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NFL 2017 Props: Most Rushing Yards
If he avoids suspension, back Ezekiel Elliott
Workhorse running backs — the ones that use to dominate the NFL — have become a dying breed. They've been phased out in favor of running back tandems, and sometimes triumvirates.
And you can't blame teams for the shift. Physicality in the league is at an all-time high — one guy simply can't take all that punishment nowadays. Even as touches for ball carriers plunge, their shelf life remains low. The NFL chews and spits out running backs quicker than any other position.
All this makes for an incredibly difficult futures bet. We've made it easier on yourself and chosen the top rushing title candidates:
Le'Veon Bell (+325)
Bell is the NFL's best do-all running back. He runs with a mix of power and elusiveness and can run routes with the best of them out of the backfield.
What makes us weary about picking Bell here is Pittsburgh's plethora of weapons. The Steelers love letting Ben Roethlisberger sit in the pocket and rifle passes to Antonio Brown, the returning-from-suspension Martavis Bryant, and even to Bell. That will cannibalize Bell's chances at finishing atop the rushing yards category.
Ezekiel Elliott (+350)
The last time a player won the rushing title in back-to-back seasons was Adrian Peterson in 2008. You would think that immediately dampens Elliott's chances, but not quite. Having just turned 22 years old last month, he's not beat up like his predecessors. Elliott is also running behind the best offensive line in football — three players on the unit earned Pro Bowl honors last year.
Elliott should command your prop bet money as long as he avoids any off-the-field punishment. Domestic violence allegations are currently clouding his sophomore season. Wait a few weeks before wagering on Elliott. If he dodges a suspension, take that as a green light to bet with him.
David Johnson (+1000)
Johnson gives Bell and Elliott a run for their money in the debate over the league's best running back. He checks every box in what you want from a running back — size, vision, speed, and playmaking ability. That complete package helped him find the end zone a whopping 20 times in 2016.
What hurts Johnson odds here is a quickly-aging offense. Carson Palmer is 37 years old and his arm fires like a pop gun. Larry Fitzgerald led the league in receptions, but is no longer a true deep threat. That means defenses might be stacking the box to stop Johnson more often than not.
Jay Ajayi (+1200)
If you're looking for a sleeper pick, Ajayi should be your guy. No running back had more rushing yards after contact in 2016 than Ajayi's 3.46. The bruising runner didn't start until week 5 and only topped 20 carries five times all season — yet he still scampered for 1,272 yards.
Ajayi will likely get more touches this season, especially after Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season with a knee injury. Let's be honest, an off-the-couch Jay Cutler isn't going to save the day. Miami's best hopes will be to feed Ajayi plenty.
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