While most individuals will not be doing their fantasy football draft for another two months, it’s never too soon to start talking about who you should take number one overall. I personally do not like having the number one pick in a snake draft because of the waiting you have to do after making your first selection. However, if you are granted the first pick overall, you need to nail that selection. I will present the top three running backs that will most likely be selected number one in fantasy drafts and tell you which one you should select:
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
Oh, boy am I a David Johnson fan. Everything from his size to his speed jumps out as a RB1 and someone worthy of being selected number one overall. He is in the heart of his prime going into what should be a huge third season for him.
Last season, David Johnson was the model of consistency. Despite the last game of the season, where he had to be carted off the field because of a knee injury in the first quarter, his lowest point total was 14 points (in PPR leagues). David Johnson had over 100 scrimmage yards in every game last season except the last, which he would have done if he had not been injured. Johnson is a stud in both standard and PPR formats considering he rushed for 1,239 yards and had 16 rushing touchdowns plus he added 80 receptions on 120 targets, 879 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns.
The Cardinals did not really add many offensive weapons this offseason, after a disappointing 2016 season, which tells me David Johnson’s workload is likely to be similar to what it was last year. David Johnson is the type of player who will succeed no matter what the talent around him is but I suspect the Cardinals to have some sort of bounce back this season. Plus, with their defense shaping up to look really good, they might want to run the ball more to win time of possession while their defense shuts opponents down. David Johnson is the safest number one pick you could make in your 2017 fantasy football draft.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott had a rookie season for the ages. He led the league in rushing yards and finished 2nd in standard fantasy points among running backs. The question with Elliott this season will be if he can do it again? I do not believe he will have the same season he had last year just because of how magical of a season it was for Dallas, however, as long as Zeke has that great O-line, he should still be productive and worthy of a look as the top pick in fantasy drafts.
The reason I believe Elliott does not match or surpass his totals of last season is because teams will have a little more knowledge of how to stop this offense coming into year 2. Dallas lost many key players on their defense, which will lead to more shootouts and put more pressure on Dak Prescott and the passing game. Zeke’s fantasy value takes a slight hit if you are in a PPR league because they like to give him his touches on the ground.
The departure of Lance Dunbar may pave the way for Elliott to gain more receptions in the offense but I still do not see him being as big of a factor in the passing game. In standard leagues, Elliott deserves some consideration at number one but in PPR leagues, he is my RB3.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
The numbers that Le’Veon Bell posted last season were eye popping. He rushed for 1,268 yards and had 75 receptions, while playing in only 12 games. Bell was suspended the first 3 games of last season and rested for the season finale against the Browns. Bell posted the most PPR fantasy points per game last year so when he did play he was basically the number one running back in fantasy land. While Bell has missed several games over the past few seasons, due to either suspension or injury, when he is on the field there is no running back that has been more productive.
I do believe that Bell’s off the field issues are behind him so that should not be of any concern from this point on. Le’Veon Bell is the center piece of that prolific Steelers offense and if he plays a full season, his numbers might be through the roof. There is a slightly higher risk when dealing with Le’Veon Bell but when he is on the field there is no one better at posting high fantasy points. Bell’s ceiling is sky high, which makes him worthy of being the top pick, especially in PPR leagues.
As of today, my number one pick would be David Johnson and he should be yours as well. Johnson provides the perfect balance of production and reliability you want with the number one pick. You can’t afford to pick number one and have the player you pick not produce. Johnson was better than Ezekiel Elliott in terms of fantasy points last year and I expect that to be the case again this year.
Johnson vs. Bell is really close but I have Johnson edging him out because of reliability and there are not as many mouths to feed in Arizona as there are in Pittsburgh. If you have the number one pick in your fantasy football draft this year, do not overthink it and select David Johnson. Watch the points rack up week in and week out as he carries you to the fantasy playoffs.
Photo Credit – Keith Allison via Flickr