Welcome back to another installment into the 2017 Running Back PPR Cheat Sheet. Here is my Top 20 Rankings with 2017 Projection and Outlook insight. The rest of the Top 65 is slowly being produced, but for now here is my Top 20 with projections and justification. Please feel free to like, share, and subscribe to my content as we here at fantasyisntfun aim to produce free fantasy football content for you every day. Keep in mind this is for point per catch formats – my standard scoring cheat sheets will be releasing soon!
1. David Johnson, ARI
2017 Projection: 310 attempts / 1364 rush yards / 14 rushing touchdowns; 82 receptions / 943 receiving yards / 4 receiving touchdowns (420 points)
Outlook: In just his second season in the NFL, David Johnson took the NFL and the fantasy world by storm en route to a historic fantasy campaign. Entering his second full year as the lead dog in the Arizona backfield with no real competition or threat to steal carries, DJ is the consensus #1 overall player in most formats this year, PPR included.
2. Le’veon Bell, PIT
2017 Projection: 320 attempts / 1600 rush yards / 12 rushing touchdowns; 70 receptions / 577 receiving yards / 2 receiving touchdowns (371 points)
Outlook: Le’veon Bell had a great year last year despite missing time due to a suspension. A full 16 game schedule and the motivation of the mystical contract year mean Le’veon pushes the limits of what we have seen from him through his first four years in the NFL en route to a #2 overall running back finish. Draft with confidence.
3. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL
2017 Projection: 310 attempts / 1590 rushing yards / 12 rushing touchdowns; 38 receptions / 40 receiving yards / 2 receiving touchdowns (322 points)
Outlook: Running behind the dominant Dallas offensive line, Elliott set all kinds of team and rookie records last season in a great year for the Cowboys offense. However, with some pieces missing from that offensive line this year and the development of Dak Prescott at quarterback, I believe Elliott takes a small step back from his massive 2016. Still a clear and easy top 3 option at the position, however.
4. Demarco Murray, TEN
2017 Projection: 275 attempts / 1237 rushing yards / 8 rushing touchdowns; 48 receptions / 336 receiving yards / 2 receiving touchdowns (264 points)
Outlook: Murray looked revitalized after a trade sent him to the Tennessee Titans during the 2016 offseason after a down year in Philadelphia. One of the best all-around backs in the game, Murray returns to an offense dedicated to pounding the run every which way they can and has some new weapons around him on offense to hopefully take some of the defenders out of the box on early downs. I think Murray has a few years of relevance left and I am quite high on the Tennessee offense as a whole, Murray included, in 2017.
5. Jordan Howard, CHI
2017 Projection: 275 attempts / 1265 rushing yards / 7 rushing touchdowns; 38 receptions / 418 receiving yards / 2 receiving touchdowns (259 points)
Outlook: After taking over the starting role in Week 4, Howard literally ran away with the job. He performed extremely well on a sub-par Bears offense in 2016 and seemed to earn the confidence of the coaching staff almost instantly. With no real threat for carries behind him while being the object of many pre-season puff pieces in the media this year, Howard projects to be the bell cow running back on a team which has shown a dedication to handing him the ball each week.
6. Lesean McCoy, BUF
2017 Projection: 215 attempts / 1032 rushing yards / 9 rushing touchdowns; 45 receptions / 360 receiving yards / 2 receiving touchdowns (250 points)
Outlook: McCoy was simply a great running back in 2016 despite numberous touchdowns being vultured by backup Mike Gillislee. After losing Gillislee to the rival Patriots, McCoy returns as the clear favorite for every-down work in the Buffalo backfield. Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Williams will get their carries here and there, but 2016 demonstrated that McCoy has plenty left in the tank and will be the centerpiece, yet again, for the Buffalo offense. Attempts will be down as the Bills aim to keep McCoy fresh, but he is still a playmaker and will finish very well yet again this year (barring injury.)
7. Melvin Gordon, LAC
2017 Projection: 280 attempts / 1148 rushing yards / 8 rushing touchdowns; 38 receptions / 304 receiving yards / 2 receiving touchdowns (242 points)
Outlook: Melvin Gordon burst onto the fantasy scene in 2016 after the Week 1 losses of Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead. He quickly began to live up to his draft pedigree, demonstrating great hands in the passing game and good running out of the I-formation. However, a sub-4.0 yards per rush stat gives owners pause heading into 2017. I project Gordon to perform well again in a Los Angeles attack that projects to be much better at full health.
8. Devonta Freeman, ATL
2017 Projection: 240 attempts / 1080 rushing yards / 8 rushing touchdowns; 40 receptions / 320 receiving yards / 1 receiving touchdowns (240 points)
Outlook: Since 2015, Devonta Freeman has been one of the premier backs in the game while splitting time with Tevin Coleman. The guy simply gets it done week in and week out and usually finds a way to impact the game most weeks. He will be splitting duties with Coleman again this year, however he will be heavily involved in the Atlanta offense. I predict rushing attempts to rise in Atlanta with the loss of incumbent OC Kyle Shanahan, paving the way for excellent fantasy production for both Freeman and Coleman.
9. Mark Ingram, NO
2017 Projection: 180 attempts / 882 rushing yards / 8 rushing touchdowns; 40 receptions / 280 receiving yards / 4 receiving touchdowns (228 points)
Outlook: The arrival of Adrian Peterson seemingly puts a large dent in Ingram’s fantasy value… or does it? Appearing to be on his last legs last year in Minnesota, there is perhaps not a more talked-about free agency arrival in the league than Peterson. Ingram, however, has continued to thrive when splitting time between guys like Darren Sproles, CJ Spiller and Tim Hightower throughout his career, and we cannot forget his passing game chops. I expect Ingram to be, well… Ingram, and catch his way to PPR value this year at a lower price than what he was valued at over the past few seasons. A good bargain.
10. Isaiah Crowell, CLE
2017 Projection: 240 attempts / 1080 rushing yards / 8 rushing touchdowns; 34 receptions / 289 receiving yards / 1 receiving touchdown (225 points)
Outlook: No running back did more with less last year than Isaiah Crowell. He averaged the fewest carries per game for a running back scoring in the Top 15 last year. This year, coach Hue Jackson has promised to get Crowell more involved on a team that projects to be a bit better this year than last. With Duke Johnson an option on passing downs, Crowell will still be involved through the air on a team with plenty of young and not-so-good options at quarterback. A dedication to establishing the run and grinding the clock in 2017 gives me a lot of faith in Crowell as a Top 10 producer this year.
11. Jay Ajayi, MIA
2017 Projection: 290 attempts / 1392 rushing yards / 8 rushing touchdowns; 22 receptions / 143 receiving yards / 0 receiving touchdowns (223 points)
Outlook: One of 2016’s surprise performers, Ajayi demonstrated his skills as one of the NFL’s most balanced runners between power, speed, and swiftness. He ran wild in a few games and brought the Dolphins back to the playoffs. This year, the coaching staff wants to get him even more involved, with rumors of 350+ touches being floated out there. Obviously, that’s a heavy burden, but if there is any year to get on the Ajayi bandwagon, it’s this year. Volume hog on an offense that projects to be better led by underappreciated coach Adam Gase. This is a team on the rise.
12. Tevin Coleman, ATL
2017 Projection: 130 rush / 625 rushing yards / 6 rushing touchdowns; 42 receptions / 504 receiving yards / 5 receivinng touchdowns (220 points)
Outlook: Tevin Coleman has always had tantalizing talent, even in a time-share situation in Atlanta. Though he has been a bit frail through his first two NFL seasons, his talent is made clear every time he suits up as healthy for a game, especially through the air. Coleman and Freeman combine to form the most dangerous running back duo in the NFL. In a year where I expect him to be even more involved in the offense, Coleman offers great PPR upside for his modest price compared to the rest of the Top 12 and I believe he runs with his opportunities this year. If he plays all 16 games, he is a lock for Top 12 production in PPR leagues.
13. Bilal Powell, NYJ
2017 Projection: 150 attempts / 750 rushing yards / 4 rushing touchdowns; 60 receptions / 420 receiving yards / 2 receiving touchdowns (213 points)
Outlook: Powell really caught on in the second half of the 2016 season as Matt Forte began to slow down. Young quarterbacks have a tendency to check down a lot to running backs, and the Jets boast two of the youngest (and worst) quarterbacks in football. Josh McCown has demonstrated a knack for involving running backs in the passing game in his career as well, and on a team that projects to be behind quite frequently (which leads to more passing plays being called) I like Powell to heavily outdo Matt Forte in both offensive snaps and fantasy production.
14. Joe Mixon, CIN
2017 Projection: 220 attempts / 1056 rushing yards / 8 rushing touchdowns; 20 receptions / 200 rushing yards / 3 receiving touchdowns (211 points)
Outlook: A first round talent, Mixon fell in the 2016 draft due to major character concerns. He was drafted to a team that doesn’t really have a truly great running back, but just a couple of guys who do certain things very well in Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard (coming off of a torn ACL.) Bernard will not be ready for Week 1, which bodes well for Mixon’s involvement in the passing game early. Said to look fast, strong, and shifty in his early practices with Cincinnati, and coming out of a program that has produced many NFL talents in Adrian Peterson and Demarco Murray, I expect Mixon to be the runaway Rookie of the Year and put some good games on tape. A great RB2 if you can get him. Beware the hype machine.
15. Todd Gurley, LAR
2017 Projection: 260 attempts / 1040 rushing yards / 10 rushing touchdowns; 22 receptions / 176 receiving yards / 0 receiving touchdowns (203 points)
Outlook: Gurley had an absolutely horrific 2016. The offense was horrible under old coach Jeff Fisher, and first overall pick Jared Goff looked like a deer in the headlights on every single drop back. After adding to the offensive line with the addition of Andrew Whitworth and adding some actual threats on offense, combined with adding a great new offensive mind in head coach Sean McVay, I project Gurley to be a great bounce-back player this year en route to a season we expected him to have last year.
16. Lamar Miller, HOU
2017 Projection: 200 attempts / 840 rushing yards / 8 rushing touchdowns; 35 receptions / 245 receiving yards / 1 receiving touchdown (197 points)
Outlook: Lamar Miller is not an every-down NFL running back. He just isn’t. He breaks down constantly and gets progressively worse with more carries. The Texans invested a draft pick in D’Onta Foreman this offseason to take heat off Miller, and this addition will negatively impact Miller’s opportunities in 2017. However, when used properly, he is a dangerous weapon on a team full of them. I expect the coaching staff to better manage Miller’s touches this year, which I believe will actually lead to slightly less production but a higher chance of durability and consistency in Miller’s game. When the Texans are up, I can see him coming out of the game, which is a dangerous proposition on a team with such a great defense. Opportunities for him to score will still be there, though.
17. Theo Riddick, DET
2017 Projection: 45 attempts / 157 rushing yards / 1 rushing touchdown; 75 receptions / 600 receiving yards / 6 receiving touchdowns (192 points)
Outlook: A receiver in a running back’s body, Theo Riddick is one of the most proficient receiving backs in the NFL today. Signed to an extension last offseason, Riddick is a cemented part of the Lions aerial attack. The departure of Anquan Boldin frees up some red zone opportunities for other members of this offense, and I expect Riddick to thrive in his reprised role as passing-game specialist. Always a threat for big weeks in PPR combined with his relatively low-cost to others in the Top 20, Riddick will continue to be a great pick and valued part of the Lions attack. Stafford loves him, and it will show again this year.
18. Leonard Fournette, JAX
2017 Projection: 230 attempts / 920 rushing yards / 10 rushing touchdowns; 15 receptions / 160 receiving yards / 1 receiving touchdown (189 points)
Outlook: The first running back taken in this year’s NFL Draft lands on a team which has not experienced much success on the ground since the days of (prime) Maurice Jones-Drew. New coach Doug Marrone brought life to a dead offense after taking over as coach late in 2016, and has a history of running the ball well and letting his quarterbacks manage the game, in a sense, after his run in Buffalo. The team seemed to play much better for Marrone last year after he took over, and Fournette’s power, tenacity and strong lower body will bode well for his chances at a Year 1 impact. On an offense that seems poised to bounce back to respectable, I expect Fournette to get carries early and often and turn those carries into a Top-20 fantasy season.
19. Terrance West, BAL
2017 Projection: 220 attempts / 924 rushing yards / 8 rushing touchdowns; 28 receptions / 196 receptions / 0 receiving touchdowns (187 points)
Outlook: After revitalizing his career in Baltimore in 2016, West looked the part of a two-down running back in the Baltimore attack. Looking spry and decisive as a runner, things he lacked in Cleveland to start his career, West got accustomed to the lead back role and turned in a respectable fantasy season. Continuity in Baltimore and the increase in weapons in the attack, combined with the loss of tight end Dennis Pitta, lend me to believe that the opportunities will be there for West on a team that projects to slow the game down and grind the clock. Kenneth Dixon is a threat to his production, but he is suspended for the first four games of the season, and as a result I like West to produce low-end RB2 production in his role. He is probably likely to average 10-12 points a week, and he can be had much later in drafts.
20. Ameer Abdullah, DET
2017 Projection: 160 attempts / 768 rushing yards / 6 rushing touchdowns; 32 receptions / 256 receiving yards / 2 recieving touchdowns (181 points)
Outlook: After missing the entire 2016 season due to a Lisfranc injury in his foot, Abdullah looks to return to form and cash in on his draft pedigree that the Lions trusted in the 2015 draft. On a team with a lot of guys who only do certain things right in the running game, Abdullah returns with clear opportunity to run away with the job. A shifty, small runner with passing game talent, Abdullah will get his chances in the Detroit backfield this season. The question is: will he hold up? He has never rushed for 80 yards in a game in his career. Will his time away harm him, or get him healed up and ready to produce? This is a player well-worth the risk in 2017.