2017 NFC East running back fantasy rankings
2017 NFC East running back fantasy rankings
Maybe the NFL’s evolution into a pass-first league limits importance of those who rush the football. Regardless, fantasy Football owners are always seeking RB help especially with more and more uncertainty at the position. Here’s a look at the best options within the NFC East in the division.
8. Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins
The Redskins finally received a full season out of the scatback and were rewarded with their patience. Thompson caught 49 passes and used his slithery skills on the ground by averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The 5-foot-8 running back finished with five touchdowns and a combined 117 touches from scrimmage. Both numbers might not be from his ceiling, but especially the workload if the Redskins hope to keep him available for all 16 games. Perhaps he can reach 60 receptions and touchdowns are fluky, though he’s not a goal-line option. Probably no more than late round flyer in PPR formats. Not a great handcuff assuming Robert Kelley and Samaje Perine perform as expected.
7. Ryan Mathews, Philadelphia Eagles
On any given week, if opportunity arises, Mathews could be a fantasy standout. Projecting that entering 2017 simply isn’t reasonable. That’s because Mathews is coming off neck surgery, which puts his Week 1 status in doubt. Then there was the addition of LeGarrette Blount plus the presence of Darren Sproles. That means major roadblocks for lead runner or third-down back duties. Then factor in his injury history and owners who have been teased before no better than to get excited. Worth adding as a handcuff for Blount owners assuming Mathews is on the roster by Week 1. If he ever gets a shot, there’s some hope for a week or two.
6. Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles
Always a threat when on the field, the quicker than quick Sproles provided the Eagles with a burst as a pass catcher (52 receptions) and runner (4.7 yards per carry). That’s at least 52 receptions in six of the past seven seasons. That’s the reason why PPR owners are often interested in Sproles as a plug-and-play backup or occasional Flex option. At times in his career, he consistently found the end zone as well, but averaged just four over the last two seasons. It’s just not likely he’ll receive more than 120-140 touches. At 34, Sproles remains a scary threat for opposing defenses and a worthy late-round selection in large or deep PPR leagues.
5. Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins
The fourth-round pick was Washington’s first on the offensive side. From that moment on, the fantasy community fell hard for the powerful runner. Specifically, they like his opportunity within the Redskins’ potent offense. The Division 1 all-time single-game rushing record holder joined a team that ranked 21st in rushing last season and doesn’t have an overt starter on the roster. If Perine’s production matches the hype, he’ll turn into one of the top fantasy sleepers.
4. Robert Kelley, Washington Redskins
Before everyone anoints Samaje Perine as the best bet in Washington, let’s note a few things about the incumbent starter. Kelley went from undrafted rookie to leading rusher last season on the strength of his vision and instincts. There was also his ability to hold onto the ball, unlike Matt Jones. Kelley averaged 4.2 yards on 168 carries – 704 yards -- and scored six rushing touchdowns despite not taking over the starting role until halfway through the season. Yes, the stats dipped over the final month. Yes, “Fat Rob” isn’t the fastest of backs, though he’s trimmed down entering his sophomore campaign. Yes, he wasn’t a threat in the passing game, which was odd since he showed good hands at Tulane. There are knocks against him and Perine has game, but head coach Jay Gruden is a believer in Kelley. There are good reasons for that stance.
3. Paul Perkins, New York Giants
The Giants spent a fifth-round pick on the UCLA product in 2016. One year later, they’re eyeing him as a potential three-down back. Perkins has the game – Redskins fans remember his 102 yards in Week 17 - even if that didn’t always show during a shaky rookie season. New York’s offensive line did him no favors. That unit should improve this season and the Giants added major weapons in the passing game. They also did very little to address the backfield this offseason. Perkins is the starter entering training camp. Only question is just how much work he receives. Early signs point to plenty.
2. LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles
Don’t count on a repeat of Blount’s staggering league-high 18 touchdowns from last season. That would be the case even if the burly back stayed in New England. Now that he’s in Philly, Blount’s opportunities rely on Carson Wentz, not Tom Brady. There’s hope the Eagles passing game becomes a major threat, a scenario that would open running lanes with defenses keeping extra defensive backs on the field. Even with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles around, Blount is the back set to lead the attack.
1. Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys
Talk about lapping the field. Elliott is the only clear-cut lead back among the NFC East options and with good reason. The former Ohio State star dominated during his rookie season, finishing with a league-high 1,631 yards – more than 300 over any other RB. Elliott also scored 15 rushing touchdowns, third in the NFL. If we assume that any runner improves going forward – and especially when playing behind the NFL’s top offensive line -- then 2017 might be insane. There’s certainly no competition among his fellow NFC East options. Only question is whether Elliott is the No. 1 overall running back.
Just Missed the Cut
Just missed the cut: Shane Vereen, Wayne Gallman, Darren McFadden, Wendell Smallwood. Vereen is the safe play for owners wanting a bye week option in PPR formats, but there’s very little upside. He isn’t likely going to serve as New York’s lead option regardless. Gallman is the opposite thanks to his touchdown production with Clemson and the overall uncertainty with the Giants’ RB depth chart.