Over the next 6 weeks, the Fantasy Assembly’s greatest fantasy football minds will be coming together to produce our 2016 consolidated rankings. Join Andy Germani, Tommy Landseadel and Joe Mica as they help you prepare for your rapidly approaching football drafts.
This week we continue our fantasy football positional rundown with a look at the running back position. 2015 was quite literally a train wreck for elite backs. Aside from Adrian Peterson, every top 10 RB by ADP either missed 3 or more games, underperformed massively, or both. As a result, drafters in 2016 seem much more hesitant to invest, as WRs are dominating the first two rounds in most drafts like never before. Whether this is a new developing trend or just a short term fad remains to be seen.
Whether you choose to go old school and invest early and often in the RB position, or roll with the zero RB strategy and fill your roster with lottery ticket breakouts, there are many ways to draft this year. Hopefully this column helps you refine your strategy and identify sleepers as you prepare for draft season.
All of our rankings assume standard scoring:
- 6 points for TDs
- 1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
- 1 point for 25 yards passing – no PPR
Without further ado, let’s check out the ranks!
1. Which RB are you most willing to reach for during your draft?
Andy: Based on the current ADP on Fantasy Pros, I see myself reaching for DeMarco Murray as a mid third round pick. They did draft rookie running back, Derrick Henry, but I am not worried. Murray is a workhorse, back on a team with very few playmakers around him. The addition of Henry only makes me think the team is planning on running even more and doesn’t want to give Murray 30 carries a game. He will probably still get some read option carries that doomed him with the Eagles, but the majority of his carries should come in a way that lead to his success in Dallas. I am looking past Murray’s brief Philadelphia stint and having high hopes for this season.
Joe: What’s not to like about Lamar Miller‘s scenario? He owns a career yards per-carry over 4. He’s now on a run-first team that ran the ball an average of 511 times the last two seasons. Plus, only one other lead RB in the league had more receptions than Miller (and keep in mind Miami used the RB position a league-low 334 times in 2015). Additionally, there’s not much competition behind him. As I said, what’s not to love?
Tommy: My biggest reach this year would have to be Carlos Hyde. I can’t help it. I am intrigued by any lead RB in a Chip Kelly scheme. I worry that Hyde won’t be able to stay healthy, but the upside makes him well worth a third round selection.
2. Which RB will you be looking to avoid this season?
Andy: Latavius Murray will not be on any of my teams this year. There is obviously a point I would take him, but he will be long gone by then. He got 266 carries last season and did not miss a single game – that led to about 1,300 total yards and six touchdowns. This is all well and good, but he is below all of the players he is going around. I would much rather have the likes of DeMarco Murray, Jonathan Stewart, Ryan Mathews, and a few others going in that same range, or later, than Murray.
In Murray’s favor, he does (most likely) still have the backfield to himself. He might do the exact same thing this season that he did last season. If that is the case he will be a solid second running back. When you look back on the end of the year he might be a top-10 running back again, but if it happens again it will be because of quantity of play not quality.
Joe: The Dolphins were openly shopping Jay Ajayi, as well as looking for another RB. The depth could work in Ajayi’s favor since Damien Williams, Isaiah Pead and Daniel Thomas have 18 rush attempts combined from last season. To complicate things, Miami then drafted Kenyan Drake in the third round (3rd RB overall). Add in that head coach, Adam Gase, as the Denver OC split the touches to the two main runners (Anderson and Hillman) fairly evenly. While the situation could be good for Ajayi, the off-season vibe seems like a situation to avoid in a defensively tough division.
Tommy: C.J. Anderson is a scary pick. Sure, Gary Kubiak loves to run the football and Anderson has finished the last two seasons as the Broncos’ bell cow. The problem is that Devontae Booker is very good, and Anderson is as injury prone as they come. One way or another, don’t be surprised if Anderson loses control of the Broncos’ backfield at some point this season. Despite the upside, there are others I would much rather select in the second/third round.
3. Which mid-round pick do you see producing the biggest profit?
Andy: I plan on waiting on my second running back this season, and would love to wait and grab Frank Gore. The Colts still don’t really have anyone else to give carries to and the team should be better this season. Even in a terrible season for the Colts, Gore got 260 carries. If they can stay in games longer Gore can get a handful more carries each game. I think Gore can improve slightly on his rushing numbers this season and add another couple touchdowns. He can be an unexciting second running back that helps people win championships.
Joe: At the time of this writing, Melvin Gordon was a sixth round pick per ADP, with 27 RB being selected ahead of him. Gordon’s rookie campaign did not go well statistically, and he also had microfracture surgery which may explain the hesitation of fantasy owners this season. Yet the Chargers left the running back position status quo this offseason showing their support of Gordon. Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has said that he wants to tailor the blocking to Gordon. I respect Whisenhunt enough that I hope Gordon falls to me.
Tommy: There are many mid round running backs I would love to draft this year, but none is as intriguing as Duke Johnson. Johnson has 3 down back capabilities, but is stuck in the passing game role for now. The good news is that the Browns’ offense will likely be abysmal, which offers potential for many Duke touches during garbage time. Given Johnson’s talent, his ability in the passing game, and the fact that Isaiah Crowell may already be in the doghouse, I am trying to acquire as many shares of the Duke as I can.
4. Who are your favorite end-draft picks to round out your roster with?
Andy: Sure he finished the season with a bad injury last season, but I would expect LeGarrette Blount to slide right back into his normal role with the Patriots when he is healthy. Blount is currently going 117th as the 43rd running back off the board according to Fantasy Pros. He was suspended for week one last season and missed weeks 15-17 with injury. If we ignore his first game back from suspension where he only had two carries, that gives him 11 games for the season. In those 11 games he averaged over 10 points per game, that even includes a three carry for negative three yards performance in the middle of the season. Blount is perfect for the Patriots ground control second half when they have big leads. Obviously keep an eye on what he does in training camp and preseason practices. If he doesn’t look good or suffers a setback early on you can drop him significantly. If he doesn’t start the season try to be tuned in to who could be their “big back” in the offense.
Joe: Doug Martin’s value seems to be exploiting his #2 finish behind 2015 rushing leader Adrian Peterson. Virtually invisible in many rankings is Martin’s backup Charles Sims. Per ADP, Sims is a ninth round pick (RB46). Keep in mind that Sims had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage (529 rush and 561 receiving). At a time when fantasy owners are looking for RB value in any round, it’s worth noting that only 17 running backs had more yards from scrimmage than Sims. Consider too that it’s difficult for leading rushers to repeat similar numbers (i.e. Martin). Plus Martin has sandwiched two very disappointing seasons between two very good seasons, meaning that his inconsistency may raise its ugly head this season. And that would also open the door for Sims.
Tommy: There are many talented rookies that have potential to take over as lead backs as early as this season. Most people know about Devontae Booker, Jordan Howard and Derrick Henry. They will all be drafted in the middle rounds. Keep an eye on Deandre Washington, Kenneth Dixon, Wendell Smallwood and Paul Perkins. One or two of these guys just might earn their way into major roles if things break right for them.
Up Next: the top 50 Wide Receivers for 2016
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