This week, the Fantasy Spotlight focuses on the current top five ADP rookie running backs and their fantasy impact. Following a historic rookie season put together by Ezekiel Elliott in 2016, as well as the ultra-productive year for Jordan Howard, there are high expectations for the 2017 rookie class. Are the expectations realistic? Let’s break it down in this week’s Fantasy Spotlight!
(Note: ADP courtesy of fantasypros.com)
Fantasy Spotlight 2017 Preview: Top Five ADP Rookie Running Backs
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
ADP: PPR 22nd, Standard 22nd
The Jaguars went all-in drafting running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The former LSU star is likely to start the season as the lead back for the Jaguars. While putting up big numbers on the ground, Fournette was rarely used in the passing game during his college days. Over three years at LSU, Fournette caught only 41 passes. Head coach Doug Marrone was very impressed with the pass catching ability Fournette showed during OTA’s. If he can add that element to his game, he has a chance to be an every down back. Until then, look for Chris Ivory to grab some goal-line and short-yardage touches along with T.J. Yeldon getting some looks on passing downs.
Spotlight Says: RB2- Profootballfocus.com ranks the Jaguars offensive line 13th heading into the new season. If the line stays healthy, Fournette has a chance to be a consistent fantasy contributor. However, if you are expecting production like Elliott in 2016, you will be extremely disappointed.
Christian McCaffrey- Carolina Panthers
ADP: PPR 34th, Standard 32nd
There is a lot of hype surrounding the eighth overall pick in Carolina. Christian McCaffrey has all the attributes needed to be an every down back for the Panthers in 2017. McCaffrey is quite possibly the best dual-threat rookie in this year’s running back class. Lining up in the backfield with Cam Newton will lead to many opportunities for McCaffrey to load up the stat sheet. With Carolina losing Ted Ginn to free agency and re-signing veteran Jonathan Stewart, we should see McCaffrey used similarly to Le’Veon Bell in the passing game.
Spotlight Says: RB2- McCaffrey has every chance to be the most productive rookie in fantasy this year. He is currently being drafted behind guys like Todd Gurley and Lamar Miller. However, as training camps open, look for him to move up the ADP rankings.
Joe Mixon- Cincinnati Bengals
ADP: PPR 37th, Standard 40th
The Bengals drafted Joe Mixon 48th overall. Joe Mixon, like fellow rookie McCaffrey, poses a dual threat to opposing defenses. While Mixon is certainly the future for the Bengals running attack, the future may not happen right away. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard both remain under contract and will cut into Mixon’s touches. Hill has always been a touchdown machine. In three seasons, Hill has scored 29 rushing touchdowns. Over four seasons, Bernard has caught 187 passes. Bernard could start the year on the PUP list, which would open the door for Mixon. However, with Hill still in the mix, Mixon’s value will be a bit lower.
Spotlight Says: Low RB2- Before the season ends Mixon will be “the guy” in Cincinnati. One thing to watch is the offensive line. With the losses of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, profootballfocus.com ranks the Bengals line 31st entering 2017.
Dalvin Cook- Minnesota Vikings
ADP: PPR 57th, Standard 53rd
The Adrian Peterson era is over in Minnesota, so the Vikings went out and drafted the eventual heir-apparent, Dalvin Cook. Cook’s draft stock fell due to a very poor showing at the NFL combine and he is also coming off shoulder surgery. Cook has great vision on the field and has moves that would make Mick Jagger jealous. The Minnesota backfield is very crowded at the moment. Minnesota signed free agent Latavius Murray to a three-year deal, one year guaranteed. Additionally, change of pace back Jerick McKinnon remains with the team.
Spotlight Says: RB3- While Murray should enter the year as the lead back, Cook and McKinnon will share touches. Cook is the future in Minnesota, and that future probably begins at the start of the 2018 season. However, should Murray suffer a significant injury, the Dalvin Cook era will begin much sooner. Cook should be a top two running back target in dynasty drafts.
Samaje Perine- Washington Redskins
ADP: PPR 104th, Standard 108th
The Redskins were looking for a true power running back to play in their offense. Samaje Perine is just the guy they were looking for. While Joe Mixon got all the hype heading into the draft, it is Perine that finished as the all-time leading rusher in Oklahoma Sooners history. As it is with the others, Perine enters a crowded backfield with incumbents Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson. Kelley has been efficient when given the chance to be the lead back. Perine, similar in size and style, is three years younger than Kelley. It would not be surprising to see the 114th overall pick win the starting job during the preseason.
Spotlight Says: RB2- Perine could be the fantasy surprise of the draft. His running style fits head coach Jay Gruden‘s power running attack perfectly. He has a good head on his shoulders and comes into this season as one of the most polished rookies.
Boom: Christian McCaffrey
Bust: Joe Mixon
Sleeper: Samaje Perine
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