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Regular Season, Updated: 9/3/18

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Legend:   Upside = Upside   Risk = Risk   ADP = Average Draft Position
FF Today Standard Scoring: Review Scoring
 Todd Gurley, LAR (Bye: 12)
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 222   DOB: 1994-08-03   Age: 24
College: Georgia   Draft: 2015 Round 1 (10) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2015STL13229 1,108 10 21 188 0 189.6 14.6
2016LAR16278 885 6 43 327 0 157.2 9.8
2017LAR15279 1,305 13 64 788 6 323.3 21.6
2018 (Projected)LAR 273 1,255 11 71 677 4 283.2  

Outlook: A monster rookie season saw Gurley drafted as a top five pick in many fantasy drafts in 2016, which then led to major disappointment as Gurley and the Rams offense couldn't get things going under head coach Jeff Fisher. Many fantasy owner refused to draft Gurley going into 2017 because of the down season, but Gurley made them regret that decision and reignited belief in fantasy owners by turning in a MVP fantasy season in 2017 with nearly 2,100 total yards and 19 touchdowns.

While his receiving stats last this past season were propped up a bit by a few dump offs which he took for big yardage, Gurley has proven himself to be a reliable pass catcher and playmaker. He was targeted 29 more times in the passing game in 2017 than he was in 2016. The thing that didn't change from 2016 to 2017 was Gurley's usage on the ground. He had 278 carries in 2016 while he got 279 carries in 2017. The big difference was that the Rams offense as a whole was substantially improved which allowed Gurley to increase his yards per attempt by a full 1.5 yards.

Now considered one of the top players heading into 2018, Gurley is in line to see a heavy workload both as a runner and a pass catcher, with the team not having invested much in the running back position this offseason. Even in his significant down season of 2016, Gurley finished as a mid-level RB2, which gives us a glimpse at what would be his absolute worst-case scenario, presuming he stayed healthy. The upside, as we've seen, is tremendous with a player like Gurley. He's one of the league's few remaining workhorse-type backs and that makes him a real contender to again be a league-winner this season.

 David Johnson, ARI (Bye: 9)
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 224   DOB: 1991-12-16   Age: 27
College: Northern Iowa   Draft: 2015 Round 3 (22) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2015ARI16125 581 8 36 457 4 175.8 11.0
2016ARI16293 1,239 16 80 879 4 331.8 20.7
2017ARI111 23 0 6 68 0 9.1 9.1
2018 (Projected)ARI 315 1,356 10 70 646 3 278.2  

Outlook: One of the most exciting things about the 2018 season is that we're going to get to see the return of one of the league's best playmakers, David Johnson, who missed nearly the entire 2017 with a wrist injury. Most considered Johnson the fantasy MVP of 2016 as he scored 20 touchdowns while producing over 2,100 total yards of offense.

While it's never easy for fantasy owners to select a back coming off of a season-ending injury, the nice thing about Johnson's injury is that it's really not something that should affect him going forward. Unlike a knee or ankle injury, which can have dramatic effects on a player's explosiveness, Johnson's wrist injury should be fully healed and he should be perfectly healthy heading into 2018.

The last time we saw Johnson, in Week 1 of the 2017 season, he had already produced 90 total yards of offense with six receptions and that was only midway through the third quarter in a game that the Cardinals were winning. Needless to say, given the nine targets he had already seen in that game, the offense was run almost entirely through Johnson. A new coaching staff does throw a wrench into things from a play-calling perspective, but anyone who's watched Johnson play in the NFL can tell you that he is absolutely one of the league's best playmakers and would be a major focal point in just about any offense. That shouldn't change much this season as the Cardinals will almost certainly lean on Johnson heavily once again, both as a runner and as a receiver. 100-plus targets is actually a safe number to project for Johnson, who saw 120 targets in 2016, and that kind of passing game usage alone would make him a viable starter in PPR formats even if you completely eliminated his rushing numbers.

Don't look for Johnson to repeat his 20 touchdown season from 2016 given that the Cardinals as a whole are expected to be one of the league's worst teams, but a double-digit touchdown season is certainly realistic and Johnson, if he can avoid injury, is one of the safest players in all of fantasy football and should be a top five overall pick in all formats.

 Le'Veon Bell, PIT (Bye: 7)
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 244   DOB: 1992-02-18   Age: 27
College: Michigan State   Draft: 2013 Round 2 (18) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2015PIT6113 556 3 24 136 0 87.2 14.5
2016PIT12261 1,268 7 75 616 2 242.4 20.2
2017PIT15321 1,291 9 85 655 2 260.6 17.4
2018 (Projected)PIT 266 1,225 8 80 636 3 252.1  

Outlook: As an annual contender for the No.1 overall pick in fantasy drafts, Bell is just another "what you see is what you get" Steelers player. But there are some major red flags with Bell that you need to consider if you have the opportunity select him. First, word hit this week that this will likely be his last season in a Pittsburgh uniform, as he and the team failed to agree on a long-term contract. This means yet another season he misses training camp, but more importantly, this means he has no incentive to sacrifice himself for the Steelers. He has enough good tape and history of production to present to potential suitors next offseason. I could easily envision a scenario where his health takes precedence over his playing time, and he sits games he would have otherwise played in. Imagine how ugly things could get if the Steelers falter and fail to make the playoffs.

Another red flag for me is workload. He's consistently among the league leaders in both rushing attempts and receptions, and 2017 was no different. His 406 touches easily paced the NFL, and his 321 carries and 85 receptions were both career highs. It's a real good thing he kept up this volume, as his yards-per-carry average (4.0) dropped nearly a yard from 2016's 4.9. While Gurley, Hunt, and Kamara were busting off big plays left and right, Bell's longest play from scrimmage was a 42-yard reception. His longest run was a mere 27 yards! Of the top 25 rushers from last year, Bell's long rush of 27 was behind only the ancient Frank Gore's 21 yard carry. In the last two seasons he's only had seven carries of 20+ yards, when in 2014 and 2015 he combined for 16. His patented patient running style only works when you can explode through the hole and get to the next level with momentum, and he didn't do that enough last season. Is this an aberration, have teams caught on, or is it a sign of slippage?

Bell has had it made from the minute he became part of the Steelers. He's enjoyed one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, has never had to face 10-men in the box, and is given boatloads of touches. I think we've already seen the best Bell has to offer, and the red flags are serious issues to consider. This might not be a popular take, but I think Bell has the biggest bust potential of anyone being considered in the top-5, and I would let someone else take him with a high pick. You know what they say about the top of the draft, a good 1st round pick doesn't win you the league title, but it can certainly lose it for you.

 Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Bye: 8)
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 225   DOB: 1995-07-22   Age: 23
College: Ohio State   Draft: 2016 Round 1 (4) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2016DAL15322 1,631 15 32 363 1 295.4 19.7
2017DAL10242 983 7 26 269 2 179.2 17.9
2018 (Projected)DAL 295 1,329 12 39 346 2 251.5  

Outlook: A sophomore slump and six-game suspension could not keep Ezekiel Elliott from finishing the season as the second-ranked running back in fantasy points per game. The former Ohio State University star posted 1252 total yards and nine touchdowns in just ten games of action, highlighted by a three-touchdown performance Week 7 against the 49ers.

With no pending suspension in sight (that we know of) and the Cowboys releasing Dez Bryant and presumably refocusing on the running game, Elliott is a lock for well over 300 total touches and double-digit touchdowns, making him one of the safest picks of the first round.

The narrative of defenses stacking the box against the run now that Bryant is no longer on the team is a favorite argument against Elliott in the fantasy community. But the reality is defenses did not fear Dez on the outside last season, and Elliott was a dominant force yet again for fantasy owners. Barring injury or suspension, Elliott's elite volume, commitment to the run by the Cowboys, and the vaunted Dallas offensive line will all but ensure another top 5 finish for Zeke.

 Melvin Gordon, LAC (Bye: 8)
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 215   DOB: 1993-04-13   Age: 26
College: Wisconsin   Draft: 2015 Round 1 (15) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2015SD14184 641 0 33 192 0 83.3 6.0
2016SD13254 997 10 41 419 2 213.6 16.4
2017LAC16284 1,105 8 57 470 4 229.5 14.3
2018 (Projected)LAC 267 1,042 7 62 502 3 214.4  

Outlook: Few players have a higher upside for total touches in 2018 than Melvin Gordon. Although Austin Ekeler saw significant playing time in 2017, the Chargers still opted to give Gordon the ball, either as a runner or receiver, an average of 21.4 times per game in 2017, and that was on a team that missed the playoffs. With the NFL the way it is now, it simply isn't easy to come by a player with this type of workload and it's an amount that that a few of backs being selected ahead of him in drafts simply are not likely to see. The aforementioned Ekeler and rookie Justin Jackson both have the capability to take some touches from Gordon, but neither is a serious threat to take over the role as the team's primary ball carrier.

Gordon's workload makes him a very safe option at the end of the first or early second round, but his inefficiency is a bit concerning when it comes to upside to finish as a truly elite option at the position. Despite finishing with a dozen total touches in each of his past two seasons, Gordon is yet to reach even 4.0 yards per carry in a season. His career average sits at a paltry 3.8 yds per carry. The bright side is that the Chargers don't seem to be worried as they continue to feed him a heavy workload, especially near the goal line, but there is still some reason to be concerned.

Most analysts project the Chargers to be at least a bit better from a defensive standpoint than they were in 2017, which should also help create some positive game scripts and potentially more touches for Gordon. A presumably improved offensive line that now includes Mike Pouncey and 2017 second-round pick Forrest Lamp should lead the way to Gordon being a solid RB1 in all formats this season.

 Alvin Kamara, NO (Bye: 6)
Height: 5’10”   Weight: 214   DOB: 1995-07-25   Age: 23
College: Tennessee   Draft: 2017 Round 3 (3) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2017NO16120 728 8 82 826 5 233.4 14.6
2018 (Projected)NO 152 806 7 78 717 4 218.3  

Outlook: If you had Alvin Kamara on your roster in 2017, congratulations on your number one seed in the playoffs. Unfortunately, his injury in Week 14 probably cost you in your run to the championship. But that's in the past and now there's even more reason to love Kamara in 2018.

How efficient was Alvin Kamara in 2017? Since 1970, there have only been 11 seasons where a player had at least 120 rush attempts with an average over 6 yards per carry and four of those seasons were by quarterbacks. When you add in his 13 touchdowns, it's clear to see why he became such a star during his rookie year.

It's unlikely that Kamara will maintain this level of efficiency, but he should see an increase in volume in 2018 to make up for any drop off. Because his ADP will hover around the top 6 picks of most drafts, he won't be the same level of league winner that he was in 2017, but instead, he'll be a cornerstone pick that drafters can rely on.

 Leonard Fournette, JAC (Bye: 9)
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 240   DOB: 1995-01-18   Age: 24
College: Louisiana State   Draft: 2017 Round 1 (4) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2017JAC13268 1,040 9 36 302 1 194.2 14.9
2018 (Projected)JAC 282 1,126 8 48 377 2 210.3  

Outlook: After investing a high draft pick on Fournette, the Jaguars' organization brought with it a seeming change in offensive philosophy. Gone are the days of Blake Bortles being among the league leaders in pass attempts. Instead, they shift to a run-first offense centered on positive game scripts for Fournette. Despite playing in only 13 games, Fournette finished 7th in total rushing attempts and 8th in rushing yards. On a points per game basis, Fournette finished behind only Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell, and Kareem Hunt.

As a fantasy asset, Fournette was a star early last season and even as his production slipped, he remained a reliable option through 2017. Fournette's start was near historic as he scored at least one touchdown in each of his first six games before succumbing to an injury and missing time during the middle of the year. All in all, he finished with ten scores on the year.

With a deep RB draft class, many veteran RBs were in jeopardy, but for obvious reasons, that wasn't the case for Fournette. After an appearance in the AFC Championship game, the Jaguars largely chose to stand pat at the position in the off-season which indicates another big volume season for Fournette. He should be a top 12 pick in leagues and owners can feel confident that he'll receive enough volume to have a strong chance to be a RB1 in 2018.

 Saquon Barkley, NYG (Bye: 9)
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 233   DOB: 1997-02-07   Age: 22
College: Penn State   Draft: 2018 Round 1 (2) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2018 (Projected)NYG 248 1,115 8 44 314 2 202.9  

Outlook: The success of rookie running backs Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Kareem Hunt, and Leonard Fournette over the past two seasons has challenged the old narrative that first-year players cannot be stud running backs right out of the chute. Kamara, Hunt, Fournette, and Cook all finished as RB1's last season regarding points per game, while Elliott followed up his impressive rookie campaign in 2016 with a second-place finish last year.

After setting the college football world on fire last season and turning heads at the combine, Saquon Barkley became the first running back since Reggie Bush to be taken second overall in the draft. Barkley joins an excellent situation in New York on a team with an improved offensive line and a passing game that will not allow opposing defenses to sell out on the run.

With volume and opportunity being king in fantasy football, Barkley will be heavily used in both the rushing and ground game, making him a first-round pick in all formats with the upside as a top-5 RB in 2018.

 Kareem Hunt, KC (Bye: 12)
Height: 5’10”   Weight: 216   DOB: 1995-08-06   Age: 23
College: Toledo   Draft: 2017 Round 3 (22) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2017KC16272 1,327 8 53 455 3 244.2 15.3
2018 (Projected)KC 266 1,145 7 56 427 2 211.2  

Outlook: A pre-season injury to Spencer Ware gave Hunt, a third-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the opportunity to make a name for himself. He did just that, leading many fantasy owners to a championship on his way to leading the NFL in rushing. What's perhaps most impressive is that Hunt did it while running behind one of the worst-graded run blocking units in the league. But while there were certainly plenty of reasons to be excited about the 2017 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, there were also some concerns that we should take notice of heading into the 2018 season.

Hunt's week-to-week performance dipped, particularly mid-season when he failed to score a single touchdown from Weeks 4 through 13. This fantasy scoring drought coincided with the Chiefs as a whole struggling on the field. Hunt struggled to produce in games where Kansas City fell behind on the scoreboard and that could be a serious problem this season given that the Chiefs are not expected to be quite as good as they were in 2017 when they outperformed most expectations, particularly on offense. Despite the long scoreless streak, Hunt scored a total of 11 touchdowns in the other seven games, finishing as the RB4 for the season. That was actually a bit disappointing given the numerous huge performances he had, but he was drafted as an RB2 or even RB3 in many leagues and he certainly returned huge profit on investment.

This season Hunt will be off the board in the first or early-second round in most leagues, which means you're paying for RB1 production. He certainly has the potential to return that value but it would be difficult for him to improve on his nearly five yards per carry and 53 receptions that he gave fantasy owners in 2017. Still, even if he doesn't give fantasy owners the type of per-touch efficiency that he did as a rookie, Hunt is one of the few true three-down, bellcow running backs in the league. His floor is as a mid-level RB2 as long as he stays healthy, which should make him a relatively safe option near the top of drafts.

 Dalvin Cook, MIN (Bye: 10)
Height: 5’10”   Weight: 210   DOB: 1995-08-10   Age: 23
College: Florida State   Draft: 2017 Round 2 (9) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2017MIN474 354 2 11 90 0 56.4 14.1
2018 (Projected)MIN 238 1,094 7 40 315 3 200.9  

Outlook: The sample size was small, but Dalvin Cook showed flashes of special ability during his first year with the Vikings until a torn ACL ended his season. His 14.1 fantasy points-per-game were good enough to put him in the top-10 at his position had he stayed healthy and consistent. In his wake Latavius Murray picked up the slack on the ground, punching it into the endzone 8 times and rushing for 800+ yards. Oddly enough it was Murray's slow return from ankle surgery that gave Cook the chance to shine early in the year. Although there isn't quite a similar parallel this season, (as Cook has the clear talent edge over Murray), drafting Cook as your RB1 is going to come with plenty of risk.

Sure Cook did show dual threat capability in the four games he played, catching 11 passes of almost 100 yards, but knee injuries are always scary despite modern medicine, and one of Cook's red flags coming out of college was the injury prone label. Thankfully his rehab has gone great, and he was cleared for team drills in early June. If he gets the full go at the start of camp and doesn't suffer setbacks, I'd be comfortable leaning on Cook as an RB1 in both standard and PPR leagues as he's going to catch a ton of passes with Jerick McKinnon's 51 receptions gone to San Francisco and Murray providing no threat in that area.

 Devonta Freeman, ATL (Bye: 8)
Height: 5’8”   Weight: 206   DOB: 1992-03-15   Age: 27
College: Florida State   Draft: 2014 Round 4 (3) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2015ATL15264 1,061 11 73 578 3 247.9 16.5
2016ATL16227 1,079 11 54 462 2 232.1 14.5
2017ATL14196 865 7 36 317 1 166.2 11.9
2018 (Projected)ATL 217 977 8 46 385 1 190.2  

Outlook: If you had expectations of a leap for Freeman into the elite tier of RBs, 2017 was probably a disappointment and with his lowest fantasy point per game average since becoming the starter, he definitely failed to live up to those lofty goals. But Freeman went a long way in helping his owners win weeks with six double-digit scoring weeks including two weeks over 20 fantasy points. And while weeks 6 through 13, likely upset owners with two missed games and another when he left early, Freeman never really busted when he played. Other than the week he left with an injury, he scored at least 5 fantasy points in every game he started.

Owners who drafted Freeman to be the workhorse anchor to their team almost certainly didn't enjoy his performance, but that has brought his ADP down into the 2nd round which fits his fantasy profile much better. His increased value in PPR leagues is somewhat overstated as his target count has decreased each of the last two seasons, but in both standard and PPR scoring he's a viable RB1 who can now be drafted as RB11 in the middle of the second round. If he's paired with another mid-RB1 or elite WR, he'll likely be perceived as a value as compared to last season.

 Joe Mixon, CIN (Bye: 9)
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 226   DOB: 1996-07-24   Age: 22
College: Oklahoma   Draft: 2017 Round 2 (16) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2017CIN14178 626 4 30 287 0 115.3 8.2
2018 (Projected)CIN 272 1,060 7 43 333 2 193.3  

Outlook: Right here in this space last season I predicted the o-line could be a problem for Mixon's fantasy production, and that turned out to be an understatement. Not only did Mixon look sluggish at times, but the amount of times he ran into defensive brick walls was comical. His 3.5 yards-per-carry average was a sorry 41st among running backs. Despite the agonizingly slow production, he also got hit by the injury bug a few times, missing some snaps and two games with head and ankle injuries. To top it all off, Gio Bernard had little problem finding running room behind the same shoddy offensive line, so as a whole it was a rough debut season for the former Sooner.

With the bad news out of the way, let's take a look a few reasons why Mixon has a chance to climb into the RB1 conversation. First, it's easy to forget that he would have likely been the first running back off the board last season if not for his off the field issues, so the talent is there. Next, he's dedicated himself this offseason to getting leaner and faster, dropping 10 pounds. The coaching staff has thrown their own weight behind finally making Mixon the bell-cow on offense, and the additions to the o-line, while not earth shattering, have to be an improvement on the disaster from last season. The volume that didn't exist last year should be there, and if he can get over 4.0 yards-per-carry, he should be able to hit the 1,000 yard plateau. With a chance to catch 40+ passes, and goal-line work to himself, Mixon has the combination of workload and talent to make a leap in his second year. He's an ideal pick as a RB2, that if things align, could give you a few RB1 weeks.