2017 PPR Rankings Analysis - Running Back

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Hey there Rotoballers! The start of the NFL season is right around the corner at this point. With several drafts likely scheduled for Labor Day weekend, or even next week leading up to next Thursday's New England Patriots-Kansas City Chiefs opener, the experts here at Rotoballer have made some final tweaks to their rankings.

With that being said, it is time to take a closer look at the PPR running back rankings to decide who is ranked properly, who is ranked too high, and who is ranked too low.

As always, our rankings are constantly updated to reflect the ever-changing landscape of fantasy football.

Editor's note: Purchase any NFL Lineup Optimizer pass (including daily DFS cheat sheets), and you also get access to NBA and NHL Optimizers and DFS cheat sheets.

 

Final Preseason 2017 PPR Rankings: RB

Tier One

1) David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
2) Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
3) LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
4) Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
5) DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
6) Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers

No arguments with the first two guys here. Johnson and Bell are locked in as the top two fantasy running backs this season. Bell's holdout may be a good thing as he will be a lot fresher than his peers heading into the season. McCoy makes me nervous playing for a Buffalo team that is going to be really bad. Take it for what it's worth, but the website www.sportsinjurypredictor.com gives McCoy a 92.3% chance of getting injured this season, second among the position behind only Kenneth Dixon who is already out for the year. Obviously, take that with a grain of salt as anything can happen, but McCoy is 29 and coming off a huge workload in 2016. I'm taking Freeman, Murray, and Gordon ahead of McCoy. Freeman is dicey as the Falcons lost offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and he has to split reps with Tevin Coleman. I actually like Gordon more than everyone in this tier outside of Johnson and Bell. He has as much touchdown upside as anyone in the tier and his pass-catching ability is underrated.

 

Tier Two

1) Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
2) Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
3) Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

I'd rank this tier Gurley, Ajayi, Howard in that order. Not a huge change, but I'm avoiding Howard this season. He's coming off a great rookie year, but his touchdown upside is capped by a Bears offense that could push the Jets for the "honor" of being the worst in the league, especially after losing Cameron Meredith. The Bears do boast a great offensive line, but poor game script is going to be facing Howard all season. Ajayi is solid and should see all the carries he can handle again this season. As long as Jay Cutler has something left in the tank, look for Miami's offense to be much improved over the Ryan Tannehill incarnations of the past few years.

 

Tier Three

1) Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
2) Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
3) Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
4) Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers

Lamar Miller is overrated and will start the year running in a Tom Savage-led offense. Even when Deshaun Waston eventually takes over, he will be running behind a rookie quarterback. I have Miller a full tier lower, personally. Fournette will be playing in a bad offense and already has an ankle injury, the same thing which dogged him in his last year at LSU. Let someone else draft him. I don't think the rankings reflect this, but Ezekiel Elliott has a real chance at having his suspension rescinded. Apparently, the NFL's lead investigator recommended no suspension for the second-year back on Thursday. I'm aggressively targeting him in the second round of drafts. If his suspension is revoked, he's the RB3 behind only David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell. If you grab Elliott and he does wind up being suspended, pick up Darren McFadden or Jacquizz Rodgers later to help keep the seat warm for his return. I love Ty Montgomery here and would draft him over everyone in this tier except Elliott. He plays for one of the best offenses in football, has elite pass-catching skills, and has very little competition, outside of a few late-round rookies who were drafted as positional depth.

 

Tier Four

1) Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
2) Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns
3) Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
4) Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders
5) Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

McCaffrey is being overdrafted in redraft leagues. We still don't know a few things about him, including his role in the offense and whether Cam Newton can effectively utilize a pass-catching running back. His value in dynasty is sky-high but at his late second round ADP, I'm looking for a sure thing. Crowell is going to have a breakout season. The Browns have one of the best offensive lines in football and should be more competitive than last season. Crowell is a free agent after the season, so expect him to be running hard all season. Hyde is properly ranked and generally gets overlooked. He's fine as a back-end RB2 if you can get him there. Lynch is one of the most interesting players in this tier. Oakland has a great offensive line and an ascending offense. If he has anything left in the tank, he's an RB1. If he doesn't, he could be on waiver wires by October. Dalvin Cook in the Vikings' clear cut starter and they have a much easier schedule than they did last season. The only issue is whether the Vikings' offensive line is improved over last season. Profootball Focus believes they have, as they have the unit ranked 14th after finishing last season ranked 29th.

 

Tier Five

1) C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
2) Danny Woodhead, Baltimore Ravens
3) Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
4) Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
5) Bilal Powell, New York Jets
6) Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions

Anderson struggled through an injury-riddled season and saw his fantasy ceiling walk out the door around the same time Peyton Manning did. He's a pass for me. Woodhead is my favorite player in this tier. The man, while injury-prone, is PPR gold whenever he's on the field. He's coming off draft boards in the fifth round of PPR drafts and is a solid choice. Hunt needs to be bumped up above all the other rookie running backs on the board and would be in tier three for me if I had my way. The Chiefs already came out and told us we will be the team's lead back after they lost Spencer Ware for the season. Frank Gore just won't go away. He may start trending down, however, if Andrew Luck misses more than a week or two recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Bilal Powell is expected to split work 50/50 with Matt Forte. Forte is entering his age-31 season and can't have much left. For me, Abdullah is above Anderson and Gore in this tier, but his upside is capped by Theo Riddick in the passing game and the possibility of Zach Zenner serving as the team's goal line back.

 

Tier Six

1) Paul Perkins, New York Giants
2) Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
3) Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
4) Rob Kelley, Washington Redskins
5) Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
6) Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys

Perkins is an avoid for me. The Giants have yet to show any sort of ground game in the Ben McAdoo era. Coleman is a sure-fire touchdown regression candidate after scoring 11 touchdowns on 149 touches in 2016. That being said, he's a league-winner if Devonta Freeman were to go down. Mark Ingram could be so much more, but the Saints hate him for some reason. He will be part of a crowded backfield and his fifth round ADP is a bit rich for me. Kelley appears to be holding off rookie Samaje Perine as Washington's starter, but the Redskins offense has looked bad in the preseason and Kelley has no pass-catching upside. Mixon is a bit low here, but it makes sense because Jeremy Hill isn't going away like fantasy owners had hoped. As mentioned above, Ezekiel Elliott may have his suspension rescinded. If that were to happen, McFadden is nothing more than a late-round handcuff option. Unless he's a great value in your draft, the ambiguity here makes him an avoid.

 

Tier Seven

1) Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots
2) Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks
3) LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles

Gillislee is ranked properly here. He's coming off the board in the sixth round of PPR drafts, but our rankers have him listed behind several better options. A crowded New England backfield and a hamstring injury that has been dogging him since OTAs makes me nervous. Lacy is a power back with weight issues running behind what could be the worst offensive line in football. No thanks. There have been whispers that the Eagles might cut Blount before he ever plays a down for them. Even if he sticks, he will be lucky to score 10 touchdowns this season after leading the NFL with 18 in 2016. Just avoid this entire tier unless you can get Gillislee at a value.

 

Tier Eight

1) Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints
2) Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
3) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
5) Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions
6) Terrance West, Baltimore Ravens
7) Matt Forte, New York Jets

At this point of the draft, hopefully you aren't relying on this group as anything more than a third or fourth running back. That holds true for everyone except Theo Riddick. Riddick is constantly overlooked, but he's a rock-solid RB2 in PPR. He should be bumped up into tier six. Derrick Henry could have a huge season if something were to happen to DeMarco Murray. As it stands, he's just an expensive handcuff. West should see first and second down work for the Ravens. He's a volume-driven RB3. Doug Martin is suspended for the first three games of the season and isn't guaranteed the starting job upon his return. I'd pass on him and take Jacquizz Rodgers four rounds later.

You can find the remainder of the full RotoBaller PPR player rankings HERE, which will be updated continuously throughout the preseason.

 

More 2017 Tiered Rankings Analysis


Check out all of RotoBaller's 2017 fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.