A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look through the top 150 players and identify players that should outperform their draft position.
Player Receiving 5 Votes
Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland
Mike Brown: LeBron James leads the Cavs to a title, the Indians are in first place, and the Republican convention broke all kinds of television ratings records. Cleveland is hot right now! And if the Browns follow suit to complete the grand slam for the former mistake by the lake, it will be Crowell who plays a large part. I fully expect the Cleveland offense to be resurrected from what we've seen in past iterations, and Crowell has the talent and opportunity to far exceed his draft position.
Cian Fahey: Isaiah Crowell is not being drafted like a starting running back. Crowell is falling behind Duke Johnson, which is fair, but Johnson's value comes more in the receiving game than as a runner. Crowell should remain a prominent part of the Browns running game and he should be the team's redzone runner. Hue Jackson shared snaps between Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill in Cincinnati, he should do the same in Cleveland. With Robert Griffin III as their starting quarterback the Browns will work to remain balanced so he can throw off of play action.
Jeff Haseley: Sigmund Bloom brought up this interesting stat - Isaiah Crowell scored a touchdown in every game the Browns won last year. The down side to that is the team won only three games. It's good to know Crowell was involved in the offense when the team was playing well. As it looks right now, Crowell should be the team's primary back and goal line back, which bodes well for carry volume and touchdown opportunities. If the Browns offense can turn it around under Hue Jackson, there's a good chance that Crowell will have a strong season.
Daniel Simpkins: Hue Jackson has already indicated that he wants to use Crowell much in the same way that he used Jeremy Hill during his time Cincinnati. Crowell is a much more physically gifted runner than Hill on a run-first team. Despite losing Center Alex Mack and Right Tackle Mitchell Schwartz in free agency, the additions of Cam Erving (Draft), Alvin Bailey (Seattle) and Austin Pasztor (Jacksonville) help keep this line one of the stronger run-blocking units in the NFL. If Crowell can stay focused and demonstrate maturity, a career best season is undoubtedly in store for the young runner.
Matt Waldman: The Browns' offensive line is a solid run blocking unit, the Browns' head coach loves to run the ball and attack down field, and the Browns' quarterback is the rare combination of a dangerous running threat and a great deep ball thrower paired with excellent vertical receivers. Add that up and it's a great situation for an every-down back to thrive. Duke Johnson usurping Crowell's value is rooted in the notion that the Browns will be playing from behind so much that the team will have to abandon the run. Even if the Browns perform to the level of a top-five team in the 2017 NFL Draft, they will be in enough games that Crowell will earn carries and receptions. Crowell is the superior runner between the tackles and his end zone prowess in 2016 was among the best in the league. Jackson believes in him, too. All factors point to a top 20 season for the 42nd back off the board. I'll take him in every draft.
Players Receiving 4 Votes
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati
Phil Alexander: Hill's 2015 was admittedly a disappointment, but what does it say about a player who ties for the league lead in rushing touchdowns in a "down" year? Let's not forget Hill is still only 23 years old and rushed for 1,171 yards and nine touchdowns in only nine starts as a rookie. The only rookie running backs in NFL history to rush for 1100 yards and nine touchdowns to have a higher yards per carry average than Hill's 5.06 in 2014 were Adrian Peterson, Clinton Portis, and Barry Sanders. By all accounts, Hill has worked hard to improve this offseason and the results have shown in the Bengals first two preseason games. Cincinnati running backs coach Kyle Caskey agrees. "He's decisive. He's confident. He's running with power and aggression," Caskey said, "and doing it with acceleration we all knew he had and he's putting it all together". With Tyler Eifert injured and no other proven pass catchers on the roster besides A.J. Green, why wouldn't the Bengals lean run-heavy this season? Don't be shocked if Hill finishes as a top-10 fantasy running back, or higher.
Ari Ingel: Hill killed teams as a second round pick last year, so I get why people are down on him, but in the 6th round this year, he's a serious value play and a major bounce back candidate. Some reasons for optimism: 1) He scored 12 TDs last season and converted 9 of his 16 goal line carries into touchdowns, which is the best ratio among any running back with 10 or more goal-line carries in 2015. 2) Hue Jackson liked to run him out of the shotgun last season, which clearly didn't suite his play. Hue Jackson is now gone. 3) The Bengals have been in the top four in red zone rushing percentage the past two seasons. 4) Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu are both gone and Tyler Eifert is injured and may miss some of the season so the Bengals should focus more on the run than last season when Hue Jackson opened up the offense.
Chris Kuczynski: Despite having a down year from his rookie season, Hill was still able to get 11 TDs, in part because he is one of the most used RBs when close to the goal line, and this trend will likely continue with red-zone target hog Tyler Eifert expected to miss sometime at the beginning of the season, or at the very least take some time to get back up to 100 percent. With few weapons to start the season in AJ Green and his RB by committee mate Gio Bernard, Hill will have plenty of opportunities to contribute to this offense.
Bob Magaw: Hill didn't look like the same player in a 2015 soph slump season after a spectacular rookie debut, with his yard per carry average plummeting a full yard and a half (from 5.1 to 3.6). Hill recently noted an early lingering knee injury, and did flash some of his dangerous rookie form later in the season, giving potential cause for optimism in 2016. The Bengals and new OC Ken Zampese could lean on both Hill and newly re-signed Giovani Bernard in the run game, with the free agency departures of WRs Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, as well as an off-season injury to TE Tyler Eifert. He leads the NFL in combined rushing TDs since his rookie 2014 season, and if he runs more consistently like he did in 2014 compared to 2015, a further scoring uptick is possible.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo
Justin Bonnema: Last year, despite missing four games and battling injuries, LeSean McCoy was our 14th highest scoring running back in PPR leagues (15th in standard). In nine of his 12 games he finished with a weekly rank of 24th or better, including five top-12 finishes. This is not new territory. Since 2010, no running back has scored more fantasy points in standard leagues, and only Matt Forte has scored more PPR points. Check out McCoy’s yearly finishes over the last six seasons starting with 2015 (PPR, Weeks 1-16): RB14, RB11, RB2, RB16, RB2, RB3. Per our consensus ADP, he is currently being drafted as RB13, often available in the late second round. As much as we love drafting players at their floors, McCoy has top-five potential this year, especially with Greg Roman—a coach with a long history of running back production—calling plays. Only the Panthers ran the ball more than the Bills last year. McCoy is worthy of a first-round pick.
Will Grant: When the Bills are seriously considering using Reggie Bush as McCoy’s backup, there’s little doubt that McCoy is going to be the feature back this season. Karlos Williams is gone, and the string of question marks behind McCoy mean if he’s healthy, he’s playing. In a PPR league, McCoy is even more valuable, making him good value in the middle of the third.
Ryan Hester: With Karlos Williams recently released and the only other competition being Mike Gillislee and rookie Jonathan Williams (who was arrested for DWI in July and hasn’t done much noteworthy in camp), McCoy stands to get all the work he can handle this season. Buffalo’s offense performed better when Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins were both together, meaning that this group could be efficient enough to get McCoy a solid amount of red zone/goal line looks to help boost his fantasy stock as well. Drafted as RB12 right now, I would draft McCoy over the two backs going directly in front of him – Eddie Lacy and Doug Martin.
Stephen Holloway: McCoy missed four games a year ago. Those missed games led to his least rushing yards since his rookie season. Between that and his off-season issues, many are forecasting a lesser role. McCoy actually finished the year as RB17 even without playing in four games and only scoring five touchdowns. Not counting the game where he only played a half, he only had one game with less than 15 rushes. He should again see a heavy workload for the Bills.
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee
Andy Hicks: Do we see the league leading rusher of 2014 or the square peg in a round hole Demarco Murray that we saw in Philadelphia last season? Even in such a terrible system and a below average year for him, Murray still ranked 18th as a fantasy option. Now with Tennessee, Murray has a 2nd round rookie in Derrick Henry to contend with and is on a bottom 5 rushing team from 2015. Both Murray and Henry however will take the pressure off 2nd year QB Marcus Mariota this year and all indications are that Murray will be the dominant back. Murray has looked fantastic in preseason and the Titans are clearly going to run the ball often. Murray is valued at last season's form. Grab him in the 4th round and get yourself a bargain.
Ari Ingel: I'll admit, it has taken me a while to get here on Murray. Derrick Henry will steal touches, and maybe the ones that count, but all reports have stated that Murray will be their lead back … at least this year. It's also worth mentioning, as Rotoworld's Rich Hribar pointed out, while Murray averaged only 2.8 yards per carry on runs behind or off tackle, he averaged 4.6 yards on runs between the guards, something that suits his power running style better. After new Titans HC Mike Mularkey took over mid-season last year, 56% of the Titans' running back runs were run between the guards. Additionally, when Murray played in Dallas, 90% of his runs came when the QB was under center, while with the Eagles, only 15% came when the QB was under center. Last season, 75% of the Titans runs came when the QB was under center ... you do the math.
Devin Knotts: Due to the draft pick of Derrick Henry in the second round, Demarco Murray is undervalued due to the concern of a split backfield. While there is concern that there will be a split, this is largely being overblown as there have been reports about concern with Henry’s footwork including Coach Mularkey stating that he believes Henry needs to become a faster starter as he excels late in the practices/games but struggles early as it takes him time to get into a rhythm. Henry won’t have the time at Tennessee to get enough carries to get into a rhythm; therefore, a majority of those carries will go to Murray. We have seen what Murray can do as he can be a top-tier running back and with where he is currently being drafted it is a tremendous value to get a guy who has the potential and upside that he does.
John Mamula: DeMarco Murray is an easy bet to outperform his current ADP. Murray finished last season as the 18th best fantasy RB even though he had only 194 total rushing attempts. The Titans rushing attach is a much better fit for Murray’s style. Murray will be the lead back and carry the load for the Titans. Barring injury, he is a lock for a Top 15 finish at the RB position.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
C.J. Anderson, Denver
Will Grant: The Broncos are going to have an interesting offense this season. With Mark Sanchez under center, you can expect to see a lot more focus on running plays and short passes. That plays right into C.J. Anderson’s wheelhouse, especially in a PPR league. Anderson has been a beast down the stretch for the last couple years, and that’s exactly what you want when the fantasy playoffs come around. Devontae Booker might steal some touches throughout the season, but Anderson is still going to see the bulk of the touches this season.
John Mamula: C.J. Anderson is currently being drafted as the 13th RB in either the late 3rd or 4th round. That is insane value for a RB who will get the majority of the workload in a Gary Kubiak system! While the Broncos lost Brock Osweiler, Malik Jackson, and Danny Trevathan to free agency, they matched a four-year, $18 million offer that the Dolphins made for Anderson. That tells us that they are committed to Anderson and to running the football this season. Anderson has struggled with injuries over the past two seasons. If he can stay healthy this season, look for Anderson to finish in the Top 5 at the RB position.
Jeff Pasquino: There are so many signs out there that tell you that C.J. Anderson is going to be a huge part of the Denver offense this season. First, his contract this past offseason contained a $5M bonus to return to the Broncos. As my good friend Cecil Lammey put it, “the language of the NFL is money,” and when money talks, I listen. Forget that Denver drafted Devontae Booker (handcuff as the future) and brought back Ronnie Hillman (who could not sign anywhere else) – Anderson is the top Denver back this year, and will push for 1,500 total yards if not more. Denver will be all about the run and defense this year as either Mark Sanchez or rookie Paxton Lynch guide the team and try not to turn the ball over in the passing game. Drafting a RB1 after 15 backs are gone in your draft is exactly the value you seek, and that is what you get with Anderson as RB16.
Rashad Jennings, NY Giants
Sigmund Bloom: Jennings came on late last year and put up RB1 numbers over the last four weeks of the season. The team has indicated that they won't go with a three or four back committee this year and instead give Jennings a chance to pick up where he left off. His durability record is mixed, but the chance to get a starting running back in what should be a productive offense in the eighth or even ninth round is too good to pass up.
Dan Hindery: Down the stretch of the 2015 season, the Giants finally decided to ride Jennings as their workhorse back and he shined. Jennings was a top-5 PPR back in the final quarter of the season. He is once again slotted in to receive the vast majority of the carries in what could be a very good offense. Jennings is currently going off the board after a number of backup running backs (or backs stuck in 50/50 timeshares) with an ADP of 96th overall. He is undervalued and makes for a great low-priced RB3.
Daniel Simpkins: Early in 2015, the Giants tried a committee approach at running back that ended up being an offensive disaster for them. Late in the year, it seemed to click for them that a featured running back approach was a better fit. Rashad Jennings was their choice, and it appears they have decided to double down on that decision in 2016. Jennings does have a storied injury history in the league, but last year, he managed to stay healthy all sixteen games and log over 1,000 yards rushing. The Giants want to work in Shane Vereen just enough to keep Jennings fresh, which should allay fears of Jennings breaking under a heavy workload. A seventh-round price tag is very reasonable for a back that can provide RB2 upside.
Ryan Mathews, Philadelphia
Devin Knotts: Ryan Mathews’ initial value was depressed due to an ankle injury that initially appeared more serious than what it turned out to be and his value never fully recovered once that initial news came out. Mathews has shown that when he is healthy he is a tremendous running back, and all signs are pointing towards starting the season as fully healthy. He is currently being taken as the 28th running back, and Philadelphia was comfortable with Mathews as they traded Demarco Murray. Mathews will be given as much workload as he is able to handle, and will produce when he is healthy. Most of the other running backs drafted in this range require an injury of another player, but for Mathews all you have to rely on is him staying healthy as he will start the year with significant volume.
Bob Magaw: Mathews decisively outplayed DeMarco Murray last season, and with the latter's trade to Tennessee, the former has a clear, unimpeded path to starting. While he has an admittedly checkered medical history, being selected #12 overall in 2010 gives him among the highest pedigree for a RB in the past decade, and he also flashed imposing athleticism at the combine, clocking a 4.45 40 with a 36" VJ at 6'0", 220 lbs. When healthy, Mathews has top 10-type talent at his position. In 14 games of his 2011 second season, he had 222/1,091/6 rushing and 50/455 receiving, and two years later in 2013 he had a career high 285/1,255/6 rushing and 26/189/1 receiving. New HC Doug Pederson used Jamaal Charles liberally as OC in KC.
Mark Wimer: DeMarco Murray and Chip Kelly are gone from Philadelphia, while Mathews remains as the clear starting running back entering 2016. Some are worried that Wendell Smallwood might be a threat to Mathews during 2016, but I am not one of those. Mathews has top-ten upside and can be had at #3 running back pricing - he's a screaming bargain at that draft position. Smallwood has never mounted a challenge during training camp, and Darren Sproles is too old to be a threat to Mathews' every-down role.
Frank Gore, Indianapolis
Sigmund Bloom: Gore was overdrafted in the third round as the Colts offense went south last year, but dropping him all the way to seventh is an overreaction. He's still a three-down starter with no clear backup, and Gore's offense will surely be improved with the return of Andrew Luck. He does have a breakdown risk at age 33, but the reward of a player who was already a low RB2 in a terrible offense last year more than outweighs that risk in the seventh.
Justin Howe: Gore isn't a sexy pick – he's 33, and no 33-year-old has notched a 1,000-yard season since 1984. But Gore again projects to a level of backfield dominance that can't really help but produce a fantasy RB2 (or better). With only journeymen and undrafted youngsters on his depth chart, Gore looks like a sheer lock for at least 60% of team rushes and a healthy serving of receptions. And if the Colts offense returns to its explosive 2014 level, he'll also see plenty of touchdown opportunity.
Daniel Simpkins: Gore is suffering from recency bias. His average draft position currently sits somewhere in the mid-sixth round. Owners are assuming that Gore will produce much as last year, despite the fact that Andrew Luck will be returning to restore order in this high octane offense. The depth chart behind Gore is pretty ho-hum. Journeymen Robert Turbin and Jordan Todman are not a realistic threat to steal meaningful carries. While Josh Ferguson is a nice pass catcher, he needs to develop more as a blocker before he will be trusted with a significant role. While Gore is 33, he has shown no signs of slowing down to this point. His offseason training regimen is one of the more strenuous in the NFL and is one that younger players strive to emulate to prepare their bodies for the rigors of the regular season. Gore is a player who has beaten the odds throughout his storied career and we can fully expect him to do it again in 2016.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati
Jeff Haseley: Giovani Bernard has never finished with less than 150 carries and he averages 49 catches per year. New offensive coordinator Ken Zampese is expected to open up the passing game, which benefits Bernard, especially when you consider the holes the Bengals have with the departure of Mohamed Sanu and the injuries to Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft. Even if Bernard doesn't score a lot of touchdowns, he'll still be a candidate to finish in the Top 20. If he can supplant Jeremy Hill as the team's primary rusher, his value will go through the roof.
Stephen Holloway: Bernard has been a committee back in all three of his NFL seasons with the Bengals, averaging 11 carries per game and only having two games in three seasons with at least 20 carries. However, he has caught 148 passes and should be featured even more in the passing game this year for the Bengals. They lost both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu (98 catches combined) in free agency and may play a few games at the beginning of the season without Tyler Eifert. Bernard averaged a career high 4.7 ypc last season.
LeGarrette Blount, New England
Matt Waldman: James White is a fantastical projection of people's desire to believe that the Patriots can just plug in a player to replace Dion Lewis. White is a smart young player with skills in space but he's not remotely as good between the tackles as Lewis. He's not even as good between the tackles as Danny Woodhead. The best every-down runner on the depth chart is LeGarrette Blount and it's not even close. Blount gets characterized as a plodding runner and every time I hear it, I wish I could find 11 guys who think this and all want to be in a league with me. Blount doesn't have Jamaal Charles' agility, but he has excellent feet, flexible hips, and his successful runs are often wise bounces outside the tackles. You don't return kicks in the NFL if you lack quickness and skill to change direction efficiently--especially when you're in the 250-pound range. Blount is a rare athlete and a good runner on a team that will use two tight ends as its base set, which will complement the power running game. Even if Blount's value climbs three rounds due to Lewis' injury, his top-12 upside any given week makes him a bargain when comparing him to the likes of players in that elevated range like T.J. Yeldon, Arian Foster, Charles Sims, Chris Ivory, and Rashad Jennings.
Jason Wood: Blount is going to vault higher in coming days due to Dion Lewis' injury. But Blount was being under drafted even before Lewis had a second knee surgery. The Patriots always produce a top tier rushing offense – even if it's via committee. Blount is a good bet for 800+ yards and 8-10 touchdowns yet he's being drafted as a backup handcuff.
Justin Forsett, Baltimore
Jeff Haseley: The Ravens are loaded with running back options, but the one back with the most experience in Marc Trestman's offense is Justin Forsett. He may be past age 30, however, like DeAngelo Williams, his "game age" is much less. I expect we'll see a committee approach at first with Forsett earning the majority of the team's carries due to his experience in the offense.
Jeff Pasquino: Baltimore is going to be a run-first team this year according to offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, and that means good things for Justin Forsett again this year. The Ravens were a mess last season with injuries to Forsett, Joe Flacco and Steve Smith, but all three are expected back in time for training camp if not sooner. Forsett is 100% ready to go right now, and he was well on his way to a 1,000-yard season last year before his broken arm in November. Rookie Kenneth Dixon will be his backup and spell him from time to time, but Forsett should get the bulk of the workload and push for RB2 value, making him a steal after 30-35 backs are gone in your draft.
Matt Forte, NY Jets
Andy Hicks: Matt Forte has been one of the most consistent and durable of running backs over his 8-year career. He excels out of the backfield with 488 career catches making him the active leader in receptions for a running back. He needs only 28 catches to make the top 10 all time here. For that reason alone Forte has value this season. As a runner he will probably be limited to a maximum of 200 carries in this offense, but the Jets, with inferior players had over 90 receptions from their backs last year. With this player, in this offense there will be lots of work, especially as a receiver. Forte does present as value due an injury cloud. The Jets are being smart in holding the veteran out and he should be fine to start the season.
Jason Wood: Matt Forte is 30 years old. Matt Forte has changed teams. Matt Forte is coming off his worst season in five years. None of that is enough to explain his current ADP. He finished 8th last season at the position in spite of missing three games. He's healthy. The Jets made him a priority and are sure to be a run-heavy, defensive-laden team. They let Chris Ivory move on in free agency guaranteeing a massive role for Forte both as a runner and receiver. Unless the quarterback situation completely derails the offense, Forte is a sure bet for another RB1 season.
Carlos Hyde, San Franciso
James Brimacombe: The 49ers were a mess last season and possibly could be in the exact same position again this season but with the value you can get Carlos Hyde at right now he makes for a great value play in drafts. Hyde only played in seven games last season but if you took his 470 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns and averaged it out for a full 16 game season he would have been looking at 1,074 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns with 25 receptions. Chip Kelly comes to San Francisco with his fast paced offense that fell flat on its face in Philadelphia but will be looking to rebound and that could start with Hyde who we will give 20+ touches to.
Mike Brown: Before Hyde went down with an injury last year, he was on a 263 carry pace. Had he kept up that pace, that would have placed him fifth in the NFL in rushing attempts. In other words, even though he wasn't terribly effective, the team knew that he was its best chance. They didn't make a whole lot of changes to the roster this offseason, so Hyde is the man again. And in Chip Kelly's high volume, run heavy scheme, the lead ball carrier will produce huge stats almost by default.
Latavius Murray, Oakland
Chris Feery: During the offseason, there were plenty of whispers that Latavius Murray was simply not the back of the future in Oakland, and that he may even see a decreased workload in 2016. The team’s selection of DeAndre Washington in this year’s draft increased the speculation, but it now appears that it was simply a good amount of noise. However, Murray may have taken those whispers to heart. Reports out of camp indicate that he’s looked great, and Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has said that he anticipates a bigger workload for Murray this season. Murray is a young lead back on an improving team. The Raiders have an offense that could take a big leap forward in 2016, and Murray should easily outperform his current ADP.
Jason Wood: Murray was the 10th ranked fantasy running back last season, yet is coming off the board 17th. While I acknowledge that last year was an abnormally bad year for runners, Murray is set up for success in 2016. The offensive line is projected as one of the league's best thanks to additions and injury recoveries. Murray did most of his damage running behind a lesser o-line, imagine what he can do behind an elite unit? He's also one of the few running backs that got a workhorse workload, yet head coach Jack Del Rio has promised Murray will get MORE carries this season. Murray also struggled to find the end zone last year – but touchdown production if volatile and mean regression would vault Murray into RB1 territory. He's a young workhorse with an RB2 floor and RB1 optionality.
Bilal Powell, NY Jets
Sigmund Bloom: No one was looking during Weeks 11-16 when Powell put up numbers at a near RB1 level in PPR leagues while sharing with Chris Ivory, but the Jets noticed and re-signed him to play a similar role this year with Matt Forte. Powell ran as well as he has in his entire career, and he put up at least 79 total yards in five of the six games, including scores in three of them. He's a good bet to be a PPR RB2 that you can get for a bench slot price.
Chris Kuczynski: Powell filled the pass catching role effectively last season as a compliment to now departed Chris Ivory. Now with Matt Forte brought in, the two have similar skill sets, so as a change of pace RB the offensive game plan would not to have to be significantly altered if Powell were to get a more sizable number of snaps. With Forte’s age and recent hamstring injury, Powell could get a large share of the work to keep both of them fresh, as many of the preseason reports have suggested.
Charles Sims, Tampa Bay
Justin Howe: Very quietly, Sims finished 2015 as the overall PPR RB20, a feat made more impressive by the fact that his teammate finished RB6. Sims proved that his hands and athleticism were enough to create fantasy value on their own; an expanded all-around role could send him into the stratosphere. Bear in mind that Doug Martin has always been an inconsistent bell cow.
Chad Parsons: Charles Sims at RB35 is one of my favorite selections of 2016. Sims was an RB2 last season despite Doug Martin playing every game and being the preferred early-down and goal-line back for Tampa Bay. Sims is a top-10 play any week Martin is out of the lineup and still a sturdy RB2 or flex play even with a committee role. Sims is a key back for Zero Running Back drafters or quality depth for owners already drafting multiple running backs before Sims.
DeAndre Washington, Oakland
Chris Kuczynski: Even though the Raiders have Latavius Murray as their lead back, the team was rumored to be pursuing many of the free agent RBs this offseason, especially since Murray is entering a contract year. Since Oakland didn't have much depth at the position, they decided to draft the small, shifty scatback DeAndre Washington, who is drawing a lot of comparisons to Maurice Jones-Drew, to compliment Murray’s size and upright run style. He should fill the Gio Bernard/Danny Woodhead role in Oakland’s offense and give the team an element they have not had in the passing game. His last year in college he was able to rush for nearly 1500 yards and 14 TDs along with 40/400 receiving, and word is the Raiders feel he can handle a lot of touches. His ADP has soared over the last month or so, but given his unique skillset that fills a role no one else can in Oakland, and his potential to have a sizable workload even with a healthy Murray, he may be able to bring every week value to your lineup as a flex player or first in line to fill in for byes.
John Mamula: Fifth-round draft pick, DeAndre Washington, will have a role in the Raiders offense this season. Washington exceled in the passing game at Texas Tech with 124 total receptions. When targeting RBs during the back half of your draft, you should also consider injuries. If Latavius Murray goes down with an injury, Washington will get the majority of the carries as a weekly must start.
Danny Woodhead, San Diego
Devin Knotts: In PPR leagues, Danny Woodhead continues to be extremely undervalued. Whether it is due to not receiving a significant number of carries on a weekly basis, or due to him not having the physique of a typical running back, most owners have a tendency to avoid drafting Woodhead. In Woodhead’s two healthy seasons with the Chargers, he has 76 and 80 receptions and last year scored 9 touchdowns as he was consistently used in the Red Zone. This year will be no different for Woodhead, as Melvin Gordon has yet to show that he can be a consistent running back in the NFL, and the Chargers defense is one of the worst in the league which is going to force the Chargers to throw the ball the second most in the league at 667 times.
Mark Wimer: Melvin Gordon had microfracture knee surgery in January, and his rehab hasn't been speedy. Woodhead should continue to be an integral part of the Chargers' offense this year, and he may well be the starting running back if Gordon suffers a setback. Woodhead should easily surpass his current ADP of RB #22, especially in the PPR scoring paradigm.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Ameer Abdullah, Detroit
Matt Waldman: I still believe Abdullah has the talent on the same level as the top backs in last year's class. Abdullah's stretch run last year was far better than characterized by those who only remember his fumble-prone first half and the offense's struggles alongside the rookie. Abdullah gets dinged for his yards after contact production that was third-worst in the league--only Charles Sims and Jeremy Langford were worse. But a stat for runners that few runners are placing any value is yards before contact. According to Joe Holka, who is conducting a study called Rushing Expectation, Abdullah's 7.7 yards per attempt before contact is far better than any back in his sample and if you agree with his thinking, it is an indication of a back's ability to read the line of scrimmage or beat penetration behind the line. Abdullah also was third highest in his sample of players on runs versus eight or more in the box. As long as Abdullah is healthy to begin the season, I think the idea that the Lions' roles are already defined and Abdullah will be hemmed into a limited role is a fallacy. If he is, RB29 is about par with that dour outlook, and nothing lost.
Jay Ajayi, Miami
Ari Ingel: Next time this year Ajayi will be going off the board in the first two rounds. Expect to see Jay Ajayi as the teams' unquestioned workhorse back once Arian Foster inevitably gets inured, coming off a torn Achilles and a muscle tear off the bone last year, as Foster enters his age 30 season. Despite not being as good a route runner as Foster, Ajayi has good hand, going 50/535/4 through the air in his final year of college. As fantasy analyst Chris Raybon mentioned in a recent column, HC Adam Gase offenses have ranked between 6th and 11th in rushing attempts in each of his three seasons as a play-caller and one back has handled 20 touches in 50% of Gase's career games. With his ADP falling by the day, he is a great buy-low candidate who in 49 carries last year broke 12 tackles and averaged 3.3 yards after contact per attempt.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City
Mark Wimer: Charles' ACL tear has many concerned, and we may not see him on the field until regular season opens as he continues his long rehab. However, this guy is a featured running back on a run-oriented team, and he should be one of those rare, three-down backs again during 2016. I think he is a modest value at the eighth running back off the board as his upside is firmly among the top five fantasy running backs.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas
Ryan Hester: In Dallas’ second preseason game on Friday night, Alfred Morris ran for 85 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. He also had a second touchdown called back on an illegal formation penalty which didn’t impact the play. Morris is a good enough player, but he’s nowhere near Elliott’s level of talent. If the situation and offensive line are capable of generating a big night for Morris, just wait until we get a chance to see what Elliott can do. His hamstring injury is worrisome, sure, but I consider his sitting out the first two preseason games to be “starter treatment” and the team making extra sure that he’s at full health. Perhaps the team is being cautious with him now because they plan to ride him throughout the season.
Arian Foster, Miami
Ryan Hester: The younger Jay Ajayi is in the same backfield, but the team worked the entire offseason to bring in someone else. Foster ended up being that player. Healthy after last seasons’ Achilles injury, Foster even played in the team’s second preseason game against Dallas. He was used on passing downs and in the red zone. Ajayi played longer into the game than Foster, which could suggest the team is resting Foster for future usage. Even if his injury history rears its ugly head later in the season, he’s worth the middle round pick because you’ll get at least a couple quality starts.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta
Justin Howe: The guy just can't get his fantasy due. Last year's RB1 by a mile, Freeman again holds a dazzling volume outlook – my projections place him second among RBs in touches, and he's in the running to lead the position in receptions. He's used heavily on all three downs, as well as near the goal line, where he was exceptionally efficient last year. Tevin Coleman lurks, but was given no real role behind a healthy Freeman last year and still faces an uphill battle. There's simply no reason Freeman should be tumbling to the Round 2/3 turn.
Melvin Gordon, San Diego
Andy Hicks: Melvin Gordon had an inauspicious start to his NFL career with a zero touchdown start to his career and a yards per carry of only 3.5 yards per rush. Add in micro fracture surgery in January and it would be easy to write him off this season. The Chargers however had an awful line in front of him and running backs often make a big improvement from their first to 2nd season. Others with a similar yards per carry in their rookie season range from Walter Payton, Le'Veon Bell and Ricky Williams to Trent Richardson, Lawrence Phillips and Daniel Thomas. Gordon is a risk, but has looked good in training camp and preseason and for his current asking price you could be getting a starting fantasy running backup for the price of a backup.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee
Dan Hindery: Henry is one of the more controversial running back prospects to enter the NFL in recent years. His unique build makes it difficult to compare him to any other back in recent classes and draft analysts were very split on him. Henry also landed in a relatively poor situation in Tennessee (slow-paced offense and the presence of DeMarco Murray). However, in the mid-rounds, it makes sense to bet on talent and Henry could be a special runner. He has generated plenty of buzz in camp, shined in both preseason contests and should force his way into the rotation. He has been surprisingly impressive as a pass catcher in camp, which is key to his fantasy upside. Of all the running backs going outside the top-100, Henry has the best chance to emerge down the stretch as a major fantasy weapon and he could be the 2016-version of David Johnson.
Chris Ivory, Jacksonville
James Brimacombe: Ivory signed the big five-year, $32 million deal to help compliment T.J. Yeldon in the running game. Ivory is coming off his best season to date as he ran for 1,070 yards and 7 touchdowns for the Jets a season ago. Ivory also caught 30 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown which helped him finish as the 7th best running back in 2015. The Jaguars offense now offers a threat in the passing and the running game so getting Ivory at a discount such as this is one of the best value RBs out there.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay
Mike Brown: Lacy was fat last season, plain and simple. He has looked much more effective so far this summer, and he'll be the bellcow rusher for arguably the best offense in the league in 2016. Even if he settles in at a level slightly below where he performed two seasons ago, his owners will gladly take that. Especially considering he's going off the board outside of the top ten running backs.
Jeremy Lanford, Chicago
Bob Magaw: Langford was a late bloomer, but his two year 40 TD total obliterated the previous Michigan State record by 10 (previously held by All-Pro Le'Veon Bell), streak of multiple TDs in his last 7 games led the FBS and 15 straight regular season conference 100+ yard rushing games comprised the longest FBS streak in nearly two decades. The fastest RB at the combine with a 4.42 40, he only played RB two seasons in college, and should have upside with pro coaching once he learns positional nuances. With the departure of long time Chicago institution Matt Forte, no dramatic upgrades at RB from either free agency or the draft and conservative HC John Fox, Langford is poised for a breakout season.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay
Stephen Holloway: Martin has had two outstanding seasons out of his first four. He signed a five-year $35.7 Million contract to return to the Buccaneers and should see continued opportunity there. A year ago, he averaged 18 rushes per game and 4.9 ypc, including six games with over 20 carries. The Buccaneer offense is on the rise and although Martin was spelled often in passing situations by Charles Sims, Martin still caught 33 passes.
Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota
Justin Howe: Yes, his talents are blocked by Adrian Peterson, but they're considerable. McKinnon is an absolute SPARQ hall of famer, boasting elite speed, agility, and explosiveness testing numbers from his 2014 combine. And the Vikings began to scheme the ball to him in 2015, giving him a much larger passing game role than Peterson down the stretch. With his three-down usage and utter athletic dynamism, he's an elite handcuff who can pay dividends even as Peterson's caddy.
Lamar Miller, Houston
Cian Fahey: Lamar Miller was a value play back in July and he's an even greater one now. Miller should outperform Le'Veon Bell with his three game suspension and offers more upside as a receiver than Adrian Peterson with similar value as a runner. The Texans are going to ride Miller because they will have to. Brock Osweiler has been erratic through the first two preseason games, as he was last year also, so Bill O'Brien isn't suddenly going to turn to a pass-heavy attack. As a late pick in the first or early second rounder, Miller is the best value pick of anyone this year.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
Andy Hicks: The year off seems to have done Adrian Peterson the world of good. Now at the age 31 it would appear that Peterson should be slowing down, but the Vikings have kept their faith in him and the Norv Turner offense will still run through the running back. Obviously no running back is without issues, but Peterson is a proven elite back, in a proven elite system with stability on offense. In the competition for number 1 ranking, he isn't coming off an injury like Jamaal Charles or an injury and suspension like Le'Veon Bell. He isn't a rookie like Ezekiel Elliot and he has more than 1 season of proven form unlike Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Devonta Freeman. He isn't on a new team like Matt Forte or Lamar Miller either. Peterson may not end the season at number 1, but he is the safest choice if you want a running back early.
Thomas Rawls, Seattle
Cian Fahey: The emergence of Christine Michael through training camp should be treated like the emergence of Christine Michael through every other training camp. Maybe he's playing better now but Michael has proven himself to be an incompetent player despite the consistency of his offseason hype. Rawls will likely play in the fourth preseason game to prove his health but once available the Seahawks should ride him as the focal point of their running game. He showed as a rookie that he can thrive in that role.
Theo Riddick, Detroit
Jeff Haseley: Think of Theo Riddick as a wide receiver who gets 65-80 receptions at 8.7 yards per catch. Now give him a few rushes here and there and you've got a flex option at the worst that you can insert into your PPR lineup as a running back. He had 5 catches or more in 10 of 15 games last year. The Lions will need to fill the void left by Calvin Johnson, which means Riddick should continue to see a fair share of targets this season.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina
Jeff Pasquino: A few years ago, no one wanted to draft Jonathan Stewart early because he was in a timeshare with DeAngelo Williams when both were in Carolina. Then came the other fear for drafting Stewart – losing touchdowns to quarterback Cam Newton. Well, I think we all saw that there is plenty of offense to go around last year for both, as Newton had a career year as a passer while also adding 10 rushing scores – but Stewart still was able to top 1,000 total yards and find the end zone seven times in 13 games before resting for the playoffs. Stewart will still be yielding some scores to Newton on the ground, but the top tailback in Carolina will be on pace for nearly 100 yards a week and a score every other again this year – a Top 20 value in my book. Drafting Stewart after 25+ backs go off your league’s draft board is an excellent value.
DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh
Chad Parsons: DeAngelo Williams at RB32 is an appealing value. For owners looking at later round running backs, Williams offers a steady role for the opening month of the season as Pittsburgh’s lead back. A month of top-5 upside, especially early in the season with depth charts settling around the NFL, is valuable in the sprint of a 12-14 week fantasy football regular season.