Once Upon A Time…Rookie RB’s of 2017

There were four rookie running backs who took the league by storm. Their names are Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey. These guys were absolute studs. We put decently high picks into Fournette, McCaffrey and maybe even Joe Mixon, but I don’t think Kamara and Hunt were on any top 15’s list. We had these other two guys as sleepers and late round targets. If you took one these guys in the draft props to you.

Alvin Kamara

Alvin Kamara was behind the likes of Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson who was a free agency signing. Mark Ingram had been the starter in New Orleans for the last several seasons and they brought Adrian Peterson in to do something..I’m still not sure what Sean Peyton was up to with that one. It was a muddled backfield and 5’10, 214 lb Tennessee product Alvin Kamara came out blazing. Coming fresh off his first pro-bowl performance where only eight other rookie RB’s in the last 17 years have made the pro bowl. Other names include HOF RB Adrian Peterson and 2017 Fantasy MVP Todd Gurley.

With 120 rush attempts for 728 yards and 8 touchdowns to pair with 81 receptions for 826 yards and 5 touchdowns Alvin Kamara was a beast. He averaged a first down per reception and 6.1 per attempt on the ground. Compare his 201 total touches to let’s say Lev Bell’s 406 touches with only a difference of 2 spots in the positional rank this guy is poised for a great career. Feel great about drafting Kamara and watch out for another top 10 season next year.

Kareem Hunt

Kareem Hunt was also phenomenal. He came out in week 1, fumbled the ball and I think we all thought it might the end of the night for Kareem Hunt, but he was just getting started.

He went on to have a perfect catch percentage with 2 TD’s through the air and 1 on the ground. People were going nuts! How do I get this guy on my team? Is he still on the waiver wire? What do I trade to get Kareem Hunt?

Also, a pro bowler in his own right, Hunt kept going full steam ahead posting over 100 yards on the ground in 4 of his first 5 games. We then saw his carry totals dip and people started to worry. I saw many an article with analysts doubting Hunt..is he for real? I think Hunt was for real as long as he’s getting the carries and the touches.

Carries and Rush Yards

In 4 out of these 7 games we see his carry totals below 12 carries. We see his reception totals are what kept him relevant in PPR and 1/2 PPR but in standard leagues he was a letdown.

He finished the season strong as the rushing leader and he carried you through the fantasy playoffs(assuming you don’t play week 17) with over 20 carries in each game and over 90 yards on the ground. He also found the end zone 3 times, 1 in each game with a TD once in that span. Kareem Hunt is a solid RB1 going forward even with the new look under center for the Chiefs, which should mean more touches in general for the outstanding rookie.

Leonard Fournette

Continuing the trend, Leonard Fournette was also a monster. Coming out of LSU, everyone was excited to see what the 6’0, 240 lb prospect could do. He came out in week 1 and put up 100 rushing yards on 26 attempts for a touchdown, proving he was for real.

He posted over 100 rushing yards in 5 out of his 13 games he played, with one of those going over 150 rush yards. He tallied up 1,040 rush yards on the season to go with 302 receiving yards on 36 receptions. Posting 10 total touchdowns over 13 games makes you feel pretty confident about Fournette going into next year. He finished as the #9 fantasy running back in PPR leagues. Breakout touchdown runs in weeks 5 and 6, one for 90 yards and another for 75 yards is what makes Fournette great. His big play ability is great and that’s the kind of things you look for in a Top 10 running back. Out of the Top 10 PPR running backs only one other had 2 touchdowns of 50+ yards and that was Kareem Hunt. Good company there.

Leonard Fournette’s snap count shows you just how valuable he is as well. There is only one game where his snap percentage was below 50%. Everything else is above 50% and when you have that in a running back, you know the fantasy value will be there. He’s a great back to have and will be an RB1 next year in all fantasy formats regardless of who’s under center.

Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey’s 5-11 202 lb build didn’t stop him from making an immediate impact for the Carolina Panthers. McCaffrey totaled up 5 touchdowns on 80 receptions for 651 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground for 435 yards. A combined 1,086 yards for the rookie out of Stanford.

McCaffrey was drafted anywhere from the third to sixth round from what I’ve seen and he definitely made the most of that for those of you who took advantage of him. In PPR leagues he didn’t let you down, becoming one of the most consistent backs for fantasy purposes. According to ESPN’s consistency ranks he places 8th only behind Bell, Gurley, Gordon, Kamara, Hyde, McCoy and Hunt. He averaged 14.3 fantasy points per game. As far as a baseline went he was solid. He was in on 66% of snaps for the Panther’s which also makes for a pretty good baseline.

He’s not gonna give you a lot of those touchdowns inside the five to ten yard line but what he is going to give you is anywhere from 2-10 receptions a game on 8.14 yards per reception with a 70.8% catch rate.

With Jonathan Stewart a year older and more worn down, McCaffrey looks to take on even more of a role in this Panther’s offense. Not saying he will be a 3 down type of back, but the way they include him in that offense sure looks good for an even better year for fantasy next season. Receiving is where McCaffrey makes his money and if you play in PPR, then look for him in those middle rounds and don’t be afraid to draft him, because we have seen what he’s capable of. Look for McCaffrey to have a higher baseline in 2018 and a little more time on the ground as well.

These rookies were fantastic this past year and I think will continue to be for years to come. Other notable rookie names to watch out for next year includes Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, D’Onta Foreman, Marlon Mack, Jamaal Williams, Samaje Perine. Look for all these guys to have increased roles with their teams.

Shoutout to profootballreference.com for all these great stat nuggets. You guys are awesome!

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