Properly, it was enjoyable whereas it lasted. When my general participant rankings got here out on Monday, I had Le’Veon Bell as my prime participant, forward of Todd Gurley. My reasoning was that Bell had an extended, extra reliable monitor document of prime efficiency, and that his receiving prowess spelled the distinction in PPR codecs (to which The Post’s fantasy protection defaults).
It didn’t take lengthy in any respect, nevertheless, for information to reach that Bell and Steelers had did not agree on a long-term contract, which means that, for a second straight season, he’ll get the one-year franchise tag. Nevertheless, as with 2017, Bell probably gained’t be in any hurry to signal his franchise-tag tender and will nicely skip coaching camp once more. Extra ominously, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter posited, Bell may truly sit out the primary half of the season, all the higher to hit free company subsequent spring in good well being.
It’s much more possible that Bell will play a full season, however the uncertainty is sufficient to push him under Gurley, given how shut the gamers already have been, when it comes to expectations. These two, plus David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott, type a “Big Four” on the RB spot, after which drafters have quite a lot of methods to probably go. Right here’s how I see it:
1. Todd Gurley, Rams (Off week: 12)
Gamers who end first in fantasy scoring don’t often repeat the next season, which might be some extent in favor of Bell, however Gurley advocates may also level to the truth that their man has much more tread on his tires, with 914 touches over three seasons to Bell’s 1,541 over 5. Gurley’s first two seasons noticed him look explosive as a rookie earlier than taking place with the Rams’ desultory ship in 2016. A training change and vital additions on the offensive line and at WR propelled the staff to the league’s greatest offense final yr. These parts are nonetheless in place, with Sammy Watkins changed by Brandin Cooks and QB Jared Goff a yr extra skilled, so Gurley, who completed second to Alvin Kamara in RB receiving yardage, must be set for an additional big marketing campaign.
2. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers (7)
Assuming that Bell exhibits up as anticipated for Week 1, house owners know what they’re getting: a participant who may be relied upon to get one of many NFL’s largest workloads and produce. That features a main position within the Steelers’ passing recreation, as Bell has averaged 81 receptions on 102 targets over his previous three absolutely wholesome seasons, making him pure gold in PPR. It helps that Pittsburgh sports activities one of many league’s greatest offensive strains, plus a prime QB in Ben Roethlisberger and main expertise at WR, which means that Bell ought to have a great shot at topping his single-season excessive of 11 mixed TDs (maybe the one flaw in his fantasy résumé).
three. David Johnson, Cardinals (9)
You haven’t forgotten how unimaginable Johnson was in 2016, have you ever? In his second season, he totaled 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns, and he went No. 1 general in most 2017 fantasy drafts. His house owners final yr don’t have to be reminded what occurred subsequent, as Johnson suffered a Week 1 wrist damage that wound up ending his season. That was a disastrous consequence, however the excellent news, at the very least for this season’s house owners, is that Johnson’s decrease physique was unscathed and there’s no purpose to assume he gained’t be as efficient as once we final noticed him. Nicely, one purpose could possibly be Arizona’s query marks at QB, WR, TE and offensive line, to not point out a brand new teaching employees headed by former defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, however there’s little doubt that Johnson shall be used as a workhorse.
four. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (eight)
Elliott slides to fourth right here as a result of Dallas hasn’t used him a lot as a receiver, however as a runner he arguably takes a backseat to nobody, main the NFL in dashing yards per recreation in every of his first two seasons. As with Johnson, there are some questions on how efficient the general offense of his workforce might be, however Elliott has an excellent QB in Dak Prescott and a training employees dedicated to giving him all of the carries he can deal with, together with, in fact, close to the objective line. The former Ohio State star has truly displayed good receiving expertise, notably on display performs, and with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten gone, it will be shocking if the Cowboys didn’t improve Elliott’s utilization within the passing recreation.
5. Saquon Barkley, Giants (9)
I’m bullish on Barkley as a result of I anticipate him to get an enormous workload immediately, together with loads of cross targets. One thing just like the 80 receptions that went to Christian McCaffrey, final yr’s No. eight decide, is hardly unthinkable, and Barkley could be anticipated to get many extra carries than his Panthers counterpart, who had 117 in 2017. Hey, the G-Males didn’t spend a No. 2 general decide on an RB, with tempting choices at QB, simply to trot out the likes of Jonathan Stewart (described as “plodding” in offseason coaching periods) and Wayne Gallman. There’s purpose to be involved about Barkley’s capacity to run between the tackles, plus New York’s partially rebuilt however nonetheless sketchy offensive line, however these points existed at Penn State and hardly prevented him from wanting like a generational expertise.
6. Alvin Kamara, Saints (6)
In distinction to Barkley, and virtually everybody else, Kamara evokes super optimism due to the power he confirmed final season to do extra with much less. A lot much less, actually, than your common stud again, as Kamara received simply 201 touches as a rookie however was exceptionally environment friendly, averaging a league-leading 6.1 yards per carry and a gaudy 10.2 yards per reception, with 13 complete TDs. These fee stats merely should come down, however probably not drastically as Kamara might conceivably be a barely bulkier model of Jamaal Charles, and he’s in line for extra touches this yr, particularly as Mark Ingram sits out the primary 4 video games with a suspension. At worst, Kamara, who was second amongst RBs final season with 81 receptions, can be a magnet once more for Drew Brees‘s dump-off passes, giving him a superb flooring in PPR codecs and making him a safer first-round decide than some may assume.
7. Kareem Hunt, Chiefs (12)
Hunt had an odd NFL debut final yr, bursting onto the scene with 775 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns in his first 5 video games earlier than falling into a protracted midseason swoon, with simply 522 yards and no scores at everywhere in the subsequent seven video games. Hunt managed to proper the ship simply in time to point out he wasn’t a flash within the pan, closing the season robust and profitable the NFL’s dashing crown, albeit with the fewest yards (1,327) to prime the league since Barry Sanders took the title with 1,304 dashing yards in 1990. Then again, being in comparison with Sanders isn’t a nasty factor for an RB, and Hunt’s rookie efficiency assured him a busy position in what ought to be a dynamic offense, even when Spencer Ware’s return from damage siphons away some touches.
eight. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars (9)
Regardless of lacking three video games as a rookie, Fournette completed ninth in PPR scoring amongst RBs, and he was seventh in per-game scoring. In fact, the missed video games are a priority, notably as they stemmed from ankle woes which have dogged the again since his time at LSU, however Fournette confirmed that, when wholesome, he can trample NFL defenders simply as completely as would-be SEC tacklers. He scored 9 dashing TDs, with one other one by means of the air, and seems to be nearly as good a guess as any to steer the league in end-zone journeys, which performs almost as nicely in PPR as in normal. Jacksonville’s ferocious protection ought to often tilt the sector in its offense’s favor, and the group upgraded its offensive line with path-clearing guard Andrew Norwell.
9. Dalvin Prepare dinner, Vikings (10)
We’re left with what-ifs from Prepare dinner’s rookie marketing campaign — this simply in: final yr’s class of first-year RBs was a doozy — as a result of he tore an ACL a mere 4 video games in. In that span, although, he was terrific, racking up 444 yards and two TDs whereas averaging four.eight yards per carry and searching very very similar to a bellcow again. We simply don’t know if he would have continued to play that properly all season, and whereas Prepare dinner is predicted to be absolutely recovered in time for the beginning of this season, it takes a little bit of a leap of religion to seize him with a excessive decide. That’s a leap value taking, although, as Prepare dinner is about to be the function again in an efficient offense that misplaced Jerick McKinnon to free company.
10. Melvin Gordon, Chargers (eight)
We’re nonetheless ready for Gordon to common a lot as 4 yards per carry, however so long as the Chargers are completely satisfied to feed him the ball, we might as properly be content material with the outcomes (in the event you sense a begrudging tone, you’re right). Gordon went from 295 touches in 2016, with a seventh-place end amongst RBs, to 342 final yr and the fifth spot. One other top-10 season seems to be within the playing cards, provided that Los Angeles didn’t usher in a lot backfield competitors, including seventh-round decide Justin Jackson to a depth chart that features undersized change-of-pace again Austin Ekeler. The Bolts did enhance their offensive line, at the least on paper, and have the makings of a protection that would permit Gordon to salt away second-half leads.
11. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers (four): With offseason addition C.J. Anderson reportedly slated for a large position, McCaffrey won’t be requested to do much more than he was as a rookie, however that was ok for 10th place at his place, and he must be a extra well-rounded runner this season.
12. Devonta Freeman, Falcons (eight): Freeman had a comparatively disappointing 2017 season, through which he nonetheless completed 13th in RB scoring. His season mirrored the general stumbles of Atlanta’s assault underneath much-maligned offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who has pledged to get his RBs extra concerned on move performs.
13. Jerick McKinnon, 49ers (11): San Francisco paid a hefty sum to deliver McKinnon over from Minnesota, so coach Kyle Shanahan is presumed to have an enormous position in thoughts for him, however some see bust potential in a transformed QB who has but to point out he could be a headlining again.
14. Joe Mixon, Bengals (9): Mixon principally did not stay as much as the hype as a rookie, amid decidedly antagonistic circumstances in Cincy’s struggling offense, and can get one other season to point out what he can do with 200-plus touches.
15. Jordan Howard, Bears (5): An terrible pass-catcher, a minimum of so far in his NFL profession, Howard earns his maintain the old style approach, churning out yards and touchdowns together with his legs, and he figures to take care of an enormous position whilst new Chicago coach Matt Nagy installs a extra numerous scheme.
16. Kenyan Drake, Dolphins (11): Miami was sluggish to embrace Drake as its function again, even after buying and selling away Jay Ajayi halfway by means of final season, and now he should stave off playing-time challengers each younger (rookie Kalen Ballage) and previous (Frank Gore), whereas displaying that his robust closing stretch of video games was an indication of issues to return.
17. Derrius Guice, Redskins (four): Bodily runner ought to step into a serious position on early downs, and might want to, provided that he caught simply 32 balls in three seasons at LSU.
18. Lamar Miller, Texans (10): Miller hasn’t blossomed in Houston the best way many fantasy gamers had hoped, however ought to make for a protected RB2 decide, particularly with D’Onta Foreman working his method again from a torn Achilles and no lock to start out the season on the lively listing.
19. Dion Lewis, Titans (eight): Signed to a $20 million contract to type a committee with Derrick Henry, Lewis must be the member who catches extra passes, and he confirmed with the Patriots that he can run between the tackles as nicely.
20. Ronald Jones, Buccaneers (5): His draft slot (38th general) says he ought to shortly take over as Tampa Bay’s lead again, as does the truth that his competitors consists of Peyton Barber, Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers.
21. Sony Michel, Patriots (11): Michel flaunts a fair greater draft slot (31st general), a results of mouth-watering school tape, however Michel should wrest his touches from Rex Burkhead and James White, with Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill nonetheless within the combine in the intervening time, whereas the ever-inscrutable Invoice Belichick pulls the strings.
22. Alex Collins, Ravens (10): An sudden brilliant spot for Baltimore’s 2017 offense, Collins’s reward is to start out the season because the clear early-downs again, with a superb shot at 40-plus receptions.
23. Rashaad Penny, Seahawks (7): Seattle stunned analysts by taking Penny within the first spherical, and Pete Carroll has talked up his three-down potential, however a wholesome Chris Carson may need one thing of his personal to say about that, and the road nonetheless must show it’s able to run-blocking.
24. Tevin Coleman, Falcons (eight): Atlanta’s No. 2 again will get sufficient work to be penciled in for 1,000 complete yards, 30 catches and 10 TDs, and he might attain far more if Freeman, who missed two video games final yr, goes down for any time period.
25. Derrick Henry, Titans (eight): Simply when Henry was free of being DeMarco Murray‘s apprentice, he was thrust back into a timeshare with Lewis, but this time Henry has a good chance of getting the lion’s share of the work.
26. LeSean McCoy, Payments (11): Given his age, mileage, alarming drop final yr in per-carry common and Buffalo’s gloomy outlook, McCoy was already a dangerous decide earlier than troubling allegations surfaced that, if borne out, might land him a prolonged suspension.
27. Mark Ingram, Saints (6): We all know Ingram will begin the yr on a suspension, and it’s not a lock that, even after he returns, he absolutely escapes Sean Payton’s doghouse.
28. Jay Ajayi, Eagles (9): With LeGarrette Blount gone, Ajayi ought to get a lot of the short-yardage work, and he might earn rather more than that in a high-wattage offense, however Doug Pederson appears to choose a spread-it-around strategy.
29. Marshawn Lynch, Raiders (7): After popping out of retirement to play for his hometown squad, Lynch was used to little impact within the early going, however befitting a participant who’s “all about that action, boss,” he perked up when given a heavier workload, averaging four.6 yards on 135 carries, with 5 TDs, over his remaining eight video games.
30. Royce Freeman, Broncos (10): Third-round decide ought to emerge with a useful position after competing with Devontae Booker and, to a seemingly lesser extent, De’Angelo Henderson for primacy in Denver’s backfield.