Back by popular demand, it’s baaaaaaaaaack. (Thanks to the two of you who were interested.) After writing the “Predicting the Top 10” series the last few years, it was brought to my attention that a few others wrote similar articles in the past. To those that did, I pay homage to you.
This is an update to last year’s piece. I realize that ADP is fluid during the preseason, but unless an injury happens or someone completely balls out in the exhibition games, the top 10 seems to be pretty entrenched. This article is not deep and groundbreaking, but I enjoy taking nostalgic strolls down memory lane. In addition, there could be some nuggets of information that could be useful. It is often said that history repeats itself and we should learn from the past to prepare for the future.
If you want more analytical predictive tools, I highly recommend reading anything at numberFire, Rotoviz, and 4for4. Since I’m doing recommendations, I have to include the Footballguys, as everyone there is a brilliant fantasy football mind and a few took the time to give me feedback and help me out. And of course, last but not least, Rudy has done an amazing job with the tools and team football pages, Jay was the third-best ranker at FantasyPros last season, and Zach, Matt, and the whole crew are pumping out amazing content. With that said, here you go…
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Scientists believe that we may live in a world of 10 dimensions. For the sake of this article and for my sanity, I will stop at the fifth dimension.
The first three dimensions are pretty straightforward; length, height, and depth. Basically, the physical world that we can see with our eyes. Adrian Peterson is 6’ 1″ 220 lbs. He wears a purple Vikings uniform. The football field that he and hundreds play on is 360 feet in length and 160 feet wide.
The fourth dimension is time, which governs the properties of all known matter at any given point. “Knowing an object’s position in time is essential to plotting its position in the universe.” Derek Carr comes out from under center and performs a five-step drop, which say takes three seconds. Amari Cooper runs a 10-yard out and knows that the ball should be arriving right when he turns his head. Practice and chemistry. There’s a reason why Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison would practice the whole route tree before the game.
Here in lies the beauty and dichotomy of football in general. It is a barbaric sport that requires helmets and pads to play. The biggest, fastest, and strongest men are paid to punish and receive punishment. In order to win the game, though, there must be ballet-like choreography. All 11 men on each side of the ball must be in sync and do their jobs. That nose tackle doesn’t suck up those two blocks and allows the center to get to the linebacker behind him? Offense wins. Carson Palmer notices no safety help over the top on John Brown. He audibles for max protection and sends Brown deep. Prime opportunity, right? But the running back misses his assignment and doesn’t give Palmer enough time to throw it downfield. Defense wins.
The fifth dimension is where the notion of other worlds exist. Bizarro world anyone? The one where Jay Cutler doesn’t throw multiple interceptions in a game.
What does all this have to do with fantasy football?
Fantasy football is one huge puzzle, with many pieces, participants, and solutions. It is always shifting, morphing, and evolving. The most mundane action could cause a ripple effect that shifts the entire landscape.“In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.”
Since 2005, there have only been two seasons in which preseason ADP matched more than 50% of the final top 10 fantasy running backs…
To be fair, there have only been three seasons since 2005 in which ADP matched more than 50% of the final top 10 fantasy wide receivers.
(Historical ADP data courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com. Historical fantasy points data courtesy of footballguys.com. Data is for standard scoring.)
Is it all random? Should we just throw darts at a board? The hubris that we all possess scoffs at that notion. With that said, we all try to predict the future with fantasy football. Who’s going to breakout? Who’s a sleeper? With the above charts, it shows that picking the final 10 running backs or wide receivers is basically a coin flip. Even so, I will examine the past 12 years and see if there is any information that could help us accurately predict the running backs for 2017. In essence, catch those elusive butterflies. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
PAST 12 YEARS
- LaDainian Tomlinson
- Shaun Alexander
- Edgerrin James
- Priest Holmes – Missed nine games due to injury. Injured in 2004. Had three consecutive seasons with 313+ carries (2001-2003).
- Willis McGahee – Finished as the #13 RB. After scoring 13 TDs in 2004, tallied five in 2005.
- Deuce McAllister – Missed 11 games due to injury. 351 carries in 2003 after a 325- carry season in 2002.
- Domanick Davis – Missed five games due to injury. Carried 302 times the previous year.
- Jamal Lewis – Fell off after his 387 carry, 2,066 yard season in 2003. Lewis averaged 3.4 yards-per-carry and scored three touchdowns in 15 games during the 2005 campaign.
- Julius Jones – Missed three games due to injury.
- Corey Dillon – Missed four games due to injury. Carried 345 times the previous year.
- Larry Johnson – The handcuff to Holmes.
- Tiki Barber – ADP #14 RB. Had three successful seasons prior to 2005. There was the whole fumbling issue, as he had five or more in each of those three seasons.
- Clinton Portis – ADP #11 RB. Traded from Denver to Washington in 2004. Had a successful season, but only scored five touchdowns. In 2005, Joe Gibbs implemented more outside runs for Portis which translated to a 352-carry, 11 touchdown season.
- Rudi Johnson – ADP #15 RB. Carried the ball 361 times for 1,454 yards with 12 touchdowns in 2004. The Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy football.
- LaMont Jordan – First year with the Raiders after middling on the Jets. The lead back in a Norv Turner offense, which enabled him to catch 70 balls in 2005.
- Thomas Jones – The Bears drafted Cedric Benson in the 2004 draft, but a holdout prevented him from playing over Jones.
- Mike Anderson – Tatum Bell was being drafted six spots ahead of Anderson in 2005 at ADP #22. They both had successful seasons but it was RBBC.
- LaDainian Tomlinson
- Larry Johnson
- Steven Jackson
- Rudi Johnson
- Tiki Barber
- Shaun Alexander – Missed six games due to injury. Coming off three consecutive seasons with 325+ carries. Lost All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson. YPC plummeted to 3.6 from 5.1.
- Edgerrin James – Went from the Colts to the Cardinals. Finished as the #20 RB.
- Ronnie Brown – Missed three games due to injury. Sophomore slump. Ricky Williams was suspended for the 2006 season, so great things were expected.
- Clinton Portis – Missed eight games due to injury. Coming off consecutive 340+ carry seasons.
- Carnell William – Only missed two games, but injuries nagged him all year. Sophomore slump.
- Frank Gore – Successful 2005 rookie campaign. Became the lead back in 2006 when the 49ers traded Kevan Barlow to the Jets.
- Willie Parker – Became the starter in his second year after Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley missed time due to injury. Performed well in Super Bowl XL. Signed a contract extension before the start of the 2006 season and coach Bill Cowher said that Parker would be the bell cow running back.
- Brian Westbrook – ADP #13 RB. While Westbrook was successful in 2004 and 2005, he was often injured and missed multiple games. He also held out in 2005, but did receive a contract extension.
- Maurice Jones-Drew – Rookie year.
- Ladell Betts – Portis handcuff.
- LaDainian Tomlinson
- Frank Gore
- Joseph Addai
- Brian Westbrook
- Steven Jackson – Finished as the #14 RB. The 2007 Rams imploded due to a rash of injuries to the offensive line and quarterback Marc Bulger. Missed four games due to injury.
- Larry Johnson – Missed eight games due to injury. Held out of training camp.
- Shaun Alexander – Missed three games do to injuries.
- Willie Parker – Carried 321 times for 1,316 yards but only scored two touchdowns.
- Rudi Johnson – Missed five games due to injuries. Coming off three seasons of 330+ carries.
- Reggie Bush – Missed four games due to injury.
- Adrian Peterson – Rookie season. Was the 26th RB selected in fantasy drafts.
- Clinton Portis – ADP #19 RB, coming off injury-plagued 2006.
- Jamal Lewis – Bounced back from his injury-riddled 2005 campaign. Actually had a good 2006, but finished #16 in fantasy that year. In 2007, he rushed for 170 more yards and caught two more touchdowns than in 2006 to finish #6.
- Marion Barber – In RBBC with Julius Jones.
- Willis McGahee – Traded to the Ravens in the offseason, after making disparaging remarks about the city of Buffalo. Was the 14th RB selected in fantasy drafts.
- Edgerrin James – Almost identical stats to 2006 year. The difference was that 2006 was a bonkers year for the running back position. LaDainian Tomlinson scored 427.3 points, Larry Johnson scored 333.9, and Steven Jackson scored 329.4. In 2007, Tomlinson was the top scorer with 307.8 points.
- LaDainian Tomlinson
- Adrian Peterson
- Brian Westbrook
- Clinton Portis
- Joseph Addai – Missed four games due to injury. Coming off a career high 261 carries the prior year.
- Steven Jackson – Missed four games due to injury. Finished as the #13 RB. Missed four games in 2007.
- Marion Barber – Much was expected as he was declared the unquestioned starter in Dallas. His ADP was the 6th RB off the board. He ended the season at #16. Barber’s ypc decreased to 3.7 after consecutive years with a 4.8 mark.
- Frank Gore – Missed two games. Ended as the #14 RB.
- Marshawn Lynch – Missed one game. Finished as the #15 RB.
- Larry Johnson – Missed four games due to suspension.
- DeAngelo Williams – Showed what he could do after DeShaun Foster went down with an injury in 2007. Williams averaged 5.0 yards-per-carry that year. Entering 2008, he was deemed the starter, with draft pick Jonathan Stewart serving a complementary role.
- Michael Turner – After backing up Tomlinson in San Diego for four years, Turner took his talents to Atlanta and had a tremendous year.
- Matt Forte – Rookie year.
- Thomas Jones – Scored one touchdown in 2007 for a 4-12 Jets team. In 2008, Jones scored 13 rushing touchdowns and the Jets compiled a 9-7 record.
- Steve Slaton– Rookie year.
- Maurice Jones-Drew – ADP was the 11th RB off the board. Many drafters were expecting MJD to take over the duties from Fred Taylor.
- Michael Turner – Missed five games due to injury. Carried 376 times the prior year.
- Matt Forte – Received 58 less carries, had a bit of a fumbling issue (5 fumbles/3 lost), and scored eight fewer touchdowns than in 2008. YPC was 3.6, a career low.
- DeAngelo Williams – Finished as the #14 RB. It was a disappointment because of the prolific 2008 he had. The total touchdown number decreased to seven from 20 the prior year.
- LaDainian Tomlinson – Missed two games to injury. After dominating the fantasy landscape for eight years and logging 300+ carries each year, the great Tomlinson finally started to break down.
- Steve Slaton– Sophomore slump. Bulked up after a successful rookie campaign. Lost short-yardage and goal line duties to Chris Brown. Fumbles were an issue, as he lost three, and injuries ended his season.
- Ray Rice – Won the starting job before the start of the season after debuting successfully in 2008.
- Thomas Jones – Drafters were not buying Thomas’ 2008, as he was the 22nd RB off the board in 2009.
- Ricky Williams – Ronnie Brown suffered a season-ending injury, opening the door for Williams to set an NFL record of the longest time span between 1,000 yard seasons.
- Ryan Grant – ADP #15 RB. He increased his touchdown total to 11 from five the prior year.
- Joseph Addai – Bounced back after an injury-filled 2008. ADP #19 RB. A Peyton Manning running back always has value.
- Maurice Jones-Drew – Played the entire year with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Still finished as the #12 RB.
- Ray Rice – Finished as the #11 RB.
- Frank Gore – Missed five games due to injury.
- Steven Jackson – Finished as the #14 RB. Only scored six touchdowns.
- DeAngelo Williams – Missed 10 games due to injury.
- Ryan Mathews – Drafted with the 12th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. The Chargers traded Tomlinson to the Jets. The opportunity was there and fantasy owners drafted him as the 10th running back off the board. Mathews missed four games and couldn’t crack 1,000 yards.
- Arian Foster – The last two games of his 2009 rookie season: 19 carries for 97 yards with a touchdown against the Dolphins and 20 carries for 119 yards with two touchdowns against the Patriots. With Slaton in the doghouse, Foster was given an opportunity and ran with it, finishing as the #1 RB in 2010.
- Peyton Hillis – Traded to the Browns prior to the season. Made the most of his opportunity, when Jerome Harrison and James Davis were injured, and ended as the #2 RB.
- Jamaal Charles – He had a successful 2009 campaign, but owners were a little leery. He was drafted as the #14 RB.
- Darren McFadden – Hue Jackson was hired as offensive coordinator and instituted a power running game, eschewing the zone scheme utilized previously. The oft-injured McFadden still missed three games, but was still able to finish as the #6 RB.
- LeSean McCoy – McCoy was pressed into service his rookie year in 2009 when Westbrook injured his ankle. He proceeded to break the Eagles rookie rushing record. McCoy was the unquestioned starter coming into 2010 and was the #16 RB drafted in fantasy.
- Matt Forte – Forte was the 21st running back off the board. His yardage was incrementally better than 2009, but he scored five more touchdowns.
- Chris Johnson – Held out for a new contract and did not show up to camp.
- Jamaal Charles – Missed 14 games due to injury.
- Rashard Mendenhall – Only rushed 228 times compared to 324 the prior year. Scored nine touchdowns but that mark was below the 13 from 2010.
- Darren McFadden – Missed nine games due to injury.
- Marshawn Lynch – ADP #30 RB. New coach Pete Carroll made the wise decision to feature Lynch instead of employing a committee with Justin Forsett.
- Ryan Mathews – Although he missed two games, Mathews was able to total 1,1546 yards and score six touchdowns, which placed him as the #7 RB in fantasy.
- Michael Bush – McFadden handcuff.
- Darren Sproles – Signed with the New Orleans Saints in the offseason.
- LeSean McCoy – Missed four games due to injury.
- Chris Johnson – Finished as the #12 RB.
- Darren McFadden – Missed four games due to injury. The Raiders returned to a zone blocking scheme.
- Matt Forte – Held out for a new contract. Skipped OTA’s. Missed one game. Finished with a career low 44 receptions. With all of that, still finished as the #13 RB in fantasy.
- Maurice Jones-Drew – Held out for a new contract. Missed 10 games due to injury.
- DeMarco Murray – Missed six games due to injury.
- Doug Martin – Rookie year. Showed well in the preseason and was named the starting running back.
- Alfred Morris – Rookie year. Showed well in preseason. Coach Mike Shanahan announced Morris as the starter before the first game. RG3’s rookie season. The read-option took the league by storm, with Morris being a prime beneficiary.
- C.J. Spiller – Fred Jackson missed time due to injury.
- Jamaal Charles – Returned from ACL surgery successfully. He was the 11th RB drafted in fantasy.
- Trent Richardson – Rookie year. Was the 14th RB off the board, even though he underwent arthroscopic surgery in August of 2012.
- Stevan Ridley – Showed well in his rookie year with a 5.1 ypc on 87 attempts. In his second year, was handed the reigns.
- Doug Martin – Missed 10 games due to injury. Sophomore slump.
- Arian Foster – Missed eight games due to injury.
- Ray Rice – Only missed one game due to injury, but was revealed recently that he played with a significant hip flexor injury.
- C.J. Spiller – RBBC with Fred Jackson. Only scored two touchdowns.
- Trent Richardson – We all fell for the bananna in the tailpipe. He was traded from the Browns to the Colts so there was definitely optimism running in a Andrew Luck-led offense.
- Alred Morris – Finished as the #14 RB. Actually had a good year, but RG3 fell off and the league adjusted to the read-option.
- Matt Forte – ADP #11 RB so was right on the fringe to begin with.
- Knowshon Moreno – Was sharing carries with Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, but he was gaining the trust of Manning and the coaching staff with every game played. By week 5, he was the man.
- Eddie Lacy – Rookie year. Selected with the 61st overall pick in the NFL draft.
- DeMarco Murray – Cowboys selected Travis Frederick with their first round pick. Looking back at it, that was an early indication of how the Cowboys wanted to play and portended the huge 2014 season.
- Chris Johnson – ADP #12 RB.
- Reggie Bush – Signed with the Detroit Lions.
- LeSean McCoy – Finished as the #11 RB. Had a decent season, but YPC went down a full yard and the reception total and yardage went down the tubes.
- Adrian Peterson – Switching. Were the fantasy gods getting bored up in the heavens? Let’s try this and see what happens. Mwa ha ha.
- Montee Ball – Missed 11 games due to injury.
- Giovani Bernard – Missed three games due to injury. Sophomore slump. The Bengals drafted Jeremy Hill in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft.
- Le’Veon Bell – Fully healthy after injuries in his rookie campaign. Was a stud at Michigan State. Showed more agility during the preseason games in 2014.
- Justin Forsett – He was injured in 2013, but he couldn’t get consistent playing time in Seattle and Houston because of two guys named Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster.
- Lamar Miller – Given opportunity due to Moreno injury.
- Jeremy Hill – Given more opportunity when Bernard went down. Made most of it and continued to get fed. Hue Jackson likes to run the ball. Hill more suited for between the tackles, but can take it to the house.
- Eddie Lacy – Got fat. Finished as the #24 RB. Had the same number of 100-yard rushing games as touchdowns scored on the season (3). Eclipsed the 20-carry threshold twice. The prevailing thought at the time of the Jordy Nelson injury was that it would be beneficial for Lacy and his fantasy prospects. As we found out, the Nelson injury was the Packers’ Black Swan that discombobulated the entire offense.
- Marshawn Lynch – Missed nine games due to sports hernia surgery. Coming off four consecutive seasons with 280+ carries.
- C.J. Anderson – Sophomore slump. Played 15 games but only started five. Multiple injuries affected playing time.
- DeMarco Murray – Took his talents to Philly and got Chip Kelly’d. Round peg square hole. Coming off an insane 2014 season in which he rushed 392 times.
- Jeremy Hill – Sophomore slump. YPC dropped from 5.1 to 3.6. Yardage went from 1,124 to 794. He did score 11 touchdowns, though.
- LeSean McCoy – Missed four games due to injury. Coming off two seasons with 300+ carries.
- Frank Gore – Matt Hasselbeck started eight games for the Colts and Charlie Whitehurst appeared in four. With that said, he still ended up as the #11 RB in standard scoring.
- Devonta Freeman – Took advantage of the injury to Tevin Coleman
- Chris Ivory – The Jets cut Chris Johnson, who took his talents to Arizona. As a result, a career-high in rushing attempts, catches, targets, rushing yards, touchdowns, blah, blah, blah. A career year. It’s funny that a team named the J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS has been a ground and pound team for some years now.
- Doug Martin – Healthy after two injury-plagued seasons. Contract year.
- DeAngelo Williams – The Le’Veon Bell situation.
- David Johnson – Rookie that scored 13 combined touchdowns and took over as the season wore on.
- Todd Gurley – Rookie that scored 10 touchdowns despite missing three games and playing for Jeff Fisher.
- Latavius Murray – Basically didn’t get fat or miss time due to injury.
- Todd Gurley – Sophomore slump. Couldn’t overcome the ineptitude of rookie QB Jared Goff.
- Adrian Peterson – Played three games before succumbing to a torn menisus in the right knee.
- Lamar Miller – New team. Received the volume but couldn’t maintain the efficiency. It didn’t help that Brock Osweiler started 14 games for the Texans.
- Jamaal Charles – Couldn’t recover from the torn ACL injury he suffered the year before. Only played in three games.
- Doug Martin – Signed five-year, $35.75 million contract extension before the start of the season. Played in eight games before getting suspended for violating the NFL substance abuse policy.
- LeSean McCoy – ADP #11 RB, so right outside the Top 10.
- DeMarco Murray – ADP #17 RB. Skepticism of “exotic smash mouth.” The Titans also drafted Derrick Henry in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
- LeGarrette Blount – ADP #38 RB. Scored 18 touchdowns on 299 carries. Trepidation of selecting a Bill Belichick running back.
- Melvin Gordon – ADP #20 RB. Injury to Danny Woodhead enabled Gordon to be the bell cow and third-down back. Scored 10 touchdowns and caught 41 passes.
- Jordan Howard – ADP #55 RB. Rookie. Injuries to Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey opened the door for Howard to “run” away with the job.
DECIPHERING THE DATA
What does this all mean? The one obvious observation is the injuries, but the league has taken notice and adjusted. Since 2005, there have been 57 running backs that received 300+ carries in a season. Below is the number of running backs who received 300+ carries in each season:
There are so many variables that could skew our endeavor to predict the final top 10 fantasy running backs, yet we try. That one nugget of information could be floating around in the air like the elusive butterfly. If we can find it, could it contort the odds to our favor?
I will try. Although frustrating at times, this is much more fun than throwing darts at a board. Plus, when certain scenarios do play out as I “forecasted,” I can feel a sense of pride. A false sense of pride, but pride nonetheless. What fun is patting the back of the dart board?
Here are some general things that I’ve observed from this endeavor:
|RED FLAGS||POSSIBLE BREAKOUT|
|Prior injury||Show glimpses in prior year|
|High carry load||Handcuff situation/RBBC|
|Loss of offensive lineman||New team/scheme|
|Coach/scheme change||Rookie year|
|Sophomore slump||Bounce back from injury|
|YPC decrease||Improved offensive line|
|Hold out for new contract|
|Bulk up but lose short-yardage work|
Below is my attempt to predict the top 10 running backs for 2017 from delving into the past.
PREDICTING THE TOP 10 RBS IN 2017
2017 ADP (As of 8/19/17). Data from Fantasyfootballcalculator.com.
- David Johnson
- Le’Veon Bell
- LeSean McCoy
- Devonta Freeman
- Melvin Gordon
- DeMarco Murray
- Jordan Howard
- Jay Ajayi
- Ezekiel Elliot
- Leonard Fournette
Since ADP usually only predicts 50% of the final list, I’ve put in bold those five that I feel will finish in the top 10. The five that I think will be most likely to FALL out of the Top 10 are:
PRIOR INJURY: Shady has missed 10 starts in his career due to injury. That’s actually not a bad number, but he’s experienced a litany of injuries throughout his career: sprained ankle (2017), thumb dislocation (2016), hamstring pull (2016), MCL injury (2015), shoulder sprain (2015), hamstring pull (2015), concussion (2014), turf toe (2014), ankle sprain (2013), concussion (2012), ankle sprain (2011), toe sprain (2011), rib fracture (2010), and ankle fracture (2005). Sportsinjurypredictor.com has Shady with a 93.3% chance of injury in 2017. They project 5.3 games missed. Which brings me to…HIGH CARRY LOAD: He’s 29 years old and has accumulated 1898 career carries. He’s also caught 382 passes. He’s 43rd ALL-TIME in touches. SCHEME CHANGE: It’s not an actual tactical scheme change that Shady will experience. Rather, it’s an organizational change, as the Bills are in tank/rebuild mode. They traded their top receiver and cornerback in the offseason and are trying to accumulate draft assets. #TTP.
SOPHOMORE SLUMP: A perfect storm of injuries allowed Howard to get his chance. Granted, he literally “ran” with it but I have some doubts with this season. Howard topped more than 20 carries in a game four times last year. The 5.21 yards per attempt was good for fourth in the league. He had some struggles in the passing game, mainly dropped passes. I think Howard is very skilled, but will he receive a similar workload? Will he be as efficient? Will he become a strictly two-down back? The O/U for wins in Chicago is 5.5. Bad teams usually don’t conjure up too many red zone opportunities. Yes, the Bears were bad last year but is Howard a transcendent talent that can overcome a bad situation year in and year out? It’s possible, but it’s more probably that he isn’t. Look at Todd Gurley’s first two years.
PRIOR INJURY: Suffered a concussion in July. Sportsinjurypredictor.com has a 52.2% chance of injury and predicts 3.3 games missed. SOPHOMORE SLUMP: This is technically Ajayi’s third year in the NFL, but he didn’t play much his rookie year. SCHEME CHANGE: Losing Ryan Tannehill is going to change the offense. We don’t know exactly how, yet, but I think losing the threat of run from the quarterback position is going to have a negative impact on Ajayi.
Well, we all know about the suspension. Le’Veon missed four games last season and still ended up in the Top 10, but Elliot is out six games for sure. I’m not buying the appeal angle. As has been mentioned by people smarter than me, Deflategate pretty much showed that the courts believe that Goodell has the power to do what he wants. And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. In addition, the NFL looks like they really did their homework on the Elliot case. HIGH CARRY LOAD: Zeke carried the ball 322 times last season. LOSS OF OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: The Cowboys lose LG Ronald Leary and replace him with Chaz Green. RT Doug Free is out and Le’el Collins. They could be better, but that remains to be seen. SOPHOMORE SLUMP: It’s a new year and many things have changed. How will he react to last year’s success and how will he respond to being suspended?
There are no red flag boxes that Fournette checks. I could make an argument that he could be a breakout. With that said, the O/U wins for the Jaguars is 6.5. Higher than I expected, to be honest. Who are the quarterbacks for the Jags? Bortles and Henne. Exactly. The whole pound Fournette to get three yards and a cloud of dust is cool and all, but you still need someone to convert on third down. I am ye of little faith that the QBs can do that. No third down conversions equals punts which translates to more time on the field for the defense which means they get tired and allow the opposition to control the game which ultimately means fewer possessions of the Jags.
Now for the replacements:
Current ADP is #15. ROOKIE YEAR: Running backs often make a difference their rookie year. McCaffrey is awesome. His combine numbers were off the charts, with an insane 6.57 3-cone drill. We know he can catch, but it’s his ability to run between the tackles that really has me excited. Don’t forget that at Stanford, they often ran 3 TE formations with McCaffrey. With the threat of Cam Newton running, there are going to be so many seams for him to run. Plus, he’s often going to be matched up against LBs and safeties in the pass game.
Current ADP is #16 RB. ROOKIE YEAR: We know that the running back position is the easiest position for college players to transition to the pros. Don’t let the combine numbers fool you. Cook is really good. IMPROVED OFFENSIVE LINE: The Vikings allowed the 10th-most sacks last year, which is amazing considering Sam Bradford likes to dink and dunk and get the ball out quickly. In the offseason, the Vikings signed Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers in free agency and drafted center Pat Eiflein. Pro Football Focus has the line rated 14th this year. The unit finished 29th last season. MISC: Sam Bradrod targeted running backs 101 times last year. The leader in running back targets last season was David Johnson with 120. Cook is an excellent receiver. 1+1=?
Current ADP is #18 RB. SHOWED GLIMPSES IN PRIOR YEAR: Montgomery was thrust into the running back role due to the plethora of injuries the Packers suffered last season. While he was mainly used as a receiver out of the backfield, Montgomery displayed his chops between the tackles. Monty is a polarizing player this year for sure and I totally get it. He received double-digit carries only once and is currently down with a lower body injury. In addition, the Packers spent some draft capital on the running back position during the draft. With all that said, Monty is 6′ 0″ 220 pounds, so he has the physical body to run between the tackles. Due to his experience returning kicks, he is adept and running in traffic. What makes Monty valuable is his ability receiving ability. He needs to work on his pass protection for sure, but the situation with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback coupled with his ability makes me tingly inside.
Current ADP is #21 RB. NEW TEAM: Coming to the Patriots after spending the last two years in Buffalo. Bill Belichick saw first hand what Gillislee can do, as he gashed the Pats in October. The Pats are going to be a juggernaught on offense and Gillislee should take over the role that enabled LeGarrette Blount to score 18 TDs last season. RBBC: There are so many options in the Patriots backfield: Rex Burkhead, James White, and Dion Lewis. It muddies things that Gillislee is currently injured, so Burkhead is receiving those snaps. With that said, barring health, I do think Gillislee is the guy with Burkhead providing depth behind. As Belichick stated back in early August, “I think Burkhead has ability on all four downs. I think Gillislee maybe has a little more overall versatility.”
Current ADP #49 RB. SHOWED GLIMPSES LAST YEAR: Against the Saints in Week 7, he rushed four times for 23 yards and caught four passes for 80 yards. In Week 9 against the Patriots, he rushed 17 times for 66 yards and caught seven passes for 87 yards. BOUNCE BACK FROM INJURY: Prosise missed substantial time last season due to injury, the big one being the scapula issue that forced him out for eight weeks. While it’s a little troubling that he’s tending to a tight groin right now, the injury doesn’t seem serious. Sportsinjurypredictor.com has Prosise with a 26.6% chance of injury. They do have him missing four games, though. RBBC: There are a ton of running backs for Pete Carroll to choose from: Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, Prosise, Alex Collins, and Chris Carson. Prosise is the most versatile of the group and possesses the size to bang between the tackles. The beautiful thing about Carroll is he plays the guy that deserves it. It’s a true meritocracy. If Prosise can stay healthy, he has the most talent and could thrive in this offense.
The landscape of fantasy football is always changing, with new information, new strategies, and new players entering the fray. The “Upside-down” and “Zero RB” strategies probably arose when someone noticed that running backs get injured…a lot. As a result, locking up the elite wide receivers and mining upside running backs became a very viable and “safe” strategy. What if you could gain an edge in predicting the top 10 running backs? It would provide so much flexibility in draft strategy and would usher in a new host of drafting paradigms. Whether it’s possible or not, we must continue to explore the edges of our fantasy football universe. Maybe future generations will discover the information from the fifth dimensions and beyond.