So you’ve started a fantasy football league with your buddies, and what do you know, you’ve landed the first overall pick! Depending on your preferences, this is typically a good thing, I mean, what wrong is there in having the first selection from some of the premier talents in the league? Some people like to pick in the middle or late in the round so they have less time between selections, and could potentially land two top players in the draft early, but selecting first overall is nothing to be upset about.
This year, unlike previous years, there’s no real number one overall player. Instead, there’s a small group of running backs that all have their own case to be the number one selection. I will make a case for and against each of those players on why they should be selected with the first overall pick.
The Long Shots
Last season, Todd Gurley was one of the best backs in the league, who scored often and was even involved in some of the passing game unlike years prior. However, he got injured at the tail-end of the year and disappointed fantasy owners when they needed him most. This year, it’s likely he will have a lesser role in the offense to help save his legs, so don’t expect him to put up such gaudy numbers like last year, but he still has the potential to be a top-five running back.
Le’Veon Bell, who disappointed a lot of owners last year (myself included), will finally suit up again after holding out all of last season due to contract disputes. He signed a long-term contract with the New York Jets, so he is expected to be a big part of the offense. However, it’s not a question that the Steelers offense was a lot more potent than this Jets team, so there’s a chance Bell will regress from his previous stardom. Plus, he hasn’t played a snap in over a year, so there are just too many question marks surrounding him to use your first pick on him.
Melvin Gordon was shaping up to be a great selection no matter where you took him, but contract disputes with the Chargers have put his potential season at a halt for the moment. Gordon could potentially sit out just like Bell did last season, and it appears his side has already requested a trade. Believers in Gordon should definitely be cautious, cause this is looking to be potentially be just like Bell’s case last year, and we all know how that turned out. Again, too much uncertainty to take him first overall with so much talent on the board.
Lastly, David Johnson is another potential first-round talent that owners should be cautious with. Yes, he has all of the talent in the world, and the fact that he gets involved in the passing game is always encouraging, especially in PPR leagues. However, he’s now with a new head coach, new quarterback, and the Cardinals still aren’t going to be very good, so there’s a lot going against him here. Like the other long shots, there’s just too much talent at the top of the board with a lot less uncertainty surrounding them to risk going for a guy like Johnson.
Barkley looks to be the consensus number one pick in most fantasy leagues thus far, and for good reason. There’s no questioning his talent, for he may be one of the best all-around backs in the league in only his second season. He’s going to be a huge part of the offense, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. going to Cleveland. Barkley will likely get more touches than any back in the league, which will be his biggest case for being the first selection in fantasy drafts.
However, his usage might be his worst case against him as well. With so few weapons around him, defenses will likely force Eli Manning to throw, thus stacking the box with eight players or more on the majority of downs. Barkley is still young, so his risk for injury is a lot less than some of the other veterans in the league. But one must consider what toll all of those touches will have on his body.
Personally my favorite back of the bunch, Kamara has been stellar in his first two seasons in the league, and looks to continue his success this year as well. Kamara, like Barkley, can be dangerous in both the passing and running game, and now that Mark Ingram is out of town, there’s a good chance Kamara gets even more touches this year. Just look at Kamara’s numbers during Ingram’s suspension last year, and you’ll see the potential Kamara offers as every-down-back.
Can the Saints’ offense stay as potent as its been in years past? Drew Brees is another year older, and though he’s still a great QB, he’s sure to regress. The offense revolves around him, and if he takes a step backwards, then everyone else likely will too. The Saints did add Latavius Murray as well in the offseason to replace Ingram, and though he’s not quite as talented as him, he will still likely take some touches away from Kamara and even vulture some goal line touchdowns as well. Kamara still remains a solid option, and is definitely worth a look at the number one overall selection.
Zeke is one of the game’s best backs and toughest workhorses, with usage rates that are out of this world. He even took his game to the next level last season when he got a career high in targets and receptions, increasing his stock even more. If Zeke can stay healthy and on the field, there’s little to no reason on why not taking him number one overall.
Staying on the field is the biggest question though. There are reports that Zeke is working on a new contract, bringing us back to the whole Bell situation. Can the Cowboys get a deal done for Zeke? How many games will he miss? If it was a sure thing that Zeke was to play in Week 1, then by all means take him first overall. But with other guys on the board with less question marks around him, I would be hesitant to select him first overall, and would be more comfortable taking him if he fell to me at like five or so.
Here’s another back that I really like, and he was a big reason I won one of my fantasy leagues last year. CMC, much like some of the other backs on this list, gets involved in both the running and passing game, making him more enticing in PPR leagues. CMC had solid year in his rookie season, then we saw him get more involved in the running game last year, and it’s looking like it could be the year he is finally unleashed. After being the best receiving back in the league last year, leading all backs in the yards and receptions, CMC has a lot of upside, and if he stays healthy, he also has a high floor.
The only real downside to CMC is comparable to Barkley. The Panthers aren’t expected to be a top team, and after losing Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen in the last two years, weapons are starting to become limited. Cam Newton is already seen as a running threat, so this run-heavy offense may be the primary focus on what defenses prepare for, making it tougher for CMC to find space. Personally, I think this is one of the safer picks, but higher upside can be found in some of the other options.