By: Seth Keller (Twitter: @FFTheatHomeDad)
A Running Back for Every Round
Running Backs (RBs) are the backbone of any good fantasy football team. Finding players that perform better than their average draft position (ADP) can be the difference between a championship team and a frustratingly Jeff Fisher-like average squad (btw happy belated Jeff Fisher day 8/8). The goal of this three-part made-for-tv mini-drama is to provide you with players to target as ADP values and players to avoid because their ADP cost outweighs their probable production.
Each section is broken down by round based on ADP pulled from fantasy football calculator based on 12 team standard scoring. Unless specifically mentioned, all point totals and season scoring is based on standard scoring (pulled from fantasydata.com).
So let’s start the fun!
David Johnson, LeVeon Bell, Ezekiel Elliot, and Devonta Freeman
I’m pretty happy with all of these guys and their respective ADP. Zeke will continue to fall with his recent 6 game suspension. Despite the suspension, I’m still taking him. Last year he scored less than 15 points in a game only 5 times (one was 14.8) two of them were his first two games. At this point, I would take DJ, Bell, and Freeman before Elliot.
LeSean McCoy and Melvin Gordon
The two players to be most nervous about are LeSean McCoy and Melvin Gordon. McCoy is aging and misses games (a lot of times when you need him the most i.e. one of my leagues last year!). However, Buffalo will run the ball, they are good at it and that has been and probably will be the engine that drives this offense. I’m not backing of off McCoy in the first but may handcuff him with Jonathon Williams in the 14th round (I’m not a fan of handcuffing but might make an exception here).
Gordon makes people nervous for a different reason. The Twitter universe either loves him or hates him and I can’t figure out why (very similar to Crowell in round 3). Gordon is on a good offense that will need to run the ball in order to mitigate Rivers turnovers and help out the defense. Even with the influx of receiving weapons, Gordon will still be integral in the passing game and should see a higher quality of rushes if not a higher quantity.
All in all, I’m happy with all of these guys and don’t see much movement from any of them as the preseason progresses.
This is the round of questions marks and personal feelings. People will argue tooth and nail about the success or failure of each of these guys. Although I don’t feel strongly one way or another, I’m avoiding everyone in this group with the exception of Murray. He is the only one with more than one year of success and without serious health concerns. There’s a lot of hype for Derrick Henry but I’m not buying that he replace Murray this year.
Miller is tough for me to get behind, more for personal reasons – he let me down in several leagues last year – than anything factual. He has a similar situation to last year which means I should like him but a broken heart is hard to heal. The Texans don’t have much of an offense to go along with a top notch defense. In order to win games they will need to run the clock and let the defense keep the other team out of the endzone. This should lead to a volume happy Miller he isn’t a bad play here if you aren’t afraid to love again. (Note: since initially writing this piece Miller has been climbing, if he goes much higher he might not hold the same draftable value)
Jordan Howard, Jay Ajayi, & Todd Gurley
Howard, Ajayi and Gurley all have had one good year. Howard and Ajayi could be set up for the sophomore slump that hit Gurley so hard in 2016. Chicago’s offense is downgraded by whichever new quarterback starts. This should increase his volume but at the cost of quality looks against softer boxes (2016 Gurley-esque). Ajayi set the fantasy world ablaze with three 200-yard rushing games last year. However, he only had two other games over the 11 points per game average needed to be an annual RB1 (check out the cut scores developed in this article link to rookie rb article). Ajayi was the definition of a boom or bust RB last year now sprinkle into his situation Jay Cutler and a concussion (yes he should be good to go week 1 but concussions are tricky and can linger). I think Gurley will do better this year than last but is capped by a horrible Rams offense.
Leonard Fournette & Marshawn Lynch
Now on complete opposite ends of the age spectrum we have Lynch and Fournette. Lynch is a huge upside gamble and could be the Raiders rendition of Blount in 2016 with the Patriots. Lynch is coming out of retirement for one more year to play with his hometown and the hype train has turned into “Crazy Train”. The Raiders could limit touches, relegate Lynch to goal line work, stash hm till a playoff push or just run him into the ground since it would be very unlikely he comes back for a second season.
Fournette on the other hand will be making his rookie debut with the Jaguars. Although coaches have said he has to earn the starting role, he shouldn’t have much trouble being a week 1 starter. Fournette is a play on whether you trust the jags to finally improve this season. They have been paper tigers (or should I say paper Jaguars, ha get it!) for a few years now and still haven’t produced a winning season. Their best fantasy assets Bortles and ARob have been garbage time heroes – not exactly promising for an RB. Lastly, I’m not reading too much into it but, this video could be a metaphor for Fournette’s upcoming season.
— Gary Criswell ✖ (@GaryCriswell) August 4, 2017
All in all, I’m probably going WR in the second round. I like my chances of hitting a WR1/2 more than the high risk low reward play at RB.
I’ll put it out there to start – I believe in The Crow! He would currently be the 14th RB of the board in the same position hr finished the 2016 season. The Browns improved their line, and have said they want to run the ball more. Yes, the Browns still have a terrible QB situation and yes, they will probably still be painful to watch lose week in and week out. BUT! That’s exactly what Crowell dealt with last year and still finished 14th. I’m projecting an increase in all of his numbers for next year – nothing astronomical, but an increase – making him worth drafting at his current ADP.
Ty Montgomery, Christian McCaffrey, & Joe Mixon
Ty Mont and the rookies, two more hotly debated topics. Ty Mont is on a great offense but is not a traditional RB. In Dynasty leagues, which are typically PPR, Ty Mont holds more value since his history is as a WR. His 220 pound frame does make him a contender at RB. But, the Packers did draft three RBs. Although, he did post over 800 scrimmage yards and 6 TDs from weeks 6 to 17. Basically, there are a lot of ways for this to play out. I’m not buying him as the 15th RB off the board, however if he slips to the 4th I would.
The rookies CMC and Mixon have a similar cost vs value issue in my opinion. They undoubtedly have the athletic ability and college tape to get people excited. Unfortunately, neither of them will set the world on fire week one. CMC has an aging but established Jonathan Stewart that will take touches and Mixon has Hill taking early down work and Gio Bernard taking 3rd down work. Now I agree with most people in predicting that they will and probably should take over their respective backfields. But if people get scared by a few game suspension why aren’t people assuming that the first few games of a rookie’s season would be a wash, especially in a split backfield (think Ajayi last year).
I don’t expect any of these guys to fall (unless an injury happens) but more highlight videos of the rookies could allow them to ride the hype train up the rankings. Aside from Crowell I would avoid the third round RBs as well.
We are getting to the mid rounds where fantasy champions are first forged. Being able to hit on RB here provides you with a wealth of options in the draft and in the season. Spencer Ware has had probably the quietest off-season of the 4 RBs in the fourth round. He also quietly took over the Chiefs backfield while Jamaal Charles was nursing injuries last year and quietly finished the season as the 16th RB in standard and 17th in ppr (in only 14 games). Kareem Hunt will push him for a starting role but could provide him a much needed breather (think a different breed of Freeman/Coleman). Spencer Ware’s ADP is pretty close to what you can expect from him making him a safety play at best in the 4th round.
Mike Gillislee & Carols Hyde
Mike Gillislee and Carlos Hyde have been all over Twitter this off-season but for different reasons. Gillislee is being hyped up as the must own back in New England with people expecting Legarrette Blount like numbers. Some rumblings have been hinting at a more intense running back by committee approach. Given Belichick’s history of finding and exploiting matchups, this seems more likely than Gillislee as a bellcow RB. On the other hand Hyde has been rumored to be a “surprise cut”. After the sheer bedlam from the rumor subsided most people agree that cutting your team’s best offensive weapon is asinine. But Hyde has under performed by most standards failing to eclipse 1000-yards rushing and dealing with injury. He did however finish in only 13 games as a solid RB2 on the season (15th standard 18th PPR). I don’t expect much more from Hyde or really any less. So as the 20th RB of the board you can expect a slight return on draft value (if he can keep his job).
Oh Dalvin Cook, welcome to the rollercoaster ride of entering the NFL. Cook was the first rookie pick after the college season then a lackluster combine dropped him down fantasy boards and probably NFL boards (he was drafted in the second after being projected as a first rounder). After being drafted by the abysmal offense known as the Minnesota Vikings people have split further on his value. Some argue that he will completely take hold of the backfield before the preseason is even over while others contend that he will be folded into a three headed committee with Latavius Murray handling early downs and goal line work while Jerrick McKinnon works on 3rd down. In my opinion, Cook stands the most to gain with an impressive camp and preseason. If he can show he can handle every down work, he could be fantasy relevant. Currently, I’m not willing to spend 4th round pick on a guy that is running behind the horrible Vikes line and isn’t solidified as a starter. He will be on my watch list through the preseason and into the season though.
The 4th round RBs are not who you are targeting in a zero RB draft but could see success as the second RB on your roster.
This is the value round I’m excited about. So many players here are being overlooked for one reason or another but could payoff way higher than their draft capital. On top of the 5th round value over cost is Paul Perkins. He should be the only Giants RB worth playing in real and fantasy football in 2017. Old man Jennings was able to be finish at the bottom of the RB3 last year in only 13 games. The younger Perkins should be able to move into that RB2 range helped out by an improved passing game pulling defenders out of the box. As the 27th RB off the board, I’d be happy taking Perkins at the end of the 5th and definitely in the 6th round.
LeGarrette Blount & CJ Anderson
LeGarrette Blount and CJ Anderson are a pair of veteran backs that I would also be happy taking in the 5th. Blount is coming into the Philly backfield as their only goal line option. He will not be a huge ppr asset or get a ton of yardage but touchdowns are key and he shouldn’t have a problem there.I’m not predicting another 18 TD season but double digits is certainly a very likely possibility. CJA has been difficult to own due to injury issues but when on the field has been a viable starter. In only 7 games, he was 13th in points per game at the RB position with 12.4 – over 16 games that would be 198.4 points, enough to have been the 10th best RB in 2016.
Ameer Abdullah & Doug Martin
Ameer Abdullah and Doug Martin I’m less thrilled about. AA is a good back but on a timeshare with Theo Riddick. Both of them have similar shifty, pass-catching narratives that makes it difficult to decide who will be the main guy. It’s possible that the pass happy Lions can support two 40+ reception backs, I would just be happier with AA as my second or third back. Doug Martin, who will you be this year? Dougie Fresh who wows everyone and finishes as and RB1 or cartoon Doug wearing a sweater vest and finishing outside the top 50 RBs. The suspension brings his draft capital down to a spot I would almost take the boom bust option but I’m still a round or two off. Similar to AA, drafting Martin here means that he will most likely be my second RB. I would either need to be really confident in their projections or really confident in the WRs I drafted to support my team while my RBs sort themselves out.
Lastly Adrian Peterson, sorry I’m not going to do it. Maybe it’s agism – he is 32 and going into his 11th season – maybe it’s the crowded backfield – he is listed as a “co-starter” with Mark Ingram – but I just haven’t found a drafting situation where I would pay a top 5th round pick for AP. Maybe he is another Frank Gore who can post RB2 numbers consistently until he is 34 years old. I’m just not seeing it. In 2016 the Saints’ backfield (Ingram, Hightower and Cadet) combined for 355 standard points. Hightower scored 104.8 points. A healthy AP could replicate this. But if you evenly divide the remaining total of Saints’ points (after removing cadets 15%) you get 150 points for AP and Ingram, 150 points would have been the RB 22.
Basically, a realistic projection of AP’s value as a “co-starter” in 2017 is between the RB 22 and beyond the top 50 (where Hightower finished). As the 22nd RB of the board he is being drafted at the top of his realistic realm. Furthermore, every position becomes available in the 5th round. There are too many other value options that I would rather pick up in the 5th round.
Next week will be rounds 6-10. Follow me on Twitter for updates and new articles. As always, much love to the FFdynasty260.com family.