Now Without Elliott, who do the odds favor to lead the NFL in Rushing?

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With last year’s leading Running Back Ezekiel Elliott facing a 6 game suspension, we are set to see a new man at the rushing helm. Who opens 2017 with the best odds?

Top 10 Odds

LeVeon Bell – (+300)

David Johnson – (+300)

Jordan Howard – (+1000)

Demarco Murray – (+1000)

Jay Ajayi – (+1000)

Lesean McCoy – (+1600)

Melvin Gordon – (+1800)

Todd Gurley – (+2000)

Devonta Freeman – (+2200)

Marshawn Lynch – (+2500)

With Elliott’s 1600 yards not returning, the top 6 odds all go to players who totalled within 70 yards of each other; Howard finished second with 1310, David Johnson finished 7th with 1240. Note that Melvin Gordon was on pace for 1300 if he hadn’t missed what amounted to 4 games, but we’ll touch on that later.

David Johnson and LeVeon Bell both come in with the most favorable odds at +300. They are easily the leagues most talented backs, with the jury still out on Elliott carrying over multiple seasons success.

The issue with taking odds like Bell, Johnson, or LeSean “Shady” McCoy is that not only are they talented Running Backs, but are also key pieces in their squad’s passing attacks. Offensive Coordinators like to get their players a specific number of touches a game, and catching passes will take away from their rushing totals.

For example, Elliott, Howard, and Jay Ajayi all had more rushing yards than McCoy, Bell, and Johnson, who all had significantly more receiving yards.

The outlier is the 3rd overall rusher DeMarco Murray, who seems to bounce back and forth between supremely talented and underwhelming. He enters 2017 29 years old coming off 1200 yards, and has shown after each good season he will lose close to 46% of his previous production. This of course excludes 2013-2014, when he built on a strong season. With a young Quarterback in Marcus Mariota and a talented runner in Derrick Henry behind him, he could be on his way out of Tennesse in 9 months.

Jordon Howard comes off a strong rookie season, and on a Bears offense that strongly needs talent, they could continue to funnel through him. We strongly like his odds at +1000 to build on his incredible 1300 yard season that only began in week 6 of the season.

Devonta Freeman on the other hand has no chance, where he is just the opposite: he is just too buried on an overwhelmingly talented Falcons offense. He seems to run out of steam after passing 1000 yards each season.

Jay Ajayi is very boom or bust, and probably the best odds if you think a player may pass the 2000 yard mark. He had troubles crossing the 60 yard mark most weeks, with only 4-100 yard games. The boom aspect comes from the fact that 3 of those games were for over 200 yards, 2 back to back against strong defenses. He also is no threat to catch the ball, so all his touches come on the ground.

Lynch and Gurley are two backs that just aren’t in the right situations to lead the league. The Rams can’t stop teams from focusing Gurley and smothering him, and Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch is 30 years old on an offense that only wants the final piece to their Super Bowl team.

We’d like to plant our flag in Melvin Gordon to close this out. On a team that simply couldn’t protect their backfield, Gordon rushed for 997 yards in 12 games (1 touch in the 13th game) and looked ridiculously unstoppable. He caught a lot of balls for over 400 yards, but with star team mate Keenan Allen returning to catch passes that takes some of those touches out of Gordon’s hands. They also significantly improved the offensive line in front of him. He very easily could lead the league with 1500 yards, which is so inviting at odds of +1800.

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