Individual Running Back Props for 2018 NFL With Expert Wagering Predictions
It feels like we are well removed from the glory days of the running back position, but there is still a remarkable amount of rushing talent in this league. And what makes handicapping backs so intriguing - or frustrating depending on your outlook - is that pretty much anything can happen. Kareem Hunt came from nowhere last year to win the rushing title, while high-profile guys like David Johnson or rookie Dalvin Cook were injured and gone before the season even got interesting. Here's a look at some of the interesting individual running back props this year:
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David Johnson "over/under" 949.5 yards: Johnson was the top pick in a lot of fantasy drafts last year, and he didn't even make it through the first game. Now we have to figure out if he can come back and be a force after that much time on the sidelines. It was a wrist as opposed to a knee or leg issue, which makes it somewhat easier to trust him. And he rushed for 1,239 yards in 2016 - albeit on a team that was at least a little better than this one is likely to be. I'd lean to the over, but there are better bets to be had here.
Jay Ajayi o/u 975.5: Ajayi was interesting last year. He was a mess in Miami, but after moving to Philadelphia he was very effective - he ran for an average of 5.8 yards per carry on 70 carries. He has climbed up the depth chart this year and should see considerably more action. The under is at -135, which is just daring me to take the over - and I will. He had 1,272 yards in 2016, so he is capable of more than he showed last year, and he will be on a strong team.
Dalvin Cook o/u 1099.5: Cook was on a heck of a tear last year, on pace to rush for more than 1,400 yards, but he tore his ACL in his fourth game. Coming back from an injury like that is scary, but not insurmountable, these days. Cook is very talented, and he is joining a team that should be very good at scoring points. He'll get his chances. The under is favored at -125, but I'd quite happily bet on his health and talent and gamble on the over.
Le'Veon Bell o/u 1324.5: To bet on the over here you have to embrace his massive talent and the strength of Pittsburgh's offense and ignore the fact that 2014 was the only year he went over this total and the fact that he isn't even in training camp for the second straight year and that he really looked rough for the first few games after returning last year. The over is a leap of faith here, and I am afraid of heights like that.
Saquon Barkley o/u 1099.5: Barkley is a wildly-talented dude - there is no debating that. But he has landed on a bad team, and Eli Manning is not going to have anything close to a good year. How you view the impact of that depends upon how optimistic you are. He could get plenty of opportunities because no one else will do anything, or he could struggle because the line is questionable and defenses will focus on him. I'd have to flip a coin to find a side here, and I don't have one on me.
Kareem Hunt o/u 1099.5: Hunt was a third-round pick out of Toledo who led the NFL in rushing and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Not bad - and a tough act to follow. He has a new QB and a new offensive coordinator but the same talent. I'd lean towards the over, but not aggressively.
Ezekiel Elliott o/u 1375.5: Elliott is a favorite to lead the league in rushing this year, but I am not on his bandwagon. He had 983 yards in just 10 games last year, which is why people are optimistic. But he carried a very heavy workload in those games and didn't run particularly efficiently. To go over this number he would either have to get significantly more efficient or he would have to carry the ball far too much. Neither makes me feel great about his chances, so I lean under. Hard under.
Leonard Fournette o/u 10.5: Fournette scored nine times as a rookie last year, and he played in only 13 games. If he can stay healthier, and he can have more confidence as he's a second-year player now, he easily can go over this number on a pretty solid team. The under is favored at -125, so we'll shoot for value on the other side.
Christian McCaffrey o/u 7.5: McCaffrey had a weird and underwhelming rookie season, scoring just two touchdowns and averaging a paltry 3.7 yards per carry. But he is clearly better than that, he should get significantly more carries this year to prove it, and the offensive line should be better than it was last year. I am bullish on McCaffrey and will take the over. I'm not alone there, though - the over is at -125.
Todd Gurley o/u 15.5: The over is solidly favored at -130, and that strikes me as a silly number. He led the league in rushing touchdowns last year but with only 13. The offense for the Rams is balanced, and he is a very well-rounded player who isn't just a ball carrier. I expect a strong year, but betting confidently on him to improve by three touchdowns is very optimistic.
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