With last year’s fantasy football pre-draft hype all about wide receivers, this year is trending back to the old school roots of running backs being targeted early and often in fantasy football drafts. Last year, I made the strong case for drafting Antonio Brown with your first overall pick. Even though, I would be happy to have Brown on my fantasy team again this year, I will not make the mistake of drafting a wide receiver early again this year. This year, I know I want to draft a running back, but who? David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, or Le’Veon Bell… oh the agony of having the first overall draft pick.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB) DAL: What a fantastic rookie year Elliott put together helping to lead the Dallas Cowboys back to the playoffs. Elliott averaged over 5.1 YPC (yards per carry) and rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 TDs. Zeke also chipped in with a cool 363 receiving yards and 1 TD.
I was lucky enough to have Elliott on multiple of my fantasy football teams last year, but this year I am staying away from him for multiple reasons. My biggest reason for staying away from Elliott are his legal troubles. Elliott is still under investigation for an alleged domestic violence incident. This is something that needs to be closely monitored throughout the preseason. Call me paranoid, but I was also the same guy who drafted Adrian Peterson two weeks into the season to find out that he will be suspended for the entire season due to child abuse allegations. My first-round pick needs to play at least the majority of the season.
My second reason for being down on Elliott this year is his offensive line. I know what you are thinking… OK, does this writer know anything about football? The Cowboys are normally known for their great offensive line. Most years, that is the case… this year however, the Cowboys lost two of their best offensive linemen, with former left guard Ron Leary signing a four-year contract with Denver in free agency, and former right tackle Doug Free retiring from football. I still think Elliott will have solid numbers, but I do not think they will be as good as his rookie season.
Le’Veon Bell (RB) PIT: Bell is one of the most electric football players to watch. With videogame-like moves, and the laser vision of a hawk, Bell is always one big play away from taking it to the house at any given time. Bell combined for 1,884 total yards and 9 total TDs in the 2016 season. What is even more impressive with last year’s stats, is that Bell did this all in 12 games. Once again, Bell missed games due to suspension from the league.
If Bell can ever put together a full season, I think his numbers would be ridiculous. The Steelers offense is just not nearly as potent without Bell, and Big Ben is injury-prone, which makes you wonder if this is actually the season that Bell puts it all together. The only thing holding Bell back from being the best running back in the NFL is himself.
David Johnson (RB) ARZ: The only question I have for Arizona is why are you relying on Carson Palmer so much, when you have the best multi-purpose running back in the NFL? Johnson dominated 2016 with 20 total TDs and 2,118 total yards.
With Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer only getting older, I am looking for the Cardinals to feed the rock to Johnson every chance they get. Arizona has one of the better defenses in the NFL and need to figure out how to use more of a ball control style offense instead of the gun-slinger offensive style they have used in the past. This year, they rely on Johnson more than ever, and he makes a case for MVP at the end of the season.
Most people should be ecstatic to get either Elliott, Bell or Johnson on your fantasy team. But, if you are asking me who should be without a doubt the number one overall pick in everybody’s draft this year, it is David Johnson (RB) from the Arizona Cardinals. With a running back who can run and catch the ball, and has a nose for the end zone, Johnson fits perfectly as the number one pick in either a traditional/standard or PPR league.