With the start of the NFL season just around the corner, it’s time to take a look at our top fantasy running backs for 2017. A lot can change during the preseason, so be sure to check out our full RB rankings for the most up-to-date list.
1. David Johnson
Johnson was the No. 1 Fantasy running back in all formats last season, racking up 2,118 total yards and 20 touchdowns on 373 touches. His 80 receptions were tied for 20th in the NFL, while he had an outside shot at 1,000 yards receiving (879) before departing in the finale. He averaged just over 23 touches a game in 2016, and is likely to again see 22-25 touches every week in 2017. At age 25, Johnson is in his prime and makes a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick in any format.
2. Le’Veon Bell
Bell had an impressive 2016 season, racking up 1,884 total yards from scrimmage despite being suspended Weeks 1-3. He averaged 157 total yards per game, which were 24 more than Ezekiel Elliott, and 25 more than David Johnson. He will again have a legitimate three-down role in the Steelers offense and is a favorite to finish as the No. 1 overall fantasy running back if he can stay on the field for all 16 games. Bell is coming off core muscle surgery in March, but is expected to be healthy for the start of training camp. While health is a concern, Bell is in his prime and is one of the most dominant running backs in fantasy football.
3. Ezekiel Elliott
Elliott lived up to the hype as a rookie in 2016, with 322 carries and 1,631 rushing yards while finding the end zone a total of 16 times last season. His rushing yards were third-most ever for a rookie, a number that would have been second-most had the Cowboys not rested him in Week 17. With Tony Romo retired, Elliott is the centerpiece for the Cowboys and he should have continued success behind Dallas’ dominant offensive line and run-heavy scheme. In addition to his heavy rushing workload, he may also see an uptick in receiving targets following the departure of Lance Dunbar. He is a strong contender for the No. 1 overall pick in all formats and just 22 years old, there will be no sophomore slump.
4. Melvin Gordon
Melvin Gordon was a bust as a rookie in 2015, but he rebounded in a big way as a sophomore in 2016. Despite a season-ending hip injury suffered in Week 14, he finished as the No. 8 fantasy running back in standard leagues last year with 254 carries for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns and 41 catches for 419 yards and two touchdowns. Gordon benefitted from Danny Woodhead going out for the season with a Week 2 injury. Woodhead is now in Baltimore and the Chargers don’t have anyone on the roster to take Gordon off the field. Gordon is entering his prime years at age 24 and will again be the clear feature back for an emerging Los Angeles franchise. Gordon is a locked-in RB1.
5. LeSean McCoy
McCoy finished the 2016 season as the No. 3 Fantasy running back in standard leagues with 234 carries for 1,267 yards and 13 touchdowns and 50 catches for 356 yards and one touchdown. As usual, he dealt with some injuries — hamstring, thumb and knee — but missed only one game. The Bills will continue to be a run-heavy offense under new head coach Sean McDermott, and their new OC Rick Dennison is known for targeting his RBs in the passing game. While his age and injury history cannot be ignored, he is in a prime position to repeat as a top-five fantasy running back.
Jordan Howard, DeMarco Murray, Devonta Freeman, Jay Ajayi, and Lamar Miller round out our top 10 at the position. Check out our updated RB rankings for the full list.