Do you hear it? The banter between Terry Bradshaw and Jimmy Johnson on Fox NFL Sunday, the sound of ESPN alerts notifying last minute active/inactives, and the singing of the Nation Anthem. 7-grueling months have passed since the last meaningful snap of NFL football, and only 3 days separate us from the classic Chris Collinsworth NBC slide-in. Will they hit us with the left or right slide-in this Thursday?
Over Labor day weekend, NFL teams made critical roster cuts to finalize their 53 man rosters. The NFL did not disappoint with this years’ share of trades, cuts, and acquisitions days before the 2019 kickoff. Let’s take a look at the multiple backfields that were impacted over the weekend…
Kansas City Chiefs
Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson
Within an 8-hour window, KC traded Carlos Hyde to the Houston Texans and signed Bills roster casualty LeSean McCoy to a 1-year, $4 million contract ($3 mil. guaranteed, per Adam Schefter). McCoy reunites with Big Red, Andy Reid, his former head coach in Philadelphia. Surprisingly, Shady’s 1-year deal has a higher guarantee than what Damien Williams received this offseason.
Darwin Thompsons stock immediately plummets to waiver wire-watch list status for most 12-team redraft leagues, unless you have a bench larger than 7 roster spots. With a crowded backfield, it will be difficult to predict consistent usage to justify rostering him. Damien Williams carried a huge question mark all offseason, making him arguably the hardest RB evaluation for fantasy football. Damien never surpassed 50-touches in his first 4 years in the NFL, but the Chiefs have been preparing Damien to take the reins as the #1 back in Andy Reids offense. Now with McCoy in the mix, hopefully, we can get Damien at a price we can stomach. Prior to McCoy, Damien was drafted as the RB12 in the 2nd round. If he slides into the 5th round range, I’m willing to pull the trigger. LeSean McCoy turned 31 in July but is only 1 full NFL season removed from rushing over 1,100 yards and grinding out 287 rushing attempts. Don’t expect McCoy to be a ‘bell-cow’ back in this offense but a complimentary piece to Damien Williams. The Kansas City Star Chiefs beat reporter, Brooke Pryor, writes that McCoy will get “a large percentage of the reps along with starter Damien Williams.” McCoy showed he still had some juice in the Bills 3rd preseason game against the Lions, posting a healthy 6.2 yards per carry, taking 6 attempts for 37 yards. Target McCoy in the 7-8th round range, ahead of guys like Jordan Howard and Latavius Murray. Darwin remains a dynasty target, late round grab for keeper leagues, and end of season stash if/when McCoy begins to wear down.
Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson Jr.
Along with acquiring Carlos Hyde from the Chiefs, the Texans made a blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins. Sending two future 1st round draft picks, the Texans received former first round Left Tackle Leremy Tunsil to help protect the blindside of Deshaun Watson.
Duke’s history in the NFL is a 3rd-down, change of pace, receiving back. After Lamar Miller went down with a torn ACL, it was only a matter of time the Texans acquired a back to shore up this backfield. Hyde finds himself on his 5th NFL team since entering the NFL, which does not bode well for his long term stock value in Houston. Hyde is in a pass heavy offense that has the offensive weapons to spread defenses out allowing for lighter defensive fronts. Hyde’s body frame, 6′ 229lbs, fits the traditional early down and goaline role compared to Dukes 5’9″ 210lbs. I’m still low on Houston’s overall running game with a tough strength of schedule, pass first offense, and Deshaun Watson who likes to scramble. Hyde fantasy value is touchdown dependent, and Duke has better overall value and upside in full-point PPR leagues. In Rudy’s freshest projections, he has Duke projected to finish RB27 and Hyde RB48.
Devin Singletary, Frank gore
Buffalo cut their 2018 starting running back, LeSean McCoy
Since getting drafted in the 3rd round of the 2019 NLF Draft, Singletary’s stock has continued on an upward trajectory with no end in sight. Devin rushed for over 1,000 yards each of his 3 seasons at Florida Atlantic, reaching over 1,900 yards in his sophomore season on 301 carries. Ageless wonder, Frank Gore still remains on the roster and will vulture some goal line/early down touches. 4-year vet, TJ Yeldon is on the roster as well but I’m not scared of him getting in the way of this Singletary rocket ship set for blast-off. Singletary carries a lot of upside in an offense expected to take steps forward under 2nd year QB, Josh Allen, and that made improvements to its offensive line during the offseason. Rudy currently has Singletary finishing as RB31 and Frank Gore RB52. Gore is only worth a roster spot for RB needy owners or deeper formats. I’m willing to take Singletary in the 5th round range (James White, Phillip Lindsay, Tarik Cohen). It’s Singletary time in Buffalo!
I have my first draft crush of the year. FAU RB Devin Singletary is legit. Vision, contact balance, footwork, and elusiveness are the traits that I look for in RBs.
He has them all. pic.twitter.com/yxx9ole2EZ
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) January 5, 2019
Los Angeles Chargers
Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson
— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) September 1, 2019
This news merely cements Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson’s value in this backfield, unless Melvin Gordon comes crawling back to the Chargers with his tail between his leg and accepts their offer (unlikely). Nothing new to add to this situation that has not already been covered previously. I love Ekeler in full PPR leagues, and Jackson deserves a spot on all fantasy rosters. Ekeler will cost at least a 5th round pick. Jackson’s ADP still sits in the early 14th round, but expect this to skyrocket over the next couple of days. Look to grab Jackson in the 8th/9th round. For a more in depth breakdown of my thoughts on Ekeler and Jackson, check out my AFC West Fantasy Preview from early August.
San Francisco 49ers
Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 31, 2019
This news reaffirms our love for Matt Breida as a later round steal. Both Tevin Coleman and Breida are great middle round targets for those owners employing an zero-RB strategy. Shanahan’s offense is fantasy friendly for RBs and his offenses have a history of supporting two fantasy relevant running backs. Coleman will cost you a middle 5th round pick and Breida a middle 7th round pick. Breida presents more upside and carries the cheaper price tag. Place your bets on Breida, who averaged an impressive 5.3 yards per carry in 2018. Check him out lined up out in the slot during SF 3rd preseason game….
Tony Pollard, Ezekiel Elliott
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) September 1, 2019
The highly inflated price of Tony Pollard will fail to yield a return now that Zeke is reported to return. Pollard is not worth rostering in most redraft formats, unless you own Zeke. For Zeke owners, this is your chance to pick up your handcuff as Pollard owners are likely to drop him to waivers. Pollard will get play as a change of pace back in this offense after shining during the preseason. Unfortunately, it will not be enough to rely on a weekly basis for fantasy, unless Zeke were to miss any time.
Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage
?? TRADE ??@HoustonTexans are sending a package of picks (that includes a first-rounder) to the @MiamiDolphins for LT Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills, contingent upon players passing physicals. (via @RapSheet, @MikeGarafolo, @TomPelissero) pic.twitter.com/bSq74jPlG2
— NFL (@NFL) August 31, 2019
The Dolphins weren’t expected to be a great team prior to this weekends trade news, but at this point MIA is clearly in full tank, IDGAF about 2019, mode. Sending their best offensive lineman, Leremy Tunsil, and their best deep threat, Kenny Stills, to Houston. This offense has little hope in 2019. I liked Drake and Ballage as cheap mid-late round fliers earlier in the preseason. Now, I don’t know if either are worth rostering. This MIA team that will struggle to string together first downs, yet alone get in favorable situations to yield fantasy relevant opportunities for its running backs. The o-line will be putrid and negative game scripts should keep Ballage on waivers. Drake still holds, some, value in PPR leagues. Neither back should be drafted at their current price. It’s hard to envision MIA in a lot of scoring positions to make Ballage’s “goal line” role worth a roster spot. Luckily for Drake, his stock has dropped over the course of preseason with his foot injury. His foots looks ready to go for week 1. I’m only taking Drake if we can get him in the 7th round or later.