What A Difference A Year Can Make
Last August I started a 1 VS 1 player versus player series comparing runningbacks and receivers who were alike in skill sets, comparing them in a variety of categories. I would compare two similarly ranked and drafted players putting them up against each other, comparing them in a variety of categories such as 2016 stats, quality of offensive line, draft pedigree, age, combine results, measurables, teams time of possession, percentage of rushing attempts, snaps played, PFF grades, and depth chart competition. In an attempt to determine which of the two players will be the superior dynasty asset. Looking back one year later there have been a significant amount of changes, and some of the players I declared winners no longer appear to be the better of the two players. I will start with the runningbacks that I examined last year to highlight just how much can change over the course of a year in the NFL.
Jay Ajayi VS Jordan Howard - I declared the initial winner Jay Ajayi as a year ago Ajayi was being touted as a workhorse three down back and the centerpiece of the Miami offense. Fast forward a year and Ajayi is now part of committee backfield for the Super Bowl Champion Eagles and will be lucky to see 200 touches. Let's not forget about the fact that Ajayi has a degenerative bone on bone knee condition. Jordan Howard going into last season was being labeled as a two down thumper as he had a high drop rate when asked to be part of the Bears passing game. A year later and Howard only has Tarik Cohen as backfield competition and has been receiving praise for the work he has put in as both a receiving back and pass protector. Making him a prime candidate for a three down role and potentially a workhorse runningback for the ascending Chicago offense. After re-examining these two talented backs I have determined that going into 2018 Jordan Howard is the superior dynasty asset.
Melvin Gordon VS Todd Gurley - After a disappointing 2016 season in a pathetic Rams offense led by an ineffective NFL head coach in Jeff Fisher and his offensive coordinator Rob Boras. I determined that Melvin Gordon was the better of the two backs heading into 2017. Well Gurley essentially made me look foolish after he exploded for nearly 2100 total yards under Sean McVay and his new coaching regime. Gurley is going into the upcoming season as the number one ranked dynasty runningback, and rightfully so. With that being said it's not like Melvin Gordon had a bad season by any means or did anything to discount his value it's just that he was out performed by Gurley. Gordon put up nearly 1600 total yards and was the Chargers workhorse back throughout the season. These two are both immensely talented but I have to give the edge to Todd Gurley.
Le'Veon Bell VS David Johnson - Comparing these two elite runningbacks last year and determining a winner was very difficult, as I gave a slight edge to Bell. I gave Bell the advantage due to his unique running style and incredible receiving ability as he plays the half back position like no other back I've ever seen. He did not disappoint in 2017, as he totaled nearly 2000 total yards, with an incredible 85 receptions. Bell is in an explosive offense that he is an integral part of and that won't change this season. Unfortunately David Johnson missed nearly the entire 2017 season due to a serious wrist injury but that does not change my opinion on him as being a top five dynasty runningback. He is incredibly talented as both a runner and pass catcher and will be the focal point of the Cardinals offense. He is capable of single handedly taking over games with his phenomenal skill set. After giving the slight edge to Bell last season I'm going to consider this battle a draw.
Isaiah Crowell VS Carlos Hyde - When comparing these two similar half backs last season I gave a very slight edge to Carlos Hyde over Isaiah Crowell, mostly due to the fact Crowell played for the lowly Browns. Now a year later both players find themselves on new teams but in very different situations. Ironically Hyde was signed as a free agent by the Browns and appeared to be the unquestioned number one runningback. Until the NFL draft anyways when the Browns selected Georgia star Nick Chubb in the second round 35th overall. Now factor in that the talented pass catching back Duke Johnson is still in Cleveland it may be a full committee approach this season in Cleveland. Although Hyde is due nearly six million dollars per season in 2019 and 2020 making him a cut candidate if Nick Chubb is able to duplicate his college success. Isaiah Crowell was signed as a free agent in the off season to a three year twelve million dollar contract by the New York Jets. Crowell has far less backfield competition in New York and with a recent injury to his primary backup Bilal Powell he should be heavily leaned upon in the Jets run game. Crowell is capable of handling a three down role as he proved the past two seasons in Cleveland. He is a quality receiver and above average pass protector to go along with his excellent running ability, which could lead to a three down role for the Jets. After an off season of changes I now give the advantage to Isaiah Crowell.
Ezekiel Elliot VS Devonta Freeman - Last year when comparing these two talented runningbacks it was a clean sweep for Elliot in every category. Despite being suspended for six games last season and all of the uncertainty that surrounded the suspension Zeke still put up an impressive 1252 total yards. He is my number two ranked dynasty runningback and will be the centerpiece of the Cowboys offense in 2018 as both a rusher and receiver. Elliot has virtually no competition for touches and due to the questionable receiving core will likely set career highs in receptions and targets. Freeman also put up great numbers totaling nearly 1200 yards in 13 games played last season. Freeman has a very capable and talented backup in Tevin Coleman who will likely take a considerable amount of touches away from lead back Devonta Freeman. I really like Freeman and think he is immensely talented but I just don't think he is on the same level as Ezekiel Elliot, so I will once again give the advantage to Elliot.
Lamar Miller VS C.J. Anderson - A year ago both of these runningbacks were the starters for their respective teams, fast forward 12 months and only one of them remains a starter. At the time of the original article I gave the advantage to Lamar Miller due to the fact he was the unquestioned starter with only rookie D'Onta Foreman behind him. This season with Foreman on PUP recovering from an achilles injury the backfield essentially belongs to Miller. He will be in line for a very heavy workload in both the rushing and receiving game and very well could put up career numbers. C.J. Anderson was signed by the Carolina Panthers to a low risk one year 1.75 million dollar contract to work as a one-two punch with versatile sophomore Christian McCaffery. Meaning touches may be hard to come by for Anderson barring an injury to McCaffery, as CMC will undoubtedly lead the backfield in touches. As was the case last season I am going to have to give the advantage to Lamar Miller, as I feel he is by far the superior dynasty back.
LeSean McCoy VS Demarco Murray - When I compared these two talented veteran runningbacks last season I gave the win to McCoy by a narrow margin. To reference the title of this article "What A Difference A Year Makes" as Murray retired somewhat surprisingly, and McCoy is being investigated for potentially orchestrating a savage beating on his ex-girlfriend at his home in Georgia. Needless to say Murray will not be gaining the advantage over McCoy this season with his cleats hung up. But if the horrific allegations against LeSean McCoy prove to be true his career is also essentially over. Not too mention if he is proven to be guilty of setting up such a brutal and vicious attack he truly is a steaming pile of rat shit. The advantage for the 2018 season will go to McCoy if the allegations prove to be untrue, but if found guilty. F*#K him.
Ty Montgomery VS Spencer Ware - Just one short year ago both Montgomery and Ware were in line to be the starters on quality offenses. Then the 2017 NFL draft and injuries essentially put an end to that, with Kansas City drafting stud runningback Kareem Hunt. Meanwhile the Packers selected three runningbacks in Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays. Going into last season I gave the advantage to Montgomery mostly due to the Packers incredible offense, despite the drafting of three quality backs. Montgomery only played in eight games last season and was ineffective as Green Bay's starter eventually losing the starting job to the rookies. Spencer Ware missed the entire 2017 season due to a devastating knee injury but appears to be the direct backup to Kareem Hunt going into the 18' season. Ware had himself a fantastic 2016 season totaling nearly 1400 yards, he is a capable three down back if required to be. Whereas Montgomery currently finds himself third on the Packers depth chart. For the 2018 season and beyond I am giving the advantage to Spencer Ware.
Alvin Kamara VS Christian McCaffrey - In what looked like a close competition last off season between Kamara and McCaffery, many thought I was insane for giving the edge to Kamara. After setting the league on fire Kamara was named offensive rookie of the year in what was an incredible rookie campaign. He amassed over 1550 total yards while hauling in 82 receptions and for all intents and purposes was unstoppable as both a runner and receiver out of the Saints backfield. He is an incredibly gifted athlete and should continue to dominate at the NFL level on a stellar offense for years to come. McCaffery also had an impressive rookie season he just wasn't quite at the same level as Kamara. CMC finished the season with over 1000 yards and 80 receptions, but only rushed 117 times. This is a trend I would expect to continue as he is undersized and only averaged 3.7 yards per carry. He just doesn't possess the frame to handle 200 plus carries at the NFL level hence the reason C.J. Anderson was brought in as a compliment to McCaffery. There is no question in my mind that Kamara is the runningback to own between these two.
Leonard Fournette VS Kareem Hunt - In the comparison between these two incredibly talented runningbacks it was very difficult to select a winner, I ultimately went with Fournett but it could have gone either way. Despite battling foot and ankle injuries and constantly rushing against a stacked box Fournett had an excellent season. He put up 1040 rushing yards and proved his critics wrong by catching 36 passes for 302 yards, playing in only 13 games as a rookie. He was the focal point of the Jaguars offense especially after top receiver Allen Robinson went down with a season ending injury on the first offensive series of the year. Hunt also had a phenomenal rookie campaign totaling nearly 1800 all purpose yards and garnering rookie of the year consideration. He was fortunate enough to play on a much better offense than Fournett and did not disappoint when called upon after starter Spencer Ware was lost for the season in August. Jacksonville has very little runningback competition behind Fournett whereas the return of Spencer Ware may take some touches away from Hunt. I am intrigued to see how this season plays out for both of these talented backs so for the time being I am calling it a draw between them.