2017 Fantasy Football Season in Review: Touches, Fantasy stats pointing up for running backs

Check out a breakdown of each position in 2017 here: QuarterbacksRunning BacksWide ReceiversTight Ends

It's beginning to feel a lot like the 2000s ... and nothing like 2015. 

That dreadful 2015 saw the top-12 Fantasy running backs average 10.8 Fantasy points per game in standard leagues and 13.6 in full PPR. 

Fast forward to 2017 and those numbers are much easier to read – 12.7 per game in standard and 16.2 in full PPR. And would you believe those numbers are down from 2016 (13.7 standard, 16.5 PPR)?  

What's changed?

For one thing, more teams have found primary running backs they're comfortable with as heavy workload players. Thirteen running backs logged at least 230 carries in 2017, one more than in 2016 and five more than 2015. Injuries also weren't as bad as they were back in '15.   

But that's not even the best part. Thanks to an exciting trend of running backs becoming open-field receivers, we saw 18 rushers tally at least 230 touches and six running backs collect at least 300 touches. Those numbers crush what we had in 2015 – four 300-touch backs and 12 with 230-plus handles – but it's still far from the bonkers numbers of 2002 when 16 players had at least 300 touches and 29 had at least 230 touches at the position. We're not there yet. 

What has happened is the creation of a stable landscape for Fantasy running backs to contribute more consistently, and it's not going away anytime soon. Bank on several teams trying to mimic what the Steelers, Rams, Saints and Panthers did with their running backs in hopes of creating mismatches all over the field. The end result should benefit Fantasy owners. 

In fact, it already has. Just look at the number of running backs racking up touches and averaging a healthy amount of Fantasy points:

Player Touch/gm FPTS/gm Player Touch/gm FPTS/gm
Le'Veon Bell 27.1 16.0 Alex Collins 15.7 9.3
Ezekiel Elliott 26.8 16.9 Marshawn Lynch 15.1 8.9
Leonard Fournette 23.4 14.1 Joe Mixon 14.9 7.1
Todd Gurley 22.9 20.1 DeMarco Murray 14.9 7.9
LeSean McCoy 21.6 12.1 Isaiah Crowell 14.6 6.7
Melvin Gordon 21.4 13.4 Latavius Murray 14.4 8.1
Dalvin Cook 21.3 12.8 Dion Lewis 13.3 9.6
Kareem Hunt 20.3 14.3 Alvin Kamara 12.6 13.8
Carlos Hyde 18.7 10.1 Christian McCaffrey 12.3 8.3
Jordan Howard 18.7 10.3 Tevin Coleman 12.2 8.7
Frank Gore 18.1 8.3 Derrick Henry 11.7 7.1
Mark Ingram 18.0 12.9 Kenyan Drake 10.3 6.4
C.J. Anderson 17.1 8.3 Chris Thompson 10.3 10.3
Lamar Miller 17.1 9.1 Duke Johnson 9.8 8.4
Jay Ajayi 16.6 7.1 Rex Burkhead 9.4 9.1
Devonta Freeman 16.6 10.9


If you want to download the full chart, go to this Google Doc spreadsheet and click "File + Download."

And here is how every running back who scored at least 98 points – we wanted to sneak Giovani Bernard and Joe Mixon in there – fared when looking at Fantasy points per game as well as consistency. The size of the bubble represents their total Fantasy points for the season (scroll over for more details):   

Now take all of those above names, add David Johnson along with a pretty stacked 2018 draft class (hellllooo, Saquon Barkley!) and you're looking at the running back position coming back in a big, big way.  

Bottom line: Be ready to stock up on running backs at the beginning of your 2018 drafts, because they're going to be in demand. The running back run that might have lasted for half of the first round in years past could go into early Round 2, and then re-start in late Round 2 and churn through Round 3. 

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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