With over half the league employing a “by committee” approach, not only to try and keep guys healthy, but to also utilize each individual strength at the position in order to maximize offensive efficiency. Elite three down backs should be sought after early in most formats but which ones should you focus on?
Let us discuss some potential elite situations this year and also some potential, at risk situations that you may want to avoid all together in your fantasy drafts, here are my thoughts on some of the players in the RB top 10…
Potential Elite in 2016:
- Todd Gurley: In the Jeff Fischer style of offense that has blessed us with great running backs like Eddie George and Chris Johnson in his prime, you can take it to the bank that the game plan is to feature Gurely early and often throughout the season. The Rams oline was a mess when it came to running the ball and Gurley’s amazing skill set bailed them out quite often during 2015. With a slight improvememt from the oline run blocking and more emphasis on running the football with, rookie number one overall pick Jared Goff, projected to win the starting job in the pre-season, even though he has stingy competition from the always gritty, Case Keenum. As long as Gurley is healthy, he remains an elite top 5 option at running back and has a very rare range of skill sets to use in opperation. Dominating opposing defenses even when he rushes behind the 24th ranked run blocking oline in the NFL last season. Amazing.
- Lamar Miller: After a mediocre 2015, in which fantasy owners of the explosive back were left slightly dissapointed and blue balled yet again with Miller’s inconsistent play in fantasy. The Dolphins coaching staff (who has since been fired), for whatever reason, did not believe that Miller was capable of three down RB duties. However, playing against the team he signed with as a free agent in 2016, Miller torched Houston’s defense last year to the tune of 35 fantasy points in standard league settings. Joining David Johnson (40), Devonte Freeman (37), and Thomas Rawls (36) as the only RB’s to score 35 or more fantasy points in a single game last season. However, what will really make your jaw drop is how Miller’s big game is in a league of his own when compared to the other three aforementioned running backs…..
Total touches by running backs with a 35+ point fantasy game in 2015.
–David Johnson: 40 fantasy points on 33 total touches.
– Devonte Freeman: 37 fantasy points on 35 total touches
– Thomas Rawls: 36 fantasy points on 33 total touches.
-Lamar Miller: 35 fantasy points on 17 total touches.
Did you catch it? 17 total touches!! To amass 175 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns, ALL IN THE FIRST HALF. Which is by far the best rushing performance of the 2015 season by a running back, check out a few of the highlights in that game with this video highlight reel by nfl.com. The vision, the break away speed, the elusiveness to evade tacklers. What in the hell was Miami smoking essentially trading, but not actually trading, Miller for injury prone Arian Foster? Idiots.
- Eddie Lacy: Lacy, like all the Packers offense, opperates at its best like a well oiled machine when everyone is healthy. Lacy, came into camp last season waaay overweight and out of shape. In the NFL, if guys do not take the game seriously in the offseason they tend to fall flat on their faces the following year. However, like all oiled machines, they are at their peak performance when ALL the parts are performing at a high level and the devistating injury to Jordy Nelson was devistating to the pack’s offense as a whole. Clearly showing in Aaron Rodgers AND Randall Cobb looking down right terrible at times with out their number one wide receiver and throwing behind a very shaky line that finished the year 20th overall. Uncharacteristically, the Packers offense played from behind way more than usual in 2015 which forced them to the air playing catch up and moving away from running the ball. Legitiamately explaining why Lacy was not a factor even at the end of last year. He appears to have righted the ship in 2016, reporting into training camp in phenomenal shape, perhaps best he’s ever been in as a pro, which leads us to believe that Lacy is incredibly motivated to continue being a Packer after seasons end but also is serious about cashing in on a contract year in which he looked really bad the season before. With the Packers oline and Nelson getting healthy in the offseason, it appears the frustrations from last season will be taken out on opposing defenses in 2016. The motor has been rebuilt and is ready to roar, so draft Lacy at a value in the 2nd or 3rd round and enjoy the RB-1 performance he is surely capable of displaying.
- Latavius Murray: Like Miller, Murray was not used as much in the offense like other typical number one RB’s. Although Murray’s usage was not due to poor coaching decisions, but more because of game flows, Oaklands defense showed its potential, but overall was just awful last season, which lead to lots of Derek Carr slinging it down field playing catch up. With Oakland beefing up, not only their defense (notable adds: Sean Smith and Bruce Irving), but spending a ton of money upgrading their 20+ ranked offensive line and after taking 80% of the snaps last year, Murray is primed to explode with Oakland having the BEST strength of schedule for opposing defenses vs RB’s based on last years numbers. Murray is my top break out candidate of the year this year for running backs, so mark him up from his ADP of 39 and enjoy!
Potential RB’s to avoid:
- David Johnson: Arians is an old school head coach who seemingly gets his rocks off, on making young players pay their dues and earn their playing time, in which he’s part of the Bear Bryant coaching tree, that has an almost 50 year old quote that says, “coach em hard and hug em later!”. There is no denying that David Johnson is by far one of the most talented backs in the NFL’s future and he is definitely not the reason why I am putting him here. Johnson is being listed as the number ONE overall runningback in lots of mainstream rankings and his ADP has him currently at RB-3 status overall, just behind Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson. With everyone saying, that he is one of the top selections if not THE top selection to win the RB crown for 2016. Although, I dont see that happeneing just yet and it is because of the coach he plays for. Johnson committed 4 fumbles last year in minimal playing time, all of which lead him straight to the bench to think about what he’s done. In a no BS system like Arians’ it doesnt matter if you’re the hero of the team or the rookie, if you mess up then your ass is grass. With that being said, Arians has even said that he favors a blend of veteran leadership coupled with young talent to make the perfect blend! After hearing that, people like myself tend to read further into that line of thinking trying to read the fine print and ultimately decide whether or not the coach is full of shit or no bull shit, he’s clearly no bull shit. David Johnson not only has one veteran who’s busted his ass for Arians since the beginning, Andre Ellington, but also has to compete with Chris Johnson, one of the fastest EVER forty times recorded at the combine. Sure CJ has gotten older and may have lost a step or two, but he has ONE fumble in his last 3 seasons in the NFL. Now that may not seem like a big difference to most new age coaches in the NFL, 4 fumbles compared to zero for one season, but Arians is apart of a dying breed of head coaches (thankfully Todd Bowles carries on the legacy as sophomore coach of the New York Jets), which means that he is going to make every player earn their playing time, every day, and every game! If DJ has a bad opening drive leading off with a fumble, he could be yanked in favor of either CJ or Ellington. Which in my opinion, makes him a risky draft where he’s being drafted because when you draft a RB in the top ten of your draft, you expect at least 10 points a week from the guy. There aint nothing worse than spending a top 10 pick on C.J. Anderson last year only to watch him stuck in the mid in the middle of a RB platoon all season. Call me crazy, but im shying away from the young stud as the number 3 overall running back (ADP) soley based on his coaches stubborn coaching style. Giants fans know what I am talking about having to deal with the complicated Tom Coughlin for so many years, in re draft leagues it is probably a better idea to take the safest pick possible with the most consistent week to week potential, winning fantasy titles more closely resembels a marathon and not the 40 yard dash.
- LeVeon Bell: Even before Bell’s suspension last week, Steelers head coach was quoted as saying that they may begin to enploy a running back by committee during the off-season that includes player reborn, DeAngello Williams. Seeing as Bell cannot seem to stay on the field, whether it be because of injury or jack assery like missing 7 drug tests, idiot. LeVeon Bell’s elite status is in serious peril at the moment because if Williams comes out of the gate firing like he did last season when Bell served his two game suspension after getting busted with LeGarrett Blount (who was cut by steelers in correspondimg move), that will be the second time in concecutive years he would have saved the team from Bell. We could see the Pittsburgh high octane offense mold into a featured 1-2 wam bam approach at the running back position. Seeing as Bell will have officially missed 17 total games due to injury or suspension since 2013 when he returns in week 5, yikes!
- Lesean Mccoy: The veteran back has put together a pretty nice career with his craftiness and quick first step out of the back field. Although McCoy has been around for a while, I am by no means predicting a decline in the 28 year old RB’s production due to age as the reason for having him here. It’s because the Bills have THE HARDEST strength of schedule for RB’s this season, based on last years defensive statistics, which is not good news for Shady. A tough player who has been showing his mileage playing through injuries (and sometimes missing small amounts of time) the last couple years. His ADP is currently at 25, far too high for me to take a chance on a starting RB with the turbulant hit or miss option like what McCoy will be with the level of talented defenses they are going to play in 2016. Instead, go after Thomas Rawls, who’s ADP currently sits at 28 and features opponents from the NFC South (Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, and Tampa) and the AFC East. Whereas, Shady is up against 6 of the top 10 D-lines measure in total yards per game allowed in 2015. (1. Seahawks, 2. Jets, 5. Steelers, 6. Cardinals, and 7. Bengals). Then factor in two games against the Patriots (and #2 ranked Jets) who check in as the 9th rated rush defense they get to play twice a year being in the same division and all. Not to mention, a potentially vastly improved Oakland (13th) rush defense and no push over line in Baltimore (12th). It is a schedule that could make any owner get turned off on a player especialliay when a guy 4 slots behind him plays 6 teams (2 teams twice in their own divison, Rams and 49ers), who rank 20th or worse against the run in 2015. RUN FORREST RUUUUUN!
Author: Shaun “The Don”