The 2017 NFL season is still months away and I’m already getting started with my fantasy football drafts. I love doing fantasy football drafts before the NFL draft takes place because it opens up more sleepers and good waiver wire picks. One thing I’ve learned so far is that you need to use your early picks on running backs. There are only 13 good starting running backs this year (with several sleepers) and about 36 solid wide receivers. I am only picking a wide receiver in the first round if I have the 4th, 5th, or 6th pick in the draft because the top three running backs are off the board by then and the top three wide receivers are still available. For this article, I am going to list some of the running backs who are currently being drafted below their value.
LeSean McCoy: Ok, this one is kind of obvious. Everyone knows that McCoy is a good running back because he put up great numbers last year. He is currently being drafted early in the second round but I am taking him with the 7th overall pick in the draft. Last year, Mike Gillislee was able to lighten McCoy’s workload a bit by taking 101 of the carries and 9 of the touchdowns. Unless you’re a Bills or Patriots fan, you’re probably not aware that the Patriots just offered Gillislee a contract and there are rumors that the Bills don’t plan on matching it. If Gillislee leaves to play with the Patriots, most of his carries and touchdowns will go to McCoy. McCoy averaged 19.8 fantasy PPG and I believe that number will increase to at least 22 if Gillislee leaves.
Mike Gillislee: If Gillislee does end up playing for the Patriots, I believe he’ll be a beast. In the last two seasons, he averaged 5.7 YPC and had 12 total touchdowns. Additionally, last year he had the 6th most runs over 20 yards with only 101 carries, the best rush-to-touchdown ratio (12.6), the best first-down percentage per rush (38.6) and the best third-down conversion percentage on rushes (75 percent). He is currently being drafted in the 9th or 10th round. I highly recommend using an 8th round pick on him just to be safe.
Mark Ingram: Ingram is currently being listed as the 13th or 14th best running back in most of the fantasy football rankings right now but I have him as the 8th or 9th best running back. Last year he averaged 5.09 YPC with 1,044 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns, 46 receptions and 319 yards receiving. He was able to accomplish that while giving almost 40% of the carries to Tim Hightower. Well, Hightower has left the building now and Ingram is expected to handle a full workload. Additionally, their offensive line is amazing this year. I believe Ingram’s fantasy points will increase to AT LEAST 18 PPG.
Isaiah Crowell: Last year, the browns had a terrible offensive line but Crowell was still able to put up respectable numbers while averaging 13 fantasy PPG. He had 944 yards rushing (4.79 YPC), 7 touchdowns, 40 receptions and 319 yards receiving. Well, in just a few months, the Browns went from one of the worst offensive lines to one of the best offensive lines. I believe Crowell will easily get over 1,000 yards rushing this year and his touchdowns will increase as well.
Todd Gurley: People are going to be hesitant to draft Todd Gurley after his disappointing season last year. I’m not one of those people. Predicting how a running back will perform is pretty easy: look at their offensive line. DeMarco Murray is a great example of this. He’s been a great running back with Dallas and Tennessee. What’s the common factor there? You guessed it – the offensive line. However, look at what happened to him when he played behind Philadelphia’s poor offensive line in 2015. He was horrible. The rams had one of the worst offensive lines last year but after signing Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan, they now find themselves with a very solid offensive line. This equals success for the explosive Todd Gurley. I am projecting at least 18 fantasy PPG from him this season with a higher ceiling. Don’t sleep on Todd Gurley!
Ameer Abdullah: Abdullah got off to a hot start last season with 23 fantasy points in his first game. He was on his way to another good performance in his second game before going down with an injury that kept him out for the rest of the year. Everyone is obviously thinking that this was just a fluke game since he is currently being drafted late. However, I believe he is going to be very solid this year. The Lions’ offensive line improved a ton last year after drafting Taylor decker and the improvement from Travis Swanson. They added two more elite offensive linemen during the offseason (T.J. Lang and Ricky Wagner) and now find themselves with a stacked offensive line. Abdullah should benefit from the improved offensive line and I believe he’ll pick up where he left off last season. However, he still has to share carries with Theo Riddick so I wouldn’t draft him as a starter. He is the perfect fill in for injuries and bye weeks with a lot of potential.
Ty Montgomery: As of right now, Montgomery is Green Bay’s starting running back this season. If that holds true, he is going to put up huge numbers this season. He was great in his limited role last year averaging 5.9 YPC. It seemed like no one could stop him. With Green Bay’s great offensive line and Ty Montgomery’s talent, he could be a big win for fantasy owners as he’s currently being drafted late in the 5th round or early in the 6th round.
Others: Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Jordan Howard, Bilal Powell, Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers.