Dynasty Roundtable - What current running back could lose the most value as a result of the NFL Draft?

A collaborative staff discussion of dynasty-themed topics in the offseason: What current running back could lose the most value as a result of the NFL Draft?

The bulk of free agency is over and the NFL draft looms on the horizon. How has the dynasty landscape changed over the last few weeks? Let's jump in.

What incumbent running back has the greatest risk of losing the most dynasty value with the NFL Draft closing in? Explain your reasoning.

Jason Wood
I've seen a lot of smart analysts touting mediocre running backs who "survived" free agency as their team's No. 1s. That's a grave risk and error in judgment. The running back position has sadly become a commodity in most GM's eyes, and it's a game of fresh blood every few seasons. If a veteran running back wasn't the lead runner heading into the NFL draft, I'm not going to assume they're going to become the team's workhorse until we see if the team adds a rookie or two.

Backs I would be selling right now include Chase Edmonds, La'Mical Perine, and Benny Snell. I expect all three to be challenged if not clearly overtaken by rookie running backs this year.

If you're looking for a higher-end player that could be derailed, how about Melvin Gordon III? He's been productive as a Charger and now a Bronco, but also never seems to be in his coaching staff's best graces. Would it surprise anyone if Denver added a stud in the draft who works into a committee approach? The team had issues with Phillip Lindsay, but he was productive in the system and there are quite a few rookie backs more talented than Lindsay on his best day.

Andy Hicks
I 100% agree with you, Jason. A few teams plugged their gaps through free agency. The best available backs left in free agency James Conner, Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, and Wayne Gallman can all land substantive roles somewhere.

Arizona, Atlanta (despite Mike Davis signing), Denver, Jacksonville, Miami, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco are teams highly likely to draft a running back in the first three rounds. That puts Chase Edmonds, Mike Davis, Melvin Gordon III, James Robinson, Benny Snell, Raheem Mostert, and Jeff Wilson under the most threat. Miami doesn’t have anyone on their roster with expectations and Alvin Kamara won’t have his role impacted by a rookie this year.

I am going to zero in on James Robinson. Jason makes great points in his D.J. Chark Jr analysis of a new coach, offensive coordinator, quarterback, etc. Robinson is a fairy tale story of undrafted free agent succeeding. Unfortunately, he needs to prove himself all over again. Carlos Hyde has already demonstrated he can carry a team. A rookie that Jacksonville targets will have a role. Can Robinson rise above all this? Of course, but he is guaranteed nothing. His high stock now will evaporate with a high draft pick.

Jeff Tefertiller
This is the time of year we place too much hope in incapable runners who seem to have the starting gig locked down, but it was just a mirage. Three such backs this year are:

  • Mike Davis, ATL - The 28-year-old back has been a journeyman his entire career and played well last year in Carolina after Christian McCaffrey was injured. While he is a solid complementary player, carrying the Falcons running game is too much to ask.
  • Chase Edmonds, AZ - While playing well in spots the past few years, we are now supposed to think that Edmonds will be the bell cow in an offense that does not use a bell cow? Expect the Cardinals to add talent around him.
  • Benny Snell, PIT - Snell has been average as a professional, but the issue is that the Steelers let James Conner walk because they wanted to UPGRADE the running game, not take a step backward.
  • There are other great answers for this question like the backs on the Jets, Dolphins, and Chargers, but I will leave those for others.
Sigmund Bloom
My colleagues have done a great job covering the most likely suspects. The good news for incumbent running backs is that there are only two presumptive three-down backs (Alabama's Najee Harris and Clemson's Travis Etienne) in this draft. North Carolina's Javonte Williams has his fans, but he projects more as a lead back in a committee than a true bell cow. Pittsburgh is practically telegraphing a running back pick at 24, and no one would be surprised if Miami took Harris at 18. The Steelers sent their general manager, head coach, and offensive coordinator to Clemson's pro day, so that could be a sign of great interest in Etienne. The reality that very few returning backs are going to lose value during the draft. If I had to pick a back who would lose value in a surprise twist, it would be Christian McCaffrey. They were in on Chris Carson before he returned to Seattle.

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Chad Parsons
James Robinson. There are other incumbents on the hot seat, but none have the dynasty market value of Robinson. The 2020 rookie phenom with Ryquell Armstead missing the season and Leonard Fournette jettisoned out of Jacksonville surged to an auto-start weekly in fantasy. However, low-pedigree running backs like Robinson consistently look over their shoulders. While the early free agent names are off the market, Le'Veon Bell, James Conner, and Todd Gurley are still notable enough to drop Robinson's value and likely role if signed. Jacksonville also has five picks in the top-65 of the draft. Any of them turning into a running back would be enough to carve Robinson's current value in half, or more, the moment it occurs. Robinson essentially had no competition for touches in 2020. Carlos Hyde was a notable addition to the depth chart (not to all in the dynasty community, but some) and Jacksonville's depth chart could still use a rookie added as Hyde is a single-year stopgap.

Dan Hindery
To lose a good deal of value, a player first has to have real dynasty value. So first let me make the case for why you should value Chase Edmonds today. Edmonds had 850 total yards and 53 receptions last season despite Kenyan Drake getting 264 touches. With Drake out of town, Edmonds is in line for a big role as long as the Cardinals do not draft one of the top few backs in the draft. There is a very real possibility Edmonds ends up as a 4th-round redraft pick if Arizona waits on running back in the draft (round four or later). If instead, the Cardinals draft one of the top backs to be their starter, Edmonds will lose a good deal of value.

Arizona taking a running back early feels like close to a coin flip to me, so my advice is to value Edmonds about halfway between where you would value him as the clearcut starter and where you would value him if he is again the backup.

Anthony Amico
James Robinson would have been my first selection, but Chad did an excellent job already of explaining how he could see a huge decrease in value. It is also worth noting that some of that is priced in, as he is being drafted outside the top-20 RBs in FFPC startups.

Instead, I'll pivot to Antonio Gibson, who was fantastic as a rookie but saw his workload limited by backs such as J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber. Gibson saw 15 or more carries just four times in 2020 and was frequently taken off the field on passing downs. Gibson may see a larger 2021 role as many are expecting, but there is also a chance Washington drafts someone better than McKissic and Barber to fill a 1B role. An RB1 price is risky right now for Gibson.

Pat Fitzmaurice
As shrewdly as the Dolphins have managed their rebuild so far, maybe they’ll recognize the fungibility of the running back position and won’t bother spending any of their considerable draft capital on it. I’d like that. Myles Gaskin was such a pleasant surprise last year. He’s not a classic RB1 type, but he’s a shifty, economical runner and efficient pass catcher. Gaskin averaged 18.3 touches and 16.4 PPR points over 10 games last season, and he lined the pockets of some fantasy managers by cranking out 169 yards from scrimmage and two TDs in Week 15. It would be nice to see Gaskin pay a prominent role in the Miami backfield again, and maybe the recently signed Malcolm Brown will be a meat shield for Gaskin, convincing the Dolphins that they have enough at the position between Gaskin, Brown, and Salvon Ahmed. But (sigh), there’s a good chance the Dolphins will spend an early-round pick on one of the “Big Three” running back prospects – Najee Harris, Travis Etienne or Javonte Williams – which would put a significant dent in Gaskin’s value.

Adam Wilde
My colleagues have done an excellent job hitting on a ton of great options for this question, so I’ve decided to come out of leftfield a bit.

The Buffalo Bills have taken swings at running back in each of their past 3rd rounds with Devin Singletary followed by Zack Moss. While neither has been complete busts, I view the running game as a clear void in an otherwise impressive Bills offense. Specifically in the playoffs with no Zack Moss, the Bills struggled to get any semblance of a run game going with Singletary alone. Singletary also did not live up to his assumed specialty on passing downs. If for no other reason than to provide a scapegoat for their shortcomings at the end of 2020, the Bills may target a running back even earlier than in years past. At pick 61 we’re looking at prime Javonte Williams territory. Should the Bills go that route I expect Zack Moss and Devin Singletary to be relegated to “throw in” status.

Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to haseley@footballguys.com

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