Ezekiel Elliott is the slight favorite at +250 to regain the rushing title he won as a rookie in 2016 for the Dallas Cowboys. Incumbent rushing yards leader Kareem Hunt is well down the odds list in 2018. Hunt, who paced the NFL last season with 1,327 yards out of the backfield for the Kansas City Chiefs, is not expected to repeat. Todd Gurley, who is at +350 to take the rushing crown this season, missed the honor last season by just 25 yards.
Elliott is The Favorite
Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott is the favorite to win the rushing title in 2018. The 2016 rushing champ actually led the NFL in yards per game in 2017 at 98.3, eclipsing the others on the list by a minimum of 11 yards per game. The problem for Elliott is that he only played in 10 games due to a well-publicized suspension. The 98.3 yards per game was actually lower than his 108.7 yards per game in 2016 when he suited up for 15 contests.
With a full season to work with, it is expected that Elliott will regain the crown from Kareem Hunt. Hunt, ironically, could find himself in a situation much like Elliott’s last year if he is investigated and disciplined by the league.
Kareem Hunt at +1400
Hunt, who was accused in February of assaulting a female, had more accusations come his way in June, this time for punching a male. Hunt has drawn the wrong kind of media attention since winning the rushing title as a rookie. His odds at Sportsbook are +1400 to repeat.
The inflated odds are likely a combination of the likelihood of discipline from the league and the fact that there hasn’t been a repeat Sportsbook of the award since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and 2007.
Hunt averaged 4.9 yards per carry, the most of any player with 200 or more attempts.
Who Else is in the Running?
As previously mentioned, Todd Gurley shows up on the oddsboard at +350, second to Elliott. Just behind Gurley is Le’Veon Bell, one of last year’s pre-season co-favorites, at +400 to win in 2018.
Bell finished third overall in rushing yards in 2017 despite being the only player in the league with over 300 attempts. His 321 touches were 34 more than LeSean McCoy, who was second in attempts with 287. Both Bell and McCoy averaged 4.0 yards per carry.
Speaking of McCoy, his odds sit at +2800. This number is eye-Sportsbook at first, especially for a guy who was in the top five last year. However, like Hunt, McCoy is facing allegations – robbery and assault, in his case – and could miss some games via suspension.
Mark Ingram, who was fifth overall in rushing yards in 2017, appears on the list at +10000. Ingram will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy. He had an appeal shot down in May, paving the way for him to miss a quarter of the season, all but eliminating him from contention for the rushing title.
Dalvin Cook (+1200) is returning from an ACL injury that derailed a promising start to his season last year. With Latavius Murray on the roster, it’s expected the Vikes won’t overload Cook this year, and while he’s likely to have a good year, he may not contend for the rushing lead.
Leonard Fournette (+800), Saquon Barkley (+1200) and Derrick Henry (+4000) have all been mentioned in the same breath as the top guys in the league.
The full oddsboard is below:
|Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)||+250|
|Todd Gurley (LAR)||+350|
|Le’Veon Bell (PIT)||+400|
|Leonard Fournette (JAX)||+800|
|David Johnson (ARI)||+1000|
|Saquon Barkley (NYG)||+1200|
|Dalvin Cook (MIN)||+1200|
|Jordan Howard (CHI)||+1300|
|Kareem Hunt (KC)||+1400|
|Melvin Gordon (LAC)||+2000|
|Devonta Freeman (ATL)||+2500|
|LeSean McCoy (BUF)||+2800|
|Jay Ajayi (PHI)||+3300|
|Alvin Kamara (NO)||+4000|
|Derrick Henry (TEN)||+4000|
|Derrius Guice (WSH)||+6600|
|Kenyan Drake (MIA)||+6600|
|Marshawn Lynch (OAK)||+7500|
|Lamar Miller (HOU)||+7500|
|CJ Anderson (DEN)||+10000|
|Mark Ingram (NO)||+10000|
|Christian McCaffrey (CAR)||+15000|
|Carlos Hyde (SF)||+15000|
Odds as of August 2 at Sportsbook
Predicting who will lead the NFL in rushing yards has been far from a science over the past several years. Dating back to the 2009 season, seven different players have paced the league in rushing yards; Adrian Peterson was the lone back to accomplish the feat twice.
On top of that, the volatility and quick deterioration of running backs have played a big factor in the rushing leader. In the same eight-season span we reference above, seven of the leading rushers were 27 years old or younger. Again, the lone exception is Peterson.
Oddsmakers have taken notice of these two trends and have pegged Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson as small +300 co-favorites to pace the NFL in rushing yards this season. Neither the Pittsburgh Steelers nor Arizona Cardinals back has finished first in rushing in his career, and both are 25 years old or younger.
Bell’s patience and versatility make him arguably the best running back in the NFL and it seems like he is destined to win at least one rushing crown. That being said, Bell has only played 16 games once during his previous four years in the NFL, which is more than a little concerning.
Johnson exploded in his sophomore campaign last season and the sky is clearly the limit entering his third season in the NFL. Johnson found himself on the field for over 80 percent of the Cardinals snaps last season thanks to his ability to both run and catch the ball. The one knock is that the passing game has been good but seems due for a drop-off considering the age at QB and WR.
One back who pops out to me is Todd Gurley (+2000). The LA Rams bell cow was absolutely dominant in his rookie season but struggled under the antiquated system that Jeff Fisher ran during his sophomore campaign. Enter Sean McVay. The new Rams coach actually understands how to operate an NFL offense in the 21st century and the offensive line has gotten some boosts in free agency, but Gurley’s stats will be dependent on Jared Goff’s growth. If the quarterback looks as dreadful as he did during his rookie campaign, then defenses can stack the box to stop Gurley. But if Goff can at least be OK, then No. 30 could be in for a good year.
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