SF) 63.70 4.90
72 Damien Williams (MIA) 59.60 5.42
73 Kerwynn Williams (ARI) 58.80 3.92
74 D’Onta Foreman (HOU) 57.00 5.70
75 Benny Cunningham (CHI) 55.30 4.25
76 Danny Woodhead (BAL) 52.70 7.53
77 Mike Tolbert (BUF) 45.00 4.09
78 Corey Grant (JAX) 43.90 2.93
79 Mike Davis (SEA) 43.70 8.74
80 Rob Kelley (WSH) 43.20 6.17
81 Jacquizz Rodgers (TB) 42.80 2.85
82 Malcolm Brown (LAR) 40.80 4.08
83 Wendell Smallwood (PHI) 40.70 5.81
84 Chris Carson (SEA) 39.70 9.93
85 Travaris Cadet (BUF) 37.50 4.17
86 D.J. Foster (ARI) 29.20 4.87
87 Alfred Blue (HOU) 29.10 2.91
88 Tommy Bohanon (JAX) 28.80 1.92
89 Eddie Lacy (SEA) 28.60 3.18
90 Terrance West (BAL) 28.10 4.68
91 Thomas Rawls (SEA) 27.30 2.48
92 Tion Green (DET) 26.40 6.60
93 Robert Turbin (IND) 25.90 4.32
94 Kapri Bibbs (WSH) 22.70 11.35
95 Elijhaa Penny (ARI) 22.30 1.49
96 Chris Johnson (ARI/FA) 20.70 5.18
97 Kenjon Barner (PHI) 20.10 1.68
98 Jamize Olawale (OAK) 19.60 1.78
99 C.J. Ham (MIN) 19.50 1.30
100 Bobby Rainey (BAL) 19.00 4.75
101 Paul Perkins (NYG) 18.80 1.88
102 Darren Sproles (PHI) 18.40 6.13
103 Jeremy Hill (CIN) 17.20 2.46
104 C.J. Prosise (SEA) 17.00 3.40
105 Fozzy Whittaker (CAR) 15.60 1.42
106 Terron Ward (ATL) 15.30 1.18
107 Cameron Artis-Payne (CAR) 15.10 1.26
108 Andy Janovich (DEN) 14.70 0.98
109 James Conner (PIT) 14.40 1.03
110 Branden Oliver (LAC) 14.00 2.00
111 Roosevelt Nix (PIT) 13.20 0.88
112 Tyler Ervin (HOU) 13.00 3.25
113 David Johnson (ARI) 13.00 13.00
114 Byron Marshall (WSH) 12.80 3.20
115 Aaron Ripkowski (GB) 12.20 0.81
116 Trey Edmunds (NO) 10.80 0.72
117 James Develin (NE) 9.80 0.65
118 Brian Hill (CIN) 9.30 1.55
119 Zach Zenner (DET) 8.60 1.08
120 Tre Madden (SEA) 8.50 1.06
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Posted by The Hudsonian

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