Fantasy Football 2017: Top 100 running back rankings

By Alex Butler  |  Updated Aug. 14, 2017 at 10:54 AM
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Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Arizona Cardinals star David Johnson is our top fantasy football running back for 2017, followed by scores of other prolific ball carriers.

After Johnson and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell come off of the board, you'll need to be read up on the league's top runners in the best positions to succeed.

That is why, at UPI, we have ranked our top 100 running backs, in standard format, for your 2017 fantasy football draft kit.


For clarity, here are some of the best running backs to look out for in five separate tiers, as well as some unheralded sleepers.


1. David Johnson, 2. Le'Veon Bell, 3. Jay Ajayi

He is already our No. 1 overall ranked fantasy football player for 2017, making him the de facto No. 1 running back this season heading into your draft. Although anything can happen on the injury front, Johnson should be locked in your lineup for every week of the fantasy football season with confidence, regardless of matchup. Johnson is perhaps the best receiving running back in the league, meaning if he somehow gets stuffed at the line, he can also get you points catching the ball in the open field. If you are looking for a perfect balance of explosiveness and consistency, this is your guy.

While he's not there yet, Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi wants to be spoken in the same breath as Johnson and Le'Veon Bell. Ajayi and the Dolphins coaches have talked up his improved hands all offseason. He has no competition for carries and coach Adam Gase has already deemed him the bell cow. With Ryan Tannehill lost for the season, expect his carries to go up even more. Ajayi should still be drafted after Bell and Johnson, but he deserves consideration for your team after that. His ability to churn up yards after contact and an outlook for a bounty of carries ahead should also provide that consistent and explosive balance.


5. Melvin Gordon, 6. Devonta Freeman, 7. DeMarco Murray

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon should be eyed toward the end of the first round or early in the second round. Gordon had a breakout year in 2016, making the Pro Bowl. He ran for 997 yards and 10 scores on 254 carries. He also had 41 catches for 419 yards and two touchdowns. He started just 11 games. I expect that Chargers to have a fantastic offense this season, with Gordon as the centerpiece.

Devonta Freeman won't be weighed down by his bulky new contact this season. The Atlanta Falcons playmaker started all 16 games last season and piled up a career-high 1,079 rushing yards and 11 rushing scores. He also had 462 receiving yards and two scores through the air. Freeman's value is often overlooked because of the presence of Tevin Coleman, but I expect another huge year for the third-year pro. Like Gordon, he is a good second-round target after you snag that stud wide receiver.

Many thought last season that Derrick Henry would eventually steal touches from DeMarco Murray, but it never happened. Murray returned to his Pro Bowl form for the Tennessee Titans, running for 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns. He also had 377 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. Murray is a little bit less of a receiving threat than the previous backs mentioned, but he will provide RB1 value most weeks.



9. Lamar Miller, 10. Todd Gurley, 12. Leonard Fournette, 13. Marshawn Lynch

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Leonard Fournette is going to get work right away. This offseason, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said that he wants to change the game by never passing the ball.

"For me, I like to run the ball every play," Marrone said. "None [passes]. Zero. I want to go back to the old way. I want to change the game."

That's great news for fantasy football owners. I expect a great rookie year for Fournette, but only if Blake Bortles rebounds from a dreadful 2016. Fournette's stock is through the roof as fantasy football drafts near, so don't pull the trigger too early. He's a midrange RB2 for me this season.

"Beast Mode" is back. This offseason, Marshawn Lynch joined the Oakland Raiders. He'll immediately take over a starting role behind a great offensive line. While I don't expect a huge yardage year from Lynch, his touchdown total warrants consideration for Lynch as a third or fourth round selection. Before Lynch's last season in 2015, he had a stretch of four straight seasons with at least 12 touchdowns. He led the league with 25 rushing scores from 2013 through 2014. He's a good bet for double-digit scores.


14. Isaiah Crowell, 15. Christian McCaffrey, 17. Joe Mixon, 20. Frank Gore

You typically want to stay away from players on bad teams when it comes to fantasy football, but Isaiah Crowell should be owned if you need an RB2 on a wide-receiver-heavy team. The Cleveland Browns ball carrier averaged a career-best 4.8 yards per carry and had 1,271 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns last season. This offseason the Browns added right guard Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter to its offensive line. The franchise has also drafted linemen the last two offseasons. With unstable quarterback play, Crowell will be counted on every game. He can also be counted on as an RB2 most weeks.

Joe Mixon and Christian McCaffrey are very interesting rookie considerations this year in fantasy football circles. Mixon has a shot at being the Week 1 starter and an every down back, while McCaffrey will be used all over the field. I expect Mixon to rise to the top of the Cincinnati Bengals' depth chart at some point in the season, it just might not be right away. This outlook should keep Mixon from being picked too high in your draft. He should plug in as a low-end RB2 at the start of the season, but has RB1 potential if he takes over the job. McCaffrey joins a Carolina Panthers squad that wants to get back to the run. McCaffrey has looked outstanding in practice. In the long run, he could end up being an early round selection, but for now you shouldn't reach too far for the former Stanford star. McCaffrey will have to demonstrate an ability to maintain a workload against NFL defenses. That being said, if you really want him you'll probably have to spring for McCaffrey around the third or fourth round. Ideally, I'd like to get him in the fifth.


21. Danny Woodhead, 23. Eddie Lacy, 24. Dalvin Cook, 25. Ameer Abdullah, 28. LeGarrette Blount, 32. Adrian Peterson, 39. Robert Kelley

1 David Johnson Arizona Cardinals 5
2 Le'Veon Bell Pittsburgh Steelers 9
3 Jay Ajayi Miami Dolphins 11
4 LeSean McCoy Buffalo Bills 6
5 Melvin Gordon Los Angeles Chargers 9
6 Devonta Freeman Atlanta Falcons 5
7 DeMarco Murray Tennessee Titans 8
8 Jordan Howard Chicago Bears 9
9 Lamar Miller Houston Texans 7
10 Todd Gurley Los Angeles Rams 8
11 Ezekiel Elliott Dallas Cowboys 6
12 Leonard Fournette Jacksonville Jaguars 8
13 Marshawn Lynch Oakland Raiders 10
14 Isaiah Crowell Cleveland Browns 9
15 Christian McCaffrey Carolina Panthers 11
16 Bilal Powell New York Jets 11
17 Joe Mixon Cincinnati Bengals 6
18 Carlos Hyde San Francisco 49ers 11
19 Ty Montgomery Green Bay Packers 8
20 Frank Gore Indianapolis Colts 11
21 Danny Woodhead Baltimore Ravens 10
22 Mark Ingram New Orleans Saints 5
23 Eddie Lacy Seattle Seahawks 6
24 Dalvin Cook Minnesota Vikings 9
25 Ameer Abdullah Detroit Lions 7
26 Spencer Ware Kansas City Chiefs 10
27 Mike Gillislee New England Patriots 9
28 LeGarrette Blount Philadelphia Eagles 10
29 Theo Riddick Detroit Lions 7
30 C.J. Anderson Denver Broncos 5
31 Paul Perkins New York Giants 8
32 Adrian Peterson New Orleans Saints 5
33 Tevin Coleman Atlanta Falcons 5
34 Matt Forte New York Jets 11
35 James White New England Patriots 9
36 Kareem Hunt Kansas City Chiefs 10
37 C.J. Prosise Seattle Seahawks 6
38 Darren McFadden Dallas Cowboys 6
39 Robert Kelley Washington Redskins 5
40 Duke Johnson Jr. Cleveland Browns 9
41 Terrance West Baltimore Ravens 10
42 Jonathan Stewart Carolina Panthers 11
43 Darren Sproles Philadelphia Eagles 10
44 Doug Martin Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11
45 Giovani Bernard Cincinnati Bengals 6
46 Jacquizz Rodgers Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11
47 Samaje Perine Washington Redskins 5
48 Derrick Henry Tennessee Titans 8
49 Jamaal Charles Denver Broncos 5
50 Chris Thompson Washington Redskins 5
51 Latavius Murray Minnesota Vikings 9
52 Jeremy Hill Cincinnati Bengals 6
53 Shane Vereen New York Giants 8
54 Charles Sims Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11
55 Alvin Kamara New Orleans Saints 5
56 T.J. Yeldon Jacksonville Jaguars 8
57 Dion Lewis New England Patriots 9
58 Robert Turbin Indianapolis Colts 11
59 Rex Burkhead New England Patriots 9
60 DeAndre Washington Oakland Raiders 10
61 Donnel Pumphrey Philadelphia Eagles 10
62 Kyle Juszcyk San Francisco 49ers 11
63 Jamaal Williams Green Bay Packers 8
64 Tim Hightower San Francisco 49ers 11
65 Jerick McKinnon Minnesota Vikings 9
66 Thomas Rawls Seattle Seahawks 6
67 James Conner Pittsburgh Steelers 9
68 Kenyan Drake Miami Dolphins 11
69 Jalen Richard Oakland Raiders 10
70 D'Onta Foreman Houston Texans 7
71 Tarik Cohen Chicago Bears 9
72 Jonathan Williams Buffalo Bills 6
73 Marlon Mack Indianapolis Colts 11
74 Damien Williams Miami Dolphins 11
75 Lance Dunbar Los Angeles Rams 8
76 Aaron Jones Green Bay Packers 8
77 Andre Williams Los Angeles Chargers 9
78 Branden Oliver Los Angeles Chargers 9
79 Alfred Morris Dallas Cowboys 6
80 Mike Tolbert Buffalo Bills 6
81 Chris Johnson Arizona Cardinals 5
82 Zach Zenner Detroit Lions 7
83 Javorius Allen Baltimore Ravens 10
84 Malcolm Brown Los Angeles Rams 8
85 Wendell Smallwood Philadelphia Eagles 10
86 Joe Williams San Francisco 49ers 11
87 Brian Hill Atlanta Falcons 5
88 Charcandrick West Kansas City Chiefs 10
89 Chris Ivory Jacksonville Jaguars 8
90 Andre Ellington Arizona Cardinals 5
91 Alfred Blue Houston Texans 7
92 Wayne Gallman New York Giants 8
93 Tyler Ervin Houston Texans 7
94 Aaron Ripkowski Green Bay Packers 8
95 Jamize Olawale Oakland Raiders 10
96 Kerwynn Williams Arizona Cardinals 5
97 Elijah McGuire New York Jets 11
98 Lorenzo Taliaferro Baltimore Ravens 10
99 Fozzy Whittaker Carolina Panthers 11
100 Jeremy McNichols Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11
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