We take a look at how the rookie class of running backs stacks up in fantasy football.
It’s never too early to project how this year’s rookie class will project in the 2017 NFL season.
At running back, this is one of the deeper classes in recent memory. We could see as many as four guys drafted in Round 1 of the 2017 NFL draft. After Ezekiel Elliott burst onto the scene as a RB1 as a rookie, there’s reason to think guys like Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette can have similar impacts if they land with the right team.
Let’s take a look at which rookie running backs are the best poised to become fantasy assets for your roster.
1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU Tigers
There’s really no question who the top running back in this year’s draft class is, not to mention the best fantasy prospect for next season. Leonard Fournette is certain to hear his name called sometime in the top 10 picks, and for good reason.
Despite an injury-plagued 2016 season in which Fournette missed five games, he still ran for 843 yards and eight scores on 129 carries. That came after he was among the best players in college football in 2015, racking up 1,953 yards and 22 scores on 300 carries as a sophomore.
The one knock on Fournette is he isn’t much of a pass-catcher, which negates his impact in PPR leagues. He caught just 41 passes and one score across 32 career college games.
Still, Fournette is the closest thing to an Ezekiel Elliott-type of running back in this year’s draft, and we can expect a similar workload with whichever team spends a high pick on the LSU back.
2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State Seminoles
While Fournette is viewed as the top running back prospect, Dalvin Cook isn’t far behind him. In fact, CBS Sports has Cook ranked No. 1 atop their running back rankings in this year’s draft.
In 13 games for Florida State this past season, Cook racked up 1,765 yards on 288 runs (6.1 per carry) while catching 33 passes for 488 yards and scoring 20 times (19 rushing, 1 receiving).
Cook is more of a dual-threat back who can have a big impact in both standard and PPR scoring leagues. However, a history of character concerns could lead to him falling into the latter part of Round 1.
3. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford Cardinal
The best dual-threat back in this year’s draft is none other than Christian McCaffrey. One of the most electrifying runners in college football for two straight years, expect McCaffrey to have a major impact in his NFL rookie season.
The do-it-all back ran for 3,622 yards and 21 touchdowns on 590 carries (6.1 avg.) across 25 games over the past two seasons. He also hauled in 82 grabs for 955 yards and eight scores.
However, durability concerns may keep McCaffrey from being the No. 1 back with whoever drafts him this year. He’s also a smaller back at 5’11 and 202 pounds, so it’s unlikely he’ll get a large workload in 2017.
McCaffrey is projected to go somewhere in the mid-to-late first-round range, so he’ll likely join a team that already has an established back. He may end up being a back whose true fantasy value is in PPR leagues, as he’ll likely be the best pass-catching back for whoever drafts him. He also adds value to that team’s defense/special teams since he returned one kickoff and one punt for scores in 2015.
4. Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee Volunteers
Another intriguing dual-threat runner to watch out for is Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara. The former Vol was an explosive and elusive runner in college while playing behind Jalen Hurd for much of his career.
Kamara still managed to run for 1,294 yards and 16 touchdowns on 210 carries (6.2 avg.) Across 24 career games. He also caught 74 passes for 683 yards and seven scores.
But Kamara is another guy whose smaller frame (5’10 and 214 pounds), not to mention durability (two missed games in 2016), will likely keep him from getting a heavy workload as a rookie.
Kamara also has character concerns from his days at Alabama, where he was suspended multiple times before transferring to a junior college. He bounced back nicely at Tennessee, but this may still help keep him from being drafted high this year.
Like McCaffrey, Kamara may end up being a back you only want to own in PPR leagues.
5. D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas Longhorns
The one-year wonder of this year’s draft is unquestionably D’Onta Foreman. After two years of being a backup, Foreman burst onto the scene in 2016 by leading the FBS with 184 rushing yards per game (2,028 on 323 carries) while scoring 15 touchdowns.
Foreman was strictly a runner though with just seven catches for 75 yards, so he’s not going to add much in PPR leagues. He also had a major fumbling concern with six fumbles this past season.
Ball security is the easiest way to get a rookie bound to the bench, so he’ll need to clean that up if he wants to get meaningful carries as a rookie. He’s projected to go sometime on Day 2, so it’s possible he ends up with a team that has a bell cow back, preventing Foreman from making a fantasy impact until after his rookie season.