Coaster's Top 10 Running Backs 2017 NFL Season
1. David Johnson
The definition of a workhorse. Combined 2000+ yards last season with 880 coming through the air on 120 targets... as a RB. David Johnson is poised to be the 3 down back once again in Arizona and with Carson Palmer's days coming to an end; he should still be relied on heavily. David Johnson hasn't missed a game in 2 years and with his breakout season last year; he is the clear cut #1 in any draft.
2. Ezekiel Elliot
1600 yards on the ground and 350 through the air on only 40 targets last year creates one of the best rookie RN seasons the NFL has ever seen. The cowboys lost a reliable O line man in Leary and one retirement but that wall should remain one of the best in the league. His numbers should remain the same or increase this upcoming season with another year of development and owning the 9th easiest schedule for RBs this year. Zeek might join the 2k club if he is fed the ball enough.
3. Le'veon Bell
After serving a 4 game suspension, Bell was arguably the best running back in the league from that point forward. The back outperformed with 1900 total yards and 94 targets out of the backfield in just 12 games. Most have him at #2 which is a very viable option, both Bell and Elliot are part of the elite 3 RBs but with injury problems in the past, Martavias Bryant coming back creating more passing plays for the Steelers offense and owning the 31st ranked schedule against the run I will be nominating Bell as the #3.
4. Lesean McCoy
McCoy is the backbone of the Bills offense. McCoy has achieved 1250+ rushing yards 3 out the past 4 years and with the eviction of Gillisilee, he could see a bump in touches game over game. McCoy should see more action on both 3rd down and through the air, he is still considered an outstanding back in this league and having the 10th easiest schedule for RBs McCoy could sneak into the top 3 this year.
5. Melvin Gordon
after a rough rookie year where his skill and ability to play at the NFL level, Gordon displayed why he was a 1st round selection in the sophomore campaign. Finished with 3 yards fewer than 1,000 on the ground, adding 10 TD and 400 yards through the air, Gordon established himself as a premier talent for the Chargers. The back is now without Danny Woodhead who was commonly used in 3rd down situations which poises Gordon for an increase in touches this year. Although Gordon died out after a hot start to the season last year, I expect to Gordon to surpass the 1,000 yard mark with ease and relative increase in targets.
6. Jay Ayjai
Ayjai had the most impressive 3 game span we have seen in recent years which makes his stats slightly inflated however, we cannot take away from the back's brilliant season. Ayjai rushed for over 1250 yards while mustering 8 TD on the ground but was not used as much in the passing game. Coaches early on in camp are gushing about his play from last season and the progression he's making and have went as far to say they plan to give Ayjai 300+ touches this season. Miami has a solid offensive line that can really aid Ayjai pending their health issues can hold off this season with the combination of the Pounceys and Tunseil. Ayjai's explosiveness at his size is impressive to say the least and will prove that he can be a strong RB1 in this league when the coaches live up to the promise in touches this upcoming season.
7. Demarco Murray
Safe to say the Titans have the best 1-2 punch in the RB department and that's in huge thanks to Murray. Demarco accumulated over 1600 total yards last year with just under 1300 coming on the ground while adding 12 TD (9 ground, 3 pass). The Tirana have the 4th easiest schedule for RB's this upcoming season and they have also gathered one of the best offensive lines in the league where Demarco himself said that the line is in the same conversation as the Cowboys if not better. The scare with Murray's production is how much playing time will Henry get and the amount of goal line touches that Henry will leach off of Murray's performances. Murray will most likely not be able to top last season but should rush for over 1,000 with ease and add double digit touchdowns once again on a sneaky good offense in Tennessee.
8. DeVonta Freeman
Freeman has back to back seasons of just under 1,100 yards on the ground and scoring 11TD's in each of those two seasons. He also added over 500 and just over 400 yards in the last two seasons while adding a few TD in each. The troubling fact again is the 2RB system in place for the Falcons where Tevin Coleman has been a successful #2 for the team which depletes his playing time which is evident with about a 15 % drop in touches from 2 years ago to last year. I believe Freeman is a great back and despite his size has a lot of power behind him while being on one the most prolific offenses in the league but Coleman will eat away at his opportunities. I expect a slight drop off in his rushing yards this year but should hover around the 1,000 yard mark while targets in the air should remain around the same figures.
9. Jordan Howard
It’s hard to believe that after gaining 1600 total yards as a rookie that he was not the best rookie RB of the NFL last year (thanks to Zeek). But Howard looked legit, was an absolute work horse for a struggling Bears team compiling over 280 touches last year and demonstrated he is capable of a large workload. The Bears have a great interior part of their line but are slacking at the tackle position which could pose as an issue for Howard. Without any signings at the RB position it is clear that Howard is still the guy and will only continue to grow with a full offseason as a Chicago Bear but it will be hard to replicate the season he had. I don't see volume being the issue with Howard that's why he is a clear top 10 but the production I don't think will be as high despite an expected rise in targets out of the backfield.
10. Leonard Fournette
This LSU product is an absolute beast and landed in a great position to start his NFL career. The Jags had two mediocre RBs which made them realize this talent is too much to pass up at the #4 spot. He is projected to receive around 275 touches in his first year and is expected to be the RB1 right out of the gate with Ivory most likely getting cut by the team. I am a huge believer in Fournette, given his power running style combined with a 4.55 40 at 240 pounds, he is a scary man running the football. With Bortles struggling last year with his throwing motion and all around play, I believe Fournette will be an excellent way to ease the pressure, not to mention the Jags own the 5th easiest schedule for RBs. Bold prediction: 10 TDs rushing and 1 TD in the air.