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Most consistent fantasy football running backs

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Sometimes, fantasy point totals can deceive.

Case in point. Lamar Miller finished 16th in PPR points among running backs this past season. That seems pretty good, right? Well, he was a top-10 fantasy runner in just 18.8 percent and a top-20 runner in just 31.3 percent of his 16 games. What's more, Miller scored fewer than 11 points in 56 percent of his games. That's a far bigger statistical factoid than his overall finish at the position. Anyone who had Miller on their fantasy teams knows that he was actually a disappointment in fantasy football. So, who were the best players when it came to putting up solid totals on a regular basis, and who was more name than numbers?

Here's a look at the running backs who finished in the top 20 most often last season (minimum seven games), along with some interesting notes on players to watch in 2018.

T-1. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (93.3 percent): The MVP of fantasy football, Gurley was a top-10 PPR runner in 12 of his 15 games. Furthermore, he was a top-five back in more than 50 percent of his games. Gurley, who averaged 25.5 points per game, scored 20-plus points 10 times including seven games with more than 25 points. He'll be one of the first three overall selections in all 2018 fantasy football drafts.

T-1. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (93.3 percent): Bell had a slow start to the season after a preseason holdout, but he went on to have a monster campaign in the stat sheets. Like Gurley, he was a top-10 back 12 times and ranked in the top 20 in more than 50 percent of his starts. Bell, who is scheduled to become a free agent, is a candidate to be franchised. He'll be a top-three overall draft selection.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (90 percent): Elliott missed six games due to a suspension, but he averaged the third-most PPR points (20.3 PPG) among qualified backs behind Gurley (25.5 PPG) and Bell (22.8 PPG). Overall, he was a top-15 runner eight times in 10 games. With the NFL ban behind him, Elliott is a candidate to push that dynamic duo to become the top running back in fantasy football next season.

4. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars (84.6 percent): One of the top rookie runners in fantasy land, Fournette scored 10 total touchdowns and averaged 17.7 PPR points in 13 games. While he finished as a top-five runner just twice, the talented L.S.U. product did rank in the top 15 in PPR points 10 times. Fournette will continue to shine as the centerpiece of the Jags offense and is a surefire first rounder.

T-5. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers (81.3 percent): Gordon proved that his sophomore campaign was no fluke, as he scored 12 total touchdowns and ranked fifth in PPR points among running backs. That's his best finish at the pro level. Gordon tied for fourth in top-five finishes (five), and just five other runners averaged more PPR points. He also scored 20-plus points five times including four with 25-plus points.

T-5. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (81.3 percent): Kamara didn't finish better than 18th in PPR points in four of his first five games, but he thrived after the Saints traded Adrian Peterson. In fact, he had a six-week stretch where he ranked no worse than ninth among PPR backs including five top-4 finishes and three No. 1 finishes. Kamara was also one of just four runners to average 20 or more PPR points.

T-7. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs (62.5 percent): The third-best rookie back based on consistent fantasy production, Hunt had seven top-10 PPR finishes and was a top-20 runner 10 different times. The Toledo product was able to reach these heights despite a five-game stretch where he ranked no higher than 24th at the position. Regardless, Hunt will be a first-round 2018 pick in both standard and PPR formats.

T-7. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills (62.5 percent): McCoy had another successful season in the stat sheets, as he ranked seventh among PPR running backs. He finished in the top 10 six times, including four games where he ranked fifth or better. McCoy, who will turn 30 this summer, could fall into the second round of 2018 fantasy drafts based on his age and the influx of talented, young players at his position.

T-9. Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins (60 percent): Thompson was one of the most underrated PPR backs in fantasy leagues, as he ranked in the top 10 three times and was a top-10 runner in six of his 10 contests. Thompson is projected to return from a broken leg in time for training camp, and his role as Washington's pass-down back should continue in 2018. He could end up being a decent bargain in PPR leagues.

T-9. Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots (60 percent): Burkhead was often injured during his first season in New England, but he was a reliable contributor for fantasy fans when he was on the field. In his 10 games, the veteran ranked in the top-10 just twice but had five finishes of 11-20 at the position. Burkhead's 2018 value will be largely based on what the Pats do with free-agent Dion Lewis this offseason.

T-11. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (56.3 percent): Ingram ranked 20th or worse among running backs in PPR leagues in each of his first five games, but he went on to rank in the top-10 in seven of his next eight games. The veteran also ranked in the top-five in five of his 16 games, which ranked tied for fourth with Gordon at the position. Ingram, 28, figures to be a top-30 overall selection in all 2018 drafts.

T-11. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers (56.3 percent): Hyde's first season under coach Kyle Shanahan was a successful one, as he finished with a career-high 59 receptions and ranked eighth in PPR points at the position. The Ohio State product recorded a combined seven finishes in the top 15, making him a viable second- or third-rounder in 2018. That is, if the pending free agent remains with San Francisco.

T-11. Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns (56.3 percent): Isaiah Crowell was supposed to be the Cleveland back to draft this past season, but it was "the Duke" who became the more valuable asset. He finished fourth in catches at the position, and he ranked among the No. 6-15 runners in nine of his 16 games. Johnson's value should remain similar in 2018, unless the Browns draft Penn State's Saquon Barkley in April.

T-14. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (50 percent): McCaffrey ran for an unimpressive 435 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, but his 80 catches, 651 yards and five scores as a receiver out of the backfield made him a top-10 fantasy runner in PPR leagues. Just seven running backs had more games with 10-plus PPR points as well. Look for Run CMC to be a second- or third-rounder in 2018 PPR drafts.

T-14. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (50 percent): Freeman ranked 13th among backs in PPR scoring this past season. That's his worst finish since 2014. He was still a reliable option overall, however, as Freeman scored double-digit points 12 times and was a top 20 performer in seven of his 14 games. Still just 25-years-old, the Florida State product will be a valuable No. 2 fantasy runner next season.

16. Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears (43.8 percent): Howard finished in the top 10 among PPR running backs just three times this past season, but he also ranked sixth to 15th in five different contests.

17. Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens (40 percent): Collins ranked 35th or worse in seven of his first eight games, but he was a top-15 PPR runner in five of his final seven as Baltimore's top option.

T-18. Dion Lewis, New England Patriots (37.5 percent): Lewis had six combined top-20 finishes among PPR runners this past season, and he was a top-two back in each of his last two regular-season games.

T-18. Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings (37.5 percent): Murray ranked among the top 20 PPR backs six times in his final 10 games of 2017, but the return of Dalvin Cook will damage his draft appeal.

T-18. Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers (37.5 percent): Williams was a fantasy standout over his final six games, finishing in the top 20 four times including three top-eight finishes at the position.

T-18. James White, New England Patriots (37.5 percent): White was rarely a top-10 fantasy runner for PPR owners, but he did rank among the best 11-20 backs in 50 percent of his games for the Patriots.

T-18. Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers (37.5 percent): Montgomery missed eight contests this past season due to injuries, but he did have two top-10 finishes and three top-20 finishes among runners.

T-23. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons (33.3 percent): Coleman's best fantasy performances came when Freeman was on the sidelines with a concussion, but he still finished with five top-20 PPR contests.

T-23. Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders (33.3 percent): Lynch failed to rank in the top 20 among PPR running backs until Week 5, but he went on to have four more such performances down the stretch.

T-23. Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants (33.3 percent): Darkwa finished in the top 20 in five different games, but one of those contests came in Week 17 when the fantasy football season had ended.

T-23. Matt Forte, New York Jets (33.3 percent): Forte played in just 12 games this past season, but he had four top-20 finishes at the position. At 32, he's unlikely to see a featured role in 2018.

Notes: Between Elliott, Alfred Morris and Rod Smith, the Cowboys had a combined 12 top-20 running backs in PPR formats. ... Cook, who missed all but four contests due to an injured knee, had two top-10 performances in his three full games. Between Cook, Murray and Jerick McKinnon, the Vikings had a combined 13 top-20 finishes among running backs. With McKinnon scheduled to become a free agent, Cook figures to be a top-20 overall pick in 2018. ... Montgomery and Williams combined to produce nine top-20 ranks at the position, and Aaron Jones had two such performances of his own. With three productive backs on the roster, Green Bay's backfield could be a real fantasy headache next season. ... Kenyan Drake had five top-20 finishes, but all of them came in his final nine games (55.5 percent). He'll be on the RB2 radar next season if the Dolphins don't make a major backfield addition this offseason. ... Despite the fact that DeMarco Murray started 15 of Tennessee's 16 games, he still had one fewer top-20 performance than Derrick Henry. The Alabama product will have major breakout potential in 2018. ... Adrian Peterson ranked 47th or worst in each of his four games with the Saints. He had three top-12 performances in six games after being traded to the Arizona Cardinals. He'll likely be released this offseason, however. ... Joe Mixon had just three top-20 finishes in his first 14 games as a member of the Bengals. By comparison, Giovani Bernard had three such stat lines in his final four games (without Mixon) of 2018. ... Jay Ajayi had just two top-20 finishes in seven games as a member of the Dolphins. He had just one such performance in seven games with the Eagles.


Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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