Click here to enter the 2017 Lester’s Legends Fantasy Football Team Name Contest!
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Le’Veon Bell David Johnson hurdle
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With fantasy drafts taking place, here’s an updated and expanded look at the 2017 fantasy football running back landscape.
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1. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
2. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
3. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
4. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
5. Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
6. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (I care about last 10 games more than the first 6)
7. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
8. Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
9. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
10. Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
11. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
12. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
13. Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers
14. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
15. Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns
16. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
17. Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders
18. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
19. C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
20. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
21. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
22. Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
23. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
24. Bilal Powell, New York Jets
25. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
26. Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints
27. Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks
28. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
29. Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots
30. Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
31. LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Colts
32. Matt Forte, New York Jets
33. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
34. Terrance West, Baltimore Ravens
35. Danny Woodehead, Baltimore Ravens
36. Paul Perkins, New York Giants
37. Robert Kelley, Washington Redskins
38. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
39. Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks
40. Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys
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Dalvin Cook
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With Latavius Murray sidelined, Dalvin Cook is establishing himself as the lead back for the Minnesota Vikings. Early indications are that Cook should be moving up draft boards. I have adjusted my preliminary rankings to put him in the top 15. The Vikings have been praising his pass protection, which is wonderful news if Cook wants to establish himself as a three-down back.
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Cook was impressive in his three years at Florida State. As a freshman he ran for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns on a 5.9 yards per carry average. He followed that up with 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns on 7.4 ypc as a sophomore and 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns on 6.1 ypc as a junior.
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Cook’s receiving totals increased every year also going from 22 catches for 203 yards to 24 catches for 244 yards to 33 catches for 488 yards.
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Minnesota finished dead last this past season with 1,205 yards and 3.2 ypc. They were also one of seven teams that failed to reach double-digit rushing touchdowns. Clearly a change was needed.
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Murray was solid last year with 788 yards on 4.0 ypc and 12 touchdowns, but Oakland had one of the league’s best offensive lines last season. Jalen Richard (5.9 ypc) and DeAndre Washington (5.4 ypc) had some impressive moments as well. He isn’t as dynamic as Cook though. I can see Murray getting a crack at goal line carries, but Cook should lead the team in touches and total yards.
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How much do you like Cook?

Click here to enter the 2017 Lester’s Legends Fantasy Football Team Name Contest!
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Le’Veon Bell Ezekiel Elliott David Johnson hurdle
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With the NFL Draft behind us it is time to start thinking about next year’s fantasy football landscape. Here is an early look at running backs. Click here for updated rankings.
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The Elite (Interchangeable)
1. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
3. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
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The Rest
4. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
5. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
6. Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
7. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
8. Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
9. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
10. Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
11. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
12. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
13. Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs
14. Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers
15. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
16. Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders
17. Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks
18. C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
19. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
20. Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns
21. Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins
22. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
23. Bilal Powell, New York Jets
24. Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints
25. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
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Best Second Running Backs

26 October 2016

Devontae Booker
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Fantasy teams are often anchored by their running backs. Not quite like it used to be, but it remains difficult to win without steady production from your backs. Sometimes a star back is just lacking opportunity. Here’s a look at the top 13 #2 running backs that could get a huge value boost if they were thrust into a starting role. I chose that number because you’d be unlikely if you lost your starter.
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1. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
2. Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos
3. DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks
5. Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins
6. Bilal Powell, New York Jets
7. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
8. Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens
9. Cameron Artis-Payne, Carolina Panthers
10. Alfred Morris, Dallas Cowboys
11. T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars
12. Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns
13. Alfred Blue, Houston Texans
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Lamar Miller Houston
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A lot of the talk out of the Houston Texans’ camp has been the possibility of a monster season for running back Lamar Miller. The Houston Chronicle suggests that he will have a versatile role with the club in 2016, solidifying Miller as a major three-down back. Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman is saying that Miller is poised for a “season for the ages”.
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Miller ran for 872 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015 with 47 catches for 397 yards and two touchdowns. In 2014 he ran for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns with 38 catches for 275 yards and a score.
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Miami ranked dead last in rushing attempts last year with 344 while Houston ranked fifth with 472.  In 2014 Miami ranked 22nd with 399 carries while Houston led the league with 551.
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Miller will certainly get his opportunity. Houston trusted Alfred Blue to 183 carries, Chris Polk to 99 more and Jonathan Grimes to 56 of his own. Don’t look for Blue or Grimes to steal much of Miller’s work. His ability to pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield will help with the touches and add to his fantasy appeal.
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In Houston’s first preseason game he ran for 30 yards on four carries. Don’t expect a heavy workload as we gear up towards the season, but once it’s go time, he will be on full display.
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Miller’s career high in carries is 216. He has averaged 195.7 carries the past three seasons and sports a career yards per carry average of 4.6. If he can get 250 or more carries for the Texans to go along with 30-40 receptions, he should be in line for a massive season.
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Personally, I have Miller just outside the top five, but I do have him slotted as a legit RB1 with major upside.

Frank Gore running
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Frank Gore headlines the running back scene in the NFC West, but he has some pretty serious injury concerns. He has missed nine games over the past three years, and didn’t reach 250 carries in any of those seasons. While he is very active in the receiving game averaging 51 catches per season over the past five years, he only has 32 rushing touchdowns over that stretch. He brings the average just over eight total touchdowns a year over that stretch thanks to his receiving scores, but he is a low end RB1 in non-PPR leagues and a middle of the pack RB1 in PPR leagues. Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter will battle for handcuff duties, but neither present much fantasy value as long as Gore remains healthy.
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Steven Jackson is a true workhorse back for the Rams, averaging 327 carries and 48.5 receptions over the past two years. His 3.8 yards per carry as well as his low touchdown totals (six per year over the past four season) keeps him from the top tier of fantasy backs. The talk has been that the Rams will add a veteran running back to compliment S-Jax. He’s still a solid RB1, especially in PPR leagues.
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The Cardinals must have  seen enough from Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower as the team overlooked several needs and selected Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams with the 38th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. It will be interesting to see how Beanie responds to the challenge. Beanie could be a nice value pick this year if he can stay healthy and finally prove his worth.
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Marshawn Lynch had some moments for the Seahawks, especially in their thrill upset of the Saint. Despite the feeling the he’s been in the league for a long time, he’s just 25. Justin Forsett will still get plenty of touches, especially in the passing game, but isn’t a threat to Lynch or a player with considerable fantasy value.
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Michael Turner running
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The NFC South is pretty loaded in the running back department.
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Atlanta’s Michael Turner leads the way. He ran for 1371 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. He gets a downgrade in PPR leagues as he only caught 12 passes for 85 yards last year, but he’s a solid RB1. Turner has averaged 91.7 rushing yards and 0.91 rushing touchdowns per game over the past three years. Jason Snelling is one of the game’s best handcuffs because the Falcons hardly missed a beat when he filled in for Turner in the past. If he is a restricted free agent, he could be back with the club. If he is unrestricted it could be hard for them to bring him back. The Falcons drafted Jacquizz Rodgers, but he’ll strictly be the third down back.
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Tampa Bay got a pleasant surprise from LeGarrette Blount, who ran for 1007 yards with six touchdowns. He did his damage in just 201 carries (5.0 ypc).  Cadillac Williams is a free agent, but has expressed his desire to return to the Bucs. Blount is expected to get the bulk of the carries while Cadillac would play in passing situations. Rookie Allen Bradford isn’t expected to steal too many carries.
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Jonathan Stewart (and his keeper league owners) are perhaps second only to DeAngelo Williams and his agent in interest in where D-Will lands next year. If J-Stew has the backfield to himself, he could easily produce top five numbers, though Cam Newton could steal some of his touchdown runs. If Williams returns, Stewart can still be a viable fantasy option. They can definitely coexist for the Panthers and fantasy owners alike. D-Will could also be an elite fantasy option this year if he lands in the right place. If he signs with the Broncos, he could replace Knowshon Moreno as the team’s lead back. D-Will is an important piece in determining next year’s fantasy running back landscape.
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Pierre Thomas looked to be in a great spot when the Saints signed him to a four-year extension. Then they went and drafted Mark Ingram. That move likely sealed the fate of Reggie Bush, who will be sent packing if he doesn’t take a large pay cut. Thomas will likely move to change of pace and third-down duty while Ingram would carry the bulk of the snaps. This is a messy situation that will cause fantasy owners some heartache. Ingram should be a solid RB2 while PT23 should be a solid RB3.
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Adrian Peterson delivered once again despite playing on the Vikings’ sinking ship. He ran for 1298 yards and 12 touchdowns. He added 36 catches for 341 yards and another score. After being dogged by fumbles, he improved his ball control by coughing up just one fumble all year. Peterson is once again in the conversation for the first overall pick in fantasy leagues. He shouldn’t slip by the top four or five picks even in PPR leagues. With a rookie quarterback he’ll likely be called upon to take some of the pressure off. Toby Gerhart showed he was capable towards the end of the year, and should see an increase in touches this year. He remains strictly a handcuff though.
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Matt Forte bounce back from a somewhat disappointing 2009 season by running for 1069 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged a career high 4.5 yards per carry. Forte also added 51 catches, his third straight year with 50+, for 547 yards and three more scores. Forte figures to be a high-end RB2 in non-PPR leagues and a low-end RB1 in PPR leagues. Chester Taylor will keep Forte fresh and provide veteran insurance should Forte go down, but isn’t a hot fantasy commodity.
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Jahvid Best will operate between the 20s, but rookie Mikel Leshoure will get the touch carries near the goal line as well as closing out games. Best deal with turf toe last year which sapped his explosiveness, but injuries have been commonplace for Best. He has the ability to put up huge numbers, but is a fantasy risk even as an RB2 because of his injury concerns and Leshoure’s presence. It’s possible that both Best and Leshoure could each have weekly fantasy value.
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Green Bay has a bit of a mess at running back. For starters, we already know that they are first and foremost a passing team. We also know Aaron Rodgers always steals a few rushing touchdowns per year. With Ryan Grant and James Starks sharing carries, there may not be a reliable weekly option barring injury. The Packers added Alex Green in the draft who will likely handle third down duties and further muddy the water.
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While the AFC East running back landscape is a mess, the AFC North is a goldmine.
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Ray Rice is a force, both running and catching the football. He regressed some last year, but still managed 1776 total yards (1220 rushing, 556 receiving) and six touchdowns (five rushing, one receiving). Willis McGahee is up in the air, but it makes sense for him to return to Baltimore next year. Rice is a top five to eight fantasy running back depending on your format.
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Rashard Mendenhall followed up his 1108 yard, seven touchdown season with an even more impressive 1273 yard, 11 touchdown season. Mendy is a clear RB1 and a top eight to ten fantasy running back depending on your format. I actually like him a little better than Ray Rice in non-PPR leagues. He may make some bonehead comments, but he is a fantasy force with little competition for carries.
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Cedric Benson is a free agent, but is likely to return to Cincinnati. He is a workhorse back that should crack the 1000 yard mark again. Benson is a solid RB2 that also shouldn’t receive much competition for carries. If he does part via free agency, all bets are off in Cincinnati.
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Peyton Hillis‘ impressive season landed him on the cover of Madden 12. Obviously there is a curse that supposedly goes with it, but after the way he ran roughshod on the Ravens last year, he may be able to stand up to the curse. He slowed towards the end of the year, and the Browns have already stated that they want to reduce his carries. Montario Hardesty should be in the mix for carries, but Hillis has earned the feature role. Hillis is a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2.
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The AFC East is a division without a dominant running back.
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Tthe class of the division is Shonn Greene, but isn’t that what we expected last year? LaDainian Tomlinson is still in the picture, but he seems to be a peace with not being the featured back anymore. Greene is a powerful runner that should have a solid season. He’s better suited to be an RB2, but if you went WR or QB with your first pick or two, he is capable of putting up RB1 numbers. Heck, he’s capable of putting up top ten numbers. LT should still be owned, but don’t reach because of his name. He’s best suited for PPR leagues. Joe McKnight also could work his way into the mix, but the lockout will probably lead to more of a veteran presence early. Rookie Bilal Powell is best suited for dynasty leagues.
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In New England you have a fantasy mess. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was voted Running Back Most Likely to Regress by his classmates. With Danny Woodhead and rookies Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley the Pats’ running back pool is to murky to rely on. At some point it could sort itself out, but Bill Belichick is not concerned with fantasy numbers. Winning is the name of the game, and he’ll mix and match his RBs as he sees fit.
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Buffalo is a full-blown RBBC. Fred Jackson remains the starter and without OTAs will keep a foot up on second-year back C.J. Spiller. We’ve seen more committees lately that have allowed for two effective fantasy players to coexist so don’t be scared off. Jackson makes a solid RB3 and Spiller a solid RB4. If one of the backs goes down, the other’s value will jump dramatically. Once again Jackson will likely be undervalued on draft day.
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Then we have Miami. We still don’t know what will happen with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Assuming only one returns, that back will have the advantage on rookie Daniel Thomas thanks to the lockout. Both veterans have excelled in a RBBC so they will be willing to share the carries. Thomas will have to get up to speed quickly picking up blitzes to stay on the field. He very well could end up the top rookie runner this  year and has a bright future in keeper leagues.
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Now that you’ve strolled through the muddy AFC East running back terrain, be sure to wipe your feet.
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