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Best running backs of the 2017-18 NFL Football Season
1. Le’Veon Bell
There won’t be any four-game suspensions this time around for Bell, who had to serve that punishment to begin the season a year ago. Just like last year, however, Bell is going to be a huge part of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ lethal offense that ranked sixth in total yards per contest. In 2016, Bell rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also an important figure in the passing game, as he caught 616 yards and two touchdowns. There’s nothing significant that would suggest a down year for Bell, except for a core muscle surgery back in March. In any case, Bell is expected to blast through opposing defenses this year, as he plays a pivotal role for the Steelers who are +1,100 to win the Super Bowl.
2. David Johnson
Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are still capable but their age puts them at risk of a sudden plunge. That’s not the case with running David Johnson, who’s young, fast, and powerful, not to mention he’s got the full confidence of head coach Bruce Arians. In fact, Arians noted that he intends to give Johnson up to 30 touches per game, a huge workload but obviously puts into context how impressed the Cardinals was of Johnson after the running back rushed for over 1,200 yards in 2016 and caught for 879 receiving yards.
3. Ezekiel Elliott
Put aside the off-the-field issues he’s found himself in and appreciate the fact that the incoming sophomore pro bruised his way to a league-leading 1,631 rushing yards last year—his first in the NFL. That Dallas ranked first in the league last season in rushing yards per game was solid evidence of Elliott’s importance to the Cowboys, who are +1,000 to win Super Bowl 52.
4. LeSean McCoy
You could argue that the Bills are going to go as far as where McCoy takes them. McCoy is turning 29, which is old in the running back universe, but 2016 didn’t’ as much indicate that the Pittsburgh product is close to being shot, as he rushed for 1,267 rushing yards with 13 rushing scores. McCoy is +1,800 to finish the season with the most rushing yards.
5. Devonta Freeman
Freeman thrived in the soul-crushing offense of the Falcons last season. Although Freeman’s number of touches was hurt by the presence of Tevin Coleman, he still managed to top 1,000 yards for the second straight season to go with 11 rushing touchdowns. There are some concerns on whether Freeman could sustain his production with the offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan gone but at least the opportunity to showcase his talent remains for the four-year veteran.
6. Jordan Howard
He could be the next best in Chicago sports scene after a scintillating 2016 in which he finished second behind Elliott for most rushing yards that year, as he racked up 1,313 yards on the ground with six rushing scores—all that despite the fact that Howard carried the ball for just 252 times, 11th in the league. Chicago’s quarterback situation isn’t that much better following the team cutting ties with Jay Cutler, as the Bears only have Mike Glennon projected to be starter under center. What this tells us is that Howard is bound for more opportunity to bloom in the backfield with Chicago likely to depend mostly on the running game on offense.
7. DeMarco Murray
After a letdown season in a one-season stop in Philly in 2015, wherein he saw his production fall to 702 rushing yards, Murray quickly recovered, collecting 1,297 rushing yards – third in the NFL – with nine touchdowns in his first season in Tennessee Titans threads. For those keeping count, that’s the third time over the last four seasons in which Murray had at least 1,200 rushing yards.
8. Melvin Gordon
All 10 of the Chargers’ rushing touchdowns last season were from Gordon. That underlines both the Chargers’ lack of capable bodies in the backfield and the over-reliance on Gordon by the team in terms of gaining yards on the turf. An improved offensive line and a new head coach in ex-Buffalo Bills running backs mentor in Anthony Lynn should facilitate another good, if not better, campaign from the former Wisconsin star.
9. Jay Ajayi
Ajayi totally smoked the opposition last season during a three-game stretch that saw him rush for no fewer than 111 yards in each of those contests. He did finish 2016 with a 1,272 rushing yards with eight touchdowns. This 2017, the prospect of Ajayi forking over at least that many yards is bright, considering that he will begin the season as the clear starter (last year it was Arian Foster). In addition to that, a probable incompetency from Miami’s new quarterback Jay Cutler could pave the way for increased touches for Ajayi.
10. Todd Gurley
The Rams were just 28th last season in rushing yards per game with just 39.06 percent of their total plays coming out of the rushing type, thus partly explaining why Gurley was among the biggest disappointments of 2016. That year, Gurley rushed for only 885 yards and six touchdowns after a rookie season that saw him get 1,106 rushing yards and 10 rushing scores. But with some minor modifications on the offensive line, Gurley and the Rams have enough reason to expect a big turnaround this time.
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