Injuries happen, we’re all familiar with the pain of a lost season, but as we enter the doldrums of the off season, it’s as good a time as any to talk about the players who didn’t finish the 2018 season due to injury, and what we can expect for 2019.
Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers
The idea that McKinnon was a three down back was debated heavily during last off season, and it’s likely to be a sticking point in the fantasy community in 2019 as well following a pre-season injury that cost him the entire 2018 season. The 49er’s used a stable of backs to replace the production they expected from McKinnon, and most impressive was 2nd year back Matt Brieda who took his opportunities and ran with them (pun intended). Despite the presence of veteran Alfred Morris, Brieda managed nearly 60 yards per game (814 yards) and a healthy 31 targets.
So what does this mean for McKinnon? Currently he’s being targeted as a back end RB2 (RB23 or so) in Standard leagues, and as an RB3 in PPR leagues (RB27), which is a hell of a discount for a player many expected to compete for the top 10 at the position this time last year. Brieda was a revelation, but I’d be surprised if the 49ers didn’t give McKinnon the chance to win the job early on. This is one to keep an eye on, and if his current 7th round projection holds true, he’s a good bounce back candidate to target if you’re comfortable drafting backs in the later rounds.
The Dr.’s EARLY Predictions, 170 attempts, 740 Yards, 4 TDs, 22 Receptions, 200 Receiving Yards
Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins
Prior to his season ending knee injury, Guice was a popular choice among rookie backs to be a fairly productive NFL running back right out of the gates. In limited pre-season looks, it appeared that those predictions were safe. Then a knee injury against the Patriots derailed his season before it even began.
So in his stead, the Redskins signed the ageless Adrian Peterson to carry the load, and he was surprisingly productive. In 271 total touches, AP managed to put together a good stat line of 1,200 total yards, 21 receptions, and 8 total TDs. Considering that this should be Guice’s offense in 2019, it’s a good sign that this team ran the ball well with a 32 year old back.
Still… is Guice worth what’s shaping up to be a fourth round pick? Currently, Guice is being ranked in the late teens among running backs in PPR formats (18 per FantasyFootballCalculator) which I’d argue is a bit too high for a back who will likely only see early downs. With Chris Thompson likely to steal the passing downs (as long as he’s healthy) it’s unlikely that Guice turns in an elite season, and could be in for a slow start as Washington may be willing to ease him into the game plan early.
The Dr.’s EARLY Prediction: 220 Attempts, 950 Yards, 6 TDs, 25 catches, 180 Yards.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
While it’s certainly good news that the asking price on the former top 5 fantasy back has come down, the idea of adding Freeman as a 2nd or 3rd back is still a terrifying prospect. Despite his history as a three down workhorse, Freeman’s recent struggles with injury have led to speculation surrounding the Atlanta backfield and what the team may eventually do to secure a more consistent product at the running back position.
Could it be Freeman, who, by all accounts, Atlanta expects to compete for lead duties? Sure, but with how well Tevin Coleman played in his absence and how relatively unknown depth pieces like Brian Hill and Ito Smith performed, there’s some danger in expecting him to return to the volume that had him pigeon holed as a RB1.
Even if he’s healthy, I’m not convinced Freeman handles a healthy enough dose of touches. Even a 60/40 split with Coleman and company means 180-210 rushing attempts and less than 1,000 yards. Currently being selected in early draft formats (read: take with a grain of salt) as the 20th back off the board, he’s a huge risk as a teams 2nd running back. Guys like Kerryon Johnson, Damien Wilson, Kenyan Drake, and Chris Carson are all being ranked behind him, and all have a better route to RB2 touches.
The Dr.’s EARLY predictions: 150 rushing attempts, 660 yards, 4TDs 18 receptions for 180 yards.
Honorable Mentions: It was the out of nowhere arrival of Phillip Lindsay that caught the attention of many in the industry, as the diminutive back leapfrogged the buzzy Royce Freeman to be the lead back on a Denver team that was clearly lacking elsewhere. After suffering a major wrist injury late in the season, Lindsay’s only obstacle to returning to the top of the depth chart is his recovery. Of course, Freeman could impress and steal away touches, but he’ll continue to be relevant regardless as his passing game contributions are safe. Unlike Lindsay, Kerryon Johnson garnered a fair share of buzz in the preseason, but fell in drafts simply because the narrative was Detroit couldn’t produce fantasy running backs. Prior to the team shutting him down later in the season, Johnson was electric in spite of this, slowly endearing himself to the fans in Detroit and carving out a major role in it’s offense. This year he should step in and take the leap into RB2 territory, including the potential for a handful of RB1 weeks.
We’re officially in the heat of the 2018 season as week one is in the books. As always, there were a few surprises after the dust settled. Below are the Dr’s favorite highlights and stat lines from the games this past week and weekend.
Alvin Kamara, RB – NO
With Mark Ingram out for the first few games and a backfield featuring depth players and castoffs, it’s little wonder that last years rookie sensation turned in one of the weekends best performances. While the numbers on the ground were certainly underwhelming, with 29 yards coming on his eight attempts, he was again a massive factor in the passing game as this one turned into a shootout early on. In ESPN PPR leagues, Kamara’s 43.1 points paced the entire league.
Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
With all the off season focus on the swap at QB from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes, there were concerns with Hills volume as his fantasy production comes from his big play ability. That ability was the marquee attraction as his 2 long TD receptions and kick off return TD were proof that he’ll continue to dominate opposing DB’s regardless of who’s throwing the football. Further proof of his monster ability was his outrageous 24.1 yards per catch that helped him pace all wide receivers with 42.3 PPR points.
Michael Thomas, WR – NO
With how well Kamara produced in the passing game, it’s a wonder that Thomas was able to post a career high (and franchise record) 16 receptions on 17 targets for 180 yards. Thomas consistently found ways to get open down field and Brees rewarded him for it. Going forward, Thomas is one of the safest set and forget receivers as he’ll likely garner one of the leagues highest target percentage numbers wire to wire.
Odell Beckham Jr, WR – NYG
Despite drawing arguably the most difficult match up he’ll see all year with Jalen Ramsey opposing him, Beckham returned to dominate the target share, receiving 15 of Eli Mannings 37 attempts (40%). His stat line of 11 catches for 110 yards was encouraging, and it appears as though Odell Beckham has returned as one of the leagues top fantasy options at the wide receiver position.
Adrian Peterson, RB – WAS
When Adrian Peterson was signed following Derrius Guices season ending injury, many speculated as to how much “All Day” had left in the tank. His performance on Sunday should dispel any worries as to how effective he can be even at 33 years old. The 3.6 yards per carry mark wasn’t earth shattering, but it’s clear that after 166 total yards on 28 total touches (and a touch down) that AP will be featured heavily in an offense that looks committed to the run.
Randall Cobb, WR – GB
We could have selected Rodgers himself for this spot on the list, but concerns around any lingering effects of the seemingly-serious knee injury suffered Sunday has us unconvinced of his availability going forward. The same cannot be said for Cobb who dominated from start to finish in a wild game that saw Green Bay recover from a 20-0 deficit at half time. While we should temper expectations regarding the 15+ yards per reception mark, it’s important to note that despite Jimmy Graham and Davante Adams presence, Cobb led the team with 9 receptions (4 more than Adams and Allison who both had 5) and posted 142 yards and 1 TD in week one. Of course, Cobb’s continued success may rely on the health of Rodgers, but he should feature heavily in game plans going forward for the Packers.
Week 1 Duds
Amari Cooper, WR – OAK
While the Denver D may not be lauded as one of the leagues finest anymore (ignoring the pass rush of course) they certainly put a beating on Cooper who managed only 1 catch on 3 targets in a week one loss. While I wasn’t willing to put any stock in the player this year myself, I didn’t completely distance myself from Cooper as a bounce back candidate. With the type of talent he has and a lack of play makers around him that aren’t 33 (Nelson) or tight ends (Cook) it may not be long before Cooper is back in the green, but Week one was one of the leagues worst duds.
Josh Doctson, WR – WAS
Lining up opposite of Patrick Peterson will lead to some frustration, but to secure only a single 11 yard reception despite playing nearly 90% of the offensive snaps is beyond disappointing. While I was more interested in owning shares of Crowder, I understood that Doctson stood to gain the most if Smith continued to throw the deep ball. Hopefully the dud from week one can be put in the rear view mirror, but there’s a chance that Doctson never really performs like the high end receiving talent many expected him to be in the Redskins offense.
LeSean McCoy, RB – BUF
Maybe I’m being too harsh on the lead back in Buffalo, but despite the team taking a beating, McCoy was never really featured in the passing game despite his history as a pass catcher. His 22 total yards on 7 carries and 1 catch was a dismal stat line, and may be the first signs that age and situation are conjoining to destroy any value McCoy has as a premier fantasy running back. While he’ll figure to be used a bit more judiciously going forward, he’s a difficult start at this point unless you’re strapped for options.
In a move many expected, the Washington Redskins have signed 33 year old future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson to a contract in an attempt to shore up a banged up backfield. With 2nd round pick Derrius Guice out for the season with a torn ACL, Peterson will be asked to compete with last years 4th round pick Samaje Perine (currently out with a minor ankle injury) and Rob Kelley for starting snaps.
While it’s a long shot to expect Peterson to step in with no offseason reps and be a difference maker on a fantasy team, it’s not hard to imagine this team giving him a lot of reps. Despite a 30 yard scamper before exiting the first preseason game with the injury, Perine was a largely ineffectual runner last year, and no enough has changed to inspire confidence.
So with Perine on the shelf and “Fat Rob” Kelley still the boring inefficient runner he’s always been, Peterson may be the back to target in the late rounds. Of course, there’s no guarantee that he starts the season on a roster, but he’s a great value despite his age and distance from his last NFL starting gig.
First and foremost, the allegations are serious and while innocent until proven guilty is basic tenement of Law in this country, we in no way are making light of the situation with this post. Our aim is not to discuss the crime itself of its alleged perpetrators, but instead to dissect the potential fallout in Fantasy terms.
What To Expect
With as much traction as the news has gotten, it wouldn’t surprise me for there to be some kind of discipline early on, so it’s important to monitor the situation accordingly if you’re planning on adding McCoy to your fantasy teams. This kind of thing presents no “best case scenario” if the player is found guilty, as his career should be over at that point.
Of course, even prior to the allegations McCoy’s fantasy standing had begun to wane, as I had him ranked 9th and other outlets even further down. With the allegations swirling, I’ve dropped him to 18th on my list, pending the results of the investigation of course. That leads us to another question, one that may become more important as the season approaches.
Who Else To Target?
A quick glance at the Bills depth chart reveals a real hole at the position behind McCoy. Unlike last year when there was significant buzz on the backups in the system, this year shows that the team had confidence in McCoy to stay on the field.
A) Chris Ivory – At 30 years old and 2 years removed from the only season in which he rushed for 1,000 yards, it seems that Ivory’s best seasons are behind him. His average of 3.4 yards per carry last year in Jacksonville prove he’s no more than a goal line back who’d plod for mediocre numbers. Behind an O-line that’s lost some of its core guys this offseason, Ivory is likely to disappoint even if no one overtakes him on the roster.
B) Tavaris Cadet – The veteran pass catcher and special teams man has never received more than 22 rushes in a single season, and while his ability to play third downs is intriguing considering how involved Bills backs are in the passing game, I don’t think he has the profile to play a large number of downs.
C) Marcus Murphy – I wouldn’t get excited about the diminutive back, but he’s got the tools to help in limited work. At 5’8”, he’s not big enough to be leaned on for between the tackles plays, but his acumen as a pass catcher could see him leapfrog some of these names.
D) Keith Ford – A former five star recruit at Oklahoma, Ford’s collegiate career was marred by team suspensions and a lack of overall work. His scouting profile suggests that he’s lacking vision and elusiveness but his measurable show he can be an NFL back. As intriguing as this is, it’s likely that he’d be a short yardage options while the team works out kinks in his game. As a gamble, he may offer the most upside of any of these backs, but he’d be a waiver wire add at best, assuming he can even make the roster.
E) A Back Not On The Roster – There’s a handful of names ranging from high profile to sneaky upside that have yet to find an NFL home. DeMarco Murray probably fits the profile the best of all the remaining backs, as his ability to play three downs in previous years could be attractive. Likewise, Alfred Morris and Orleans Darkwa have started, and recently, and could provide an upgrade over the current roster. It’d be a long shot to expect Adrian Peterson or Eddie Lacy to sign on there, but they remain free agents as well.
Where there is smoke, there is almost always fire, and with the NFL adopting a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence, there’s a very good chance we’ve seen the last of McCoy in the NFL. If McCoy is no longer available to the Bills, the best case scenario would be a player not currently on the roster. Chris Ivory isn’t the type of player who can replace McCoy, especially given the struggles expected with that offensive line. The rest of the roster features rookies who are too raw or gadget/special teamers who offer little upside.
DeMarco Murray may be a perfect fit, but the timing of any discipline will impact the team’s ability to get a player like that in and acclimated. If the case drags on and McCoy’s punishment arrives during the season, only Chris Ivory has the experience to start for this team. In such a case, Ivory would handle the first and second downs and Cadet would inherit the third down role. Either way, neither player is worth drafting, at least not as a starter.
Of course Keith Ford could surprise us all and show a level of improvement that forces the young back into the conversation. His situation is worth monitoring as he has the size and speed to be a difference maker if the Bills can help him avoid becoming a head down type of runner. As a player on your radar, just remind yourself that he’s a third or fourth option for the Bills at this time, and a lot would have to go right for him to be worth a roster spot.
Often 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.
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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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 rookie 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
It’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
- Le’Veon Bell
- Adrian Peterson
- Marshawn Lynch
- Eddie Lacy
- Jamaal Charles
- Matt Forte
- Arian Foster
- C.J. Anderson
- DeMarco Murray
- LeSean McCoy
- Lamar Miller
- Jeremy Hill
- Alfred Morris
- Justin Forsett
- Carlos Hyde
- Latavius Murray
- Mark Ingram
- Melvin Gordon
- Jonathan Stewart
- Frank Gore
- Joique Bell
- T.J. Yeldon
- Andre Ellington
- Giovanni Bernard
- Joseph Randle
- Rashad Jennings
- Darren McFadden
- Isaiah Crowell
- LeGarrett Blount
- Tre Mason
- Todd Gurley
- Tevin Coleman
- Devonta Freeman
- Chris Ivory
- Doug Martin
- Ameer Abdullah
- Bishop Sankey
- Ryan Mathews
- C.J. Spiller
- Shane Vereen
- Fred Jackson
- Montee Ball
- Knile Davis
- Andre Williams
- Matt Jones
- Terrance West
- DeAngelo Williams
- David Cobb
- Stevan Ridley
- Lorenzo Taliaferro
- Fozzy Whitaker
- David Johnson
- Roy Helu
- Dan Herron
- Charles Sims
- Reggie Bush
- Danny Woodhead
- Jonas Gray
- Toby Gerhart
- Jay Ajayi
- Darren Sproles
- Trent Richardson
- Khiry Robinson
- Matt Asiata
- Alfred Blue
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.
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.