What’s going on everybody?! Welcome back to another post in my sleepers, breakouts and busts series, where today, I’ll be taking a look at the Running Back position.

The general consensus in the fantasy community is that this will be the year of the RB, and there is some truth to that, so be prepared for a bunch of backs to be selected in the early rounds of the draft, which means that you need to get yours while you can! So let’s take a look at some names you should be targeting, and some you need to be avoiding.

Let’s get to it!

Sleepers

Peyton Barber (ADP: 19.04)

The 2017 season for Barber only really came all together in the final few weeks of the season when he was able to take control of the backfield, as he finished with 15+ carries in four of the final five weeks. On the entire year, he finished with 108 carries for 423 yards and 3 scores.

Heading into the start of Training Camp and the preseason, it wasn’t looking great for Barber as the Bucs spent a 2nd-round pick on Ronald Jones from USC. However, as we progress deeper into the offseason, it’s looking like Barber has been the standout back to watch from the Tampa Bay training camp. When asked if Barber has played like a starter over the summer, Dirk Koetter responded by saying “Yes, he’s doing everything everything he should be doing right now and I think if we went out there and gave it to Peyton 20 times, we’d like what he does.” With an ADP in the 19th-round, Barber is the perfect low-risk, high-upside pick that should get some serious volume heading into the season.

Rex Burkhead (ADP: 8.07)

Like Barber, it wasn’t looking good at the start of the summer for Burkhead after the Pats spent a 1st-round draft pick on Sony Michel. However, after an eventful offseason, it’s very hard to see Michel having a big role in the early stages of the season thanks to his nagging knee issues. Because of this, it falls into the hands of Burkhead for the primary-downs work for the early part of the 2018 season.

Burkhead already has the trust of the New England coaching staff after a 2017 season in which he tallied 518 total yards and 8 TD’s , and I don’t think it’ll take him long to become a fantasy-dependent starting RB in the first couple of games. His ADP is still in the early parts of the 8th round, which is an absolute steal.

Ty Montgomery (ADP: 12.06)

2017 was a season to forget for Montgomery as he only got to play 8 weeks due to a bunch of rib and wrist injuries finally caught up to him. Even though his season was cut short, he still finished as the 20th RB in fantasy thanks to some killer production in the first half of the season.

While it’s easy to look at the Green Bay backfield and say that Montgomery will just be a role player, I think it’s safe to say that he has the upside to be more than that for the Packers. He’s already got some chemistry with Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones is suspended for the first two games of the season, and even if he doesn’t get a majority of snaps in the backfield, he’ll likely get some playing time at the WR position, which immediately boosts his WR upside. For a back being taken in the 12th round, I really like the PPR upside that Montgomery brings to the table.

Breakouts

Joe Mixon (ADP: 3.07)

If there was one player that I think will be this year’s Todd Gurley, I’d put my money on Mixon (not that it’s an outlandish take, I think people have identified that Mixon is going to be a stud this year).

There’s a lot of reasons to be excited for Mixon this year, but I think it all has to do with what’s happening around him. First off, he’ll get another year under OC Bill Lazor, who awarded him lead role duties after his promotion in Week 3. Second, the whole Bengals offensive line will finally be healthy into the season, something that they weren’t in 2017, and it clearly showed in Mixon’s production. Finally, I think the Bengals offense as a whole will get better, opening up holes in the defense for Mixon to operate in. Dalton and Green should get back to normal, Eifert should produce now that he’s finally healthy, and I expect John Ross to take a huge step forward in Year 2. Mixon is a top-tier breakout candidate in his second year now that Jeremy Hill is out of the picture, and he should easily pay off his ADP in every format.

Alex Collins (ADP: 4.08)

By the end of the season for the Baltimore Ravens backfield, it was the Alex Collins show, and rightly so. In the final 8 weeks of the regular season, Collins finished inside the Top-12 four times, and inside the Top-24 five times.

What started out as a crowded backfield at the start of Training Camp has now dwindled down to just only Collins, believe it or not. The coaching staff hasn’t given any confidence to Buck Allen, and Kenneth Dixon might not be on the Ravens at all at the start of the season. Collins is locked into the lead role in Baltimore, and carries some pretty big upside if he is able to do what he did last year in 8 games for a full season in 2018.

Dion Lewis (ADP: 6.10)

I’ve talked a lot about Lewis so I’ll keep it short here, but I love his situation this year. While a lot of people love them some Derrick Henry, and for good reason, the Titans didn’t pay Lewis 70 mil to be a role player in this offense. He’s going to get his carries and touches in a new-look Titans offense that plays to the strengths of both Lewis and Marcus Mariota. This is now a dynamic offense, and word has gotten out that both HC Mike Vrabel and OC Matt LaFleur will be planning around Lewis.

While I don’t necessarily hate Derrick Henry, I think Lewis’ skillset better matches up to what this offense should look like in less than a month, and comes in a great value in the later parts of the 6th round.

Busts

LeSean McCoy (ADP: 3.05)

McCoy is the only true “bust” for me this year, because any other back that I don’t like comes with a pretty safe ADP price, so it isn’t too big of a risk if you get those backs in rounds 6+. However, I don’t have any interest in McCoy, especially not in the 3rd round.

Aside from the off-the-field allegations and the fact that he might not play a full 16 games if the lawsuits and investigations turn up anything, even if he does play a full 16 games, I don’t think he’s going to do anything productive. First off, he’s running behind one of the worst offensive lines in football, as they have some pretty gaping holes left by the departures of Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood, and Richie Incognito. In addition to all of these issues, he’s entering his Age-30 season with a lot of tread on his tires. I’d rather look at someone else in the 3rd round as my RB2/3.

 

Alright guys, that’s all of my time today, so thank you for reading! I’ll be back later in the week to round out this series with a look at the WR position. As always, if you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to leave one below!

 

You Can Follow Zach on Twitter @razzball_zach

  1. Pat says:
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    Thanks for the write-up!

    I have been having such a love/hate relationship with Mixon all offseason. I loved him last year, traded for him early, and he never really panned out. But this year came back around and I was ready to jump right back in. But then I watch the Bengals 2nd preseason game (I know it’s only preseason) and see the same Bengals who struggled to get any offense going and I start to worry that I’m falling into the Mixon trap for a 2nd straight year.

    My first pick in a PPR keeper league is going to come down to Mixon and Jordan Howard. I flip flop every day between the upside of Mixon and the safety of Jordan Howard. My RB keeper is Jerrick McKinnon and while pairing Mixon and McKinnon oozes upside, I’m scared it could also blow up in my face.

    Kind of just ranting at this point, but I guess my question is if you are keeping McKinnon, are you still taking Mixon over Jordan Howard and throwing caution to the wind? Or do you balance out the upside/risk of a keeper like Mckinnon by pairing him with a safer option in Howard.

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @Pat: Thank you Pat! We’ve seen in the past that the preseason can be pretty misleading in terms of production. The only thing to really take away from preseason action is usage rates. Are the players we’re targeting getting enough work in August? Regardless of how well they’re doing, we just need to see that they’re involved enough in the offense. I would go with Mixon over Howard, although both players are talented.

  2. RICE says:
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    Hey Zach!

    Great article and thank you for confirming a number of players I’m already targeting (Mixon / Burkhead / Barber).

    1) Devonta Freeman or Joe Mixon?

    2) What site do you find most reliable for ADP numbers?

    Thanks!

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @RICE: What’s up Rice?! Thank you homie! I’d go with Freeman over Mixon, although it’s close. Both are really great options, but I feel really great about the Falcons offense this year, and Freeman should be at the forefront of it. However, just make sure you get Tevin Coleman. His ADP is slipping in a lot of drafts for some reason, and he should be immediately taken, especially if you have Freeman.

      I go to 4for4.com (https://www.4for4.com/fantasy-football/adp?pos=ALL). They have great data on ADP.

      Thanks for the questions!

  3. Nick says:
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    Hi Zach,
    nice sleepers postS … cause we are not sleepers at draft time ^^

    here is the deal:
    keeper league -8 teams
    i won last year – my best season EVER…
    down to 5 keepers :
    RB : Gurley – Hunt – Kamara
    WR : A.Brown – Dv.Adams

    so i’m pretty much set with 5 players in top 20 ^^

    now i pick 8/9th :
    advise is to go RB/WR or WR/WR and wait next round for QB/TE at23/24th

    avb RB : knowing some should be gone by then :
    Barkley (gone ^^)
    McKinnon–> cheap cause week1 in jeopardy?
    Mixon –> my objective
    A.Collins –> or this one?
    D.Henry
    LSMCoy
    D.Lewis
    Burkhead
    R.Freeman (to early ? or future star)

    avb WR:
    Fitgerald
    Diggs
    TYHilton
    D.Baldwin –> my objective
    Allen Robinson
    C.Davis –> or this one?
    S.Watkins
    later : Hogan/Jeffery/Kupp –> Reach?

    i’ll try to snatch a QB in Wentz/Cousins/Luck round 8

    and a TE : Engram (was on my last year team) would be gone by then , and on your BUSTS list Olsen may be gone as well
    but a D.Walker, Rudoplh? Burton? Njoku? round 9

    if a perfect world, i’d land Mixon/Balwin
    else : Collins/Davis?

    thanks Nick

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @Nick: What’s going on Nick?!

      Great job on last year, and great job on your 5 keepers so far. I’m not too cautious about McKinnon, and until we get some info that he’s seriously hurt or if he’s going to be out for a number of NFL weeks, I’m moving forward with the knowledge that they’re just keeping him out of the preseason as a precaution.

      Out of the rest of your RB’s, you’ve got it spot on. I’d go with Mixon first, but I really like Collins, Lewis and Burkhead. Lewis and Burkhead should fall to you a bit later compared to Mixon and McKinnon though. As for Freeman, it’s going to be an RBBC in Denver until one back stands out, and I think it’ll eventually be Freeman. Just gonna have to wait a week or two until he leads the team in carries.

      As for your wideouts, Hilton and Diggs lead the pack for me. Then, I’d go with Baldwin, then Fitzgerald, then ARob, then Davis, then Watkins. Kupp and Hogan are fantastic picks, but yeah, should come later (along with Davis). Davis, Kupp and Hogan are some of my faves, but will come way later than the rest of the guys I mentioned. In the early rounds though, Hilton and Diggs are way above everyone else you’ve mentioned. I’d take those two over Baldwin and Fitzgerald.

      For your TE, I don’t might Olsen too much, but yeah, their O-Line problems aren’t very concerning, and for Engram, I just think there are too many other options in that offense for him to repeat his production from last year. For the rest of your Tight Ends, you can’t go wrong with this group. I love Walker, Rudolph, Burton and Njoku, in that order.

      In a perfect world, I’d go with Mixon/Hilton, or Mixon/Diggs, and your pick at TE.

      Thanks for the comment man!

  4. Jake says:
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    I know this isn’t a RB question but do you believe that Wentz will play week 1 ? Also are you concerned about McCaffery with the status of Carolina’s O line ?

    Thanks

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @Jake: I’ll answer any questions! Doesn’t even have to be about fantasy football!

      I think that Wentz should play Week 1, yes, and I’m not too concerned about McCaffrey per se, cause he’s a very elusive back that operates outside of the tackles, but I’m more concerned about C.J. Anderson cause he’ll run between the tackles, and a little bit of Cam Newton, who may not have enough time to operate like he did last year.

  5. Eli Man Penguin Boy says:
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    here’s one for ya, 14 team h2h PPR keep 2. i already have AB (round 4, have gotten 1, 1,3 in the 3 years after i joined this league exactly as AB was becoming completely elite) and get to pick one from this list. rosters are
    1 QB
    2 RB
    3 WR
    1 TE
    1 R/W/T flex
    1 K
    2 LB
    2 DB
    1 DL
    6 BN
    2 IR
    choices, 1 out of these:
    fitz (3, pick 40)
    ebron (11, pick 152)
    parker (21st, pick 292)
    goodwin (21st, pick 292)
    fuller (17th, 236)
    RW3 (SEA QB, 5th, pick 68)

    interesting the massive differences on this one, MB wants fitz all the time every time, reid says goodwin’s upside is so much better than the rest here and it’s not close, Rudy’s rater has parker ahead (for this year anyway, per value, not overall better than fitz). RW3 i’d gain a little value but no huge overlay, same with ebron (if any gain with him).

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @Eli Man Penguin Boy: Hey man! I’ll side with Reid on this one and go with Goodwin. Crazy upside and great value in the 21st.

  6. Chalky White says:
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    I have a keeper question, no implication on draft position. I need to choose between Aaron Rodgers, Michael Thomas, Evan Engram or Joe Mixon (I guess Carlos Hyde is an option too). Can only keep for one season than throw back to the heap. I have been leaning Thomas or Rodgers but now am just wondering if I should consider these others. Also I have been super busy at work so I haven’t had much time to do research.

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @Chalky White: I would go with Rodgers just because he’s likely going to score the most fantasy points this season, and because there isn’t any implication on draft position.

  7. cmutimmah says:
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    Agree so much with Barber and Lewis.

    Lewis/Henry could be the new version of CJ2K and Lendale White. While I don’t think Henry is going to be a 1,000 yard back, I do this Lewis is a 2K yard from scrimmage guy if he stays healthy (which is the stupidest statement… any player should have that designation, and Lewis hasn’t been hurt in a “contact” injury since 2013.)

    Barber is competing against a guy that is getting constantly knocked for his pass protection in a pass first offense. I think he ends up with the job, and Jones gets the cigar carries. Considering that TB will likely be playing from behind a lot this year, Barber is the man to own there.

    Collins is a tough sell for me. He’s being drafted in the 4th round, and in a LOT of drafts… in the 3rd round. This is crazy to me. We’re talking Landry, Ertz, Drake, Golden Tate, Josh Gordon territory. You’re taking a significant risk on Collins (remember Dixon and Allen will have roles in this offense, which is a bad offense…) that I can’t justify giving up the floors of Ertz, Landry, or Tate, nor giving up the ceilings of Drake and Gordon… In PPR, Collins is further downgraded… and everyone plays some form of PPR now. I will likely own zero shares here.

    Mixon is interesting… but Gio Bernard is always going to cut into that workload because he’s SO good as a receiver out of the backfield. Not mentioning Bernard I think was done by design as to not downgrade your excitement. Mixon is a tough price to pay in the third round, but I might grab him in a league or two depending on how each draft goes.

    McCoy is polarizing. A LOT of people are forgetting how bad his team is, his QBs are, and how he’s a virtual lock for 4 catches a game. He’s also going to be the entire offense after his suspension. He’s 31. 31 year olds typically spike down in yards per carry. I won’t argue that. McCoy has a TON of mileage. Also, no argument. But in the third round, he’s still a bell cow back that is likely to catch 40+ rocks. Now, the looming suspension is scary enough that as long as it’s not settled, I’ll likely be staying away. But if he gets the usual 6 games, and he gets discounted to a 5th rounder? I’m probably buying. BUT a total bust at 3. This is going to be the hindsight guy though. Teams that wait out the suspension and were lucky enough to tread water are going to have an advantage upon his return.

    I’m out on Burkhead. I’m done guessing Billy B’s RB moves. With White and Burkhead, can you really count on either without an injury? Michel is a huge red flag, and they’ve kept Gillislee around this long. and then there’s the “slight tear” in Burkhead’s knee… With that in mind, I’ll take White LATE and roll the dice that Burkhead gets injured before I spend an 8th on a middling running back.

    Ty Monte is SOOOOOO dreaming in the PPR game… and having A-Aron back is a huge boost for him. He’s already the no huddle guy… meaning 3 catches per game. He keeps that job, and that becomes his floor. He’s being lined up at WR. He’s going to get 3 touches/looks per game in that role likely. If he can get his foot in the door of the normal offensive rotation (get say 10-20 snaps per game at RB)… he’s going to be a nice RB3. And if the GB RBs get significant injuries again… he could be a steal. That being said… that’s a lot of IFs, which is why he’s going in RB4 territory.

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @cmutimmah: Interesting points, I have to respectfully disagree with some of them, but you make good arguments!

  8. Steve Stevenson says:
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    Hey Zach, reposting from Reid’s keeper column since he’s on vacation:

    10-tm dynasty, std scoring, I have the 9th & 19th picks in rookie/FA draft. I’ve historically done well in this league by prioritizing RB depth (w/ 3 solid starting options every week and another few rostered) despite being pretty weak at WR (there are usually good streamer WR on waivers), but this year the WR situation is getting rough.

    My question is, where should I be focusing for my 1st round pick–RB or WR? My top 3 RB are Hunt, Howard and Ajayi, so I’m OK there. My top 3 WR (only starting 2 every week) are JuJu, Goodwin and Woods, so talented but a lot of things need to break right.

    There are about 8-9 RB available that are worth rostering in this league (Montgomery is the only one listed above who is), but closer to 15 WR. By the 9th pick I may have a Chubb or Wilkins available, and by 19 all the decent RB should be gone. Whereas at WR, there’s a mix of vets w/ upside (Cobb, Hogan, Edelman, Shepard) and all the rookies, so at 9 I may have, say, DJ Moore, Cobb and Shepard to choose from, and at 19 maybe a Lockett, Meredith or John Brown.

    So, barring someone making bad picks and gifting me a no-brainer, do you go RB or WR at 9?

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @Steve Stevenson: Hey Steve! No worries! From the situation you described, I would go with a wideout at 9th overall, simply because ideally, you’re never going to have to bench Hunt, Howard or Ajayi. While I don’t hate JuJu, Goodwin and Woods, you can clearly upgrade on those three with a solid WR pick at 9.

      Thanks for the question!

  9. Brad says:
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    Let’s say Wentz doesn’t go week 1 would you start Bortles or Foles in his absence ? Also who would you drop in order to grab Bortles or Foles . CJ Anderson or Peyton Barber ?

    Thanks

  10. MIKE says:
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    Half PPr… keep Hunt Or kamara and why?

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @MIKE: Kamara. Greater upside in 0.5 PPR with his pass-catching ability, and I think especially with Ingram’s suspension, Kamara’s production should outweight Ingram’s this season

  11. Justin says:
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    what do you think about this team in a 2 QB , 0.5 PPR League.

    QB Ben Roethlisberger
    QB Matt Ryan
    RB Kareem Hunt
    RB Joe Mixon
    WR DeAndre Hopkins
    WR Marquise Goodwin
    TE Rob Gronkowski
    FLX Marvin Jones
    DST Denver Broncos
    K Justin Tucker
    BN Jameis Winston
    BN Rex Burkhead
    BN Marqise Lee
    BN Peyton Barber
    BN Chris Carson
    BN Bilal Powell

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @Justin: Hey man, thanks for the question!

      Have to say, I really like this team. Love your QB duo, especially because you have Ryan for when Big Ben plays on the road, which is great. You’ve got two top-15 backs, the best TE in the game, a top 5 wideouts, Marvin Jones, who for me is a top 20 wideout and has some nice upside, and a nice upside WR in Goodwin. My only concern in WR depth for you, but it isn’t that horrible with Jones and DHop. You’ve got some insane RB depth, my favorite being Burkhead and Barber. I would drop Jameis, you don’t really need him. Try to pick up another high upside WR for cheap while you can before the season starts.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      • Justin says:
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        @Zach: hey. Cheers for the insight. The only reason I have Jameis is because it’s a 2 QB league. So isn’t it better to keep him for when my other two QBs have bye weeks? Wire is pretty slim for QB.

        • Zach

          Zach says:
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          @Justin: Right, forgot about that. Yeah good call, keep Jameis.

  12. DT says:
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    hey Zach!

    I got a keeper question for you. 12 team ppr with 2 flex spots. I’ve got the 9th pick in a snake draft. I can either keep Hopkins in the 2nd round (16th pick), or keep one of Juju, Dion Lewis, Chris Hogan, Jamison Crowder in the the 16th round (last round of our draft).

    I was leaning towards Juju as my keeper, but as the offseason progresses I’ve been tempted to keep Hopkins and hopefully get a stud RB with my 1st pick (though Gurley, OBJ, Zeke, Kamara, and Thomas will most likely be kept). Also, the Lewis hype is getting crazy and was wondering if maybe that would be an alternative option.

    What are your thoughts?

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @DT: What’s up man!? I get your tendency to go with Hopkins, but Juju’s value in the 16th is too good to pass up. I’d go with him there.

      Thanks for the question!

  13. southside dom says:
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    Hey Zach,

    Intrigued by your take on Mixon here. In that vein, need help to pick a keeper. 10 team standard scoring league, start 3 WRs, 2 RBs, and a flex

    Which one do you like of the following?

    Mixon in the 4th
    Thielen in the 9th
    Ertz in the 10th

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @southside dom: Hey Dom!

      Although I really like Mixon, Thielen’s value in the 9th is just incredible. Got to keep him there.

  14. RicoSuave says:
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    Great Work Zach,

    I’m in a 12 team PPR league and just got the draft order (snake draft) who do you recommend I target in the first few rounds in pos. 11?

    Thanks again!

    • Zach

      Zach says:
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      @RicoSuave: Thanks Rico!

      From position 11, I could only really say accurately that for the first two rounds, I think you should go with at least one WR, and one RB. It depends on how they fall to you, but I’d go with one of Julio-OBJ-Thomas-Allen at wideout, and then one of Fournette-Cook-Gordon-Hunt-McCaffrey.

      From there, I’d make sure you attack the draft with a balanced look at things, however because you play in a PPR, I would try to get as many good WR’s as you possibly can.

      Thanks for the question!

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