When attempting to win your fantasy football league, it is important to pick players who will return value. If you select wide receivers early, you need to draft running backs who can score enough points to allow your wide receivers to dominate and beat the opposition. Here are some of the running backs that we expect to return value in 2017.

Bilal Powell

Although he’s a 28-year-old running back that has topped 200 touches just once, there are reasons for optimism surrounding Bilal Powell. Firstly, 31-year-old Matt Forte was outplayed by Powell last season.

Player ATTs ruYDs YPC ruTDs RECs TGTs reYDs PPR
Matt Forte 218 813 3.7 7 30 43 263 185.6
Bilal Powell 131 714 5.5 3 58 75 384 191.8

Despite seeing 59 fewer touches, Powell outscored Forte. Over the first eight weeks, Forte was a workhorse.

Player ATTs ruYDs YPC ruTDs RECs TGTs reYDs PPR
Matt Forte 19.6 67.8 3.5 0.8 2.5 3.6 20.4 16.6
Bilal Powell 3.8 26.6 7.1 0.1 3.1 4.6 19.9 8.5

With Forte’s dreadful efficiency, the Jets gave Powell more playing time over the final eight games.

Player ATTs ruYDs YPC ruTDs RECs TGTs reYDs PPR
Matt Forte 10.2 45.2 4.4 0.2 1.7 2.3 16.7 8.8
Bilal Powell 12.6 62.6 5.0 0.2 4.1 4.8 28.1 15.4

Over the final eight weeks of the season, Powell was 7th in running back scoring. We know he’s not going to be scoring a lot of touchdowns but the receptions make Powell very valuable in PPR leagues like Apex. The Jets will consistently be playing from behind and are top five in terms of percentage of targets to RBs.

Rushing expectation creator Joe Holka believes “Powell is the Jets back to own in fantasy because Forte is trash now.” Powell is currently being drafted as the 26th running back off the board in early MFL10’s.

Mark Ingram

With Adrian Peterson joining the Saints, many are leaving Mark Ingram for dead. While there should be an expectation that AP sees his fair share of carries, the Saints often throw the ball to their running backs – a facet of the game that isn’t Peterson’s specialty.

Let’s look at how the two compare on a per game basis over the last two seasons.

Player GMs ATTs ruYDs YPC ruTDs RECs TGTs reYDs YPT PPR
Adrian Peterson 20 19.4 80.1 4.1 0.6 1.8 2.2 12.2 5.5 14.3
Mark Ingram 28 13.2 64.8 4.9 0.4 3.4 4.2 25.9 6.1 15.9

Not only has Ingram been more durable than Peterson, but he’s also been more productive. On six fewer carries per game, Ingram has averaged 1.6 more fantasy points per game – rushing for more yards per carry and notching more yards per target.

Don’t forget the Saints throw to their running backs as much as any NFL team. While rookie Alvin Kamara is a concern for Ingram’s reception ceiling, the Saints threw to their running backs 163 times last season – so there should be enough to go around.

Ingram finished 8th in running back scoring last season but is being drafted as the 24th running back off the board. Is Peterson really that much of a threat?

Let’s consider Peterson’s age and durability. The 32-year-old Peterson has rushed the ball more than 40 times just once in the last three seasons. Few running backs have efficiently carried the ball 220 times at 32-year-old. If Peterson were to get injured, Ingram would become a league winning workhorse.

Danny Woodhead

After tearing his ACL in his last season with the Chargers, Danny Woodhead has joined the Baltimore Ravens. Let’s take a look at Woodhead’s last four years of production on the Chargers.

Year Team GMs ATTs ruYDs YPC ruTDs RECs reYDs reTDs
2013 LAC 16 106 429 4 2 76 605 6
2014 LAC 3 15 38 2.5 0 5 34 0
2015 LAC 16 97 335 3.5 3 81 756 6
2016 LAC 2 19 116 6.1 0 6 35 1

While he suffered season-ending injuries two of the four years, he was a league winning player the other two seasons. In 2013 Woodhead finished with the 12th most fantasy points out of running backs and in 2015, he was fantasy’s 3rd best running back. Woodhead’s pass-catching ability makes him a valuable asset in PPR leagues.

In Baltimore, Woodhead enters a situation where he should have a monopoly on a valuable pass-catching gig. The Ravens threw the most in the entire NFL last season with 679 pass attempts. 23 percent of those attempts were targeting a running back, a total of 157 targets. Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon figure to compete for early down attempts, while Woodhead plays passing downs.

Coach John Harbaugh called Woodhead a “big part of the passing game”, while Joe Flacco said Woodhead brings an element to the Ravens’ offense they’ve been missing since Ray Rice. The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec wrote he “lost track of how many” passes Woodhead caught during minicamp.

Currently drafted as RB28, Woodhead looks like a steal for Zero RB teams.

Frank Gore

While those who follow my writing know that I am not a Frank Gore guy, drafters are leaving him for dead. Yes, I am a big believer in the fact that running back age matters – we don’t like old running backs as they tend to decline quickly.

Despite that, the Colts continue to feed 34-year-old Gore the ball. While Gore was 33 last season, he finished as RB12 in Apex leagues. In 2015 at 32 years of age, Gore was RB14.

Although Gore isn’t the sexiest pick, we like him because of his cost. Currently drafted as RB35, Gore can be selected in the 8th round and has seen at least 250 carries for six straight seasons. CBS 4 Indy’s Mike Chappell expects Frank Gore to remain the Colts’ “workhorse” this season.