Fantasy Football: Midseason RB Review

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Typically, RB1 is a difficult position to predict in fantasy. There are inevitably massive busts (Todd Gurley, 2016) and unexpected breakouts (LeGarrette Blount, 2016). It’s midseason and time to review where we’re at in the running back landscape and what to expect moving forward. Surprisingly, 2017 has been fairly tame, minus some unfortunate injuries (David Johnson and Dalvin Cook). But there are still some names on (and off) this list that might surprise you.

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*Data and ADP numbers are from compiled before BUF-NYJ Thursday night game, using PPR scoring

Quick disclaimer: the overall ranks are somewhat deceiving, due to bye weeks and weeks missed to injury. Leonard Fournette, for example, is the RB3 on a per game basis but sits lower having played a couple fewer games than most guys. Still, this top 12 captures the state of the position pretty well, and will be an excellent springboard for our discussion.

Here are some thoughts from our writers crew on this RB1 class and some assessments on the rest of the season.

1. Who were you most RIGHT & most WRONG about on this list, coming into the season?

Most RightMelvin Gordon. I thought the volume would be there and the film he laid down in 2016 was no fluke. He is a workhorse RB in an age of multiple backs and seems fixed in the top 5 for me. Most Wrong: Other than Kareem Hunt coming out of nowhere to gain the top spot, I’ll confess that I didn’t believe in Leonard Fournette, especially as a rookie. His style and lack of pass-catching abilities in college led me to believe we were looking at a “suped-up” version of Jeremy Hill, another big powerful runner out of LSU. Boy, was I off! He looks great and has the Jags in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot out of the AFC South. – Kyle Borgognoni

Most Right: Le’Veon Bell. This back impressed me more last season than David Johnson. What Bell was able to accomplish in fewer games than Johnson, spoke volumes of his talent and usage in the Steelers offense. I knew that he would be in the top running back conversation this season without a suspension to take away from his season total numbers (knocking on wood). I expect Le’Veon Bell to finish as a top 3 running back and would not be at all surprised if he finishes this season as the number 1 overall RB given his usage in the passing game. Most Wrong: Leonard Fournette. I just couldn’t see a rookie coming in like Ezekiel Elliott did last year and dominate the backfield. To his credit, Fournette has done just that. He has just under 600 rushing yards in 6 games and he is averaging a touchdown in each game as well. It’s clear the Jaguars do not want to leave their fate up to Blake Bortles so they will continue to feed their bell cow as long as he can remain healthy. – Nate Hamilton

Most Right: Carlos Hyde. It hasn’t been the prettiest season but I knew that RBs could flourish in the first year with Shanahan. He played really well to start the year but a hip injury and “hot-hand” nonsense has slowed him down a little. With Pierre Garcon out for the year, he’s now the clear best weapon on an offense that sorely needs one. Most Wrong: Mr. RB1 himself, Kareem Hunt. I just didn’t by the hype as his ADP shot up and ended up with zero Hunt shares. I’ll regret that for a while. – Ryan Weisse

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Most Right: Todd Gurley. In all honesty, I give myself a small pat on the back every week that Todd Gurley continues his current dominance. After a horrifically disappointing season, many abandoned the Gurley-train. I stood firm, believing in Sean McVay and his ability to revitalize Jared Goff and this offense. And I hit the bullseye. I have Gurley in three of my four leagues this season and am loving his standing as the No. 1 RB in points per game through Week 8. Most Wrong: Disregarding Chris Thompson, who no one got right, I’d have to say Melvin Gordon. I pointed to Gordon’s lack of efficiency on the ground as a telltale sign of regression. While he does still have a poor yards per carry average, his involvement in the passing game and ability to score in either facet have him higher than I projected.  – Matt Okada

2. Who will not finish the year inside the top 12?

Chris Thompson
Chris Thompson is going to drop out of this list, especially if defenses get their crap together. I’ve watched Redskins film and honestly, there’s a lot of blown assignments on Thompson coming out of the backfield for flares and arrow routes. He can’t keep this pace. – Kyle Borgognoni

I have to go with the flukiest player on this list in Chris Thompson. He has failed to crack 100 total yards over the past two games after doing so three times in the previous five and has only one score in the past four weeks. Thompson is a weekly threat to break a 70-yard receiving touchdown, but if teams figure out how to prevent that (and accordingly, Washington’s only real offensive weapon right now) he should find less and less consistency and slip off this list. – Matt Okada

Carlos Hyde
For me, it’s Carlos Hyde. The 49ers are in trouble. They have yet to win a game and just lost their number 1 wide receiver for the season. This will make things much easier (if they weren’t already) to focus on the best player in this awful offense, Carlos Hyde. CJ Beathard was named the rest of season starter and he has not looked like the answer for this team so far. Hyde will have a hard time finding the end zone as the opportunities will be limited. I fully expect this offense to continue to struggle, leaving very little to desire for Carlos Hyde owners. – Nate Hamilton

Jordan Howard
This top 12 is pretty solid but the Bears offense is awfully one-dimensional right now. If defenses know that they don’t have to worry about Mitch Trubisky, they can focus on stopping Jordan Howard– Ryan Weisse

3. Which player currently outside the top 15 has the best shot at finishing the year on this list?

Devonta Freeman
I think Devonta Freeman is going to turn it on. Hopefully he gets used in the passing game as he hasn’t seen more than 4 targets in any game this season. As a Falcons fan, I blame new OC Steve Sarkisian. Freeman is too good to remain outside the top 12. – Kyle Borgognoni

I’m not 100% if he’s out of the top 15 but it’s close … Do not sleep on Devonta Freeman. At this point, Steve Sarkisian looks like he’s put a lawn mower motor in a Ferrari. He needs to go back and see how Kyle Shanahan ran this offense and utilized Freeman. I imagine him getting way more involved in the passing game which should bolster his numbers considering they’ve ignored him there to this point. I think we’ll see better yardage numbers and more TDs to end the season and Freeman should crack the top 10. – Ryan Weisse

Alvin Kamara
This one is very tricky as the running back position has been awful this year. I will give Alvin Kamara a chance at sneaking into the top 12 by the end of the season. He is featured alongside Mark Ingram, which hurts his opportunities, but every time he touches the ball he produces. He is currently ranked as the RB17 in PPR formats so to say he could move up five spots shouldn’t too to far of a stretch for any player to accomplish. – Nate Hamilton

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I’m tempted to take the chalk with Devonta Freeman, but I didn’t believe in the Atlanta offense coming into the year and still don’t. Since this is PPR, give me Alvin Kamara. Kamara is currently the RB17 overall in this format and is actually already around RB13 on a per game basis. Moreover, Mark Ingram‘s recent fumbling issues, Sean Payton‘s apparent long-festering distaste for Ingram, and Kamara’s consistent ability to produce all point towards an increased role for their rookie over the back half. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kamara’s carry count creep towards Ingram’s while he continues to haul in four to five receptions per game. – Matt Okada

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