After looking at the middle round gems for QB’s, we turn our attention to the muddled mess that is the middle to late round “committee” backs. While studs like David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliot will dominate the backfield touches for their respective teams, there are plenty of potential stars slogging through the expanded depth charts of “RB by Committee” coaches.
New England Patriots: There’s little doubt to the risk one assumes when drafting a NE running back. Gillislee projects to man the bulk of the running downs, but White is my early pick for passing downs (Lewis and Burkhead will likely battle for the last roster spot). Back to draft: Mike Gillislee
Cincinatti Bengals: Despite the addition of Joe Mixon at the draft, the Bengals have bucked conventional wisdom and rolled with a mostly effective committee over the last two years. With Bernard and Hill still on the roster, none of the three can be counted on to have an early fantasy impact. Back to Draft: Joe Mixon
Cleveland Browns: While the jury was out prior to last season on whether Duke Johnson could steam meaningful touches from the Crow, the biggest question mark this year is do they remain in a nearly 50/50 split? Crowell is likely to man the bulk of the rushes but Johnson is more than effective with the rock (4.9 ypc and 55 receptions for 500 yards). Your leagues format should dictate who you draft – Standard Scoring, Crowell – PPR, Johnson Jr.
Philadelphia Eagles: If the waters were muddled enough last year with both RBs often on the sidelines with injuries, the Eagles have added short yardage specialist LeGarrett Blount to the fold. Don’t expect 300 carries from the plodding back either, but he should syphon the bulk of the goal line carries effectively ending Ryan Mathews as a fringe RB1/RB2. Sproles will still garner some attention in PPR leagues, but even then he’ll cede some 3rd down touches to Dalton Pumphrey. Back to Draft: LeGarrett Blount
Seattle Seahawks: While things look a bit more stable with the addition of former stud Eddie Lacy, the talent of Rawls and Prosise behind him on the depth chart mean that Seattle will offer a short leash on Lacy’s tenure as the lead back. If he struggles early, Prosise will likely get the first shot at the lead role but his health could impact as well. Back to Draft: Eddie Lacy
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags drafted Yeldon and added Ivory in an attempt to add both a dynamic between the 20’s RB and a head down goal line back. The addition of Fournette could make both obsolete as the massive rookie has both the speed and size to play three downs. Still, if the rookie finds a lack of footing in the NFL, Yeldon could still steal a chunk of carries.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos seem to make things interesting every year. First it was Montee Ball and whatever other bum he was fighting for time with, then it was he and Anderson, then Anderson and Booker. To make matters worse, the Broncos took a flier on the ultra talented (and oft-injured) Jamaal Charles. By all reports he’ll be ready for the start of the season, but it’ll take a rough patch early for Anderson to really lose out on touches.
Detroit Lions: Abdullah missed all of last season to injury but the Lions front office is saying they expect the young back to return at the top of the depth chart. He has the goods, but with Riddick eating away at the passing downs, there is a risk of a true two headed committee in Detroit.
Minnesota Vikings: When AP finally left town, the Vikings shelled out 15 million to land the athletically gifted Latavius Murray out of Oakland. Then, to make us all wonder aloud what the heck is going on, they trade up to select potential superstar RB Dalvin Cook in the draft. I would expect that the supremely talented Cook shows up atop the depth chart early, but with Murray waiting in the wings it could be a while before he really sees meaningful fantasy touches.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Any committee list isn’t complete until you discuss whether or not the Muscle Hamster can retain his tenuous hold on the starts role in Tampa Bay. Charles Sims (like Theo Riddick) is an obvious bet to see a lot of third down work, so Martin will have to have a monster year again to remain relevant as a RB1/RB2.
Every year we spend our fantasy prep time pouring through periodicals and compiling statistics based off of “expert” analysis. And while this information is invaluable, we often times ignore the most important players to a championship team: The Bench.
Finding these hidden gems can be difficult but rewarding when your first and second round picks start experiencing the injuries that come with playing as often as elite NFL players do. We’ll examine who from the bargain barrel section of the drafts can help you when they inevitably enter the fray.
Surest Thing – Mike Wallace: Despite the appearance of a crowded receiver team, Mike Wallace is my surest bet amongst the late round WR picks based on his ADP (around 179!) Simply put, he’s hiding behind an unproven journey man in Kamar Aiken and a 35 year old Steve Smith Sr. and whatever mess at TE they decide to roll out (Maxx is a competent NFL TE but he’s going to eat significant targets away from any of the players already mentioned, nor is Gillmore). If Aiken regresses and/or Smith Sr. misses time with injury, the speedy Wallace should find himself hooking up with the strong armed Flacco more and more often. For a late round pick, he offers the highest ceiling with the lowest floor.
Highest Risk Reward – Devin Funchess: Despite pedestrian numbers in 2015, Funchess showed that he could be a productive player in the NFL, and there are two sides to the coin surrounding the return of Carolina’s “main man” Kelvin Benjamin. The majority of fantasy players expect Benjamin to step back into his #1 role, and you’d be justified, but I expect there’s a decent chance that having extra time to work with Funchess will result in better numbers for a WR being drafted in the 12-14th round. Obviously with Cam Newton, there’s no
garuntee that skill player A performs the same week in and week out, as the play breaks down Cam’s on of the best in the game finding the open man. Still, the reward if he turns into Cam’s saftey blanket far outweighs the risks.
Big Ole’ Bust – Marvin Jones: Maybe it’s low hanging fruit, but Marvin Jones has the easiest road to ruin of any WR in the entire league. For starters, Matthew Stafford is is entering his 8th NFL season, and his attempts have dropped significantly as his mileage piles up. With Golden Tate proving he can carry the mantle, it’s highly unlikely Jones (who has no history in the NFL of carrying an offense) will step in and replace the departing Calvin Johnson. It’s more likely that Stafford adjusts his targets to Tate, Ebron, and Abdullah and Jones is left as the 4th or 5th player in touches.
Bonus – Chris Hogan: It’s easy to overlook the former Bill as he dons the enemies attire with New England this year. Why? Well, Gronkowski, Edeleman, Lewis, and Amendola to name a few. But the truth is that it’s highly unlikely the New England offense stays healthy, and each of the names just mentioned has a lengthy injury history. Hogan is a sure handed blue collar guy who is likely to slide right in and pick up where guys like Lafell fit (when he was productive). He’s being drafted in the final rounds of drafts, so feel free to take a flier on him.
It seems that every year the giddy excitement surrounding the deeper sleepers finds its way to the mainstream news outlets and the air is slowly let out of the balloon until it’s a shriveled up prune-looking hunk of strange smelling rubber. All disappointing birthday imagery aside, it’s time we scale back expectations in the on-coming preseason buzz machine that I can hear starting up.
Below are 5 players whose Buzz may have gotten too loud. Keep in mind I like most if not all of these players, but not nearly as much as THAT guy in your draft… you know who I’m talking about.
Ameer Abdullah, RB – DET: A nice player who has a lot of upside in that Detroit offense, the overwhelming exposure in light of Joique Bell’s nagging preseason injury has become so bright he’s in danger of burning up. There is a scenario here where Abdullah pans out; but that would involve Bell being on the shelf for an extended period of time, and I’m not sure we’ve reached that point yet. Draft Abdullah with the understanding that the likely committee in Detroit will hamstring his ability to be a viable starter for much of the season but as a keeper/dynasty target will return the investment in spades down the road.
Nelson Agholor, WR – PHI: Agholor has the potential to be a top 10 WR, this much is true, but as we’ve found in the past, hitching your wagon to a rookie can be a precarious thing. At his current ADP (94) he’s an excellent value, but don’t be the guy who drafts him in the 6th round thinking you have the next Jerry Rice on your hands; keep in mind Chip Kelly will spread the ball around, and as such temper year one expectations.
CJ Spiller, RB – NO: Spiller seems to be a buzzy player nearly every off-season, and this year is no exception. The idea that the team has to replace the departing Tavares Cadet and Pierre Thomas is a sound one, but consider that they’ve shown commitment to 3rd year pro Mark Ingram and it finally paid off last year as he quietly turned in a top 15 season and you see why Spiller is more of a middle to late round handcuff in standard leagues (and slightly more valuable in PPR). If you’re looking at Spiller in the 3rd round, and I’ve seen some mocks that reflect this, I think it’s too early for a player who has NEVER turned in a full productive season.
Martavis Bryant, WR – PIT: A huge red zone target, Bryant seemed to be flying under the radar earlier with the talk about how good Bell and Brown were in this Pittsburgh offense, but every time his name pops up on a sleeper list is bad news for those looking to snag the 8-10 TD’s he’ll bring on the cheap. Bryant is certainly a specimen, but this offense has two studs with very large expectations, and to think that Bryant will contribute significantly beyond TD’s may be a mistake in the long run. He’s a nice cuff to Brown owners and a possible semi-flyer, but his numbers don’t suggest a huge breakout in my opinion despite what the pundits would have you think.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB – MIN: At a position with very few Elite options, fantasy owners are constantly on the look out for players poised to break out, and Bridgewater seems to be the name of the day. While he’s certainly poised to improve on an impressive start to his NFL career, to expect him to provide fantasy starter level production might be a reach. Sure, the chance exists that he blows up to the tune of 4,000 yards and 28-30 TD’s but he should be drafted with an eye to the future, not necessarily as the guy for the present. A fine player, Teddy will likely be drafted too early thanks to the buzz.
Every day more news trickles in from training camps around the league and with it come the whispers of change as position battles rage and our preconceived notion of how things will shake out, get shaken up. Below are 4 early contenders to see their value plummet as the find themselves in the midst of the bad buzz machine that so often derails our fantasy preparations. (this is in no way ranked in order of importance.)
Terrance West – RB / Cleveland Browns – The second head in the two-headed monster in Cleveland last year has seen his stock take a hit with the continued surge of Isaiah Crowell as the lead back and the addition of third down specialist Duke Johnson. Word out of Browns camp is that West isn’t even safe in terms of making the 53 man roster. While I may not be ready to right the eulogy on his career in Cleveland, it’s a safe bet that West sees very little meaningful time on the field barring a catastrophic injury ahead of him.
Charles Clay – TE / Buffalo Bills – Any move that sees you go to a team like Buffalo has to make one pause when considering a players fantasy viability, but we all pointed to the freakish athleticism and the ability to be an impact player on a team that desperately needed one in the middle of the field as reasons why we considered Clay an obvious sleeper. Now, a full week into training camp, reports have Clay being targeted by Bills QBs a whopping 0 times. That’s right, you can’t divide by the number of time’s he’s been thrown at because it isn’t even a number. We’re a ways off from actual NFL games, and this could turn around for the gifted TE, but it’s a bad sign when a bad offense isn’t even TRYING to get you involved.
Darren McFadden – RB / Dallas Cowboys – Once upon a time McFadden was expected to blossom into an elite NFL runner. Then the injury history we all conveniently ignored became the present… and then the future. Now he’s becoming a frequent footnote in fantasy circles as well. What began as an off season filled with cautious optimism (for no reason other than we wanted to be right eventually) has turned into what we always knew it would be; another injury riddled campaign for the much maligned running back. A pulled hamstring is not the end of the world, but it is an other entry in the long list of obstacles that McFadden has to overcome to gain the starting gig… not least of which is that Joseph Randle now holds the keys to the castle. Steer clear of McFadden until the picks don’t matter; that way you won’t mind dumping him when he finds his way to the IR.
Marquise Lee – WR / Jacksonville Jaguars – A second round pick last year, Lee came into the league lauded as one of the top WR options in the draft; expectations where he’d immediately make an impact in the absence of suspended #1 Justin Blackmon. Inconsistency and injury derailed the promising players rookie year, and as we begin camps, it appears as though Lee is the odd man out with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns playing their ways into starting roles, and several touches being siphoned by new RB TJ Yeldon and free agent TE Juluis Thomas. Lee is very low on my list of maybe-sleepers.
Honorable Mentions: Bishop Sankey – There’s been very little good news this off season for the first RB selected in last years draft. He has stiff competition in the form of rookie arrival David Cobb. Trent Richardson – Early reports had him cutting weight, now they have him on the outside of the bubble as Murray and Helu (on third downs) look to lock up the backfield. Joique Bell – This one has been beat to death so much that Bell seems to fallen out of favor with both fans and pundits as Ameer Abdullah continues to carry the torch as Bell returns from an injury. Unless he falls in drafts, his value is taking a major hit.
It’s a simple fact that today’s NFL features a large number of teams that have shifted philosophies away from three down backs and towards a two or three back committee. This fact impacts fantasy preperation in two different ways: 1. It adds value to players like Marshawn Lynch who will dominate the touches in the backfield and 2. it creates a shroud of mystery around backfields with two good or great backs.
If you’re smart (lucky) enough to sift through the conjecture and select a back that emerges from a committee to workhorse (eg. Lamar Miller over Knowshon Moreno in 2014, or Moreno over Montee Ball in 2013) then you’ll avoid the fantasy pit that can suck your whole team in if you’re wrong. You can mitigate this risk by correctly evaluation these situation and valuing backs correctly.
Committee’s to Avoid
Cincinnati Bengals: Much like last years pre-season hype surrounding Giovanni Bernard, Jeremy Hills usurping of the throne has created a false sense of security in the Bengals backfield. If you look at the fantasy performance, Hill bested Bernard in Yards (1100 to 650) but he scored at roughly the same clip, only cresting 15 points a handful of times in PPR formats and averaging less than .05 points better per touch than Bernard. If you think the Bengals are going to just hand over the reigns to Hill you’d be wrong. Bernard will still be a big part of the offense, and may actually carry better value in PPR leagues due to his 3rd down ability. The chance for him to steal the starting job back from Hill is very real, so this is a backfield I’m staying away from at all costs if I can.
Arizona Cardinals: Andre Ellington had a rough year, but much of that could be attributed to the overall inconsistency in Arizona’s offense last year. The problem for Ellington is that they added RB David Johnson in the draft who should push Ellington for starting time and will likely eat into his production. Ellington was nothing to write home about without a young stud waiting in the wings and I’d argue that his value takes a steeper hit this year with a player who could potentially replace him as the starting RB.
Detroit Lions: One of the more underrated draft selections, Ameer Abdullah may not be running Joique Bell off the field, but his ability should keep Bell from being the defacto guy on all three downs in Detroit. A team that likes to throw the ball, there may not be as many touches for Bell to retain his value, causing me to avoid him at his current ADP.
Tennessee Titans: Bishop Sankey was a huge disappointment for fantasy owners who drafted him last year after being the first back selected in the NFL draft. He struggled to find holes and never really live up to the pre-season hype. The Titans went out and revamped each of their skill positions, adding Marcus Mariota, David Cobb, and Dorial Green-Beckham signaling a shift in offense. Sankey’s underwhelming performance and questions around his ability to transition to the NFL game could open the door early for Cobb to steal the starting spot. I would avoid Sankey in drafts and maybe look at Cobb late if he falls far enough.
New York Jets: This team seems to be a mess in the backfield every year. The experiment to add Chris Johnson did nothing to foster competition, and Chris Ivory plodded off with the starting role. Despite having a solid yet unspectacular year, the Jets showed they have little faith in him by adding cast off’s Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy to compete. All three are capable NFL backs, but none of them are three down workhorses. If Ridley can hold on to the football, he may have the best chance to steal the bulk of the carries, but this is a committee I won’t touch with a ten foot pole.