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.
When 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.
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.