The backbone of most successful fantasy football teams is a workhorse running back. Whether you’re the type of owner who prefers to secure their studs early in the draft or the type that prefers to sit back in hopes of finding the next Jordan Howard or Melvin Gordon, you’ll be scouring running back rankings until your draft in August. To follow up on my early preview of my 2017 running back rankings, I’ve returned with a full top 40 for the upcoming season.

Tier 1

  1. Le’Veon Bell

2. David Johnson

3. Ezekiel Elliott

Tier 2

4. Jordan Howard

5. Melvin Gordon

6. LeSean McCoy

7. Jay Ajayi

Tier 3

8. Lamar Miller

9. Carlos Hyde

10. Devonta Freeman

11. DeMarco Murray

12. Todd Gurley

13. Leonard Fournette

14. Marshawn Lynch

15. Isaiah Crowell

16. Christian McCaffrey

Tier 4

17. Joe Mixon

18. Bilal Powell

19. Dalvin Cook

20. Spencer Ware

21. Frank Gore

22. Paul Perkins

23. Mark Ingram

24. Tevin Coleman

25. Eddie Lacy

26. Ty Montgomery

27. CJ Anderson

28. Ameer Abdullah

29. Mike Gillislee

30. Rob Kelley

Tier 5

31. Derrick Henry

32. Adrian Peterson

33. Jamaal Charles

34. Doug Martin

35. Charles Sims

36. Danny Woodhead

37. Kareem Hunt

38. Jamaal Williams

39. Wendell Smallwood

40. Samaje Perine

There are a few notable players on this list (outside of the top 12 that I’ve already discussed at length) that I should say a few more words about.

Marshawn Lynch is the toughest player to rank this season. He’s one of the best running backs of this generation, and he’s got one of the best offensive lines in the NFL in front of him. However, he’s 31 years old and looked broken down in his last season, at age 29, in 2015. I’ve ranked him in my top 15 because I have faith that he’ll find a second wind for his new team. He may not rack up a ton of yards, but he’s got double-digit touchdown potential. If Latavius Murray can score 12 times in 14 games, Lynch is capable of far more.

Mark Ingram’s fall from the fantasy elite has been confusing, to say the least. He was brilliant for stretches of last season, but bouts of fumbling put him in Sean Payton’s doghouse. As a result, Tim Hightower took chunks of work away from Ingram. This offseason, the Saints signed Adrian Peterson and drafted Alvin Kamara. Despite being a top fantasy option in recent years, Ingram is lucky to find himself in my top 25.

Derrick Henry came on strong at the end of last season, earning a greater share of the split with DeMarco Murray down the stretch. In fact, Henry scored all 5 of his rushing touchdowns in the last half of the season, and Murray’s performance steadily declined. My thoughts on Murray this season are well-documented, so I love Henry as a breakout candidate this season. Whether it’s due to Murray being benched or injured, I think it’s definitely possible that Henry ends up as the lead back in Tennessee.

Jamaal Williams is a fifth-round pick out of BYU who is now part of a perplexing backfield in Green Bay. Ty Montgomery was good last season, but he’s still a converted wide receiver. It’s uncertain if he’ll be able to handle the lead back duties that Eddie Lacy left behind. Enter Williams. Earlier, I mentioned finding the next Jordan Howard, and the BYU product could be just that. Look for him to compete for the coveted lead back role in Green Bay.

Do you agree with my rankings? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, and, as always, stay tuned to the Armchair All-Americans.

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