I always take the NFL Top 100 players with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless it is interesting to see how the players themselves view their fellow players. Devonta Freeman is the first of the Falcons players to make the list having dropped 29 places since 2016. That is no surprise as Freeman was always going to find it hard to repeat his 2015 & 2016 numbers. In those two years he averaged 1067.5 rushing yards with 11 rushing touchdowns on 246 rushes. He also averaged 2.5 receiving touchdowns and 520 yards on 81 targets with 63.5 receptions. In 2017 he had just 865 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns, 317 yards receiving and one receiving touchdown.
Some of that production reduction comes because Freeman played just 14 games in 2017. The reason for that is Freeman had the second concussion of the season against Dallas in the Falcons ninth game. That concussion meant Freeman had just three carries in that game. He then missed the next two games before returning in week 13 against the Minnesota Vikings. The concussion was the third of Freeman’s career which must be a major concern for the Falcons going forward.
Current Top 100 running backs
Devonta Freeman is just the second running back listed in the top 100. The other running back was Cleveland Browns back Carlos Hyde, previously of the San Francisco 49ers. Freeman and Hyde are both entering their fifth year in the NFL but Freeman has had more success. Part of that success comes down to Freeman being more durable than Hyde. In his career, Freeman has played 61 games and started 43. Hyde has played in just 50 and started 36. Freeman also has more touchdowns, with 30 to Hyde’s 21.
In terms of yards per game and yards per attempt they are almost identical. However, Freeman has played a bigger role in the passing game with nearly 100 more targets, four more touchdowns and almost 1000 more yards. According to pro-football reference Freeman has a career approximate value of 39 compared to Hyde’s 20.
So who are the other running backs we might see on this list?
Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley are locks to make the list. David Johnson should make the list but only playing one game last season might count against him. Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara should also both be on the list after taking the NFL by storm in 2017. Other considerations must go to LeSean McCoy, Leonard Fournette, Jordan Howard and Melvin Gordon. Another name that might make the list is Mark Ingram which would garner some controversy given his recent suspension for PEDs.
There are some running back names on the 2017 list that I expect to miss out in 2018. DeMarco Murray was #33 last year but is currently unsigned as a free agent. Jay Ajayi was #69 but found himself traded out Miami and in a backfield-by-committee in Philadelphia. LeGarette Blount failed to make a big impact in Philadelphia last year and will likely fall off the list from #80 in 2017. Finally, 98th ranked Adrian Peterson is unlikely to be on the list as he also remains unsigned in 2018.
What about the other Falcons
We can absolutely lock in the 30 million dollar man Matt Ryan and Julio Jones for the list. Both were ranked top-10 last year but I expect both will fall a little following a tough 2017 season. I expect Vic Beasley to remain on the list having been #40 last year. It will be interesting to see whether Deion Jones makes the list after another solid season. Those are likely to be the only four Falcons in contention this year. However, with a young defense I would not be shocked to see more Falcons on the list in 2019.