Two of the biggest questionmarks outside of the RB top 10 revolve around the return of Marshawn Lynch and the reclemation of Eddie Lacy. Both backs are being drafted between round 4-6 but do they really have the goods to return on that investment?
Marshawn Lynch (ADP 32, RB21)
For a player known as “Beast Mode” because of his bruising style of play, Lynch has been surprisingly durable across a 10 year NFL career. In part, this can be attributed to the lack of use in Buffalo; after 280 rushes his rookie year, Lynch averaged 12 touches a game until he made the move to Seattle. Even in Seattle, where he became revered as one of the leagues top backs, Lynch only posted two 300 rush seasons. The argument can be made that despite his age, “Beast Mode” has plenty left in the tank.
An upgrade in Oakland, Lynch will be given every opportunity early on to run away with the starting gig. DeAndre Washington will provide plenty of competition but barring injury or complete ineffectiveness on Lynch’s part, the job is his to lose.
Eddie Lacy (ADP 48, RB21)
Following Lynch’s exodus from Seattle, the Rawls/Prosise experiment began in ernest. Unfortunately, neither was able to do much with an expanded role, and Green Bay cast off Eddie Lacy was brought in to bring some consistency back to a Seattle offense that never got it going.
Lacy was once considered a top three back in the league after a rookie and softmore season that saw him post 3,000 combined rushing/receiving yards and 24 totat touchdowns. It was all downhill from there.
Lacy struggled with his weight and injuries over the last two years and found himself out of favor in only two short years. Now the question becomes which two years were the abberation? It’s clear that the talent is there, but it may have been a case of wrong place at the wrong time. Green Bay, with Aaron Rodgers under center, is always going to be a pass-first team. Eddie Lacy became an albatross that needed greener pastures to bloom. At his current ADP Lacy presents a unique risk/reward scenario. With Seattle likely to run the football a significant amount, he could be the steal of drafts everywhere. If only he can put it all together again.
Who to draft?
Truthfully, I’m not down on either player. Both offer great value as high profile starters with little early season competition. Of course, should either stumble for a prolonged stretch, they could find themselves on the outs yet again. I’d suggest both are safe bets at their current ADP, but be cautious as we approach drafts not to over draft either player because of any potential upside. Between the two Lacy offers the best value in my mind, and with his stock failing to rise, will likely offer the best value going forward.
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.
- 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).
Well the NFL Season is right around the corner and The Dr. is in the house! I apologize for my late arrival, but the world around us never ceases. Alas, here we are!
To ease us into the new Fantasy year, we’ll come back with 3 quick hits ( a veritable Fantasy 3 and out, if you will ).
1) Ezekial Elliot, worth the hype?
I wrote this article last year when the Todd Gurley train was a-rolling. I still feel very much the same way about rookie RB’s. Let them be the other guys mistake! Now, I conceed that Elliot is in a fantastic position to provide hefty fantasy dividends, and I’ll also admit that he looks like he’ll be a solid NFL pro at some point, but for every Gurley or Peterson, there are more still of the Bishop Sankey/Felix Jones’ of the world.
2) Suspensions Galore!
One of the most difficult things to gauge is how a player is impacted by a suspension (or even injuries). The offseason so two elite Fantasy players in Tom Brady and Le’Veon Bell find themselves with 4 games suspensions, and leave drafters wondering what their value is. Truthfully, I think both players will provide elite fantasy production down the stretch, and their draft positions will likely reflect that. You’ll have to go earlier than you probably would like to get them, so make sure you’re prepared with a good plan to suppliment their numbers in the middle rounds, otherwise skip on them all together.
3) The continued fall of the RB.
Last year we saw more leagues than ever load up on QB and WR early and take swings at middling RB’s in the hopes that they turned into gold. I was one of the unlucky ones who retained Bell’s services and felt the egg as it hit my face simultanious to his knee injury. Owners of Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray, and other top of the draft RB’s who didn’t live up to expectations can attest to that now. Remember, RB is no longer the easiest position to draft, there’s too many committees and offenses that run through the air. Your best bet? Draft elite WR’s first, they’ve shown to be more consistent over the past few years.
- 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.
As 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.
- Peyton Manning
- Aaron Rodgers
- Drew Brees
- Matthew Stafford
- Andrew Luck
- Calvin Johnson
- Demaryius Thomas
- Dez Bryant
- AJ Green
- Julio Jones
- LeSean McCoy
- Adrian Peterson
- Jamaal Charles
- Eddie Lacy
- Montee Ball
- 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