Top2 Throwdown: Breaking Down the Four RB1 Candidates

This is the first installment in a series we’re calling “Top2 Throwdown”, where our writers face off against one another to show the different sides of major fantasy football debates. No debate, this off-season, is bigger than: who will be RB1 in 2018. Four of our writers took on the major candidates. Read each of their breakdowns and let us know who you think will be RB1 in 2018; use the comments or tweet at us @Top2Sports.

Todd Gurley is Due to Repeat as RB1 (Eric Adams)

I will be making the argument for the RB1 of 2017, Todd Gurley. The Los Angeles Rams hit a grand slam with the head coaching hire of former Redskins Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay. The youngest head coach in the NFL currently; McVay led the Rams to an 11-5 record while also incorporating an offensive scheme focused around Gurley. The Rams would go from being the lowest scoring team in 2016 to the highest scoring team in 2017. That speaks volumes to the offensive prowess of the young head coach.

The rams lost Sammy Watkins, but replaced him with Brandin Cooks who may very well be a better fit for the Rams offense. Goff is another year older and another year wiser. He will continue to improve along with the bright McVay. While an argument for regression can be made due to the insane output of 2017, I believe the Rams are set up for more success in 2018. Gurley is the main reason why.

The Rams’ offense in 2018 is still going to utilize Gurley as option 1A. He catches passes out of the backfield and that will not change. He had over 2,000 all-purpose yards in 2016 and I expect him to approach that mark again in 2018. The biggest thing working in Gurley’s favor, other than the fact that his head coach is an offensive wizard, is the fact that he should touch the ball more than any offensive player in 2018. Just by opportunity alone, Gurley is a top 5 fantasy back. I believe he will still end up RB1 in 2018.

Zeke is Set for A Career Year (Mike Wallace)

In 25 career games Ezekiel Elliott has averaged just less than 130 yards from scrimmage and a TD a game. Over a full season that would come to 16 TDs and almost 2,100 yards. After the suspension last year and the struggles the team had, I expect there will be a chip on his shoulder and those numbers will improve in 2018. I believe he is headed for a career year in 2018, but even if he is what he has been to date he is worthy of the top spot at running back.

Fantasy players look down on him because the other top RBs are going to catch more passes, but the fact is Zeke is better than them as a runner. In his rookie season he was the top rusher by over 300 yards and he sat in week 17. In 2017 he was 10th in the league in yards in only 10 games, that includes a game where the Cowboys were dominated by the Broncos and he only had 8 yards rushing. On top of likely being the league’s leading rusher, he will add 30-35 receptions on top of that. Like Adrian Peterson in his prime, Zeke does not need to catch the ball 70 times to be the RB1 in fantasy because of his talent along with the volume he will see in the run game.

The Cowboys drafted Connor Williams in the 2nd round to add to the three All-Pro talents they have on the offensive line. Their offense this season will be built around shortening the game and wearing teams down with their unit up front. The offense will look a lot like it did in 2016 where they take the pressure off of Dak by using the running game. Zeke is going to get what he asks for after ever big play he makes, Dallas is going to keep feeding him with the goal of riding him back to the playoffs

Don’t Forget about Dual Threat David Johnson (Matt Hicks)

David Johnson was one of 2 legitimate options for the 1.01 in 2017; and I don’t understand why he’s not being considered in that debate this year too. Johnson absolutely dominated the 2016 season: rushing for 1,239 yards (7th amongst RBs) and 16 touchdowns (2nd) while racking up 80 receptions (1st amongst RBs) and 879 yards; 263 more receiving yards than any other running back). In total, Johnson compiled 2,118 total yards, which is 172 more total yards than Bell in 2017, 124 more total yards than Elliot in 2016, and 25 more total yards than Gurley in 2017.

Johnson’s 2017, of course, was a wash due to his dislocated wrist injury. That injury, however, strikes no long-term fear into fantasy owners and I believe he would’ve been back in 2017 had the Cardinals been competing for a playoff position. Now he finds himself as one of the few stable options among an offense features an injury prone veteran and a fiery rookie quarterback battle, an aging Larry Fitzgerald, and very good slot receiver (Kirk) that seems to have no interest in playing the slot. The one consistency will be Johnson, and he will get significant volume, both in terms of rushing attempts and targets. No other player on this list is as critical to their offense as Johnson is, and no player has combined for more total yards than Johnson. Don’t overthink this, people, Johnson is the dual threat you that your redraft team needs.

It’s Bell What More Needs to be Said? (Josh Padgett)

Le’Veon Bell is your RB1 for redraft and I will tell you why. He is holding out for more money. He won’t sit out the year, no one does. Bell is the most talented running back in the league and he has plenty to play for on a team that should go deep in the playoffs. Another big year could get him the money he is looking for. Bell will play all over the field again and is a lock for 70 plus receptions. Outside of McCaffrey, that should lead all running backs. Bell will be a PPR monster and he will continue to be the catalyst for the offense. He has hit 400 touches before (I predict he will do it again) and that is the kind of volume that makes him the safest of the big 4 running backs. Bell has the highest floor of any player in the league, and if he has a nose for the endzone, he could score 20 touchdowns or more. Now he is giving you ceiling too. With the number 1 pick in your draft, what else are you looking for?

About Matt Hicks

Matt’s writing at Top2 is focused on dynasty fantasy football. He loves blending his experience writing research in the field of education with fantasy football stats. Matt currently lives in Baltimore, MD and graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. You can follow Matt on Twitter: @Top2Matt

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