Earlier this week, FNTSY.com’s Chris Meaney unveiled his top 10 running backs for the 2017 Fantasy Football season. There were a couple surprises, but everyone knew that David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott would be in his top three, in some kind of order. But who is the fourth-best Fantasy running back in PPR leagues after them?
That’s where this article comes in! We’ll take a look at a handful of the best candidates to choose if you don’t end up with Bell, D.J. or Zeke! We’re just looking for the next best Fantasy running back, and we’ll leave the talk about wide receivers for another day.
If we take a quick look back to last year, Bell was just behind D.J. and Zeke in PPR scoring, and LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Devonta Freeman and Melvin Gordon III ranked just behind them.
4 Candidates To Be The 4th-Best Fantasy Running Back in 2017 Fantasy Football
Since most of the people that are reading a Fantasy Football article in May and June are likely obsessed Fantasy Footballers, they probably play in PPR leagues, like about 50-percent of the nation. So that’s what this list of running back candidates is for – PPR formats. For those in standard leagues, I will be posting my 2017 Fantasy Running Back Rankings soon!
The players are listed alphabetically!
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
Freeman was actually one of my favorite picks last year, and you have to respect a guy that was the sixth-best Fantasy running back in a season when his backup was also able to finish as the 20th-best Fantasy running back in PPR leagues. I love him again this season, and the fact he’s playing in a contract year makes me like him more.
Where I step back on him for this season is that he’s now getting his third offensive coordinator (Steve Sarkisian), after the 49ers hired away Kyle Shanahan, and Dirk Koetter is entering his third season with the Bucs. Will Sark stick with the current RB rotation percentage-wise?
Plus, the 2016 Falcons offense was one of the most productive units we’ve seen since The Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis in the early 2000s.
Melvin Gordon III, Los Angeles Chargers
Spoiler alert: MGIII is my pick for the best Fantasy running back outside of the Big Three.
One of the main reasons I like Gordon so much is that he gets more chances than other running backs. In other words, between his rushing attempts and targets (touches), he averaged (23.92 touches) per game, which is more than any other non-Big-3 running back in 2016.
Gordon is coming off a season, much like Murray, where he surprised millions by being a top-10 running back in all formats, despite a disappointing 2014 season. Losing Danny Woodhead to a knee injury last season may have helped Gordon overall, as he didn’t get one receiving target in the one game Woodhead was healthy.
It’s safe to say year 2 for Melvin Gordon was an improvement from year 1. pic.twitter.com/ld8HUpmkTI
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 23, 2017
However, strained knee and hip injuries ended Gordon’s season early last year, and he enters 2017 with a new head coach in Anthony Lynn. Plus, the Chargers’ Fantasy strength of schedule for running backs is the fourth-toughest in the NFL.
The good news is that Lynn is a former NFL running back, and the Chargers didn’t bring in anyone to really threaten Gordon’s touches. One of Lynn’s goals this offseason is to figure out how to get more than 3.9 yards per carry for Gordon.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
I took McCoy with the sixth overall pick in an early May mock draft for Athlon Sports 2017 Fantasy Football Preview Magazine, and I’m not completely against doing that again, although, I do have Gordon ranked higher.
Yet another running back dealing with a new offensive coordinator, McCoy is hoping Rick Dennison can integrate him more in the passing game, like his days in Philadelphia. McCoy is the best talent Dennison will have access to since his days with the Houston Texans from 2010-2013. And if we think about those years, Foster was an absolute fantasy beast in PPR formats, especially. Foster caught 119 passes in 2010-11 combined.
However, McCoy turns 29 years old in July, which is precipitously close to that danger-30 age. Plus, the Bills offense still needs to put something together around him so defenses don’t collapse toward the line.
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
DeMarco Murray is 28 years old, but we should remember that he had just over 400 touches in his first two NFL seasons – mostly due to injury. He’s still in his prime, although, we shouldn’t forget he was a major injury risk at one point in his career.
It's 100 days until the NFL season starts. Over the last three seasons, the league-leader in 100-yard rushing games is DeMarco Murray (18).
— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) May 30, 2017
Murray was a fantasy pariah after his disappointing 2015 season in Philadelphia, and after Bishop Sankey showed us how horrible the Titans running game could be. But even with rookie Derrick Henry on board, Murray started strong and never really let up.
One thing I like about Murray is that the Titans’ Fantasy strength of schedule for running backs ranks fourth-best in the NFL.
It’s interesting that in most Fantasy experts’ rankings, the seven running backs I’ve mentioned here are the top seven running backs overall. That’s an awfully telling observation, which should worry you if you think about going with a wide receiver late in the first round. That could mean you miss out on one of these top-seven RBs and drop an entire tier down, for players like Jordan Howard, Jay Ajayi, Lamar Miller and Todd Gurley.
Who’s your pick for the fourth-best Fantasy running back in PPR leagues in 2017? Let us know in the comments section. Also, take a look at some of the Top 44 Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools to see if there are even better arguments for figuring out the fourth-best Fantasy Running back!
Photo Credit: Keith Allison
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.