Top 5 Running Backs in 2017

Can you believe it? The NFL season is officially here! With the anticipation of kickoffs and watching four quarters of all our favorite stars, also comes the excitement of fantasy football rosters. This year gives us quite the variety of running backs, and in that cluster of rookies is a big question mark on who will be the next big hit. There are five big names that people are throwing around, and despite all five of them have immense talent to bring towards the future, we can’t expect all of them will be the next Ezekiel Elliot. Here are the top five (in order) of most likely to have break out years for your fantasy football team:

 

#5 – Joe Mixon

This Oklahoma running back may have the most talent out of all the rookies this year, despite having a shady past. Mixon has already dealt with his suspension with the Sooners, but still dropped a little lower in the draft because of his actions. Looking forward, Mixon should eventually become a starting RB for Cincinnati — but it may not be this year. The Bengals have already announced that Jeremy Hill is their official starting RB, and Giovanni Bernard did not lose his spot as the #2 back on the roster. Might be a good move for Cincinnati to allow Mixon to learn the offense and pace of the game a little more, but it’s bad news for fantasy football owners who drafted Mixon early this year. Only way we’re seeing Mixon play is if there are key injuries, and that may not be towards to the end of the season, if at all. Although that’s exactly how David Johnson was discovered for his supreme talents in the league, so there is always hope for Joe Mixon… just maybe not this year.

 

#4 – Leonard Fournette

I know what you’re thinking. This must be a mistake, right? Fournette being this low must be some sort of a joke, as in an homage to him being picked #4 overall in the draft. The Jaguars definitely did a great job picking him up early in the draft, seeing the same thing we all saw at LSU: a hard-hitting, side-stepping, burst of talent running full speed ahead. The only vice on Fournette is that he becomes injury prone. While fantasy owners are going to biting their nails and crossing their fingers that Fournette stays healthy for them for a majority of a season, it also poses a good question of just how many touchdowns Fournette will obtain on the Jaguars. It’s not so much a secret anymore that Jacksonville has a young and talented defense, but their offense seems pretty lack luster with Blake Bortles behind center. Fournette may receive the majority of the hand offs in the first quarter, but if the Jaguars are constantly playing catch-up from behind they’re going to be handing off the ball less and less. Don’t expect to see too many garbage time touchdowns coming from the back field this year.

 

#3 – Dalvin Cook

This Florida State running back has some big shoes to fill in Minnesota this year. Cook is definitely talented, but nobody is entirely sure if he’s exactly Adrian Peterson caliber. Then again, who really is? Cook will most likely be splitting carries with Jerick McKinnon at first, and then going running back by committee once Latavius Murray when he returns from injury reserve. As of right now Cook is named as the leading RB for the team, but the Vikings are going to go with whoever is the hot hand when it comes to game time. Cook’s total touches is a pretty mild worry on whether to play him in fantasy this year though. The real problem is whether Minnesota’s offensive line can help or hurt the rookie RB. Last year Sam Bradford ran in to lots of troubles the last eight games by having constant pressure in his face. The Vikings O-Line were cursed with injuries across the board, and their second string were not ready for the task to take care of business. If the Vikings come into injury problems again this year, their line may not hold very well for such a young and promising Dalvin Cook.

 

#2 – Christain McCaffrey

As much as he gained love from NCAA affiliates, the biggest criticism McCaffrey received going into the NFL combine was he was too small, too slow, and too weak. The Carolina Panthers took a gamble on him regardless, and it looks to be the better end of the deal considering that McCaffrey had a great pre-season. Picking a great RB early in the draft was a pretty smart move coming from Carolina, who have an aging Jonathan Stewart on their roster. The only worry going in to this fantasy football season is how many rushing touchdowns McCaffrey will see his first year in the big leagues. When on the goal line the Panthers generally will still hand off to Stewart, but they also have the option of looking for their all-pro tight end Greg Olson, or they’ll have Cam Newton run it in to the endzone himself. McCaffrey is his own special breed, though. He will be utilized more so on the receiving end, running the flat routes or quick screens. We could potentially be talking about McCaffrey being up there as some of the greats such as Darren SprolesDanny Woodhead, or Matt Forte. Expect to see Christain McCaffrey have just as many receiving yards as he does rushing yards this year, which makes him extremely valuable for PPR leagues in fantasy football.

 

#1 – Kareem Hunt

Possibly the most over-looked running back in the draft this year, Hunt has the most potential to make an identity for himself among the fantasy football world. With Spencer Ware tearing his MCL, it has the gate wide open for Hunt to take over as the new face of their offense. For fantasy football owners, there is no question that Hunt will be taking the majority of the work load on the Chiefs. It’s a nice sigh of relief knowing that Hunt is the starter, but it only adds to the value knowing that the Kansas City is a run-first type of offense. The only question when it comes to their offensive roster is whether or not Patrick Mahomes will take over as starting quarterback this year or not. Andy Reid is one of the most well respected coaches in the NFL, so whether he sits or starts Mahomes people will just his judgement. If Mahomes does become a starter this year, they may capture the same type of lighting in a bottle magic that the Dallas Cowboys had last year with Dak and Zeke. Either way, Hunt has looked impressive during his pre-season, and no matter which quarterback is under center he has a good offensive line to help him out, and an even better defense to rely on to keep the time management on their side. Alex Smith doesn’t throw too many passing TD’s, so the majority of the Chief’s scoring is going to be coming from the running game.

Advertisements

Pittsburgh Steelers: Super Bowl or Bust

Every year fans and analysts alike make their predictions of the most likely teams to make the Super Bowl. Steelers are on the list almost every year, and for good reason. Everybody from Pittsburgh will vote them in because the Steelers are among the biggest fan bases in America, and reporters like to vote them in since they have one of the highest winning percentages in football. They won six Lombardis for a reason. At the end of the day though, votes and popularity isn’t what it takes to get to the biggest game of the year. It’s the team who wins games, and Pittsburgh just added another knight to their army by signing Joe Haden from the Cleveland Browns. He may be that small switch that makes a giant difference towards making a deep playoff run this season.

Steelers have been praised for their offense for quite a while now. They have the “Three B’s”, and that statement alone people already will recognize Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell. It’s definitely not an exaggeration either, considering that Brown and Bell are generally selected within the first four picks of the first round in every single fantasy football draft. Despite being such a high octane offense, the Steelers have still been falling short when it comes to making the Super Bowl. Certainly their offense isn’t to blame for this! Perhaps they need a big boost in their defense. After all, defenses do win championships, and Pittsburgh has done just that. Instead of having the Three B’s on offense, the Steelers could have their own version of a holy trinity on their defense as well. Look at some of these names they have who have very Pro Bowl worthy potential. They have James Harrison, who not only has intimidated Father Time himself into submission, but is the very definition of a beast. To compliment him on the line backing core they draft TJ Watt, the hopeful younger brother of JJ Watt from Wisconsin. Now they have Joe Haden, a great shut down corner to help out the defensive backs while the line backers and defensive ends bring the pressure. Those three names alone could be the big “it” factor the Steelers need defensively — they could be their own Big Three.

The defense hasn’t been the only factor stopping the Steelers the past seven years from a Super Bowl appearance. There’s been two major factors in their way: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. With Manning gone it helps Pittsburgh’s chances, but with Brady around it’s still a fight to the finish between the two franchises. Granted Brady is officially in his 40’s now, you can’t count out anything with the Patriots as long as Belichick is still around. The NFC West will be a big factor in the playoffs this year as well, with every team looking to be young and dominant. The Steelers will have their competition for sure, and ultimately it may come down to something as simple as if the team can stay healthy. The past two seasons Roethlisberger has been hit with injuries and hasn’t played all 16 games. Same goes for Le’Veon Bell with his suspensions, or being hurt for key playoff games. If Steelers want to stay in the race this year, they’ll want to shoot for a #1 or #2 seed and guarantee the home field advantage for another deep playoff run.

Anything can happen during the upcoming season, which is why we’re told every game is “any given Sunday”. Steelers fans have quite a bit to be excited for, and should feel safe in knowing that once again they should be the strongest team in their division. Mike Tomlin wants another championship in his repertoire, and he knows that time is running out with how many years Roethlisberger has left in him. On top of that, Tomlin has received some criticism at his head coaching abilities. One of the critics coming from Terry Bradshaw himself last year. Tomlin seems to be a motivated type of man, and shutting the critics down once and for all may bet he motivation he needs to get to Super Bowl LII this year.

Top 5 Teams To Look Out For in 2017

There are lots of teams that fans and analysts are keeping an eye out for based on super bowl potential or for making the playoffs last year. Here I’ve made a list of top teams to look out for, even if they’re not necessarily playoff hopeful, it’s still teams with redeeming potential this year. Big changes can make bigger ripple affects among franchises, and some of those changes can be as little as one player. These are the most interesting teams to watch for the 2017 season:

#5 – Los Angeles Rams.

Jeff Fisher is gone, which means the 7-9 curse is finally lifted. Although they’re probably not playoff hopeful this year, they have a lot to look forward to. They currently rest in arguably the weakest division in the NFC, which could potentially help the Rams gain traction. Jared Goff is officially starting, and we will find out if he’s ready for the task. At least he’ll have some help with Sammy Watkins as a great target to throw to, and Todd Gurley is up in the air on whether he wants to be a booming sleeper or a troubling bust. Considering that defenses will have to focus on eligible receivers rather than stacking the box on Gurley every play, he definitely has potential this year. Not only will we see what the new and improved offense is capable of, but don’t forget about Aaron Donald this year, who was just voted #15 in NFL’s Top 100.

#4 – Miami Dolphins.

After getting a Wild Card slot in the playoffs last year, the Dolphins looked like they could coast under the Patriots once again. That is, until Tannehill tore his ACL and the team looked ready to crash and burn. People believe that’s still immanent by signing Jay Cutler, who hasn’t played a snap since November, but the logic seems sound on their decision. Adam Gase and Cutler have worked together before, and with Jarvis Landry to throw it to, a promising young running back in Jay Ajayi, and a defense that looks in tip top shape, this could be a good year for Miami. Fantasy football players have been eagerly waiting for DeVante Parker to break out, and for a guy who is a deep threat having a quarterback with the arm strength such as Cutler, this could be fate.

#3 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This one seems too easy on the list. Football analysts have been hyping the Bucs for months now, along with being the focus on HBO’s current season of Hard Knocks. With Jaemis Winston leading the charge in his third season, having a healthy Doug Martin back, sharing great chemistry with players such as Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander on an under rated defense, plus picking up DeSean Jackson to compliment Mike Evans on the other side of the field, then fans have every reason to be hype this season. What puts Tampa Bay a tad higher on this list is considering that they’re hungry for the playoffs this year. The Bucs haven’t been in the post season for ten consecutive seasons, and the NFC south has a strange curse where the team who was in first place the year before usually ends up in last place the following year. That’s not good news for the Atlanta Falcons.

#2 – Philadelphia Eagles.

This team might be a big sleeper lost behind the Cowboys and Giants in the NFC Beast. Carsen Wentz is coming into his second year, and looks more precise and confident than his rookie season. The Eagles dropped both the Matthews — Jordan and Ryan — and despite the losses almost look in better shape. This team is young, it’s talented, and it’s loaded on both sides of the field. Eagles acquired Ronald Darby from the Buffalo Bills in that triangle trade, and Darby’s first call to action was to pick off Tyrod Taylor in the preseason. Add Malcolm Jenkins and Derek Barnett to that mix and that’s a pretty deadly defense rising up this year. We’ll all be in anticipation on what Carsen Wentz can do with Alshon Jeffrey to throw it to.

#1 – Kansas City Chiefs.

This team shouldn’t be a surprise on why it’s good. They won their division last year, despite the AFC West being extremely tough and talented, but only because of Derek Carr going down on a key injury on the Raiders. Andy Reid knows it. He also knows that despite a very talented team, he’s not going to a super bowl any time soon with Alex Smith under center. Everyone’s eyes are now on Patrick Mahomes to see if and when he will take over. The Chiefs didn’t trade up in the 2017 draft just to let him sit on the bench for three years. Mahomes has been making some impressive plays during the preseason, and the audience in Arrowhead are waiting to see what he can do with some weapons such as Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. That’s not even mentioning their all-pro players on defense such as Eric Berry and Justin Houston.