Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco): I think I do this same Roundtable every year, but so what? Who am I to break with tradition? We’ll start with a mini tangent. August is, at least in my opinion, the best time of the year for fantasy. For one, it’s too early to be wrong about anything, which is definitely a self-esteem booster. And secondly, that’s when most drafts take place and I know everyone here loves to draft.
But a lot has changed since August. David Johnson and Odell Beckham are both out with season-ending injuries while Jordy Nelson, another first-rounder, has struggled mightily in Aaron Rodgers’ absence. While those three have fallen off the map, a pair of rookies, Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette, have emerged as two of the best backs in fantasy. So, if you had to do the draft again, say right now, what would your top four or five look like? I assume Le’Veon Bell would be the consensus No. 1, but how would the rest shake out?
Evan Silva (@evansilva): Using all positions and not just running backs, my top four would be:
1. Le'Veon Bell
2. Todd Gurley
4. LeSean McCoy
The last one was tough between McCoy, Kareem Hunt, and Leonard Fournette. Fournette's ankle problems have plagued him since before his final season at LSU, however, and Hunt isn't an every-down back. McCoy also has the softest rest-of-season schedule among running backs. I went with Gurley at No. 2 based on the high-scoring nature of his offense and his vastly expanded passing-game role.
Rich Hribar (@LordReebs): This is fairly clear-cut since we've had just two steady WR1 options week to week with Antonio and DeAndre Hopkins and Hopkins is now back in QB hell with Tom Savage. Brown would be the only wide receiver worth consideration. Assuming everything played out to a tee, I think you'd see the three main tight ends (Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz) be selected before the first three wide receivers.
Outside of the two Steelers, Gurley is a lock playing in the NFL's highest scoring offense (still weird to type that) with a huge weekly workload. Ezekiel Elliott missing the fantasy playoffs instead of the first six games as originally planned is a real tide-turner and I'd wager everyone that has him now wishes he had just served his suspension at the start of the year. So many teams relying on Zeke won't even see Week 16 now. With Zeke unavailable, my final two guys would be Fournette and Hunt. Fournette's volume (20 touches in every game but one so far) plus his attachment to Jacksonville’s elite defense makes him a really strong play. His lowest weekly finish this year was as the RB14. He's virtually matchup-proof with the way Jacksonville plays and he gets San Francisco in Week 16 if your team makes it that far. That’s a hammer spot and Jacksonville should still be in the playoff hunt, so Fournette would likely see his full allotment of carries.
I'd go Hunt over McCoy because his floor has been just a smidge better even with slightly less usage and his recent touchdown evaporation. Even in Hunt's worst week, he was the RB25 and scored 9.8 PPR points. McCoy laid a complete egg against the Jets last week (2.5 points) that was probably a week loser for many teams and Hunt's playoff schedule (OAK, LAC, MIA) is also comparable to McCoy's (IND, MIA, NE), if not better. I wouldn't really push back if someone preferred McCoy, but I’d put him just behind Hunt.
Jeff Brubach (@Jeff_Brubach): I think Bell, Gurley, Brown, Fournette and McCoy would be my five. As Rich stated, the Hunt/McCoy debate is interesting and could really swing either way. I am not entirely sure what to make of McCoy's Week 9 clunker, but his ridiculous passing game involvement gives me a more comfortable feeling with him in the top five. Also, Buffalo’s playoff schedule looks awfully tasty. Putting Hopkins on this list would have been fun if Deshaun Watson's ACL hadn't broken our hearts.
Pantuosco: Alright fellas, read ‘em and weep.
Couple things. Zeke surely would have been top five (probably top two, honestly) if not for his six-game suspension, which looks like it’s for real this time. Aside from the Denver game he’s been an absolute monster, just as he was during his landmark rookie year. I might be in the minority going Hunt over McCoy, especially in the midst of a six-game touchdown drought for Hunt and coming off a game where he lost passing-down work to Charcandrick West. But I own McCoy in several leagues and let me tell you, it’s been far from a smooth ride. His volume has definitely been a plus—he’s on pace for 374 touches, which would shatter his career-high of 368—but McCoy went his first five weeks without a touchdown and has already been held under 30 yards rushing on three occasions. That level of volatility is rare to see in a workhorse back.
Fournette hasn’t played in a minute—he was injured for Week 7, on bye in Week 8 and suspended for bailing on team photo day last week—but when active, he’s been Jacksonville’s entire offense. He’s got a little Bo Jackson in him (ran a 4.51 forty at 240 pounds) and has scored a touchdown in all six games that he’s played this season. So yeah, I guess you could say I’m pretty high on him.
While top-five might be a reach, if we did the draft over from scratch, I imagine Melvin Gordon and Mark Ingram would both be first-rounders. Gordon has been a touchdown machine (five in his last four games) while Ingram has averaged 109.5 yards from scrimmage since the Adrian Peterson trade. Even with Watson out, Hopkins could still be a borderline first-rounder based on volume. In Tom Savage’s last three starts, Hopkins has seen target totals of 17, 16 and 16. Savage isn’t looking anywhere else. Houston’s offense right now is Hopkins or bust.
The concerns with Hunt are real, but I also think the Chiefs will come out of their bye re-committed. Andy Reid may have explicitly been trying to limit Hunt before the bye knowing he would need to really unleash him after. And even if Hunt is "just" a 66-percent player, he's too dynamic to keep off this list. He's the kind of player who can swing a week with one or two touches.
Fournette was the most harrowing for me because of his ankle woes and his quarterback, but that usage ... my goodness. It can't be ignored. I just narrowly left off McCoy because he's been so feast or famine, but his rest-of-season setup is admittedly good. He has a soft schedule and Buffalo’s offense is on the rise with the addition of Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones' recent improvement and the return of Charles Clay. If someone wanted to slot him in at No. 4, I wouldn't complain.