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Drafting players who exceed their value in average draft position often separates the good teams from the truly great ones.
So how do you give yourself the best chance of finding talent in the later rounds at the running back position? You have to find one that fits several categories.
One guy with the potential is Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II.
So what do we like about this second-year back out of USC?
Steady producer in college
When it comes to predicting success, there's no greater indicator than college film. Specifically consistent, strong production over several years at the Division-I level.
Jones has this quality in spades. He burst onto the scene hard as a freshman at USC, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and 987 rush yards. He finished 2016 with 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns that year. He finished strong in 2017, rushing for 1,550 yards and 19 touchdowns. And this was despite USC being a pass-heavy offense.
I know it seems like an obvious strategy, but a lot of people end up reaching on an unproven back early because he has 'talent.' Sure, you're throwing some darts in the later rounds and not every player is going to fill every possible hole. But why not draft a guy who has talent but also showed he could produce at the college level?
Not much competition to deal with
The Buccaneers went extremely defensive heavy in the draft. They didn't take a running back and didn't even draft a skill position player until the sixth round, taking WR Scott Miller out of Bowling Green.
Because of this, all Jones is competing with is ho-hum back Peyton Barber. Barber only averaged 3.7 yards per carry last season, so he didn't exactly blow the doors off the place. Plus he's on a one-year deal for a little over $2 million, so it's not like the Bucs are heavily invested in him.
When it comes to finding running backs who will produce fantasy points, you want to find a guy who the coach likes and will look to get the ball to. Volume is one of the most effective ways of predicting fantasy success. Even a mediocre running back getting 25 carries a game is better than a great running back getting 12 carries a game.
Has the speed for big plays
There's a lot of speed here with Jones. He's an explosive player. He was one of the faster guys at the 2018 combine, running a 4.48 40. He can stretch the field with his speed.
When it comes to running backs, talent isn't the most important thing, volume is. However, the ability to rip off big runs at the second level is still very helpful. Often times a big 56-run will mitigate 10 runs of 3 yards or less. You want a running back with the capability of hitting a home run, and Jones has that.
He's a dual threat
Jones is a good route runner, has soft hands and catches the ball well. He wasn't asked to catch the ball a ton at USC, but he made the most of it when he did.
Key tip: Receiving running backs are deadly. If you look at the top running backs from last season like Christian McCaffery, Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley, they all racked up a ton of targets.
His current ADP is juicy
Jones is going in the 9th-10th round in most fantasy drafts. Meaning you can get him at a steal. He's going around the likes of Adrian Peterson and Austin Ekeler. Now, his ADP will likely rise, especially if he shows out during preseason.
Overall, Jones is a worthy dart throw running back this season because of his speed and opportunity.
Todd Gurley has some issues, and people should be getting excited for rookie Darrel Henderson in 2019.
ESPN's Lisa Thiry reported earlier that Todd Gurley will miss the entire preseason.
While many weren't too concerned about Gurley's knee, it's definitely starting to look like there could be some issues now.
If that's the case, it's important to adapt to the situation as a fantasy owner. That's why we look to the next guy up. Darrell Henderson.
Why it matters for fantasy
Gurley battled injury woes down the stretch last year, and he was the worst kind of fantasy player because of it.
You didn't know what you were going to get with Gurley. But it was tough to bench him because he was such a stud.
Also, we saw how good a backup running back can be behind the Rams potent offensive line.
Running back C.J. Anderson had three games of 100+ yards in the playoffs last season, and was by the far the Rams best back in that stretch. With Anderson gone now, there's now more room in the offense for volume.
Why you should be excited about Henderson's immediate fantasy potential
Henderson is by far the most explosive back coming out of the draft this season. He was also one of the most efficient running backs in college football history. You can read more about his stats and traits in our 'Talent Evaluation' section here.
Also, the Rams traded up to get Henderson in the third round. Draft capital investment is often a good indicator of how soon a rookie sees the field. This shows that even if Gurley is healthy, the Rams are likely going to use Henderson anyway, making him valuable in deeper leagues.
To top it off, you can currently get Henderson in the 8th round according to FFCalculator. Making him an absolute steal there.
Is Malcolm Brown a problem?
While Henderson has some opportunity, Malcolm Brown is still in the mix. The Rams hung on to him in the offseason and he's a talented enough back that could be a starter on several other teams.
But should we get worried about Brown stealing touches?
There's definitely some cause to worry. Brown is definitely going to get a shot as well. So he's a welcome dart throw as well.
The current state of the Rams as a team
The Rams burst out of the gate last season as one of the best offenses in the league. But many factors contributed to their team's slow decline near the end of the season.
They had injuries to their key players, including key wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Plus Gurley's play declined as the season went along. Defenses also started to figure out Sean McVay's style, which lead to more teams beating them in the playoffs.
But despite that, the Rams are still a very good offense heading into 2019. They'll have Kupp back. Sean McVay will also have to evolve his play style once again to counter other coaches counters. But he's proven to be a smart enough guy where I'm confident he'll do that.
Overall, Henderson has the potential to be a league winner for fantasy teams in 2019. The Rams offense will be among the best in the league. There's opportunity for high volume with Gurley's knee issues. The Rams showed a lot of interest trading up to get him in the third round.
Lastly, Henderson is one of the most explosive rookie backs this season. Draft him in as many leagues as you can.
The 2019 running back class didn't have a once-in-a-generation star. But many rookie running backs still have a chance to score massive amounts of fantasy points in 2019. As we know, landing spot matters a lot for running backs. And in the 2019 NFL Draft, many backs got drafted to teams in dire need of a running back.
The most talented of the bunch was clearly Alabama prospect Josh Jacobs. But the question remains, is Josh Jacobs the best fantasy rookie running back to draft in 2019?
The answer to that is undoubtedly yes. Don't say 'yeah but I think Miles Sanders blah blah blah or David Montgomery blah blah blah.' I know you (the reader) are saying that right now. But take off your contrarian hipster glasses, put down the Pabst Blue Ribbon, and keep on reading.
Why Jacobs the better option
Sure, there were plenty of other talented rookie running backs with promise. Miles Sanders went in the second round to Philadelphia, a team with a good offensive line and only an injury-riddled Jordan Howard to beat out. David Montgomery went to Chicago, which was a solid spot since there's no clear-cut starting RB on the roster. Both backs have good potential opportunity in 2019, but Jacobs rises above them all for several reasons.
For one, there was no running back in a weak 2019 class more NFL ready than Jacobs. At Alabama, he showed he could run between the tackles, catch the ball and also pass protect (a common bugaboo among rookies). No running back in this rookie class was that solid in all three phases like Jacobs.
Sanders and Montgomery, while talented, have some holes. Sanders runs tentative at times and Montgomery lacks long speed to separate from defenses.
Jacobs isn't a speed demon either, but he's by no means slow. Jacobs even improved his 40-time on his second Pro Day, clocking in at 4.52 compared to 4.6 he ran on his first attempt. Plus, Jacobs' size creates more chances to break tackles and gives him a chance to rip off a big run.
Where Jacobs can become an elite fantasy RB
Jacobs is no doubt an excellent inside runner. He has great balance and runs with some anger to create yards after contact. According to Rotoworld's Graham Barfield (creator of Yards Created metric for Running Backs), Jacobs tied Saquon Barkley for 3rd highest percentage of carries to create 5 or more yards. This shows his propensity to break tackles.
That alone is exciting. But there's an even bigger factor that could help Jacobs be the man in 2019.
That factor comes in the passing game. Jacobs averaged 2.4 receiving yards per route in 2018, according to Graham Barfield. This ranked second among all rookie running backs. A good route runner who moves incredibly well for a guy his size, Jacobs can adjust his body to make difficult catches in ways most 220 lb backs can't. You can see some highlights of in this article here. He also has massive hands 10 inch hands, an obvious good trait for a pass catcher.
Receivers do fantasy better
In 2018, the Top 5 running backs (Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffery) all had at least 80 targets. And 3 of the 5 (Kamara, Barkley, and McCaffery) had over 100 targets. In 2017, three of the Top 5 fantasy RB's had over 87 targets, and the fourth had 79. While this is only a two-year sample, it's looking more like target numbers are becoming a huge indicator for fantasy success among running backs.
Catching running backs score fantasy points regardless of game script. They rarely post '0' point weeks. If the defense is stopping them in the run game, they can flare out on screen passes and create yards in the open field. If the defense has slow linebackers, they can exploit those matchups for big gains in the pass game.
Catching the ball is also good because it allows running backs to gain bigger chunks of yards in the open field. We saw Kareem Hunt do this especially well in 2017 on screen passes. Same thing with Barkley on the Giants in 2018. Jacobs isn't incredibly elusive like those backs, but he's fast enough and athletic enough to make people miss in the open field as well.
The right spot with Oakland
Jacobs steps into a golden opportunity with Oakland to showcase his receiving ability. With only Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington to contend with, it's tough to see Jacobs not starting immediately in 2019.
The Raiders made some major splashes in free agency. grabbing arguably the best wide receiver in the league in Antonio Brown. They also added Tyrell Williams, a high-quality No. 2 who was a consistent touchdown producer with the Chargers. Williams is already impressing coaches in practice, and these receivers will move the chains and give Oakland more scoring opportunities in the red zone. When the Raiders get done around the goal line, Jacobs will be the top candidate to punch it in. This gives him added touchdown value.
The big question is quarterback Derek Carr. Will he be able to return to his 2016 form when he was a Pro Bowl quaterback? He hasn't played at that level since the injury, but you could argue 2018 was a rebuilding year since the Raiders lost key weapons in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Carr has proven he's capable when he has the tools, and the Raiders certainly have them in 2019.
Even more promising is the game script within the division. The Raiders play in the loaded AFC West, featuring MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City and future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers. There's going to be a lot of shootouts in these games, leading to more chances of getting Jacobs involved in the passing game and score touchdowns.
Rookie running backs are the best kind of rookie
Running back is a young man's position and so it's not surprising to see Jacobs as one of the top contenders to win this year's Offensive Rookie of the Year award. If you're playing the odds, three of the last five AP Offensive Rookie of The Year players were running backs. Those were Saquon Barkley (2018), Alvin Kamara (2017), and Todd Gurley (2015). All running backs finished in the Top 5 in standard fantasy scoring at their respective position.
To go deeper on one of them Alvin Kamara finished 4th overall in standard fantasy scoring as a rookie. A big part of that was his 105 targets, which allowed him to snag 81 catches and 709 receiving yards. Kamara also had the fortune of playing with one of the three best quarterbacks of this generation in Drew Brees.
But while it's safe to say you won't expect Jacobs to amass 105 targets as a rookie since the Raiders are unlikely to be THAT prolific on offense, there's still plenty of opportunity to utilize his catching ability. The Raiders passed the ball 59 percent of the time last season, good for 12th overall. It's expected they'll throw more given their new weapons in Brown and Williams on the outside. So expect Jacobs to see his fair share of targets in 2019.
Josh Jacobs is an NFL ready running back. He has a scintillating opportunity with zero running backs ahead of him on the depth chart. There's potential for Oakland to give him plenty of targets since they're a fairly pass-friendly offense. He'll also be playing in a high-scoring division where several games could become shootouts.
He's a no-brainer RB2 in all standard scoring leagues this season. You should also snag him a ton in best ball and he should be one of the first picks off the board in dynasty leagues at running back.
To see all our rookie coverage, check out our 'Talent Evaluation' section here.
If there's one thing you must know about dominating your fantasy draft, it's this. You must extract value in the later rounds.
Washington Redskins running back Derrius Guice is the kind of player you might think about taking. But his ADP is way too high according to FFCalculator. Here's why you should avoid him in re-draft this season.
Why is his ADP where it is?
People's confidence in Guice likely stems from two variables. For one, he's young. At just 21 years of age, he best years are ahead of him.
Plus, he's got talent. He was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. So Washington is invested in him and wants him on the field.
Both of those are true enough. But if you look closer at Washington's offensive situation, you'll see Guice is drastically overvalued at that price.
Here are the main reasons Guice should be avoided in re-draft this season.
No opportunity in the passing game
First, you don't want to draft a guy with zero receiving floor, and Guice is that guy this year. Chris Thompson is a dynamite screen receiver who's magic in the open field. Thompson will likely see the targets on third and long passing situations, not Guice.
Receiving ability is how good fantasy backs become great fantasy backs. Here are a few backs with higher ADP's than Guice you could look at here.
One example is Kareem Hunt, who is 79 overall. Yes, I know he's suspended for a bit and Nick Chubb is there. Still, Cleveland's offense will be much better and Hunt will likely see plenty of red zone receiving opportunities as a result. Plus, running backs who sit out tend to fare better when they actually do get back on the field due to lack of wear and tear. Le'Veon Bell's stats are an example of this.
Even Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders have better opportunity in Philadelphia's offense. You could draft Howard at 62 or Sanders at 114, respectively. The Eagles have a stout offensive line. They also have an MVP-caliber quarterback returning from injury in Carson Wentz.
Not only that, Guice is also competing with Adrian Peterson for ground touches. Peterson managed to turn the clock back enough to earn another year with Washington. The Redskins are committed to using him for at least this season.
Not enough red zone trips
This piggy backs on argument No. 1. You don't want a running back in a bad offense, and Guice will likely be in one.
The Redskins are a poop show at the skill positions, particularly quarterback and receiver.
They'll be trotting out a heavy dose of Case Keenum and Colt McCoy. Both quarterbacks lack big arm strength and Keenum is coming off a poor season with the Denver Broncos. First-round rookie Dwayne Haskins will likely take his lumps at some point as well. Expect plenty of poor field position spots for Washington in 2019.
At receiver, their current top guy is Josh Doctson, who's entering his third season. Doctson has yet to breakout and has dealt with injuries and consistency issues early in his career.
Rounding out their receiving core are underwhelming guys like Jehu Chesson, Darvin Kidsy and Brian Quick. Paul Richardson is a speedy slot guy, but it's unlikely he benefits from weak-armed Colt McCoy or Keenum throwing him passes.
Instead, the Redskins will likely resort to a run-heavy, dink-and-dunk style offense that relies on a bend-don't-break defense to stay in games. Meaning there will not be a lot of high scoring affairs. And Guice's touchdown value will suffer.
Then there's the knee issues. Guice is coming off a major knee injury. When I say major, I mean there's a standard ACL tear and the kind of ACL tear that Guice has.
According to Kareem Copeland of the Washington Post, Guice also got an infection to torn ACL that required 3 additional procedures. This required a catheter in his arm and seven weeks of antibiotics. An ACL tear is a severe enough injury on its own. Adding complications to the problem is an even more troubling sign for longevity at NFL level.
Who to look at instead
There's some intriguing rookie running backs to keep an eye on this offseason. Devin Singletary has upside due to Buffalo's upgrades on the offensive line. They may also cut LeSean McCoy to save money. Plus Frank Gore is entering year 7 of his farewell tour in the NFL. It's still a long shot Singletary becomes a starter. Still, you could get him on waivers basically and there's more opportunity for him than Guice.
Also, I mentioned earlier that Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders are available to take later than Guice. Both those players would be fine dart throws given the strength of their offensive line. Plus, that offense could be money like it was in 2017 if Wentz stays healthy.
Those are just a few guys that stand out.
Overall, Guice is somebody who's vastly overvalued at his current ADP. There's better upside backs in the later rounds to look at.
It's time to break down some receivers you should keep on your waiver wire radar in 2019.
These types receivers are so crucial to fantasy success. They're not the big time No. 1 guys, but they produce plenty of fantasy stats at the WR2 and WR3 position. And all those points add up.
Some of these players might not have huge roles to start. But as we all know, things change on a dime in the NFL. Starters go down with injury. Or they get benched because they're struggling to produce. Rookies developing all offseason get their shot next, and sometimes they flourish. So you better be there to catch them while they're hot.
It's important to note that these players usually start crushing it AFTER the season gets underway a bit. So don't expect most of them to start producing during Week 1.
One example of this in 2018 was Atlanta Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley. Ridley took over the spot vacated by Taylor Gabriel and had monster production in Weeks 3 and 4. Catching 7 of 8 targets for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns in Week 3. Followed by 4 catches on 6 targets for 54 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 4.
That last part is key. You want a wide receiver who can give you two or three consistent good weeks, as it's hard to predict exactly when a receiver will pop.
Also, two important things to look at when selecting these receivers.
No. 1 — Quarterback play. A wide receiver's value is very dependent on the talent of his quarterback. Only the elite wide receivers can still produce good numbers without a great quarterback.
No. 2 — Targets. There has to be enough targets to go around in the offense for a wide receiver to be successful. Some offenses prefer to spread the ball around. This is especially true if there's a lot of talented receivers on the offense. So it's important to find where the opportunity will be for a wide receiver.
Here are some players who might not get drafted in your fantasy league worth keeping an eye on later in the season.
Parris Campbell — Indianapolis Colts
How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: Talk about a dream pairing. Campbell is a scorching 4.31 40 receiver who gets Andrew Luck as his quarterback right out of the gate. The Colts were in dire need of a slot receive, so targets will be there for this rookie. Plus, he will make a nasty matchup for slower slot corners and linebackers.
He's also not your typical frail slot guy. Campbell stands 6'0, 205 lbs and should provide some physicality if he's going over the middle. He was also drafted in Round 2, meaning the Colts will be expecting him to play very soon if not right at Week 1.
Dontrelle Inman — New England Patriots
How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: Inman has a slight bounce back year with the Colts last season, catching 3 touchdowns on 39 targets. The Patriots are in a major offensive transition right now. Josh Gordon's year-long status is always a mystery given his past off-the-field struggles. Injuries have derailed DeMaryius Thomas and he might struggle to make the roster. 40+ year old QB Tom Brady is still under center, so there's good touchdown potential there as crazy as that sounds. There's potential for the chips to fall Inman's way, and he could see a substantial role in New England's offense at some point.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside — Philadelphia Eagles
How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: The Eagles have plenty of wide receivers already. They brought back DeSean Jackson while also keeping Nelson Agholor. So Arceda-Whiteside likely won't see a ton of targets early on in 2019. However, Alshon Jeffery has battled several injuries since Philly's Super Bowl run two years ago, including a torn rotator cuff. Arcega-Whiteside is a similar type of receiver to Jeffery. He's a big wideout who can go up and get the ball, which plays into Wentz's strengths as a quarterback who likes to take chances and let his receiver go get the ball.
Deebo Samuel — San Francisco 49ers
How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: The 49ers had some of the worst wide receiver production of 2019, so there's plenty of room for targets in that offense. They also have a potential Pro Bowl quarterback in Jimmy Garroppolo, who's coming back from an ACL tear. Samuel was drafted in the second round by San Francisco, which is a good indication that they're going to try and play him early. As long as he's not a complete bust, Samuel will be given plenty of opportunity to see targets in 2019.
So there you have it. Four wide receivers to keep an eye on in 2019.
Football has always been a young man's game. That notion has never been more true than at the running back position.
Here, we'll show you one tip when drafting a running back to enhance your team's likelihood of success. This is a simple one.
Today's NFL is all about preserving the running back.
Coaches and general managers now have enough data to know a running back typically lasts 4-5 years on average before seeing a drop in production. The best backs can produce into their 30's. But these are rare cases.
The constant wear and tear at the position causes RB's to get injured over time. This can hurt your fantasy team because you could draft them in one of these down years.
So how do you use this to your advantage in fantasy?
Simple. Go young and draft a lot of running backs in the later rounds.
This will help ensure you get a fresh young back who's ready to produce. It will also give you replacement options in case your back struggles or gets injured.
A quick telling stat from last season.
Eight of the top 10 running backs in rushing attempts in 2018 were under 24 years of age. This brings us to another point.
Volume is key when it comes to running backs. You want guys who are on the field. And due to many teams opting to go with multiple starting running backs, it's getting harder and harder to find high-volume backs.
In fact, a running back getting 25 carries per game is unheard of these days. The highest last season was 19 per game from Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott finished with 304 carries for the year. The next closest back was New York Giants Saquon Barkley with 261. Over 40 carries less than Elliott.
One other thing to note is both these running backs were under 24 years of age. Elliott is 23 and Barkley 21. These running backs were the top 2 rushers in the league in 2018.
To point out how important youth is, all of the Top 7 rushers in 2018 were under 24 years of age. These include Todd Gurley (24), Joe Mixon (22), Chris Carson (24), Christian McCaffrey (22) and Derrick Henry (24).
Also, in 2017, the two top rushers (Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley) were 22 and 23 years old, respectively.
2017 was a little better for some of the older backs though. LeSean McCoy (29 years old) and Mark Ingram (28 years old) ranked in the Top in rush yards.
There are always outliers. Last season Adrian Peterson eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark at 33 years old.
Quite a feat. One caveat though. Peterson hadn't played more than 6 games in a season since 2015. Indicating the rest he got for three years helped him preserve his body a little.
So as a general rule, it's wise to take several running backs in your draft. Have at least 3 or even 4 on your bench. Still, you should always pay attention to each individual's injury history as well. Beware of young, unproven running backs with knee issues.
Plus, if you have a choice between a younger back (21-24 years old) and a slightly older back (25-27) and both running backs are getting a similar amount of carries, then best to go with the young back.