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RB Committee Review

prosiseOften times the running back position is the most volatile when we enter the preseason as NFL head coaches have begun to compliment their rosters with a deeper stable of running backs, ultimately leading to ugly fantasy committees.

While we do our best to read the tea leaves early in the preseason, ultimately there are several surprises that pop up as we enter the games that matter.

Washington Redskins – Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine

What started as one of the trendiest picks of the off-season, the hype surrounding Perine has cooled off considerably after a roller coaster of a preseason. At times he was dominant, but at others he was lethargic and failed to hit the holes. It seems for a time that Rob Kelley is back in the driver seat in the Washington backfield. If you’re an owner of either of these backs, though, I’d compel you to pay close attention to how Kelley plays early because the leash will likely be short.

Carolina Panthers – Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey

There is certainly going to be a division of responsibility in this backfield but what seemed early on to be McCaffrey’s backfield to lose has become a bit of a committee after a rather impressive preseason by incumbent starter Stewart. At his current ADP Stewart is the far more valuable back as he’ll be in line for the bulk of the goal line carries and a good amount of inside the 20 runs, but McCaffrey certainly offers a lot of upside especially in PPR leagues. Be cautious at his current value, though, as Stewart is all but guaranteed to get a good portion of the split.

Cleveland Browns – Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr.

While I personally think that Crowell will get the bulk of meaningful carries in this offense, the truth is that the fantasy community is divided over the value of the 24 year old back. With Johnson in the fray, third downs and passing situations are going to be his, so Crowell’s value caps at roughly a RB2 but both backs could be in line for a lot of work as the passing game took a bit of a step back with the loss of Terrelle Prior. It should be interesting to see if Crowell can be more consistent this year, because he has a chance to really reward drafters during the season.

Green Bay Packers – Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams

I’m not sure if I’m in the minority on this one, but I find it hard to believe that the Green Bay drafted Williams this year without the intentions of starting him at his natural position. Montgomery is a fantastic passing option out of the backfield but he struggles in pass protection and he hasn’t nearly shown the consistency necessary to be considered a top 25 back, yet here we are. I’d argue that Williams will be the starter before season end and in the first few weeks the time share in the backfield will skew heavily in his favor.

New England Patriots – Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead

A mainstay on these committee lists, New England went out and procured two new running backs in the off season and fantasy players were left scratching their heads at how all of these backs could possibly be used. As the season inches closer we still don’t know. The truth is that Gillislee is the most talented back on the roster in terms of running the football. After his success in Buffalo, New England sought out a back they could give the ball to 15 times a game and he should be the guy. Burkhead was a trendy pick after a few really solid practices and preseason performances, but I’d caution that James White is the true pass catching back in this offense leaving little more than scraps for Burkhead to work with.

New Orleans Saints – Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson

It seems disingenuous to your 27 year old former Heisman trophy winner to go out and sign a 32 year old Adrian Peterson to compete for touches, but that’s exactly what the Saints did. Are they worried about Ingram’s injury history? Possibly, but I think that they saw a possibly stud that could help the team and said to hell with the consequences in terms of fantasy. For me, I’m not touching this backfield because both backs are capable number ones and there’s little reason for the Saints to favor one over the other. This is a straight up 50/50 committee and unless you think one or the other is going to get hurt, this is a backfield to avoid (especially that both backs are being drafted in the top 30-35 of the position!)

New York Jets – Bilal Powell and Matt Forte

One wonders if Matt Forte has anything left in the tank. After a surprisingly effective start to the year, Forte slowed significantly, opening running room for Powell who managed 750 or so yards on only 131 carries. Even if Forte starts the season at the top of the depth chart, Powell figures to be the third down pack, and is in line for 50-60 receptions on top of whatever yards he manages on the ground. Neither back is going to be a big factor in terms of touchdowns leaving Powell with the only back with value on the roster as Forte is likely to see his touches and yards decline.

Seattle Seahawks – Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, and C.J. Prosise 

I could have included Carson’s name in there as well, but the competition really features a who’s who of injury report players and ineffective cast offs. Lacy was once an early fantasy pick after two monster years in Green Bay but now he finds himself running behind a porous offensive line with younger, more talented backs breathing down his neck. With Thomas Rawls, his only question is his health, as he is mightily effective when he DOES play. Will he play? Who knows, as he’s alreaddy dealing with some bumps and bruises. For my money, pass catcher C.J. Prosises is the best pick in the backfield. It’s not unrealistic to think he’ll lead the ground game too, but he’ll be in line for 40+ catches and at his current draft spot (later and later) he’ll return your investment in spades if you flex him right.

 

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The Aging Running Back

They tell you that NFL Running Backs last only a couple of years, that after 30 they fall off the proverbial cliff. While I subscribe to that notion in general, it’s clear that every few years we’re presented with an “exception to the rule” and it’s our job as drafters to identify who can be trusted and who should be thrown in the “Do Not Draft” category.

Colts Vikings Football

This year, there are several starting NFL running backs that fall under that umbrella, and a few more still that figure to take up a large chunk of their offenses plays from the backfield. So who should you draft and who should you skip?

  1. Marshawn Lynch – 31 Years Old: Beast Mode is back, and the expectation in Oakland is that following Latavius Murray’s exit it will be Lynch in the backfield for all three downs. The situation is perfect for a renaissance, as the odometer on Lynch is still relatively low for a career starter in his 30’s. Expect a solid year with fantastic upside in the high powered Oakland offense.
  2. Danny Woodhead – 32 Years Old: Woodhead may fall into the “over 30” club but his tires have very little wear on them compared to backs who’ve started their whole careers. As a pass catching specialist in an offense that historically targets their backs, Woodhead’s only real danger is on the injury front. When he’s on the field, he’s dynamic and his age can be ignored.
  3. Frank Gore – 34 Years Old: Long ago I gave up on trying to figure out when Gore was going to slow down. A back who relies on vision and scheme to be effective, Gore continues to impress even as the he nears the end of a storied career. Indianapolis is going to pass first, which only helps to keep the defense from committing to stoping Gore. Expect another 1,000 yards and 4 YPC from the ageless one.
  4. Adrian Peterson – 32 Years Old: It’s clear that he won’t be the top dog in New Orleans but the Saints seem to favor a general split to keep Ingram healthy so you can expect a reasonably large workload for a back being drafted later in drafts than he should be. All reports point towards Peterson running with a chip on his shoulder, so the potential for him to steal 200+ carries exists, but there’s no telling how effective he’ll be following a lost season.
  5. Matt Forte – 31 Years Old: Forte has shown all the tell-tale signs of slowing down over the last few years and one expects that even if he gets off to a quick start that age will drag him down again. After a slow finish last year, the consensus was that Bilal Powell may take over for the bulk of the carries, but New York insists that Forte is their guy. So for the time being, he’ll have the lion’s share of touches, but be aware that drafting Forte is likely committing a pick for a guy who’s effectiveness has pretty clearly been proven to drop off after a few weeks.
  6. Jamaal Charles – 30 Years Old: I have faith that Charles has plenty left in the tank, but the fact remains that after being the 3 down horse in Kansas City for so long, there is serious concern that Charles can return to form. Denver can use him even if he’s primarily a pass catching back but the landing spot won’t do him any favors if he’s slowed down any. With Paxton Lynch or Trevor Semein as your starting QB, he’s likely to face plenty of stacked boxes. As a late round flier he’s worth a look but he may just be done as a fantasy option
  7. Jonathan Stewart – 30 Years Old: It’s not fair to Jonathan Stewart that he’s never been given the reigns to the Carolina offense, but even when his backfield competition left and he played well in an expanded role, the Panthers brought in other backs to take over. Queue the McCaffrey pick and you can see why Stewart is at the bottom of my list. Expect the rookie to dominate touches early, and with Cam Newton calling his own number more than most QB’s the writing is on the wall for the aging vet. Drafting Stewart is a crap shoot that’s likely to blow up in your face.

The New Orleans Backfield Puzzle

One of the more shocking developments to come along over the off season was future hall of fame RB Adrian Peterson signing for two years in New Orleans. While the writing was certainly on the wall in Minnesota, Peterson’s arrival on the Saints roster creates a bit of a logjam with Mark Ingram, Tavaris Cadet and Rookie RB Alvin Kamara all vying for playing time. Ingram

At his current ADP of 70 (information provided via ESPN data) it’s clear that Peterson is being viewed with a great deal of caution after years in the spotlight come draft day. It’s certainly important to remember that before Peterson’s season ended last year he had rewarded first round attention with 72 yards and 1.9 YPC mark. While he’s certain to improve his efficiency (his career YPC is 4.9) the question remains how many touches can he reasonably expect?

The Saints ran 404 rushing plays last year, with 205 of them going to Ingram who remains entrenched as the Saints starter. I’d expect that number to remain about the same (as well as a YPC around 5) so at his 5th round price (around pick 45) he’s a veteran presence who if healthy (and looking at his career that is a big if) should provide a decent return. In PPR leagues he commands a better draft position as his 45-50 receptions should put him in line as a borderline RB1.

In the very late rounds, rookie RB Alvin Kamara is worth a look as his skill set could reward owners if Ingram or Peterson miss a good chunk of games. The Saints are keen on keeping the workload reasonable on their aging backs and Kamara can slot in on both rushing and passing downs. If both backs ahead of him stay healthy his ceiling is relatively low (40-60 rushes for 200-270 yards and 150 yards through the air) so he’s likely a waiver watch candidate rather than a flier, but in keeper and dynasty leagues could be worth a look late.

Predictions

Mark Ingram: He’ll continue to dominate the backfield as he’s finally comfortable with the offense and could see a greater number of passes with the departure of Brandin Cooks. 1,100 rushing yards with 6 TDs on the ground and 55 receptions for 390 yards and 2 TDs through the air.

Adrian Peterson: He may have some value if he can score a few red zone looks early, but he’s unlikely to steal enough carries to be worth drafting in the first 6-8 rounds. 450 rushing yards with 4 TDs on the ground and not much through the air.

Alvin Kamara: An NFL ready prospect by all accounts, Kamara will need an injury or two ahead of him to make an impact. Seeing the two names above him, I see that as a likely event. 300 rushing yards and 1 TD on the ground and 30 receptions for 200 yards and 1 TD through the air

Top 10 (Running Backs)

  1. Adrian Peterson – Peterson is still the king and will be until the numbers say otherwise. 1700 total yars and 11 TD’s and enough in the passing game to plant him at the top even in PPR leagues, he’s the most likely of the top 10 to finish the season atop the most volitile position in Fantasy Football.
  2. Todd Gurley – He average more per touch than anyone not named Doug Martin (that carried the ball a significant amount). With a new QB in martinrookie Jared Goff, it will be interesting to see what he’ll do with more informed defensive schemes. I expect he’ll be just fine, but don’t be surprised if he has stretches where he disappears.
  3. Jamaal Charles – Every year he could be number one, but his injury history isn’t promising. If there was ever a handcuff candidate, it’s the ultra talented Jamaal Charles.
  4. Lamar Miller – I’m firmly on the hype bandwagon surrounding Millers move to Houston. A team that knows how to run the football will use him as their bellcow… a rarity in the NFL these days. It’s not a stretch to see him approach the league lead in combined yards by the end of the year.
  5. David Johnson – Carson Palmer was healthy all last year, and Johnson emerged as the Cardinals lead back. Now he has to prove it as the starter that it wasn’t just flash and smoke. If healthy, he’ll be a top 5 back.
  6. Le’Veon Bell – The only back in the Gurly/Peterson level of fantasy production, Bell did his owners a disservice by being suspended to start the year a second season in a row. Even missing 4 games, he’s nearly a top 5 RB.
  7. Mark Ingram – Will he be 100% to start the season? Who knows, but the New Orleans offense will put up points, and Ingram has proven that he can do what the coaches ask of him in both the run and the pass game.
  8. LeSean McCoy – Is Reggie bush an insurance policy or motivation? There’s some question marks with McCoy, and adding Bush to the backfield added just one more to consider when making that late 2nd round RB pick.
  9. Doug Martin – I feel like I’m being a bit harsh with the “Muscle Hamster” – after all he put up a top 3 season last year. But he’s always been mercurial and he’s just as likely to return to earth as he is to continue at the top of the position.
  10. Eddie Lacy  – I haven’t seen a lot of lists that have Lacy in their top ten, and I can say honestly that I’m excited about getting him later in drafts than he should be going. Lacy clearly heard the chatter surrounding his awful season last year, and he’s put the work in over the offseaon to come into camp ready to go. If it’s one thing Mike McCarthy is, he’s loyal to the players who do what the team asks. Green Bay is still a top 5 offense, and Lacy is likely to get the bulk of the work early on to see if he’s indeed the same player they thought he was when they drafted him.

Missed the cut

Ezekial Elliott (I don’t care that Dallas has the best O-line in football, he’s done nothing at the NFL level to justify a top 10 pick), Devonta Freeman (Whether or not he’ll put it together for 16 strong games remain to be seen. Freeman is gifted and could be a steal if he gets it together), Latavius Murray (A monster, Murray touched the football more than all but a handful of NFL backs. He’s likely to get even better as the youthful offense in Oakland gels) Thomas Rawls (This is a player I’m intrigued by. He’s quietly accepted the mantel from the departing Beast Mode, and we all know how stubborn Pete Carroll is. They’ll run the ball a ton and he’ll have a chance to put up huge numbers if he can run the offense beside Russell Wilson).

5 Backup RB’s to Target as Lottery Ticket Fliers

payneIt’s late in the draft and you’re looking for potential high reward fliers at the running back position. This stratagy is nothing new and you’ve done your research: you’re looking for the next Priest Holmes. We’re going to ignore backs that are the small head in a two headed RB by committee monster; these backs are solid backups that given the chance to start and carry a heavy work load have the goods to be fantasy studs (think C.J. Anderson). Below are 5 backs you may be able to get very late in your draft that could turn into fantasy gold without a lot of risk.

Jerick McKinnon – Solidly behind returning starter Adrian Peterson, McKinnon took some time to hit his stride last year while Peterson was on the shelf, but his freak athletesism had begun to shine through. A shorter, more compact back (5’10” and 210 pounds) McKinnon is agressive but can make you miss in the open field. Although when Peterson is healthy he may not see more than 5-7 touches per week, if Peterson misses any significant time (he is 30 and coming off of a severe injury) McKinnon immediately becomes a RB2.

Knile Davis – Another back sitting behind an incumbent RB1, Davis is a bruiser whose surprising burst makes for a good plus yardage back when given enough opportunity. Charles is a safe bet to miss some time, and Davis is poised to make good on

Andre Williams – It’s a good bet that Williams sees some time on the field this year regardless of if Rashad Jennings misses any time. Although Williams had a hard time with tearing off big runs, it’s not surprising given his skill set is more  to bash the football down your throat. At 230 pounds, he’s a red zone beast, and his 7 touchdowns in limited time (217 touches) was a revelation. Given regular time, he’ll put up solid numbers between the 20’s but the red zone prowess is where he’ll excel.

Matt Jones – Alfred Morris has done little to impress since his breakout year in 2012. He’s a solid yet unspectacular back who runs well between the tackles and finds pay dirt regularly. Still, the Redskins invested a third round pick in Matt Jones from Florida, a big physical runner who’s burst and open field skills are unusual for a man his size (6’2, 230lbs). If Morris finds himself on the bench or IR for any length of time, Matt Jones could run away with the job; literally. In this crop of excellent rookie RB’s, Jones may be overlooked and fall deep into drafts.

Cameron Artis-Payne – Artis-Paynce is a name that’s beginning to pop up on sleeper lists left and right, and rightfully so. In a Carolina backfield that features exciting if not made-of-glass RB Jonathan Stewart, it’s suggested that Artis-Payne would see the bulk of the carries if an injury occured. He isn’t a home run hitter, he’s a between the tackles runner, but has a much better 3 down skill set than Whitaker, and could make the most of it for a Carolina team that will run the ball a lot

Updated: RB Rankings

Updated 6/17

  1. Le’Veon Bell
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. Marshawn Lynch
  4. Eddie Lacy
  5. Jamaal Charles
  6. Matt Forte
  7. Arian Foster
  8. C.J. Anderson
  9. DeMarco Murray
  10. LeSean McCoy
  11. Lamar Miller
  12. Jeremy Hill
  13. Alfred Morris
  14. Justin Forsett
  15. Carlos Hyde
  16. Latavius Murray
  17. Mark Ingram
  18. Melvin Gordon
  19. Jonathan Stewart
  20. Frank Gore
  21. Joique Bell
  22. T.J. Yeldon
  23. Andre Ellington
  24. Giovanni Bernard
  25. Joseph Randle
  26. Rashad Jennings
  27. Darren McFadden
  28. Isaiah Crowell
  29. LeGarrett Blount
  30. Tre Mason
  31. Todd Gurley
  32. Tevin Coleman
  33. Devonta Freeman
  34. Chris Ivory
  35. Doug Martin
  36. Ameer Abdullah
  37. Bishop Sankey
  38. Ryan Mathews
  39. C.J. Spiller
  40. Shane Vereen
  41. Fred Jackson
  42. Montee Ball
  43. Knile Davis
  44. Andre Williams
  45. Matt Jones
  46. Terrance West
  47. DeAngelo Williams
  48. David Cobb
  49. Stevan Ridley
  50. Lorenzo Taliaferro
  51. Fozzy Whitaker
  52. David Johnson
  53. Roy Helu
  54. Dan Herron
  55. Charles Sims
  56. Reggie Bush
  57. Danny Woodhead
  58. Jonas Gray
  59. Toby Gerhart
  60. Jay Ajayi
  61. Darren Sproles
  62. Trent Richardson
  63. Khiry Robinson
  64. Matt Asiata
  65. Alfred Blue

3 Up

Justin Forsett – New OC Marc Tressman has worked his magic in previous stops turning RB’s into intergral parts of the offense (think Matt Forte in Chicago). The advantage is that Baltimore intends to retain a semblance of balance so a healthy Forsett could see a spike in overall touches as he sees the ball in the passing game.

Frank Gore – Every year it seems that Gore drops down our draft boards only to reward loyal owners with consistency and fantasy production. Leaving the disfunctional fold in San Fransisco for greener pastures in Indy should help him remain near the top of the middle teir of RB’s. Although he won’t be featured heavily in the passing game, Gore is a safe bet to out perform his draft position.

Tre Mason – Todd Gurley is the heir apparent in St. Louis, that much is clear. But it will be at least until late in the season for him to supplant Mason as the starter in the offense, yet when looking at respective rankings, Mason’s value seems to far out pace his teammate. I expect a solid 4-6 weeks of unchallenged leadership, and if he plays great, the Rams will be in no rush to put Gurley back in harms way.

3 Down

Andre Ellington – A return to the passing game with a healthy Carson Palmer, and the addition of David Johnson in the draft means that Ellington’s value takes a massive hit in non PPR leagues. He’ll still get the lions share of passing attempts to RB’s in the offense, but John Brown figures to make more of an impact in the passing game, limiting Ellingtons contributions there as well.

Rashad Jennings – Averaging less than 4 yards a carry and having pay dirt stolen away by rookie Andre Williams spells a downturn in production to the aging Jennings. Expect Williams to push for more touches, and eventually supplant Jennings as the starter.

Joique Bell – A knee injury has opened the door in OTA’s and mini camps for Ameer Abdullah to run with the first team offense, and all accounts show that he’s impressed Detroit’s coaching staff with his play. Even if Bell returns as the starter in Detroit, his days as the bell horse in this offense are nearing an end as Abdullah is the future for the Lions.

Team Rankings 23-13

Our previous exercise continues as we look at our teams in the middle. You may not agree with all of my rankings, but each of these teams pair good to great fantasy options with other question marks on offense.

23. Kansas City Chiefs

I know what you’re thinking, “they have Jamaal Charles!” That alone does not elevate this team higher on my list. Alex Smith is a fine game manager, but his deep ball is lacking and if the numbers from the WR’s last season indicate anything, this team doesn’t have a lick of consistency. Jeremy Maclin is an upgrade over Dwayne Bowe, but even this is speculative as Maclin could be the next WR to disappear from relevance. Travis Kelce has elite talent but had several brutal weeks to go with his successful ones. Worth drafting: Jamaal Charles is going to go in the first round, for good reason, but to expect 16 healthy games is unrealistic, Knile Davis is a fine handcuff. Travis Kelce finished near the top of TE’s but had some really bad weeks; draft with cautious optimism that he can be even better. Alex Smith is a QB2 or bench depth at best; he’ll never be a top 10 QB.

22. Oakland Raiders

Young, skilled, and unpredictable. This team could very well surprise and finish with several high profile fantasy heroes. Derek Carr showed flashes of brilliance last year, and the addition-by-subtraction move to let Darren McFadden go means the talented Latavius Murray will get the start in the backfield. Add Amari Cooper into the mix and you have the makings of a solid offensive team. Worth Drafting: Latavius Murray is a popular pick to elevate his game, especially after reports indicated they’ll be tailoring the offense to Murray’s strengths. Cooper will likely be valued a little high on draft day so you may be disappointed in year one. Carr showed he has what it takes to make it in the NFL, I expect him to elevate his game even more.

21. Minnesotta Vikings

There’s a lot of distraction with the Adrian Peterson saga still unfolding, but I’m operating under the assumption that he starts in week one for the Vikes. Even still, expect them to ease him back into the line up, lightening the load early. Teddy Bridgwater is in the same boat as Carr; a ton of talent but still has to prove how to use it. His WR’s are a bit of a question mark. Charles Johnson seems like he might be a breakout candidate, but Mike Wallace is an over the top receiver with little upside compared to his contemporaries. I’d love for Kyle Rudolph to bring it all together, as he has elite TE talent, but can’t stay on the field. Worth Drafting: Adrian Peterson could still be the AP of old, and many will bet that he is. At worst he’s still a RB1. Bridgewater has to do it with less weapons than the other youngsters in the league, so I figure he’ll struggle to find his stride early, but could suprise; a good upside QB 2 with no threat to his job. Maybe I just don’t like Mike Wallace, but I don’t think he’s as much of a difference maker going forward as I think they’ll look to involve Johnson and Patterson a bit more, both of whom are worth a look later in drafts. Kyle Rudolph will be less expensive than he has been in the past, I’d bet on the production if healthy.

20.  Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton is only 26 years old, so the feeling that he’s past his prime is just wrong. He’s matured and should be healthy heading into the year. Top 5 finish isn’t out of the question, but a conservative view has him around 10 in my rankings. Jonathan Stewart has the pieces, but the health elludes him. He’ll be good when he’s on the field but I’d rather go elsewhere in the first 3 rounds. Kelvin Benjamin should benefit the most from Newton’s presence, and should be a top 10WR target. Worth Drafting: Newton and Benjamin need each other for success, as the other pieces are lacking. Stewart is a fine back but I’d bet it’s more probable than not that he misses time. Cotchery in PPR leagues could be worth a look in the middle rounds, or a late flier in non-PPR.

19. San Fransisco 49ers

Every year there’s a QB that I think is going to elevate to the top teir. Last year it was Ben Roethlisber, this year it’s Colin Kaepernick. He struggle last year trying to adjust to a pocket passing role. In the off season he’s worked tirelessly to improve his efficiency and I expect hiim to see a spike in fantasy production. Carlos Hyde will likely get drafted far to early, and I caution against over hyping a player that has never been a full time starter. Adding Torrey Smith means more room for Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin to run. Both should continue to see good production, and Smith should benefit from Kaep’s strong arm down the feild. Worth Drafting: My bold prediction is Kaepernick finishes inside the top 10 at his position. Boldin is a machine and should produce, and Vernon Davis will bounce back. Carlos Hyde will look good for stretches but I don’t want him as my RB1.

18. New England Patriots

At this time, Brady is expected to miss 4 games, meaning a quarter of the season will feature backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Despite that the experts think he’s still the best QB in the division, I sense a down tick in production for each of New Englands big guns. Edeleman relies on Brady’s accuracy and LaFell is usually a later option. Can Garoppolo read the D like Brady and involve all of his weapons? Brady could beat his suspension which would likely rank this offense higher. Worth Drafting: Tom Brady has a chip on his shoulder, if you can survive 4 weeks with a backup QB, he’s worth a pick. I don’t draft a Patriots RB ever, for reason that should be obvious. Blount is not an elite NFL running back. Gronk shouldn’t see too much of a dip in production, but LaFell and Edeleman may struggle for a few weeks.

17. Cincinnatti Bengals

Andy Dalton has been the most frustrating of NFL quarterbacks in terms of fantasy. He produces for a time, then he kills you for a time. AJ Green is a stud, even if his numbers took a hit with Dalton’s struggles last year. The big question is does the team invest in surprise starter Jeremy Hill or does it go back to Gio Bernard? Worth Drafting: Dalton has shown he can be a low end QB starter, but you’re asking a lot from a player that struggled at times. A.J. Green is a safe pick, he’s as elite as any in the league. Despite Jeremy Hill’s success on the field, he put up similar numbers to Gio Bernard when he started, I feel a committee coming on.

16. New Orleans Saints

If you’re convinced Mark Ingram finally hit his stride, that could spell disaster for Drew Brees as he’s tumbling down draft boards with managements admittance that they’d like to balance the offense. No more will Brees attempt 650 passes, and this hurts them across the board. Brandin Cooks is a great WR and should do well taking over for Colston as the #1, but Ingram is the big question mark. An underwhelming start to his career was instantly wiped out of the minds of fantsy owners after a solid, if unspectacular year. Worth Drafting: Despite the reports, I’m not convinced Ingram can carry the load, and if Brees falls due to the buzz, I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him in the 3rd or 4th round. Ingram isn’t going to hit a lot of home runs but he should avg around 4 YPC and have a handful of TD’s. The fear is injuries or regression. Cooks is a stud in the making, and Brees will be looking to him often. Colston is another player who may fall beyond their value in your draft. PS. Josh Hill is not Jimmy Graham, so don’t mistake the two come draft day.

15. Baltimore Ravens

When Torrey Smith left, I was worried that Flacco lost his deep threat, but Breshad Perriman could prove to be an even better reciever than Smith. Steve Smith Sr. will likely prove his doubters wrong, and Justin Forsett finally provides stability in the backfield even with Taliefaro lurking in the wings. Worth Drafting: As always, Flacco takes a hit due to the scheme Baltimore runs, but his up weeks are great, solid back up or QB 2 in two quartback leagues. In ways that I don’t with other backs, I believe Forsett can run the football well enough to be a fantasy contributor. Steve Smith will be good again, and Perriman should be one of the rookies to perform in the top 20 of his position.

14. Arizona Cardinals

The team didn’t replace Ellington in the draft, meaning they think he can still perform. Maybe they’re not ready to say that a healthy Carson Palmer will make things different across the board. The stable of WR’s in Arizona are deep and talented, and they should create mismatches across the field. Worth Drafting: Palmer when healthy has the tools around him to be a top 15QB. Fitzgerald is a safe bet to be a top 10 WR and between Michael Floyd and John Brown, defenses will have a hard time adjusting. All of these players will be in play come draft day. Andre Ellington will either play well or be pushed out by the talented David Johnson, who I’d look at as a sleeper in the late rounds. Either way, there should be more consistency the backfield to open up the passing game.

13. Philadelphia Eagles

I personally think all things being equal, Sam Bradford is a superior quarterback to Nick Foles. Add in DeMarco Murray and you have the makings of a good to great offense. Jordan Matthews is only 22 but has big play ability and Chip Kelly has excelled with speedy talented players. The biggest boon for this team was the addition of DeMarco Murray. If LeSean McCoy’s troubles were less about running lanes and more about the runner, Murray should be in for another good year with a ton of touches. Worth Drafting: DeMarco Murray is still a top 5 back, and in Chip Kelly’s offense has a chance to finish at the top of the league again. Bradford will be a sexy pick on draft day, but try to maximize value at the QB position and he may not be that guy. Cooper should continue to see targets on intermediate routes and Matthews was a beast as a 21 year old, but Nelson Agholor could eat into his touches just a bit. Speaking of Agholor, he’s a quality sleeper candidate on a good offensive team. Look at him later in drafts.

The First Round Conundrum

leveonAs a veteran Fantasy enthusiasts, I’ve seen several anti-RB draft stratagies sprout and die with a wimper. This years “zeroRB” philosaphy takes the cake in lack of common sense. If your arguement is that running back is a shallow and unpredictable position, that should only strengthen your resolve to grab a RB early and often.

Lets compare ADP data from 2014 for the top 5 picks at QB, RB, and TE.

Quarterbacks

  1. Peyton Manning
  2. Aaron Rodgers
  3. Drew Brees
  4. Matthew Stafford
  5. Andrew Luck

Wide Recievers

  1. Calvin Johnson
  2. Demaryius Thomas
  3. Dez Bryant
  4. AJ Green
  5. Julio Jones

Runningbacks

  1. LeSean McCoy
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Eddie Lacy
  5. Montee Ball
  6. Marshawn Lynch*

I included Marshawn Lynch because most people were aware of Adrian Peterson’s legal woes and we can’t infer from the single game played his return value.

Examining the statistics:

Of the top 5 QB’s drafted, 4 of them finished in the top 5 at the seasons end. On the surface this seems like a predictable position, but looking at the consistency of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning show that down the stretch neither lived up to the billing. Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson outperformed all 5 of the names above in playoff weeks.

Of the top 5 WR’s drafted, 2 of the 5 finished at in the top 5 of their position. If you’re playing in a PPR league, the middle of the pack begins to compress and you’re looking at 25 WR’s that all finished around 200 points total. Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, and Emmanuel Sanders, the other names in the top 5 could all have been had in the 3nd round. A larger number of the top 20 WR’s were late round or undrafted players, showing that the flux is greatest here.

Of the top 5 RB’s not named Adrian Peterson drafted, 3 finished in the RB top 5 (Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, and Eddy Lacy). Beyond DeMarco Murray and Arian Foster, there was difficulty predicting the RB’s 10-20.

Now if you’re argument is that the inconsistency for RB’s like Montee ball and Gio Bernard are your reasons for going with a zero RB stratagy, more power to you. This just means your RB’s come the 4th or 5th round end up looking like CJ Spiller and Ben Tate. I’d argue I’d rather have an underwhelming 9th over all pick in Arian Foster paired with a Julio Jones or Randall Cobb than Dez Bryant and Ben Tate or Bishop Sankey circa 2014

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Just sayin’…

Way Too Early Rankings: RB

Lets now take a look at my WAAAAY too early RB rankings.

  1. Marshawn Lynch
  2. Jamaal Charles
  3. Adrian Peterson
  4. DeMarco Murray
  5. Le’Veon Bell
  6. Eddie Lacy
  7. Arian Foster
  8. CJ Anderson
  9. LeSean McCoy
  10. Lamar Miller
  11. Jonathan Stewart
  12. Alfred Morris
  13. Mark Ingram
  14. Jeremy Hill
  15. Latavius Murray
  16. Melvin Gordon
  17. Joique Bell
  18. Darren McFadden
  19. Justin Forsett
  20. Frank Gore
  21. Andre Ellington
  22. Isaiah Crowell
  23. Giovanni Bernard
  24. Carlos Hyde
  25. Rashad Jennings
  26. Todd Gurley
  27. Doug Miller
  28. LeGarrette Blount
  29. TJ Yeldon
  30. Bishop Sankey
  31. Chris Ivory
  32. Reggie Bush
  33. Devonta Freeman
  34. Shane Vereen
  35. Ryan Mathews
  36. CJ Spiller
  37. Stevan Ridley
  38. DeAngelo Williams
  39. Tevin Coleman
  40. Tre Mason
  41. Joseph Randle
  42. Khiry Robinson
  43. Montee Ball
  44. Andre Williams
  45. Zac Stacy
  46. Alfred Blue
  47. Ameer Abdullah
  48. Jonas Gray
  49. David Johnson
  50. Knile Davis

Three Up

  • Lamar Miller – After it was apparent that Miller had lost his job to Knowshon Moreno prior to the 2014 season, fantasy owners soured on the often over valued Miller. He rewarded his owners with a solid, consistent fantasy year. Confident in his starting position and with new weapons in the Miami offense, Miller should have more room to run.
  • Latavius Murray – The Raiders coaching staff has been vocal in the off season that they want to taylor the run game to Murray’s strengths and use him as a way to protect their young upstart QB in Derek Carr. Murray could be a middle round workhorse.
  • Jonathan Stewart – The once crowded backfield in Carolina has shed it’s dead weight and the onus will be on Stewart to tote the rock. When he’s played a larger role, Stewart has been an elite fantasy option in the past.

Three Down 

  • DeMarco Murray – If you’re looking at a RB to regress significantly, there’s no better candidate than Murry. Whether you point to the Dallas O-Line for his success or at LeSean McCoys inability to churn out yards despite toting the ball 340 times, there’s so many questions and not a lot of answers.
  • Darren McFadden –  The man tasked to replaced Murray, McFadden has begrudgingly been moved up many draft boards, but his injury history doesn’t bode well with the fact that Dallas likes to use their RB’s. Joseph Randle ran the ball well in limited exposure last year, so I’d worry that McFadden won’t finish the year in the top spot.
  • Jeremy Hill – The excitement around Jeremy Hill had in part to do with how easily he fished the starting gig from Giovanni Bernard. Still, the numbers don’t bear out that he’s worth where he’s being drafted. In fact, his numbers look similar to Bernards when set side by side, don’t expect him to have an outrageous amount of touches.

Is Todd Gurley worth the hype?

gurlpeteWhen I started doing research for this piece, I was positive I knew how to data would look once compiled but the lines blurred once I saw it on paper. How can we truly evaluate a player who dominated college players as they transition to the NFL? How can we possibly rank or predict how they will perform compared to the current fantasy landscape? The simple answer: we can’t.

Not entirely.

Todd Gurley is being compared to Adrian Peterson, another 3 down work horse who is expected to put on a pro jersey and jam the ball down the throats of terrified defenders. Melvin Gordon, the consensus number two is obviously a step behind in terms of NFL readiness but is still seeing a lot of hype as we approach the NFL draft. But we’ve seen this before. Adrian Peterson came into the league in 2007, so my quest started there as I looked at the recent fantasy impact (or lack of) provided by first round RB selections. (2013 and 2014 didn’t feature a 1st round back, so we used the first back selected in the 2nd round for comarison purposes)

Only 3 backs were taken with a top 10 pick since Peterson was selected 7th Overall in 2007. They are Darren McFadden in 2008 (4th Overall), CJ Spiller in 2010 (9th Overall) and Trent Richardson in 2012 (3rd Overall). Believe it or not the only player to outperform their ADP was Richardson (+14*), and partly because McFadden (-74*) and Spiller (-154*) were such fantasy disappointments. Since then, Richardson has been a mega bust and Spiller and McFadden have teased but never approached the fantasy dominance we all expected.

Beyond those picks, there was a lot of flux, the largest return on investment was Chris Johnson who’s ADP of 101 was woefully under predected in 2008.

Here are your first round Draft Day winners:

  • 2007: Adrian Peterson (+36)
  • 2007: Marshawn Lynch (+10)
  • 2008: Jonathan Stewart (+7)
  • 2008: Chris Johnson (+77)
  • 2009: Knowshon Moreno (+16)
  • 2012: Trent Richardson (+14)
  • 2012: Doug Martin (+44)
  • 2013: Giovani Bernard** (+31)

Big Losers as follows:

  • 2008: Darren McFadden (-74)
  • 2008: Felix Jones (-111)
  • 2008: Rashard Mendenhall (-286)
  • 2009: Donald Brown (-154)
  • 2009: Beanie Wells (-2)
  • 2010: Ryan Mathews (-69)
  • 2010: Javhid Best (-19)
  • 2010: CJ Spiller (-154)
  • 2011: Mark Ingram (-11)
  • 2012: David Wilson (-71)
  • 2014: Bishop Sankey** (-88)

What can we gather from these numbers? It’s nearly a 50 / 50 coin flip on wether top RB talent pans out in year one, and for the players that finished above their ADP several of them regressed in year two (Martin, Moreno, Richardson, and Bernard). By contast, plus players generally finished just above their ADP with the exception of the flier picks like Johnson, while the minus players likely crippled fantasy owners due to how drastically they underperformed the value we heaped on them.

My advise is to temper your expectations in year one, Peterson is most likely more of an exception than the rule. Gurley will make a fine NFL back, and has the potential to be a huge win on draft day, but the potential is also there with his injury history to hamstring your fantasy team if he doesn’t work out. If you can get Gurley at or beyond wherever he’s projected come draft day, go for it, but I’d have a solid back up plan in case.

*+ or – numbers calculated by comparing avg ADP for said player with their final Fantasy impact. Standard rules for scoring. 

** No RB selected in the first round; player used was first RB selected for that draft year.