Fantasy football experts debate on best RBs in draft

The hardest task in a routine fantasy football draft is choosing which running backs to take and when to take them. Post fantasy Madman Drew Loftis and Roto Rage Jarad Wilk debate which of these RBs is the best addition to your roster:

Melvin Gordon vs. Devonta Freeman

Drew: Both these guys go near the turn in the first two rounds. Picking that high, I go with safest guy. There is no one to challenge Gordon in the San Diego backfield. If healthy, he is the go-to guy. Freeman gets the bulk of carries, but Tevin Coleman steals a fair amount. That makes touchdowns more fickle, and it introduces a performance variable that doesn’t exist for Gordon: If Freeman doesn’t perform well, Coleman could get extra work. That factor doesn’t exist for Gordon.

Jarad: Even with Coleman in the picture last season, Freeman ranked second in the league in red-zone touches (62). He also had a team-high 17 targets in the red zone. Freeman also just signed a massive five-year, $41.25 million deal, so he will continue to be the focal point of the Falcons’ rushing attack. Gordon may have no competition, but he also has trouble staying on the field — missed three games last year, two the year before. Last season, Freeman had more yards per carry (4.8 to 3.9), more total touchdowns (13 to 12), more targets (65 to 57), a better catch percentage and more total yards (1,541 to 1,416). Freeman is the way to go.

Leonard Fournette vs. Todd Gurley

Drew: This a what-we-know vs. what-we-don’t-know argument. We know, after last season, Gurley is not QB-proof. In fact, if we go back to his first season — when he produced four consecutive 100-yard games after his first start – he has exactly one 100-yard game and two games with two TDs. Considering one of those two-TD games came in that one 100-yard game, that give you exactly two strong fantasy games in the past 24. We’re not sure what to expect from Fournette, but we will gamble the volume he receives gives a better opportunity to best Gurley’s consistent inefficiency.

Jarad: After a solid rookie campaign, 2016 was a huge disappointment for Gurley after being drafted as a top-five running back. There is, however, reason to be optimistic — he is just 22-years-old, has remained healthy, the O-line is slightly improved and he saw plenty of touches, as well as targets. The Rams also have a new, very young (31) coach who already has said he expects big things from Gurley and a bounce-back is not out of the question. Fournette, though very talented, is also an unknown playing for the Jaguars, who haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2011 and haven’t won more than five games since 2010.

Dalvin Cook vs. Joe Mixon

Drew: This is all about opportunity. With Latavius Murray just recently activated off the PUP list, Cook has gotten ample time to learn the offense and impress coaches. Jerick McKinnon isn’t a serious challenger for the lead role, being more of a third-down, pass-catching option. Murray, being new to the team as well, is now behind. Mixon, on the other hand, has to first unseat incumbent Jeremy Hill, who we consider marginally better than the mediocre Murray. Plus, Hill is in his third season with the team, so he knows the offense and the coaches know him. Giovani Bernard is the Bengals’ McKinnon, only he too is a slightly better talent. That gives Cook the easiest path to heavy volume.

Jarad: Mixon made an impression in his first preseason game, rushing behind Cincinnati’s strong offensive line six times for 31 yards. He also caught a pass out of the backfield for 15 yards. He is a big guy (6-foot-1, 225-pounds), who ran for 1,274 yards and 10 TDs, as well as caught 37 passes for 538 yards and five TDs as a sophomore at Oklahoma. If it were for some character issues, Mixon would have been drafted earlier, possibly before Cook. Cook had a larger workload in college, but Mixon was more efficient. Hill or Bernard are mere handcuffs, Mixon is going to be the man.

C.J. Anderson vs. Ameer Abdullah

Drew: We want to like Abdullah better, we just can’t justify it. Anderson will be playing behind what should be an improved Broncos offensive line, thus aiding his production. Devontae Booker showed last season he wasn’t ready to handle the feature role. We have no confidence in Jamaal Charles returning to his Chiefs form, which leaves Anderson as the go-to guy, if he can stay on the field. Abdullah doesn’t give us any additional comfort in the health department. Plus, Theo Riddick will play a major role in the passing game, meaning Abdullah will leave the field more often than Anderson. Plus, the Lions haven’t had a RB we could really trust since James Stewart back in the early 2000s.

Jarad: Abdullah was averaging 5.6 yards per carry before suffering a season-ending foot injury last year. As a rookie, he averaged 4.2 yards per carry after rushing for 597 yards on 143 carries. Anderson never has played a full 16-game season, playing in just seven games last season, and has, outside of a six-game stretch at the end of the 2014 season, the 26-year-old has been pretty underwhelming and hardly reliable. Plus, the QB situation is a bit more stable in Detroit. There is no real comfort with Anderson. Abdullah is younger and has more upside, even with Riddick sharing time.

Samaje Perine vs. Kareem Hunt

Drew: Back to the opportunity argument. Hunt has to deal with Spencer Ware, and to some degree Charcandrick West. Perine has only Robert Kelley. As run-of-the-mill as Ware is, we think he is a bigger obstacle than the uninspiring Kelley. Plus, Perine is a bigger back, giving him a better chance to inherit goal-ling carries.

Jarad: In his preseason debut, Perine carried the ball six times for 15 yards (2.5 yards per carry) and fumbled the ball. Kelley may not be the most inspiring of backs, but he still is well ahead of the rookie on the depth chart. Ware had just one 100-yard game last season and surpassed 80 yards only one other time. He also wasn’t much of a receiving threat, outside of the first game of the season when he had seven receptions (he never had more than three the rest of the season). It isn’t like Hunt is behind a must-start back, so he will get his chances.

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