2018 Outlook: In a league leaning more and more toward committee attacks, Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell breaks the mold with absurdly large usage numbers. Starting with 2013 and including only the weeks he has been active during his five NFL seasons, Bell's carry shares are as follows: 77, 83, 83, 90 and 90 percent. He averaged 19.8 carries and 6.3 targets per game during those outings. Despite missing 18 regular-season games, Bell has ranked in the top 10 at the position in snaps in four different seasons. He missed one game last season but paced all running backs in snaps, touches, pass routes, carries and receptions. Only Todd Gurley II scored more fantasy points, and Bell has finished in the top three at the position three of the past four seasons. Bell should fall no further than second overall in 2018 drafts.
2018 Outlook: Gurley's roller-coaster career continued in 2017, as he exploded for a league-high 2,093 yards and 19 touchdowns from scrimmage en route to finishing as fantasy's top-scoring running back. One year after averaging a dreadful 3.2 YPC, Gurley exploded for 4.7 YPC. Gurley was already a heavily utilized rusher, but he saw his receiving workload increase dramatically in 2017. He hauled in 64 passes for 788 yards after totaling 64 catches for 515 yards during his first two seasons. Only five backs ran more routes. Now a full-on, every-down workhorse in a high-scoring offense, Gurley is an elite fantasy option. He turns 24 years old this summer.
2018 Outlook: Johnson is set to return after missing all but 43 snaps of the 2017 season due to a wrist injury. Johnson, of course, enjoyed a breakout 2016 campaign, in which he accrued 2,118 yards and 20 touchdowns on 373 touches. Johnson paced all backs in snaps, touches, scrimmage yards, targets, receiving yards and fantasy points. He carried the ball inside the opponent's 5-yard line 22 times (second most). Johnson's pedestrian rushing efficiency (4.2 YPC, 1.6 YAC) is far from ideal, but he more than made up for it with volume; Johnson registered a top-10 fantasy week in a position-best 69 percent of his outings. Johnson is in his prime at age 26 and positioned well to again see 21-23 touches every week.
2018 Outlook: What else is there to say about Brown? He has finished as the top-scoring fantasy wide receiver each of the past four seasons and was top-five the prior two campaigns. In 2017, Brown missed two games and half of another but still ranked in the top five at the position in targets, receptions and receiving yards for the fourth consecutive season. Brown turns 30 this year, but he has shown no signs of slowing down and posted a career-high 13.6 aDOT last season. Brown should be selected early in the first round of your draft and, despite the resurgence of the running back position, is a fine target first overall.
2018 Outlook: Elliott was suspended for six games last season but was still his dominant self when active. Elliott was fantasy's No. 2 scoring back in 15 games as a rookie and was second during the 10 weeks he played in 2018. Despite sustaining that high-end fantasy production, Elliott's numbers did dip quite a bit. He averaged 5.1 YPC in 2016, but 4.1 YPC in 2017. He scored 16 touchdowns as a rookie but only nine last season. On the plus side, Elliott was still an absolute workhorse as a rusher (24.2 carries per game) and played a larger role as a receiver (3.5 targets per game was up from 2.5 in 2016). Elliott still doesn't see as much receiving work as other elite backs, but he handles enough overall volume to allow top-five numbers.
2018 Outlook: Hopkins' roller-coaster fantasy production continued last season, as he posted his second top-five campaign in three years after finishing 27th in 2016. Hopkins paced all wide receivers in targets (172), touchdown receptions (13) and OTD (9.6) while finishing only a half-point behind Antonio Brown for the most fantasy points at the position last season. Hopkins is averaging a massive 10.1 targets per game the past four seasons. He gets a boost via the return of Deshaun Watson; Hopkins posted a 38-551-6 line and was fantasy's top-scoring wideout by 16 points during Watson's six starts as a rookie. Hopkins should be off the board in the middle of the first round.
2018 Outlook: Beckham might be one of the league's most polarizing players, but he's nothing short of dominant when he's on the field. Beckham was a top-seven fantasy WR each of his first three NFL seasons and ranked fourth during the four games for which he was active in 2017. Beckham has scored 38 touchdowns in 47 games, ranking in the top five at the position in his first three pro seasons. Durability has become somewhat of a concern, as Beckham has now missed at least one game in three of his four seasons, including 12 games due to multiple ankle injuries last season. Eli Manning's struggles are a concern, but the 25-year-old Beckham is now healthy and one of the game's best players. He's a fringe top-five fantasy WR with elite overall upside.
2018 Outlook: The Chiefs stole Hunt in the third round of last year's draft, and it didn't take long for the Toledo product to make a name for himself. He exploded for 246 yards and three touchdowns in his NFL debut and went on to rack up 1,782 yards and 11 scores on 325 touches. All ranked in the top five at the position. Hunt, who paced the position with 1,327 rushing yards, posted a 4.9 YPC (sixth best), including 2.3 yards after contact (seventh best). Hunt may not be able to keep up with the top backs in carries in the Chiefs' low-volume scheme (and will need more than six carries inside the 5-yard line), but coach Andy Reid said he plans to get Hunt more involved as a receiver. The talent/workload combination is enough to allow Hunt another strong RB1 season.
2018 Outlook: The NFL's reigning offensive rookie of the year, Kamara quickly went from third-round pick to fantasy superstar. The Tennessee product was on the field for only 44 percent of the Saints' regular-season snaps, but his outstanding playmaking ability allowed him 728 yards on 120 carries (6.1 YPC) and a league-high 826 yards on 81 receptions (10.2 YPR). He ranked 24th at the position in touches (201) but ranked sixth in yards (1,554) and second in touchdowns (13). Kamara's absurd efficiency is unsustainable, but his late-season surge in usage suggests he'll see the boost in volume he'll need to continue producing strong RB1 numbers.
2018 Outlook: Barkley was selected by New York with the second overall pick in the draft. The ex-Nittany Lion combines a big frame (6 feet, 233 pounds) with exceptional speed, vision, elusiveness and receiving ability. Similar to the likes of Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson and Todd Gurley II in recent seasons, Barkley is expected to be an every-down workhorse who immediately pushes for 350-plus touches and 10-plus touchdowns. Barkley sports elite upside and is immediately a fringe top-five fantasy running back. He is likely to be selected in the first round of most 2018 fantasy drafts and should be the top pick in all rookie drafts.
2018 Outlook: Despite ranking second in receiving yards (1,444) and seventh in fantasy points among wide receivers last season, Jones was considered, by many, to be a disappointment. The reason? As usual, touchdowns. Jones found paydirt only three times and has failed to eclipse six touchdowns in four of the past five seasons. Although a lack of opportunity was an issue in recent years, it wasn't in 2017. Jones ranked seventh in end zone targets (16) and fourth in OTD (8.6). Jones has finished as a top-seven fantasy WR each of the past four campaigns, and logic suggests he'll score more touchdowns in 2018. He remains an elite fantasy asset.
2018 Outlook: Believe it or not, Antonio Brown is the only wide receiver with more fantasy points than Thomas since the Ohio State product was selected in the second round of the 2016 draft. Thomas ranked in the top 10 at the position in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns both seasons. His 28 percent target share was a massive and rare figure for a receiver in a Drew Brees-led offense. After scoring nine touchdowns as a rookie (5.2 OTD), Thomas was limited to five scores in 2017 (5.2 OTD). The lack of usage near the goal line is of slight concern (especially in non-PPR), but with Brees in the house, Thomas' high volume and efficiency will allow him high-end fantasy production.
2018 Outlook: After missing 23 games due to injury in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Allen finally put together his first 16-game campaign in 2017. The 2013 third-round pick was nothing short of dominant, ranking in the top five at the position in targets (153), receptions (102) and receiving yards (1,393). Allen was limited to six touchdowns, though his 7.8 OTD, as well as his 6-foot-2 frame, suggest there's an opportunity for more in that department. Allen is still only 26 years old and Philip Rivers' top target in an offense that always scores most of its touchdowns through the air. He's a solid WR1.
2018 Outlook: The Jaguars spent the fourth-overall pick on Fournette last season in order to lean heavily on their running back and elite defense. The plan worked. Fournette missed three games but still carried the ball 268 times (seventh most) for 1,040 yards (eighth) and nine touchdowns (third). Fournette finished seventh at the position in fantasy points per game. Fournette's weak YPC (3.9, including 3.3 during his final 200 carries) is a concern, though he did face an average of 7.1 in-box defenders (eighth highest). Fournette won't be quite as involved as a receiver as other top backs, but he's a top-end talent who has a shot to lead the NFL carries. That's enough to keep him in the RB1 mix.
2018 Outlook: Green always seems to be overshadowed by other top wideouts, but he has finished as a top-10 fantasy WR in four of the past six seasons, ranking in the top 12 in fantasy points per snap during the two campaigns in which he missed a combined nine games. Last season, despite the Bengals' offensive woes, Green ranked top-12 in all of the important receiving counting stats, including targets (139), receptions (75), receiving yards (1,078), touchdowns (8) and end zone targets (14). Green has averaged 9.6 targets per game during his seven-season career, and there's no sign that he's slowing down as he enters his age-30 season. Target him in the second round.