Value Plays: Running Backs

The Footballguys staff finds value at the running back position

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 4 Votes

Danny Woodhead, Baltimore

Ryan Hester: Steve Smith has retired; Dennis Pitta just re-injured his troublesome hip again, meaning he’s likely out for the year (or his career); and the team’s receivers are newly-signed Jeremy Maclin and notorious burners with great vertical speed but haven’t always shown the ability to be possession receivers. Enter Woodhead, a free agent signing who has registered 80 and 76 receptions in the last two seasons he has finished. Woodhead could easily lead this team in receptions. In fact, the biggest obstacle might be his injury history – not his teammates. But at this price, even if he suffers another injury, he can be replaced in your lineup. If he doesn’t, he’s a huge steal with a realistic 50-catch floor and 80-catch potential. Remember, Joe Flacco finished just one pass attempt behind Drew Brees for the league lead in 2016.

Chad Parsons: The Ravens were second only to the Saints in running back receptions in 2016. Plus there is uncertainty at wide receiver and tight end for Baltimore. With Kenneth Dixon suspended to open the season and Terrance West used as an early-down back primarily in 2016, Woodhead is a hot start projection with RB1 upside.

Jeff Pasquino: Joe Flacco has had to throw a lot of passes for the Ravens over the past few years, but Baltimore enters this year with a lot fewer options than last season. Gone are Steve Smith at wide receiver and now tight end Dennis Pitta has been lost to a third hip injury that may cost him his career. The path for Woodhead to be utilized in large amounts in the Ravens’ passing game was already there, but the suspension of Kenneth Dixon for the first four contests only increases Woodhead’s value.

Mark Wimer: Woodhead posted two 1,000 yards-combined seasons with the Chargers over his last four seasons in the league (the other two campaigns were injury-shortened). He's been recovering from a torn ACL suffered in mid-September 2016, and all reports indicate that he is fully rehabbed and working with no restrictions. "I haven’t been thinking about needing to do stuff to rehab it because I’m healthy now." he said on May 25, 2017. With the ability to snag 70+ receptions in a season (the recent loss of tight end Dennis Pitta may accentuate Woodheads' role as a short-range target this year even more) and reports out of Baltimore that Woodhead is building good chemistry with Joe Flacco during OTAs, I think Woodhead is a potential top-20 fantasy back that is being drafted with bench-warmers at his current ADP. That is the definition of value to me.

Players Receiving 3 Votes

Ameer Abdullah, Detroit

Ari Ingel: Love the talent and they do want him to be their lead back despite the presence of Theo Riddick and Zack Zenner. Will he approach 300 rush attempts? No. But can he get 250+ touches? You bet. If you want to take a stab on an upside guy with a lot of talent, he's the guy to grab as your RB3. Just needs to stay healthy. Plus, the Lions did upgrade their offensive line.

Mark Wimer: Abdullah had his 2016 season ruined due to what we now know was a Lisfranc tear suffered in Week 2. However, he recovered for the bulk of the previous regular season as well as this entire off-season, and the Lions eschewed picking up any rookie backs during the 2017 draft despite a rich class of running backs. Abdullah has been endorsed as the lead back by GM Bob Quinn, and the Lions offense shaped up nicely in the second half of last season. I think Abdullah should significantly outproduce his current ADP.

Jason Wood: The injury history is concerning, but all signals point to Abdullah getting one more chance at the Lions lead role. In spite of missing 14 games last year, the Lions passed on veteran free agents this offseason. They also passed on drafting viable alternatives. The Lions ranked 30th in rushing yards and 26th in touchdowns last season; they NEED to be more efficient on the ground. They didn’t bring in anyone to compete with Abdullah. The general manager and coaching staff have also said all the right things. Abdullah won’t be a workhorse. Theo Riddick plays a key role in receiving packages, and Zach Zenner has a role in short yardage. Abdullah has explosiveness and dynamism that makes him a fantasy commodity even if he only touches the ball 12-15 times per game. If Abdullah stays healthy in training camp, his ADP is going to skyrocket. Justifiably.

Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland

Ryan Hester: Fellow staffer Jeff Haseley had some Crowell-boosting tweets recently that shine a light on Crowell’s potential for 2017. Four players had 175 or more rushes, at least 4.8 yards per carry, at least 7.0 yards per reception, and seven or more total touchdowns in 2016. Those players were Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell, Jordan Howards, and Crowell. He also tied Elliott and Howard for the most games with 10 or more carries and at least 5.0 yards per carry with seven such performances. Crowell’s issue wasn’t ability or efficiency; it was volume. If Cleveland can find a way to not be trailing by double digits in many of their games this season, Crowell will get more touches. His coach is a notoriously run-heavy play caller. Only game script will take him away from that. Cleveland also added multiple new offensive linemen to bolster what was arguably the league’s worst unit.

Justin Howe: The Footballguys have been hot on Crowell all offseason, and why not? He semi-erupted in 2016, averaging 79 scrimmage yards per game and turning in eight top-18 weeks. Many are ignoring him as a top-tier RB2 for 2017 due to his timeshare with passing-down specialist Duke Johnson Jr and the Browns' general awfulness. But it's worth noting that, down the 2016 stretch, Crowell drew nearly an equal target share to Johnson; he's no mere two-down thumper. And while the Browns will likely struggle to provide scoring opportunity, let's appreciate the fact that this is a Hue Jackson offense - one that has showcased its run game at nearly every stop and has always maximized the impact of its backs. Crowell is beginning to look like what Jeremy Hill could've been under Jackson: a productive grinder who can exploit strong blocking and produce beyond what his subpar volume would suggest.

Chris Kuczynski: The Browns are quietly developing one of the better offensive lines in the league by adding interior linemen J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler this offseason, as well as extending left guard Joel Bitonio, to go along with All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas. Crowell who was already very successful last season, will be the biggest beneficiary. He proved last year that not only could he handle the majority of the carries, he is also an effective pass catcher reeling in 40 catches for 319 yards. The only thing holding him back last year was game script and lack of volume, considering they were typically behind most of the game and had to abandon the run. In games where he was able to get in a rhythm and log double digit carries, he averaged 79 rushing yards and over 5.5 yards per carry. If Hue Jackson is serious about his commitment to running the ball more like he has said, Crowell could put up some lofty numbers, especially since there is not a lot of competition on the depth chart considering passing catching back Duke Johnson Jr only had 14 more catches. For now Crowell’s ADP is definitely a great value for a potential every down RB1, but I fully expect his draft stock to rise between now and August.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati

Phil Alexander: While his workload is still a question mark at this point, there are several signs suggesting Mixon will have significant involvement both as a runner and receiver, beginning in Week 1. Let's start with the obvious - Cincinnati wanted to improve their running game so badly, they were willing to risk a second-round pick on a player who broke a girl's jaw on camera. No team (even the Bengals) would take on such a PR nightmare if they weren't expecting it to be outweighed by immediate on-field results. The Bengals running back depth chart seems crowded (which explains Mixon's current ADP), but the incumbents don't inspire confidence. Giovani Bernard's early-season availability is up in the air as he recovers from a torn ACL, while Jeremy Hill has regressed dramatically since his rookie year, failing to top 3.8 yards per attempt in consecutive seasons. Mixon is a lock to see plenty of work with the starters in OTAs and training camp, giving him the opportunity to usurp Bernard as the Bengals primary receiver out of the backfield -- a gig we can count on for 50-60 receptions. And even if Mixon has to rotate with Hill, it's worth noting Bernard actually lined up ahead of Hill in the Bengals two most utilized -- and successful -- formations last season.

Dan Hindery: Expect to continue to hear mixed messages this offseason from Cincinnati about who the starter will be and how the running back touches will be divvied up. But while Marvin Lewis will play coy and force the rookie to earn his touches, eventually the cream will rise to the top. Mixon is the most talented of the Bengals backs, with a combination Giovani Bernard’s receiving ability and Jeremy Hill’s power that will make the Bengals offense much more unpredictable.

Bob Magaw: As the 2.16 pick in the 2017 draft, Mixon's pedigree gives him a slot between fellow Cincinnati second round running backs Giovani Bernard (the 2.05 pick in 2013) and Jeremy Hill (the 2.23 selection in 2014). In terms of his constellation of physical attributes, athletic traits, skill set, and game, Mixon could offer a similar middle path, comprising some of the strengths and eliminating many of the weaknesses of his respective predecessors. At 6'1 and 230 pounds, Mixon is bigger and stronger with more requisite feature back size and power than Bernard. Mixon is more sudden and explosive with superior lateral agility, open field elusiveness, hands, and complete, all-around game than Hill. Mike Mayock called Mixon (based purely on talent) a Top 15 pick in ANY draft, with freakishly smooth and gliding, almost Jim Brown-like movement skills for his size. While he isn't a speed merchant, he has the kind of competitive game speed to run away from defenders downfield, even defensive backs on occasion, evidenced by breaking the (Adrian Peterson's alma mater) Oklahoma all-purpose season record, despite splitting time in the backfield.

Ty Montgomery, Green Bay

Dan Hindery: While the Packers drafted a trio of running backs in the 2017 draft, it is worth noting that the first of the rookie backs wasn’t taken until 134th overall. The starting job clearly belongs to Montgomery and he has the talent to take advantage. Despite making the move to running back mid-season, Montgomery averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2016. He also had 54 receptions in the Packers final 14 games (including playoffs). Now up to 220 pounds and having had a full offseason to prepare at running back, Montgomery could have a big season. He has 60+ catch upside and should see plenty of space to run with opposing defenses focused on stopping Aaron Rodgers.

Ari Ingel: Is Montgomery the team’s workhorse back? I doubt it; especially since he had double digit carries in just one game last season. That said, head coach McCarthy declared after the draft that Montgomery is his starting running back, he has a year under his belt and a full off-season to dedicate himself to the running back position, and most importantly, it doesn’t matter. That’s the beauty of owning Montgomery, even if he is not used as a workhorse back, he will be used a ton as their passing down back and as a receiver with another back on the field. If you are buying into Christian McCaffery as a fantasy stud this year, there is no reason you shouldn’t be buying into Montgomery as well.

Jeff Pasquino: Running backs produce fantasy numbers based on opportunity and touches, and Montgomery offers a ton of both based on his status as the top running back for the Packers heading into this season. Montgomery is a converted wide receiver who is still learning how to read his offensive line and set up blocks as a rusher, but he clearly knows how to run after the catch in open spaces. With Aaron Rodgers getting him involved on offense early and often in every contest, I see a lot of upside for Montgomery in 2017.

James White, New England

Sigmund Bloom: White was already a solid flex play in PPR leagues last year (and that includes after Dion Lewis returned). This year, touchdown hog LeGarrette Blount is gone and White has been signed to an extension after a heroic Super Bowl performance that was only overshadowed by how unthinkable the Patriots comeback was halfway through the third quarter. Mike Gillislee should inherit a lot of Blount’s goal-line opportunities, but at least a few if not more should end up in White’s hands after he executed time after time in the biggest game of the year. He’s an excellent bench back if your running back depth is thin after the first half of your draft.

Chris Kuczynski: Last season White established himself as the Patriots primary pass catching back, which is one of the most promising roles in fantasy football. The team showed their faith in him after his 14-catch, 140-total-yards, 3-touchdown performance in the Super Bowl by giving him a 3-year extension. The new addition of Mike Gillislee fills the early down role and Rex Burkhead as a change of pace back puts more competition on Dion Lewis, who has been battling injuries. Since he has separated himself from the rest of the group, I see White getting the greatest share of backfield targets in the passing game, which the Patriots have made one of the signature facets of their offense, while Lewis becomes less involved in the game plan.

Ryan Hester: After his performance in the Super Bowl, why is White being drafted like he’s going to split time with Dion Lewis? Reports suggest that White has easily surpassed Lewis and will be the team’s pass-catching back this season. The signings of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead shouldn’t impact White. New England’s backfield has always been one with very clear roles. While those players will be parasitic to each other’s production, they’ll have little to no impact on the pass-catching role in New England – one that is of significant fantasy value.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati

Stephen Holloway: Bernard is coming off an ACL injury that put him on IR after Week 11 of last season. His much lower 2017 ADP is due to the expectation of reduced athleticism based on that injury and also the negative impact that Joe Mixon, drafted by the Bengals in the second round will have on his usage. Bernard has always had good burst, shiftiness and quick feet and I expect him to return to form. He has previously shared the running back duties in Cincinnati with others, mostly Jeremy Hill. Bernard has always been prominent in the passing game as he averages 3.4 catches per game played over his four NFL seasons. Look for him to maintain his role as the chief running back target and also continue to get rushing carries. As long as he is healthy, he will be a bargain in 2017. Hill is much more likely to be impacted by Mixon.

Chris Kuczynski: The addition of Joe Mixon in this years draft may be concerning to some fans about the usage of the running backs in Cincinnati, but this move will likely impact Jeremy Hill’s two-down role more than it will impact Bernard’s pass-catching role. Last year, in only 10 games, Bernard had 700 total yards and 39 catches, but the previous three years he averaged about 160 carries, 50 catches, and 1000 total yards a season, despite playing a complementary role to Jeremy Hill and many times having less touches per game. Mixon may be a very talented, all-around back, but Bernard knows the offense and has been successful for years. Pass-catching backs will always carve out a role, and I don’t think Mixon will become a bell-cow running back so quickly this year, especially since there are very few in the league today.

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota

Darin Tietgen: Latavius Murray barely cracked 4 YPC behind one of the best offensive lines in football the past two seasons and is just now getting out of his walking boot following foot surgery. Cook is an extremely talented runner and receiver out of the backfield. His current ADP is well below Murray's, who represents a huge overvaluation of Murray and a serious undervaluation of Cook. Cook should be the starter from day one and will be a PPR beast as soon as this year. Jerick McKinnon and the underwhelming Murray won't pose much of a threat. If the Vikings offensive line can gel and improve, Cook's numbers could be even better.

Jason Wood: Dalvin Cook may be a knucklehead, but the talent is undeniable. Latavius Murray was signed as Adrian Peterson’s replacement, but that didn’t stop the team from drafting Cook in the second round. As long as the rookie can avoid fumbling (a problem at Florida State), he has the rare combination of game-breaking speed, vision, and size to be an every-down bell cow. Murray will factor, but the film from Oakland shows Murray is little more than a workhorse. He’s not special. Cook can be special, and the Vikings’ conservative passing game requires dynamism at the running back position; they can’t afford to leave playmakers on the bench.

Mike Gillislee, New England

Phil Alexander: Listing Gillislee here has more to do with the situation than the player, but in all fairness, the player has been more or less exceptional with his limited touches over the past two seasons. Gillislee is averaging 5.7 yards per rush attempt since 2015, the highest average of any running back who's carried the ball at least 100 times over that span. Last year, he scored a touchdown on 8.2% of his total touches, which also led the league (minimum 100 touches). Yards per attempt and touchdowns might not be the most predictive stats from year-to-year, but they're at least encouraging now that Gillislee has landed in New England. Since Bill Belichick took over as Patriots head coach in 2000, New England has scored 294 rushing touchdowns from inside their opponent's 5-yard line, which leads the league by more than 12% over the next closest team (New Orleans) over the same span. If you're not projecting Gillislee for double digit touchdowns, you're doing it wrong.

Justin Howe: We certainly wish the Patriots would show some week-to-week consistency in terms of rushing volume. But we know they'll run a lot - great teams with frequent leads often do - and that their runners will almost certainly draw a hefty chunk of touchdown opportunity. Gillislee isn't the clock-killing longtimer LeGarrette Blount was last year, but he could be even more efficient than his plodding predecessor. And like 2016 Blount, Gillislee will enter the year lacking real competition for rushing duties. All four of his primary backfield mates are receiver-first types, so we can likely pencil in roughly half the Patriots' running back rushes for Gillislee. Assuming the Patriots remain world-beaters, it's safe to expect a run at 1,000 yards and double-digit scores, as well - quite a value for a back currently being drafted as RB34.

Doug Martin, Tampa Bay

Ari Ingel: Despite his three-game suspension, he is already getting rave reviews in OTAs. With Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Jeremy McNichols on the roster, his PPR upside is certainly limited, so more of a standard league grab, but the additional weapons on the outside should help him run inside. Rodgers appears to be his direct backup, so a cheap three-week handcuff to start the season if you are a savvy owner.

Matt Waldman: An immense talent with an up-and-down career due to weight gain and PED issues, when Martin is right—something we have usually seen during the spring—he’s a fantasy RB1. This year, he’ll be serving a three-game suspension, but he has also been the clear No. 1 running back for the Buccaneers this spring and all reports indicate that he has righted his approach to the game since the initial violation. Charles Sims is a quality contributor, but Martin is a better all-around back with a lot of tread left. He’ll be a strong value as a low-end RB2 who could deliver high-end RB1 production in a balanced offense with emerging talents.

DeMarco Murray, Tennessee

Chris Feery: DeMarco Murray has an outstanding shot at producing as a top-5 running back in 2017, but he’s not being drafted like one. He’s falling into the second round in early drafts, and you would be wise to pounce if that happens in yours. Similar production to 2016 - 1,664 yards and 12 touchdowns - makes for a solid baseline, and that’s a nice return to bank on for a second rounder.

Mark Wimer: Even though Murray is being drafted as a top-10 back, I believe he belongs in the second tier of running backs just after David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott and Le'Veon Bell. It's not often you can find a top-5 running back in the second round of most drafts, but that is where Murray is going off the boards right now - that's a bargain in my book.

Samaje Perine, Washington

Sigmund Bloom: The combined production of Matt Jones (Weeks 1-7) and Rob Kelley (Weeks 8-16) as the lead back for Washington was roughly equal to Isaiah Crowell and Todd Gurley in the same span. Crowell and Gurley will cost you a lot more than Perine, who should be considered the favorite to displace Kelley, despite Kelley’s admirable work last year. Perine is a stronger and more talented back and should distance himself from Kelley. Even if you don’t completely believe in Perine, the situation should provide a strong value pick, so shift your focus to Kelley, who is also going well outside of the Top 20 running backs.

Jason Wood: Perine has lived in the shadow of his Oklahoma teammate Joe Mixon for years. The Bengals drafted Mixon in the second round in spite of an alarming history of violence toward women, which speaks to the elite nature of Mixon’s skill set. It was Perine – not Mixon – who ended his college career as the Sooners all-time leading rusher. Perine’s film doesn’t hint at greatness in the way Mixon’s does, but the film does show a decisive, powerful, and committed lead back. Washington is desperate for a difference maker in the backfield, and Perine will get the opportunity to displace Rob “Good but not great” Kelley quickly this preseason.

C.J. Prosise, Seattle

Jeff Haseley: Before C.J. Prosise injured his shoulder ending his 2016 rookie campaign, he was en route to being an every week starting back. Seattle has indicated that he will be a key contributor in the passing game in 2017, but I think he can be an effective rusher as well. At 6'0 and 220 pounds, he's capable of handling an increased load. I expect Pete Carroll to use him in multiple ways, which will improve his fantasy stock. He can be drafted as a RB4 or later and he has the potential to be an every week starter. I'm buying.

Daniel Simpkins: Prosise got hurt in his rookie year, but before that, he had a large share of the passing down work. At 220 pounds, Prosise is more than a scatback. He demonstrated prowess between the tackles and in catching the football before his injury last year. Though Seattle has demonstrated they prefer to use a committee approach since the departure of Marshawn Lynch, there’s a chance for an enlarged role if Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls get injured. Both Lacy and Rawls have struggled with multiple health issues throughout their careers, so if one or both go down, Prosise could be called upon to do more. As it stands, catching 60 balls may not be too lofty of a projection for Prosise.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia

Matt Waldman: Another year, another season where folks underestimate Blount. He was written off for being too slow, but he illustrated why acceleration and change-of-direction quickness were always more important traits. He was written off for being a stiff plodder but continues to show great hip and ankle flexion to avoid penetration in the backfield, turning certain losses into moderate gains. He’s now being written off in Philadelphia because he won’t have Tom Brady and the Patriots’ surrounding talent. However, Blount is joining one of the best offensive lines in the league and if you say that he doesn’t catch enough passes, didn’t New England field multiple receiving backs while Blount was the No. 7 fantasy RB last year and the No. 12 option for the first 10 weeks of 2015? Maybe the age monsters will rise from the edge of our flat earth and swallow Blount whole in 2017. It will be the first thing folks get right about him.

Tevin Coleman, Atlanta

Andy Hicks: Tevin Coleman is being underrated for two main reasons. He is not the main back on his team and he has missed time with injury. That said, he does a lot more with the ball when he does get it than any other back in the league, registering 11 touchdowns on less than 150 touches and is one of the more explosive backs in the league. In his third season, any kind of improvement and we should see those touches push 200 and he becomes a borderline RB1. Pure and simple Coleman is a weapon that should complement Devonta Freeman very well and there is no reason for them both not to be attractive to fantasy owners.

Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore

Jeff Pasquino: Dixon is suspended for the first four games this year, but that does not mean he is worthless as a draft pick in fantasy. The Ravens want him to step up and take over as their lead back, which he has the talent to do and could as soon as October this year. With only third-down specialist Danny Woodhead and Terrance West to compete for the workload, Dixon has ample opportunity to be a later round pick in fantasy drafts this summer that could be a fantasy hero by fantasy playoff time.

Melvin Gordon III, LA Chargers

Justin Howe: Shockingly, drafters all over the place are pulling Gordon with second-round picks. I realize he's not the most dynamic back out there - in fact, he's yet to show much dynamism at all through two seasons. But what he has shown are several aspects that point to top-5 overall upside and strong insulation from the risk of busting. For one, Gordon is catching tons of passes out of the backfield - actually, 41 over last year's 10 full games after Danny Woodhead left the lineup. The Chargers have added absolutely nothing of note to their backfield, which is packed with very limited reserves, so it's hard to expect Gordon to catch fewer than 50-55 balls. All told, only three backs (David Johnson, Le'Veon Bell, and Ezekiel Elliott) project to even approach him in terms of all-around volume, and those three will be gone three picks into most drafts. Nabbing Gordon's own outstanding volume a full round later is grand larceny. And let's not forget about his touchdown outlook, which also nestles among the fantasy draft board's elite. Some are balking at the idea of Gordon again notching double-digit touchdowns, but to me in seems like a near-certainty. There was nothing particularly fluky there: in 2016, only four players received more touches from inside the 10-yard line than Gordon's 30, which came in just 12.5 games. Simply put, he's a three-down bell cow with no real competition for any aspect of his game, and he's on the short list to lead the league in touchdowns. And right now, I'm prioritizing him on the same level as the top tier of wideouts, putting him in play for a mid-Round 1 pick in terms of value. Luckily, at the moment, we're able to get him for significantly less.

Frank Gore, Indianapolis

Matt Waldman: He’s old, I get it. For a running back, he’s been old for a while now. He’s also been slow for a running back since, oh…entering the league after sustaining two ACL tears at Miami. In fact, there are past and present NFL defenders with guilty consciences for thanking God that Gore suffered those two injuries as a collegian because if he arrived in the NFL fully intact, he might be one of the best ever. Due to those injuries that cost him his speed, Gore is only the standard that NFL coaches use to teach young runners how to read and set up blocks. He was only the No. 12 fantasy RB on a banged up Colts offense. Signing Christine Michael is a potential sign that Marlon Mack has much to learn about pass protection and inside running. I’m not counting on another RB1 performance from Gore, but RB33 is too low.

Duke Johnson Jr, Cleveland

Stephen Holloway: Johnson ran for 3,519 yards in his three seasons at the University of Miami, but has been relegated to the primary receiving back for the Cleveland Browns. Isaiah Crowell has been the primary runner of the tandem, with 198 carries to Johnson’s 73 a year ago, but Johnson averaged 4.9 ypc on those much fewer carries. Most expect the Browns to have a solid offensive line and with another new quarterback, there should be lots of passes thrown to the running backs. Johnson should be a consistent presence in the passing game and should continue to get rushing opportunities in a two-man RBBC.

Rob Kelley, Washington

Andy Hicks: Every year fantasy owners look to running backs taken in the middle rounds of the NFL draft to be the savior for their running game. It rarely works. For every Jordan Howard, there are countless Kenneth Dixons. The rookie running back has uphill battles to learn a complex NFL offense and overcome issues that forced them into the middle or late rounds of drafts in the first place. The existing back who has proven their mettle has the advantage and that is the case with Rob Kelley in Washington. Samaje Perine will get all the buzz, but Kelley demonstrated in his nine games starting that he is a more than capable back that should outperform his draft slot significantly.

Eddie Lacy, Seattle

Andy Hicks: This is the year that Eddie Lacy’s career could go either way: out of the league or back to his form from his first two seasons. Lacy obviously remains a high risk pick, but the upside is much higher than his current draft position. If you pair him with Thomas Rawls then you should safeguard your investment, but focusing purely on Lacy and despite his reputation, he has always performed when on the field. In his five games last year, he overaged over 5 yards a carry, and the year before had three 100-yard games when Green Bay wasn’t really interested in running the ball. There is no doubt that Seattle will want to run the ball, and often. They have depth at the position, but the lead runner will be Lacy. Don’t let him fall too far in your draft.

Marshawn Lynch, Oakland

Sigmund Bloom: Latavius Murray was a low-end RB1 on a points per game basis last year despite only getting more than 15 carries five times and averaging a hair over four yards per carry. As long as Lynch gets most of the back to his pre-retirement form, he should be able to take advantage of the quality of the Raiders offensive line and pass offense to make Murray’s numbers his floor. Lynch has a lot more experience as a high volume back and should be able to finish a lot of games for this winning team. As long as he is at least as good as Murray and he stays healthy, Lynch is more than worth the pick at ADP whether he’s your RB1 or RB2.

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