Most Valuable Running Backs of 2017

Matt Hicks, Staff Writer

To assess the value of each player, I took their average draft position (ADP) and subtracted their final position ranking (POS Rank) for the 2017 season. I’ve provided a chart for each player, and broken down why they finished where they did:

2017 POS Rank (ESPN PPR) 2017 POS ADP Value
Alvin Kamara 6 170 164
Alex Collins 16 170 154
Dion Lewis 17 170 153
Jerick McKinnon 23 170 147
Kenyan Drake 29 170 141
Orleans Darkwa 31 170 139
Jamaal Williams 34 170 136
Latavius Murray 24 50 26
Mark Ingram 7 25 18
Derrick Henry 30 48 18
CJ Anderson 12 28 16
Duke Johnson 19 34 15
Chris Thompson 36 51 15
Rex Burkhead 39 53 14
Kareem Hunt 3 16 13
Frank Gore 14 27 13
Todd Gurley 1 11 10
Carlos Hyde 9 18 9
Tevin Coleman 26 33 7
Leonard Fournette 8 12 4
Melvin Gordon 5 6 1
Le’Veon Bell 2 2 0
LeSean McCoy 4 4 0
Lamar Miller 13 13 0
Christian McCaffrey 18 15 -3
Jordan Howard 11 7 -4
Isaiah Crowell 21 17 -4
Bilal Powell 25 21 -4
Joe Mixon 28 24 -4
Marshawn Lynch 20 14 -6
Ezekiel Elliott 10 3 -7
Devonta Freeman 15 5 -10
Jay Ajayi 22 10 -12
DeMarco Murray 27 9 -18
Dalvin Cook 65 20 -45
David Johnson 119 1 -118
  1. Alvin Kamara (ADP 170*, POS Rank 6**)

 The rookie out of Tennessee was, by most accounts, the best value of the 2017 season. He went from the bottom of a crowded backfield to a potent dual threat. Kamara finished the season with 1,554 total yards, with over half of those coming from his 81 receptions; second to just Bell for receptions at the position. Kamara also finished with over 6 yards/carry, which is over a yard more than Dion Lewis, who finished second with 4.98 yards/carry. His ADP of 170 reflects an undrafted average, which naturally increases his value, however, he clearly outplayed the other running backs with the same undrafted ADP.

  1. Alex Collins (ADP 170*, POS Rank 16)


  1. Dion Lewis (ADP 170*, POS Rank 17)


  1. Jerick McKinnon (ADP 170*, POS Rank 23)


  1. Kenyan Drake (ADP 170*, POS Rank 29)

Drake fought his way from fantasy irrelevancy behind Jay Ajayi (who’s POS ADP was 10) to one of the most efficient backs in 2017. Drake rushed for 4.84 yards/carry, which was the 6th highest by running backs. Once Ajayi was traded to Philadelphia, Drake won out the job from Damian Williams by proving he could get the job done on the ground (644 yards, 3 touchdowns) and through the air (239 yards, 1 touchdown).

  1. Orleans Darkwa (ADP 170*, POS Rank 31)


  1. Jamaal Williams (ADP 170*, POS Rank 14)


  1. Latavius Murray (ADP 50, POS Rank 24)


  1. Mark Ingram (ADP 25, POS Rank 7)

Ingram was drafted behind Peterson (POS ADP 23), despite finishing as the RB 8 in 2016. Ingram proved to be a great value, however, after finishing as RB 7 in 2017. Ingram’s 13 total touchdowns, ranked him 4th at the position, and his 1,124 rushing yards ranked him 6th at the position. I expect Ingram to continue flying under the radar as the Kamara hype snowballs; so look for him to be a great value pick again in 2018.

  1. Derrick Henry (ADP 48, POS Rank 30)

Henry finished as RB 30 on the season, despite having just 6 games with more than 11 carries. Henry made headline for his large, mostly garbage time, plays but he finished with the 16th highest yards/carry on the season, amongst fantasy relevant players. Players remain divided on Henry’s value moving forward, but peg me as a Henry truther as he overtakes the starting job from Murray.

  1. CJ Anderson (ADP 28, POS Rank 12)

Anderson’s season was filled with inconsistency, but he did finish the season as a RB 1. Anderson did average 4.1 yards/carry, but was utilized poorly on a low scoring offense. Still, Anderson returned valued with 1,231 total yards and 4 total touchdowns; compared to his RB 3 ADP.

  1. Duke Johnson (ADP 34, POS Rank 19)


  1. Chris Thompson (ADP 51, POS Rank 36)


  1. Rex Burkhead (ADP 53, POS Rank 39)


  1. Kareem Hunt (ADP 16, POS Rank 3)

I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, and I’m definitely on record as not buying into Hunt in the preseason. He proved me wrong, however, finishing as the RB 3 on the season; with the most rushing yards on the season (1,327). Hunt also caught the 11th most passes for running backs (53) and got 84% of his targets; proving he’s a potent dual threat.

  1. Frank Gore (ADP 24, POS Rank 14)


  1. Todd Gurley (ADP 11, POS Rank 1)

Gurley rose from the fantasy grave this season; bouncing back from poor utilization in a Jeff Fisher offense. He led the league in rushing touchdowns (13) and finished 2nd in rushing yards (1,291). It’s safe to say that this MVP candidate will not be drafted outside of the top 3 at the running back position for years to come.

  1. Carlos Hyde (ADP 18, POS Rank 9)


  1. Tevin Coleman (ADP 33, POS Rank 26)


  1. Leonard Fournette (ADP 12, POS Rank 8)


  1. Melvin Gordon (ADP 6, POS Rank 5)

Gordon took a lot of flack from the fantasy community this year, however, it’s proved to be unjustified. Gordon finished above his ADP, and above his 2016 POS rank (7). Gordon finished 5th in total yard (1,581) and 3rd in total touchdowns (12); proving his criticism in unjustified. I expect Gordon to fall in ADP following his criticism in 2017, which will make him a great value in 2018.

  1. Le’Veon Bell (ADP 2, POS Rank 2)


  1. LeSean McCoy (ADP 4, POS Rank 4)


  1. Lamar Miller (ADP 13, POS Rank 13)


  1. Christian McCaffrey (ADP 15, POS Rank 18)


  1. Jordan Howard (ADP 7, POS Rank 11)

Howard disappointed excited fantasy owners who thought he’d build off his top 10 POS rank in 2016; instead he regressed to RB 11. Howard still rushed for 9 touchdowns and 1,122 yards. Howard’s downfall, was his inability to contribute to the Chicago passing game; totaling just 125 receiving yards, and failing to catch a touchdown pass. I’m interested to see how his negative value affects his 2018 ADP; it may drop him as far as the mid-late 3rd round.

  1. Isaiah Crowell (ADP 17, POS Rank 21)

Crowell disappointed a plethora of fantasy owners, however, it can’t be contributed solely to him. His upside was based on a preseason declaration by the prestigious Hue Jackson, in which he claimed Crowell would see more than 20 carries/game. Instead, Crowell say just 12.8 carries/game, which tapped out his scoring potential. That, combined with an isolation from the passing game, thanks to Duke Johnson, left Crowell as a low end RB 2.

  1. Bilal Powell (ADP 21, POS Rank 25)


  1. Joe Mixon (ADP 24, POS Rank 28)

For as wrong as I was about Hunt, I was absolutely right about Mixon. In the preseason, I refused to even comment on Mixon, based on him as a person. During the season, however, I broke down how he proved to be a bust based solely on his poor stats. He ranks 29th in value, further proving that the controversial back from Oklahoma failed to be fantasy relevant in 2017. Mixon rushed for just 3.5 yards/carry, which is the lowest of any running back in this article; which defeats the common argument that his lack of success is due to lack of opportunity. Mixon also failed to contribute to the passing game; catching just 2 passes for 20 yards per game in 2017. Mixon truthers will push his ADP up in 2018, but when considering whether or not to draft him; keep in mind his low value in 2017.

  1. Marshawn Lynch (ADP 14, POS Rank 20)


  1. Ezekiel Elliott (ADP 3, POS Rank 10)

Zeke’s value, of course, is skewed by his 6-game suspension. His POS Rank of 10, however, is very impressive, given he played in just 10 games in 2017. Zeke finished first amongst running backs with 98.3 yards/game and 10th in receiving yards/game. He also finished 3rd at the position with .9 touchdowns/game.

  1. Devonta Freeman (ADP 5, POS Rank 15)


  1. Jay Ajayi (ADP 10, POS Rank 22)

Injury concerns dropped Ajayi’s preseason ADP, yet he failed to live up to that ADP even though he played in 14 games this season. Ajayi’s poor season was highlighted by a mid-season trade that cut his carries in half; 138 in 7 games with Miami, 70 in 7 games with Philadelphia. Ajayi also rushed for just 4.2 yards/carry and found the end zone just once all season. Hype remains high for Ajayi, however, I will not be convinced until I see that Pederson is committed to giving him volume equivalent to his talent.

  1. DeMarco Murray (ADP 9, POS Rank 27)

Murray finished as the worst value at the running back position, for a player who did not incur a significant injury. Murray played in 15 games in 2017, but finished as a RB 3. Murray rushed for just 3.58 yards, above only Mixon from this list, and totaled just 925 yards, however, he did manage to total 7 touchdowns. Murray’s ADP should plummet in 2018; as he’s likely to lose his starting position by the time the majority of drafts are held.

  1. Dalvin Cook (ADP 20, POS Rank 65)


  1. David Johnson (ADP 1, POS Rank 119)


*170 is the number given for any quarterback with an ADP of 170; which signals that they were drafted in the majority of leagues

**POS Rank=Position Rank, as determined by total fantasy points via ESPN PPR scoring

Follow us on Twitter @Top2Sports for daily fantasy advice and everything you need to know to win your fantasy championship throughout the off-season! 

Published by

Matt Hicks

Matt’s writing is focused on dynasty and devy fantasy football. He loves blending his experience writing research in the field of education with fantasy football stats. Matt currently lives in Baltimore, MD and graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. You can follow Matt on Twitter: @TheFF_Educator

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s