1. LE'VEON BELL
It’s splitting hairs at the top spot this year, but fantasy owners should be very happy with either Bell or Gurley. If I have to choose, though, I’m taking Bell. His schedule is a bit easier (21st easiest for RBs) and he was still second in fantasy points last season in a “down year.” The Steelers know that he’s not going to re-sign at this point so they’re going to run the wheels off him without worry of long-term repercussions.
2. TODD GURLEY
TG30 actually has the hardest schedule for RBs this year, but anyone who has seen those off season workout videos won't be worrying about that. It’s rare to see such a talented runner be so gifted at receiving as well, and projections have him catching around 70 balls for 600+ Yds and 4 TDs. I love their offense with Sean McVay and because of the high volume of touches he'll get and a considerable amount of time removed from knee injuries, he’s your safest pick this year.
3. DAVID JOHNSON
People quickly forget how incredible his 2016 really was! We’re talking about over 2,000 total yards & 20 TDs through the ground and air. Granted this is almost a different team since then with Arians and Carson Palmer gone, but I couldn’t think of a better weapon to lean on for Steve Wilks to take the eventual pressure of rookie quarterback Josh Rosen.
4. EZEKIEL ELLIOTT
He doesn’t have an easy schedule (5th hardest) and I honestly don’t think his team will do well this year. The Redskins and Eagles both have strong front sevens to prepare for the NFC “Beast” RBs. I predict that Dak will finally prove to every fan that he’s just a game manager and Zeke will have to deal with a stacked box ALL SEASON, a la Leonard Fournette last year. With that being said, Zeke is still really good, and with a hodge-podge of guys jockeying at wide receiver, Elliott is the only credible threat on the Cowboys offense.
5. MELVIN GORDON
I have Gordon higher than most but that’s because if I’m drafting someone in the first round, I need it to be a sure thing. I’m not going to draft a top ten guy based off of promise (sorry Saquon, maybe next year). Melvin has the eighth-easiest schedule for RBs and is the shotgun passenger in Philip Rivers' offensive van that he takes back and forth from San Diego.
6. LEONARD FOURNETTE
This ain’t your slightly older brother’s Fourette. The legend of Louisiana walked into camp at a svelte 225, which is the lowest weight he's been at since high school. Dropping those 10 pounds and being in better shape might help the man stay on the field for the full 16 games, which is my only concern in drafting him. He has an easy schedule and is the feature bell cow in a run heavy offense. Don’t forget the fact that the Jags added mauling all-pro Andrew Norwell at left guard!
7. DALVIN COOK
Dalvin was cookin' four games into his rookie season before it got cut tragically short with the ACL tear. He’s elusive as all hell and should benefit from the addition of Kirk Cousins to an already stacked Vikings offense. PS- You could do the Viking Clap every time he scores for you and that’s enough for me to draft him.
8. SAQUON BARKLEY
When he’s not pulling SUVs up a hill and box jumping 42 inches, he’s box jumping into our hearts. He is a specimen to say the least. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry and 18 TDs over his last two seasons at Penn State while doing EVERY THING ELSE for that team. While everyone fawns over the size of "Saquads" enormous thighs, people forget that it takes hamstrings to hold those bad boys in place, so Barkley's hamstring tweak is something to monitor before your draft, as those tend to linger.
9. JORDAN HOWARD
Say hello to the easiest schedule for RBs this year and a reliable player who will be a workhorse on first and second down. He benefits from new offensive-minded head coach Matt Nagy and a year-wiser Mitch Trubisky. He won’t catch a lot of passes (although reports from Bears camp are saying he's made a giant leap as a receiver) but he is one of the few sure bets on getting at least 250 carries this season, which doesn’t happen any more.
10. KAREEM HUNT
The "Hunter" took the league by storm last year. He did cool off a bit towards the end of the season, but that’s expected from a rookie not used to playing that many games. The biggest question about Hunt’s upcoming season is who he lines up behind, Patrick “Trick” Mahomes. I have serious doubts that "Trick" can pull off half the season that Smith did last year, but I trust Andy Reid to mask his imperfections by running the ball and utilizing quick passes early. Until the playoffs, obviously.
LET'S TALK ABOUT
Alvin Kamara – Yes, he will have a great year. Yes he will break a lot of big plays. The real question is “will he break as many for as long as he did last year?” If you draft Kamara in the first round, you will most likely be very happy for the first four weeks with Ingram suspended. But as soon as week five starts, I’d be worried. I just can’t draft a guy as early as some people have him going when he won’t even carry it 150 times over the season.
Rashaad Penny – The Seahawks and GM John Schneider are a mystery. They waived a good running back in Alex Collins who they spent a fifth round pick on, burned a first rounder on a running back from San Diego State, and now have a seventh rounder playing ahead of him on the depth chart in Chris Carson. Some were writing him down as their “sleeper” and that he could be the next “beast mode”… I would corral your Clydesdales on that though. The Hawks have a laughable offensive line and a tougher schedule when it comes to ease for RBs, and his recent finger surgery is costing him valuable reps right now.
Mark Ingram – Since Kamara is the sexy pick, I think he’s being forgotten. He will miss the first four games of the season due to PEDs, but he’ll obviously come into the final 12 games with the strength of a thousand suns. Some people will fear the suspension to the point where he becomes a huge value. He’s averaged 5 yards per carry, 11 total TDs and 50 catches over the past couple of years of this revamped Saints offense. I trust Drew will spread the love just like last year.