Expert Betting Predictions for NFL Rushing Props
Trying to figure out who is going to lead the league in rushing yards can be a job for fools. In the last decade, only two guys have led the league in yards twice, and neither is likely to do so this year. Adrian Peterson did it in 2008 and 2012. He's still active, and is theoretically the lead back in Washington, but he has to fight off Derrius Guice, and even if he had the top job for sure he's too old to be a serious threat. And Ezekiel Elliot did it last year and in 2016, but he's holding out and the situation is a long way from resolved, so who knows what his season will look like. That makes this an interesting year to try to handicap who will lead the NFL in rushing yards. But let's fearlessly try to do just that.
Saquon Barkley, Giants (+450): I am afraid for Barkley this year. For his survival, I mean. Unless Daniel Jones is dramatically better right out of the gate than it is reasonable to expect, and the team has receivers appear out of thin air, Barkley is going to have to play a very large role in this offense. The playbook is made up mostly at this point of creative ways to get Barkley the ball and get out of his way. He is incredibly talented, and if anyone can handle it, it's him. But it is a whole lot to ask, and there is a reasonable chance he will break down at some point and be forced to miss some time. His 261 carries last year were second most behind only Elliott, and it really doesn't feel like they can use him that much on the ground, pass to him as much as they have to as well, and have him hold up all year. He has the talent to run away with this race, but even a team as incompetent as the Giants can surely understand the need to limit his usage somewhat to maximize the asset.
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (+500): I am far from confident that Elliott will be on the roster for 16 games this year. And even if he is, the team surely can't afford to ride him as heavily as they have given how much they will have invested in him - his 304 rushing attempts were 41 more than second place Barkley. He was used even more than that is 2016 as well, so there is a real risk of early burnout if they aren't careful. And without a training camp to get ready, he might not even be ready to carry the weight of this load early on. I see no value in this price.
Joe Mixon, Bengals (+1000): Mixon was fourth in the league last year, and he did that despite playing only 14 games. And it's not like he is going to struggle to get his touches - the Bengals are not going to be great through the air, so the offense will largely be about him. If he can stay healthy, and if the new coaching staff can find a way to protect him adequately, then he is a good bet at this price.
Le'Veon Bell, Jets (+1200): Maybe I just have a bias against spoiled babies, but I am not buying into Bell this year. For reasons that have no scientific basis, I am expecting this year to fall off the rails a little bit for him and the Jets. He has spent too much time buying into the hype about his own excellence, and both he and his team are overrated right now. This is an easy pass in my eyes.
Derrick Henry, Titans (+1200): I was interested in Henry, but the news that outstanding left tackle Taylor Lewan will miss four games after a failed drug test is a big blow to the offensive line on this team. Add in a tough early schedule, and the inconsistency that has hampered Henry, and I'm passing.
Nick Chubb, Browns (+1200): Chubb averaged an impressive 5.2 yards per carry last year as a rookie, so there is upside. But the team is going to like to pass this year, and 2017 rushing champion Kareem Hunt is scheduled to be eligible for the team in the second half of the season, which could cost Chubb some touches. Again, I am not interested at this price.
Todd Gurley, Rams (+1200): Gurley has had a lot of touches the last three years and has been banged up more and more each year. He can impact games in so many ways that it only makes sense to cut back on his rushing attempts a little to try to keep him healthier. The league is better with him in it, so I hope the Rams show some restraint, and he isn't a top contender for the rushing crown.
James Conner, Steelers (+2500): As far as longer shots go, you could do much, much worse than this. He put up nice numbers last year, and that was despite having the cloud of Bell hanging over him last year and missing three games due to injury. The defense wasn't great last year, and that forced the team into a lot of shootouts, but they have addressed that, and we should see improvement. And the team will be looking for a bit more offensive balance this year after Ben Roethlisberger led the league in passing attempts by a comfortable margin. Conner is the real deal playing on a team that knows how to rush. The price is right.
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