2016 Dynasty Fantasy Football: Top Three College Running Backs to Watch
In this article I’ll be taking a look into the future for all my Dynasty Fantasy Football owners. These are the top running backs in college football you need to be watching this season. They will be ranked in the order I anticipate them having an impact in the NFL. Also, all of these players will be eligible to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, although, they are not all obligated to do so.
1. Dalvin Cook, Florida State
Cook could undoubtedly be a three-down feature back in the NFL. His upside is greater than any other skill position player, not just running back, in his draft class class. His explosiveness is incredible. The feats he accomplishes on the grid iron are awe-inspiring. The superior athletic back has an elite mix of speed and force. He’s well built at 6 foot, 203 pounds and has the elusiveness and uncanny decision making ability to match his strength and speed.
Last season at Florida State he rushed for 1,691 yards on 7.4 yards per carry. In the receiving game, he racked up another 244 yards and broke the plane of the end zone a total of 20 times. I completely anticipate his production to continue to increase in 2016, and he will make a run at the Heisman Trophy. He’s in my top two favorites for non-QBs.
His pass-catching ability and PPR value is what distances him from the pack. While his hands need some improvement, he’s an extraordinary route runner and sturdy pass protector. When you include how imposing he can be as a big-play threat and productive early-down back, it’s difficult to overlook him. If I were participating in a dynasty rookie draft for 2017 right now, Cook would be my first-overall pick without hesitation. He’s flat out more versatile than Leonard Fournette. It’s similar to choosing between fellow FSU alum Devonta Freeman and Adrian Peterson. Both are great; I just prefer the superb pass-catcher over the dominating power back. There’s a reason Freeman finished ahead of AP in PPR leagues last season.
2. Leonard Fournette, LSU
Fournette has a scary combination of size and speed. Despite my ranking of No. 2, he’ll more than likely be the first back selected in the 2017 NFL Draft as he likely would have this year as well had he been in it. The 230-pounder has the raw power to run over defenders making opposing defenders look like toddlers as they ricochet off of him. Simultaneously he has the explosion and breakaway speed to hit the home run on any given play.
His production is undeniable, and he’s already an early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy in 2016 after being a finalist in 2015. Last year he rushed for 1,953 yards on 6.5 yards per carry with 22 TDs. He also piled on 253 yards and a touchdown as a receiver. Last season he topped the 100-rushing yard mark ten times in 12 games, 11 times if you include all yards from scrimmage. Perhaps more impressively he topped 200 yards rushing four times, twice as many times he failed to rush for 100.
There is almost no doubt he will be the first player off the board next season in the vast majority of fantasy rookie drafts. His hype will and should far surpasses Ezekiel Elliott’s. We are already seeing Zeke going in the Round 1 of quite a few redrafts. Granted landing in Dallas plays a major role in his value, but don’t expect anything less from Fournette. No matter where he lands, he’ll be an early-round pick. You’ll be hearing AP and Todd Gurley comparisons on a regular basis next Fantasy Football season and come draft time.
3. Royce Freeman, Oregon
Freeman looks physically imposing like a between the tackles power back. However, while he can smash through defenders and carry them down field when necessary, he’s also shockingly elusive. His speed and elusiveness would be extraordinary for an undersized back let alone a 6-foot-1, 230 pound thumper.
Freeman has been dismantling the Ducks record books since joining the team. Not only did he become the first ever Oregon back to rush for 1,000 yards, but he also broke the freshman rushing touchdown record with 18. His season totals ended up at 1,365 yards, 18 TDs and 5.4 yards per carry on the ground, with another 16 receptions for 268 yards and a TD through the air. He was even better as a sophomore in 2015 rushing for 1,838 on 6.5 yards per carry and 17 TDs, while tacking on 26 receptions for 348 yards and two touchdowns in the passing attack.
Dynasty owners should be drooling over this stud. His film is unbelievable, and his production reflects that and then some. The only flaw in his arsenal is pass protection. Nevertheless, the bulk of young backs entering the NFL are not where they would ideally like to be as a pass blocker. Physically there is no reason to believe he can’t develop into at least a decent blocker. His value will be strong in both standard and PPR leagues since he’s a strong pass-catcher and has the power to gain those tough yards.