What are fair expectations for Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey? These are heralded running back prospects – not only first-round picks, but top-10 choices. Can these guys make a big fantasy impact immediately?
Fournette is a big power runner. McCaffrey has additional value as a pass catcher but is going to a team with another first-round running back. But for now, let’s put aside their individual merits and their teams and look solely at what other running backs drafted in similar spots have done in the past.
In the last 20 years, 50 running backs have been chosen with first-round picks. That’s a nice big sample size.
Of those 50, nine were able to put up top-10 numbers right away. I’ve got those guys in bold on the chart. And with the players being in order by their draft position, you can see that the odds of landing a top-10 producer go up as the players are drafted earlier. Of the 33 running backs chosen outside the top 10, only two put up top-10 numbers in their first season, Doug Martin and Robert Edwards (whose career sadly ended in a beach football game at the Pro Bowl).
Typical fantasy leagues have 12 teams, with everyone starting two running backs. So if a player finishes in the top 24 at his position, that means you was a starting caliber guy for at least a portion of his first season. On this list of 50 guys, there are 13 more that fit that profile (backs who ranked not in the top 10 but between 11th and 24th. Those guys had some value.
I have the “pretty good” backs flagged with black dots, and there are 13 of them (plus the nine top-10 backs, and we’re at 22 of the 50 total).
A good chunk of these backs, however, just don’t do much in their first year – 40 percent of the backs chosen in the first round didn’t rank in the top 40 at their position in their first year.
Circling back to Fournette and McCaffrey, we might fairly call these guys “top 13 running backs”. There have been 23 running backs chosen with top-13 picks. Seven finished in the top 10. Eight at least finished between 11th and 24th. Three finished around 30th, and the remaining five were simply misses. The median back of the 23 would be Knowshon Moreno, who finished 17th. That might be a good starting spot in trying to handicap where these 2017 backs might finish.
|RUNNING BACKS CHOSEN IN FIRST ROUND|
|2005||2||• Ronnie Brown, Mia.||907||232||1,139||5||143.9||23|
|2006||2||• Reggie Bush, N.O.||565||742||1,307||9||184.7||14|
|2012||3||Trent Richardson, Clev.||950||367||1,317||12||203.7||10|
|1999||4||Edgerrin James, Ind.||1,553||586||2,139||17||315.9||2|
|2005||4||Cedric Benson, Chi.||272||3||275||0||27.5||83|
|2008||4||Darren McFadden, Oak.||499||285||784||4||102.4||44|
|2016||4||Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.||1,631||363||1,994||16||295.4||2|
|1998||5||Curtis Enis, Chi.||497||20||517||0||51.7||54|
|1999||5||Ricky Williams, N.O.||884||172||1,056||2||117.6||27|
|2000||5||• Jamal Lewis, Balt.||1,364||296||1,660||6||204.0||16|
|2001||5||LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.||1,236||367||1,603||10||220.3||7|
|2005||5||• Cadillac Williams, T.B.||1,178||81||1,259||6||161.9||19|
|2000||7||Thomas Jones, Ariz.||373||208||581||2||70.1||42|
|2007||7||Adrian Peterson, Minn.||1,341||268||1,609||13||238.9||3|
|1998||9||Fred Taylor, Jac.||1,223||421||1,644||17||266.4||5|
|2010||9||C.J. Spiller, Buff.||283||157||440||2||56.0||59|
|2015||10||Todd Gurley, St.L.||1,106||188||1,294||10||189.4||5|
|2000||11||Ron Dayne, NYG||770||11||781||5||108.1||29|
|1997||12||• Warrick Dunn, T.B.||978||462||1,440||7||186.0||13|
|2007||12||• Marshawn Lynch, Buff.||1,115||184||1,299||7||177.9||12|
|2009||12||• Knowshon Moreno, Den.||947||213||1,160||9||170.0||17|
|2010||12||Ryan Mathews, S.D.||678||145||823||7||124.3||31|
|2008||13||• Jonathan Stewart, Car.||836||47||883||10||148.3||24|
|2015||15||Melvin Gordon, S.D.||641||192||833||0||83.3||51|
|2002||16||William Green, Clev.||887||113||1,000||6||136.0||27|
|1998||18||Robert Edwards, N.E.||1,115||331||1,446||12||216.6||9|
|2002||18||T.J. Duckett, Atl.||507||61||568||4||80.8||42|
|2000||19||Shaun Alexander, Sea.||313||41||354||2||47.4||55|
|2006||21||Laurence Maroney, N.E.||745||194||939||7||135.9||29|
|2008||22||Felix Jones, Dall.||266||10||276||4||51.6||66|
|1997||23||• Antowain Smith, Buff.||840||177||1,017||8||149.7||19|
|2001||23||Deuce McAllister, N.O.||91||166||257||2||41.7||65|
|2003||23||Willis McGahee, Buff.||0||0||0||0||.0||--|
|2008||23||Rashard Mendenhall, Pitt.||58||17||75||0||7.5||121|
|2004||24||Steven Jackson, St.L.||673||189||862||4||112.2||32|
|2008||24||• Chris Johnson, Tenn.||1,228||260||1,488||10||208.8||11|
|2004||26||Chris Perry, Cin.||1||33||34||0||3.4||149|
|2001||27||Michael Bennett, Minn.||682||226||908||3||108.8||29|
|2003||27||Larry Johnson, K.C.||85||2||87||1||14.7||102|
|2006||27||DeAngelo Williams, Car.||501||313||814||2||93.4||42|
|2009||27||Donald Brown, Ind.||281||169||450||3||63.0||57|
|2011||28||Mark Ingram, N.O.||474||46||520||5||82.0||46|
|1998||29||John Avery, Mia.||503||67||570||3||75.0||42|
|2004||30||• Kevin Jones, Det.||1,133||180||1,313||6||167.3||21|
|2006||30||• Joseph Addai, Ind.||1,081||325||1,406||8||188.6||12|
|2010||30||• Jahvid Best, Det.||555||487||1,042||6||140.2||23|
|2000||31||Trung Canidate, St.L.||6||4||10||0||1.0||147|
|2009||31||Beanie Wells, Ariz.||793||143||936||7||135.6||31|
|2012||31||Doug Martin, T.B.||1,454||472||1,926||12||264.6||3|
|2012||32||David Wilson, NYG||358||34||392||6||75.2||45|