The Atlanta RBs are due for regression
but there’s a lot more to gain by targeting Coleman at his
In a 12 team league, assuming an average of 4.5 running backs drafted
per team, we’re looking at roughly 54 running backs being
drafted. As you may know, there are only 32 teams in the NFL. So
at a minimum of 22 non-starters are being selected. Some of them
are pure backups/handcuffs, but others are legitimate fantasy options.
There are a handful of teams employing two viable fantasy football
running backs. Today, we’re going to discuss those teams and
determine which back, if any, you should target.
We begin with the most prominent and most productive of the timeshares.
Using FFToday’s PPR stats, Freeman finished as the RB7 in
2016, averaging 17.9 FPts/G while Coleman finished as the RB14,
averaging 14.7 FPts/G. Freeman’s current ADP according to
Fantasy Football Calculator is 1.11, and the RB6. Coleman’s
current ADP is 6.04, and the RB27. You can probably see where
I’m going with this.
Coleman was one of the most efficient fantasy producers at the
RB position last year, averaging 0.54 fantasy points per snap,
good for second in the league. While critics of Coleman will point
to the fact that his touchdown rate is due for regression (he
scored 11 on just 149 touches), I offer two rebuttals.
First – that’s okay. Coleman can still be an RB2 if he loses three
or four touchdowns. Second – I think it’s reasonable to project
an increase in touches. Remember, Coleman missed three games last
season. If we extrapolate his touch average over the games he
did play, he should have touched the ball about 34 more times
last season. That might help keep the touchdown count up in 2017
while Coleman experiences a natural drop in efficiency.
Finally, Coleman is a better athlete than Freeman by virtually
every metric. Coleman is three inches taller, but weighs the same
amount. He’s quick. He’s agile. And even though Freeman is viewed
as an excellent PPR back, which he is, Coleman is also a fantastic
pass catcher. He ranked number one in Football Outsider’s DVOA
receiving metric for running backs. Coleman has all the tools
to be an elite three down back if given the opportunity.
Freeman was excellent last year. He was also quite efficient,
averaging 0.47 fantasy points per snap, good for fifth in the
league. By no means am I suggesting Freeman will be a bust. He’s
just overvalued as a top six running back. There is no way Freeman
is four rounds and 21 running backs better than Coleman. The Falcons
offense, in general, cannot possibly be as productive as it was
last season. If there is going to be a drop off, I don’t want
that in my first round pick. Additionally, we may be one Freeman
injury away from the coaches seeing what Coleman can really do
as the lead back and implementing a changing of the guard. I am
not suggesting Freeman will just fade into obscurity, but a Coleman
explosion could push this closer to a 50-50 split. There’s a lot
more to gain by targeting Coleman and a lot more to lose by spending
your first round pick on Freeman.
This one I don’t quite understand. Yes, Derrick Henry
is an RB1 in waiting. We have seen him play at the NFL level and
he’s looked quite good. The Titans are a run-heavy offense
with a top five offensive line. You are definitely interested
in the Titans starting running back.
Henry averaged 0.40 fantasy points per snap last year, good
for 16th in the league. He was good, very good! If DeMarco Murray
ever went down, Henry would be a surefire RB1. Here’s the thing
– Murray still exists and he’s still also really good. Murray
finished 2016 as the RB6 with 18.2 FPts/G. Henry finished as the
RB65 with 7.6 FPts/G. Now obviously that’s not an indictment on
Henry; he just didn’t play much behind Murray. Yet, for some reason,
mock drafters in 2017 seem to think Henry is going see a significant
uptick in touches. He’s currently being drafted as the RB33 in
the seventh round. Meanwhile, Murray is the eighth RB off the
board at 2.03. What exactly is standing in the way of Murray and
another RB1 finish? Murray is 29 years old. While he’s far from
done, he’s in the final year of his contract and will likely be
moving on next year. Both of those things play in Murray’s favor.
Henry is only 23 and poised to be the Titans feature back for
the next half decade or so. The Titans are a team capable of winning
now so they have every reason to run Murray into the ground, while
preserving Henry for the future. Murray’s production last
season above average: top ten in yards after contact and top five
in evaded tackles. He’s one of the best receiving backs
in the league, a skill that will further help stave off Henry.
The only real area where Henry may usurp Murray is at the goal
line. Unless Murray gets hurt, which aside from his awful year
in Philly, he hasn’t been since 2012, Henry is mainly a
backup. He has almost no chance of living up to his top 36 draft
position, while Murray is actually being undervalued due to the
Henry hype. After the “big three” and LeSean McCoy,
Murray is the next RB I would draft.
Draft Jonathan Stewart. This one is straight and to the point.
Stewart, currently the RB43 and available in the 9th round, is
simply not going away in this offense yet, that’s what McCaffrey’s
3.11 RB15 ADP suggests. Need I remind you that McCaffrey has never
played a down in the NFL and is also entering a team with a running
quarterback that has a six-year history of making minimal use
of his running backs in the passing game. Granted, perhaps McCaffrey’s
job is to change that, but there are a lot of “ifs”
for a rookie back that you have to spend your third round pick
Last year, Stewart was finished as the RB30 with 11.6 FPts/G.
Honestly, that’s all I really need from J-Stew if I’m
drafting him in the 9th round. Stewart is going to see the redzone
work over McCaffrey and if Cam Newton really does run less, Stewart
will be the beneficiary. Stewart rushed for a mere 824 yards on
218 carries last year in 13 games played. He only caught eight
passes so McCaffrey taking the passing down work doesn’t
really change much. Stewart’s role for 2017 seems secure.
Sure, McCaffrey is incredibly talented and will see work, but
he’s mainly taking snaps Stewart isn’t targeted for
anyway. I expect Stewart’s ADP to climb a bit, but this
is a very profitable situation where someone else can burn a high
pick on McCaffrey, while you take the player that can be similarly
productive at a cheaper cost.
There’s too much uncertainty here. The Saints’ long
time starter Mark Ingram, has been on the brink of being pushed
out for a while now. Ingram is nothing special, but it’s
not like he’s been so terrible that he should’ve been
benched for Tim Hightower last season. I don’t know what
Sean Payton has against Ingram, but Payton hasn’t exactly
done anything positive with this team since they won the Super
Bowl (I’d argue his most notable achievements are trading
away Jimmy Graham and Brandin Cooks – not something he should
be proud of).
Adrian Peterson is currently being drafted ahead of Ingram in
some circles, which I both do and do not understand. If Adrian
Peterson is still Adrian Peterson, then sorry Ingram, but you
can watch most of this season from the sidelines. However, with
a 5.04 ADP as the RB21, that’s too rich for me. When we
last saw AP, he looked pedestrian. He’s also 32 years old,
playing for a new team, on a pass first offense and coming off
his second serious knee injury.
Mark Ingram’s ADP is 6.05 as the RB30. He finished as
the RB10 last year at 15. FPts/G, but the trepidation is understandable.
He went from no competition to having all the competition. Ingram
is reasonably priced, but, at the same time there are other running
backs in that range that aren’t in potential three-headed
Alvin Kamara’s ADP is 13.12 as the RB59. He doesn’t
have to be drafted, but his cost is extremely low. He might be
the passing down back, but Ingram also catches passes and if Peterson
takes over the early down work, this could end up being Ingram’s
Ultimately, there are too many variables in this backfield causing
me to shy away from investing any kind of significant draft capital.
Ameer Abdullah is probably overpriced at his 5.07, RB22 ADP
for PPR leagues. Theo Riddick, however, is severely undervalued
at his 7.10, RB34 ADP. Riddick’s 2016 season was cut short
by a wrist injury, but his ten game average of 16.2 FPts/G was
good for an RB8 finish. The Abdullah truthers will obviously point
to the fact that he was injured for just about all of 2016. Even
so, Abdullah is not going to push Riddick off the field. The Lions
love Riddick as does Matthew Stafford. The man is going to play
on passing downs and will be used as a quasi-slot receiver and
will most likely soak up Anquan Boldin’s vacated targets.
Abdullah’s role is as a two-down back between the twenties.
In the red zone, don’t be surprised to see the Lions go
with Zach Zenner or Dwayne Washington. I’m not quite sure
how Abdullah is reaching RB2 status if he’s not catching
passes and not scoring touchdowns. I don’t expect Riddick
to be an RB1 and he doesn’t even need to be an RB2 at his
price tag. If Riddick is a strong Flex option, he’s provided
a positive return on investment. Target Riddick aggressively in
This one I believe the fantasy community has correct; they just
don’t yet know how right they are. Powell’s ADP is 6.01 as the
RB25. Forte’s ADP is 9.06 as the RB42. Forte is clearly winding
down. He was inefficient and largely ineffective last season.
Forte is one of the greatest fantasy running backs of all time.
Seriously, he was that good for that long. But his time has come.
Powell is going to be the primary back. Did you know Powell caught
58 passes last season? There’s a lot to like about a PPR back
on a weak offense that projects to be in negative game scripts
most of the season.
Now I don’t think Forte will just disappear, but a 60-40
split in Powell’s favor is a reasonable projection. If you
draft Powell in the sixth round, you are getting an RB2 for an
RB3 price. Forte is properly priced, but there’s not much
upside. With the Jets cutting ties with all of their veterans,
it makes all the sense in the world to push Powell ahead of Forte
this year. Powell is no young buck (29), but remember that the
age of decline is directly correlated to expected usage. Powell
does not have nearly the same mileage as a typical 29 year-old
running back. He probably has a good two to three years left.
Did you notice the order I listed the backs? That’s the
order in which you should target them (if you wanted to, but you
shouldn’t). The Vikings had one of the worst offensive lines
in 2016 and while it has improved this off-season, this offense
is still nowhere near the level it needs to be at for any of these
backs to be particularly useful.
Cook is mind-bogglingly the first of the three off the board
with an absurd 6.06 ADP as the RB29. Murray is going 11 backs
later at 9.02. McKinnon isn’t even being drafted. McKinnon is
the most physically talented of the three with workout metrics
off the charts. His SPARQ score is the highest of all time but
he’s not built to be a feature back. His role as the passing down
back, however, is likely secure.
Murray was signed this offseason, at the time, to be the early
down and goaline back. After handling 34 of Oakland’s red zone
rush attempts last year, Murray projects to be in the same role
Do we really think Cook is going to handle all of the first
and second down work between the twenties? Even if he does, RB29
is very aggressive for a two-down back that won’t be catching
many passes (not that he can’t, he just won’t be this year) and
won’t be scoring touchdowns. And I don’t think Cook will monopolize
the early-down work. I expect him and Murray to shuffle in and
out quite frequently. This is truly going to be a three-headed
monster. I think we’re looking at a 40-40-20 type split. So where’s
the value? If Murray or Cook were to get hurt, the other would
be useful, but I can’t advocate spending a single digit round
pick on a three-way split backfield in a weak offense.
For the first time in fantasy history (don’t quote me
on that, but it’s probably true), there are four running
backs from the same team being drafted. Gillislee leads the pack
at 6.02 as the RB26, which makes sense given the common belief
that he will take over LeGarrette Blount’s role.
James White is next at 10.01 as the RB45. This doesn’t
make much sense because White has never been anything other than
a bit player. There’s been a huge overreaction to his monster
performance in the Super Bowl that stemmed from an extremely anomalous
position – the Patriots trailing by a lot. How often is
that going to happen in 2017? When the Patriots are in a favorable
game script, White is not going to be on the field much. He is
Dion Lewis is third at 13.10 as the RB56. This is equally perplexing.
To me, he’s the clear odd man out. He’s been injured
for the better part of his career and isn’t as good as Gillislee
running the ball or the other two catching the ball. He’s
like a jack of all trades but a master of none. I don’t
understand how he’s going ahead of…
Rex Burkhead is last at 14.03 as the RB63. This is grand larceny.
Obviously Burkhead can outperform this ADP and still not help
your fantasy team but I think he will shatter expectations. Burkhead
is an elite pass catcher who is also capable of running between
the tackles. He was the favorite for goaline work before the Patriots
signed Gillislee and it still wouldn’t shock me to see him
handle some of it anyway. Burkhead is going to be the primary
passing down back, possibly on the field with James White at the
same time. The Patriots have proven that they are a smart organization
and do not make moves for no reason. If they were so enamored
with Lewis or White, why did they go out and sign both Burkhead
and Gillislee? For the very cheap price of “free,”
you can gamble on Burkhead becoming the Patriots’ newest
version of Danny Woodhead. If his ADP remains in the last couple
rounds, I’d venture to say I’ll own Burkhead in 100%
of my leagues.
With the most discussion-worthy teams covered, here is a list
of remaining “shared” backfields and the player I
think you should or shouldn’t target at their ADP.