Fantasy RB Breakouts 2017: Crowell a beacon of light in cast down Cleveland

Andy Behrens says fantasy owners should feed the Crow. (AP)

Profit margins are a fundamental backbone of success in capitalism. Fantasy, like any other business, boils down to picking players who pad the bottom line. After the top couple tiers fall off draftboards, what commodities should owners target? Listed below are the Yahoo Fantasy crew’s top profiteers in 2017, selected on average after pick No. 30 overall. Fridays focus: RBs. 

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Ameer Abdullah, Det (60.6 ADP, RB20)
Despite underwhelming in back-to-back campaigns, the Lions remain staunchly in support of their former second round pick. Management did zero to address the position during the draft, choosing to focus primarily on the defense. With little competition behind him, Abdullah figures to be prominently featured. He’s reportedly back to health, showcasing impressive burst, and wowed at OTAs. Admittedly the offensive line is still in flux, but the additions of Ricky Wagner and T.J. Lang should help. Abdullah’s athletic ability in tandem with his situation could earn him 1,200 combined yards and 9 total scores this season. (Liz Loza)

Isaiah Crowell, Cle (32.6 ADP, RB13)
If you want to argue that Isaiah Crowell has already broken out, I’ll concede the point. He was outstanding on a per-touch basis last season, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and 8.0 per catch (on a career high 40 receptions). All relevant parties have since acknowledged that he needs to see more than 198 carries this year. Crowell will do his running behind an upper-tier offensive line, too. Cleveland didn’t make any meaningful additions to its backfield in the offseason, either via draft or free agency, so Crowell and Duke Johnson will again dominate touches. If this guy sees 240 carries in the year ahead, you’re getting an 1100-yard rusher. (Andy Behrens)

Mike Gillislee, NE (62.9 ADP, RB22)

Gillislee is a bit risky given that New England’s usage with running backs isn’t always the most predictable, but he’s the clear favorite to take over as the team’s “big back,” a role that led to LeGarrette Blount leading the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns last season despite a pedestrian 3.9 YPC mark (thanks to an NFL-high 71 red-zone rushes, including 29 inside the five). Gillislee is four years younger and almost certainly the better back, as he impressed last season while finishing top-10 in fantasy points per snap (0.44). Moreover, he finished top-three in YPC when facing base fronts (5.8) and light fronts (6.6), and it’s safe to expect few opposing defenses stacking the box while up against Tom Brady and the Patriots’ passing attack (he’ll also be running behind a better offensive line). There’s a legitimate chance Gillislee leads the NFL in touchdowns in 2017. (Dalton Del Don)

Bilal Powell, NYJ (70.5 ADP, RB26)

Regurgitated Sloppy Joes. On paper, that’s what the Jets resemble. Powell is really the only player in Kelly Green worth entertaining before pick No. 100 overall. Last year, he showcased sensational three-down skills once thrust into a featured role. Recall he cranked out the second-most valuable line during the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-17: 5.0 ypc, 138.0 total yards per game, 3 TDs). Digging deeper, he also compiled 14 missed tackles and a 3.2 YAC over that four-game span. Additionally, according to Sharp Football, he totaled the seventh-best run success percentage at the position on the year.

Overall, “Boom Boom” is a better-than-advertised runner between the hashmarks. He’s also a fantastic receiver and slippery in the open field. Among RBs, he ranked No. 14 in juke rate in 2016. Forte, meanwhile, checked in at No. 56 in the category and was one of the worst qualifying backs in yards after contact per touch (No. 61). Nearly three years Forte’s junior and with 2,067 fewer career touches under his belt, Powell packs more across-the-board oomph. Essentially, he should provide owners with significant versatility and value, particularly in PPR leagues. The Jets, already down three touchdowns in every game, will lean on him heavily in garbage time. In the end, I feel he lands inside the RB top-20 with a final output around 190-858-59-422-7. (Brad Evans)

DeAndre Washington, Oak (184 ADP, RB60)

If you’re like me and leery on the Marshawn Lynch comeback story (didn’t play last year; attrition back; didn’t look good in 2015), you’ll want to do some investing in the Oakland understudies. Washington (5.4 YPC) and Jalen Richard (5.9 YPC) both outplayed Latavius Murray by a significant amount last year, and seem ready for a step forward in workload. Washington has a little more pedigree than Richard; the former was drafted, the latter was not. But both names are already littered across several of my Best Ball lineups, in preparation for August’s Seasonal Draft Period. Be ready in the late rounds. Someone is going to enjoy life behind Oakland’s behemoth offensive line. (Scott Pianowski)

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