It’s easy to draft a running back if he’s getting 300 touches a
season. Choosing Ezekiel
Elliott (381 touches), Christian
McCaffrey (326) or Saquon
Barkley (352 touches) is a no-brainer … even if the player is
inefficient as “Zeke” was last season (.667 FPts/Touch). Because
massive volume can cover up for mediocre production.
But in this day and age, 300+ touches doesn’t happen very often.
From 2014-18 there were a total of 30 running backs to reach the
mark, or an average of just six per season. The previous five
seasons averaged 9.4 per season. With more and more backfields
becoming running back by committee, it’s important to know who
will produce with their limited touches, because only a select
few fantasy teams will own a workhorse back.
Turns out, the Chiefs’ Damien Williams finished the season
No.1, scoring 1.063 fantasy points every time he touched the ball,
which he did mostly during the 2018 fantasy playoffs after the
suspension/waiving of Kareem Hunt and injuries to Spencer Ware
and Charcandrick West. Despite the small sample size, I have faith
in him for the upcoming season. The Kansas City offense will still
be dynamic and his competition for touches, backup Carlos Hyde,
was one of the most inefficient running backs last season (0.497
James White continues to produce in New England no matter how
many other backs Bill Belichick brings in. Despite Sony Michel
(offseason knee surgery) running for 931 yards last season, White
still produced more fantasy points. And as long as Brady is under
center that shouldn’t change.
Hunt was third on the list last season, but after changing teams
and having to sit out the first eight games of 2019 due to suspension,
it will be interesting to see whether he or Nick Chubb will get
the majority of the workload. My guess is Chubb will get you into
the playoffs, but you better have a backup plan because Hunt is
too talented to not see an even split after Week 9.
I am a charter member of the Melvin Gordon fan club and his stats
prove as long as he stays healthy he’s an elite back. Of
course, he’s only played all 16 games in one of four seasons,
so handcuffing Austin Ekeler, who also produced top-10 numbers
(.909 FPts/G) is a must.
I’ve already discussed “The Gurley
Conundrum” in a previous article and expect a significant
falloff as the team tries to protect his arthritic left knee for
a playoff run by using rookie Darrell
Henderson and veteran Malcolm
Brown more often. He shouldn’t reach the 300-touch mark this
season after reaching the mark the last three years.
The Saints’ Alvin Kamara didn’t hit the 300-touch
mark last season due to the presence of Mark Ingram, but Ingram
is calling the Baltimore Inner Harbor home and Latavius Murray
has been brought in to replace him. Murray is no Ingram. Despite
comments that Kamara won’t see a larger workload, I think
he will almost certainly reach the 300 touches for 2019.
Fantasy owners would like to believe that Tarik Cohen will take
a big step forward with 2018 starter Jordan Howard in Philadelphia,
but at 5-foot-6, 179 lbs., there is no way his body could take
the beating of anything close to 300 touches. Enter Mike Davis
from the Seahawks and David Montgomery from Iowa State. I expect
Cohen to be used similar to last season’s 170 touches with
perhaps a 10-percent increase at most. Still that increase would
get him to 11.3 FPts/G or another solid RB2 season.
Aaron Jones has a chance to make a breakthrough in 2019 if …
he can stay healthy and if … the team recognizes he’s
the best back on their roster. He came into OTAs after a solid
offseason conditioning program and appears ready to play more
than the 12 games he’s played in each of his first two seasons.
Backup Jamaal Williams averages 3.6 ypc behind the same OL that
Jones averages 5.5 ypc. This must not be a shared backfield in
2019 and Rodgers needs to call his number more often.
Finally, Kenyan Drake was a surprise to me when I saw his name
in the 10th spot. He played “second-fiddle” to Frank Gore for most of last season, but his only competition for touches
this year will be Kalen Ballage (36 rushing attempts last season)
and rookie seventh-round pick Myles Gaskin. Drake was underused
last season, but that shouldn’t be the case in 2019. If
he produces at this level but sees a massive increase in usage
(170 to 250 touches) that could create an RB1. An increase of
that magnitude would likely jump his FPts/G from 9.7 to 13.7 which
would have ranked 10th-best in 2018.