2017 College Fantasy Football Running Backs

By John Laub
John Laub

 

 

 
         College Fantasy Football Running Backs


               2017 Rankings, Profiles and Projections

 

 

 


Summa Cum Laude

 

1. Derrius Guice, LSU 

Is Derrius Guice a better prospect than former teammate Leonard Fournette? At 5’11” and 212 pounds, the electrifying runner is determined to out produce Fournette’s record-setting sophomore season. Guice set two school records last season: single-game rushing mark with 285 against Texas AandM and longest-run in school history with a 96-yard home run against Arkansas. When the season concluded, Guice led the SEC in rushing with 1,387 yards and scored 15 touchdowns: He was also named First Team All-SEC. Astonishingly, he only started six games last year for the Tigers. An explosive ball carrier, Guice has scored seven touchdowns longer than 40 yards and has surpassed 150 yards rushing six times. A decisive and resolute runner, he makes defenders miss in the hole and bounces off tacklers with great balance and power. Guice has quick-twitch skills and easily changes directions in traffic and finds open spaces. He runs with a low pad level and fights for extra yards. It is to be determined if Guice is ranked higher than Fournette among NFL scouts; nevertheless, college fantasy footballers can rejoice watching for one more season.

 

 

2017 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,900 and 20

Receiving Yards and TDs: 150 and 1

Total Fantasy Points: 331 (27.5 ppg.)

  

2. Saquon Barkley, Penn State 

Despite winning the Big Ten Championship, Penn State did not get an invitation to the College Football Playoffs. Instead, the Nittany Lions played in a classic Rose Bowl against USC, losing 52-49 despite a three-touchdown afternoon by Saquon Barkley. Possibly the best back in the country (LSU fans will disagree), the junior has produced back-to-back 1,000 campaigns and scored 30 touchdowns his first two seasons at State College, Pennsylvania. He is only the eighth player in school history with multiple 1,000-yard crusades and has logged 49 catches for 563 yards during his career. Barkley employs a dangerous power-speed combination: He runs away from defenders and muscles through tacklers. At 5’11” and 223 pounds, Barkley has elite vision, elusiveness, body control and burst. Last year, he forced over 70 missed tackles with incredible cutting ability: the speedster—he allegedly recorded a 4.33 forty during the spring—does not slow down in traffic and swiftly evades defenders. An elite NFL skill set, Barkley is the engine that powers the Penn State offense, which returns four veteran offensive linemen to open holes for their star runner. A fantasy stud who will produce phenomenal numbers.

 

 

2017 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,580 and 19

Receiving Yards and TDs: 350 and 3

Total Fantasy Points: 325 (27.0 ppg.)

 

3. Royce Freeman, Oregon 

Outside of the Pacific Northwest, Royce Freeman might be the most underrated runner in the nation. The Ducks crashed and burned last season and hired Willie Taggart, who brings his Gulf Coast offense to Eugene, Oregon. Taggart made a star out of running back Marlon Mack at USF and now employs Freeman in the backfield to spearhead the offense. In the third game against Nebraska last year, the senior suffered a leg injury and never fully recovered. He only totaled 945 rushing yards and crossed the finish line nine times. The previous two campaigns Freeman rushed for 3,203 yards and scored 35 touchdowns, winning a multitude of accolades: Second Team All-American (2015), First Team Pac-12 (2015), Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year (2014) and First Team Pac-12 (2014). At 5’11” and 230 pounds, the Dynamic Duck utilizes first-rate vision to find small holes and makes defenders miss by reducing tackling angles. With a strong build and quick burst, he employs a good stutter step combined with a noble juke move to explode downfield. Freeman is a good pass catcher with solid hands and runs good routes. He is rising in the Ducks’ record books: 9 rushing touchdowns away from posting a new school mark and only 937 rushing yards from the top (4,146) of the rankings. Flirted with turning professional at the end of the 2016 campaign, but decided to remain in college for one more season.

2017 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,650 and 16

Receiving Yards and TDs: 300 and 1

Total Fantasy Points: 297 (24.8 ppg.)

 

4. Phillip Lindsay, Colorado 

The Buffalos surprised all of the pundits last year, winning the Pac-12 South with an 8-1 Conference record. Running back Phillip Lindsay provided Colorado with a much-needed game breaker and leader. A versatile runner, the senior totaled 1,745 yards from scrimmage, scored 17 times and snatched 53 passes. In the offseason, Lindsey was named team captain for the third consecutive season and ranks third in all-purpose yards (4,029) in school history. Colorado employs a single-base shotgun formation and uses the running game to set up the pass. At 5’8” and 190 pounds, Lindsey is the heart and soul of the Buffs and wanted to add a few pounds of muscle to his frame during the offseason. He is a physical runner who prefers to run over opponents and expects his teammates to follow his lead. The Colorado star is overlooked by college fans across the country but should not be by CFB diehards.

2017 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,400 and 14

Receiving Yards and TDs: 500 and 2

Total Fantasy Points: 286 (23.8 ppg.)

 

5. Ito Smith, Southern Mississippi


By far, one of the most exciting aspects of playing college fantasy football is researching teams and players outside of the Power Five conferences, and Ito Smith ranks among the best in the country. The Golden Eagles face a difficult challenge ahead with the most productive quarterback, Nick Mullens, in school history graduating. If Southern Mississippi wants to be competitive immediately, coach Jay Hopson must rely on tailback Ito Smith. The senior ball carrier was named Second Team All-Conference USA last year after rushing for 1,459 yards and scoring 17 touchdowns. He also grabbed 43 passes for 459 yards and scored twice. Smith has recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns and eclipsed the 100-yard rushing barrier in 14 contests. With quick feet and good balance, Smith starts-and-stops in a heartbeat and bobs-and-weaves through congestion between tackles to find daylight.  Upon contact, he employs a nasty stiff arm and lowers his shoulders to gain extra yardage. At 5’9” and 195 pounds, Smith is a tough competitor who uses his vision and cutback ability to hit home runs. Well worth an early draft pick in 2017.

2017 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,300 and 16

Receiving Yards and TDs: 470 and 2

Total Fantasy Points: 285 (23.8 ppg.)

 

Magna Cum Laude

 

 

6. Justin Jackson, Northwestern

Can Northwestern win the Big Ten West? If QB Clayton Thorson and RB Justin Jackson perform up to expectations, it is possible. Jackson is one of the most indispensable players in the nation. Last year, he was named First Team All-Big Ten after rushing for 1,524 yards, catching 35 passes for 219 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns. Jackson finished the season second in Wildcats’ history with 4,129 career-rushing yards and became the first player to record three consecutive 1,000-yard crusades. During his tenure, the senior tailback has surpassed 100 yards in 19 games, seized 78 passes, scored 31 touchdowns and averaged 4.8 ypc. In the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl, Jackson conquered Pittsburgh with 224 yards and three touchdowns. At 5’11” and 193 pounds, he is a shifty runner with good vision and agility. With quick feet, Jackson runs well between the tackles and gets to the edge of the defense. A determined competitor, teammates have affectionately nicknamed him “Bread and Butter” for his contributions. Jackson needs only 357 yards to surpass Damien Anderson atop the program’s all-time rushing list and fantasy managers are looking forward to it in 2017.

2017 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,650 and 13

Receiving Yards and TDs: 200 and 1

Total Fantasy Points: 269 (22.4 ppg.)

 

7. Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic

For college alternative-reality zealots, Florida Atlantic is not historically a gold mine of elite performers. The Owls have only won nine games during the past three seasons; however, FAU hired former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, and many astute fantasy managers are searching for nuggets on the roster this season. Kiffin appointed Kendal Briles (son of former Baylor coach Art Briles) as the offensive conductor, and FAU will run a mix of Kiffin’s scheme and the Baylor attack. The Owls deploy a powerful backfield duo with senior Buddy Howell and sophomore Devin Singletary, who only carried the pigskin 14 times the first month of the 2016 crusade. A 5’9”, 200-pound sparkplug, Singletary became the first freshman at FAU to surpass 1,000 yards rushing with 1,021. He also averaged 6.7 ypc. and scored 12 touchdowns. Against Rice, Singletary totaled 257 rushing yards on 24 carries, and in the final game of the year versus Middle Tennessee, he rushed for 235 yards and reached the end zone three times. Do not shy away from excavating the gridiron for diamonds in Boca Raton, Florida.

2017 Projections

Rushing Yards and TDs: 1,250 and 15

Receiving Yards and TDs: 220 and 2

Total Fantasy Points: 249 (20.8 ppg.)