There is a huge drop off form the top 20 fantasy running backs to the next 20. I cannot say that I feel great about starting any of the guys listed below unless it’s in the flex position. If I find myself in a position where I am relying on a guy like CJ Anderson as my RB2, then I better have a WR trio like AJ Green, TY Hilton and Golden Tate to offset the drop off. That being said, I will break down these muddy waters, aka, the 20 next best running backs that should come off your draft board.
21 – Dion Lewis – Although Matt LaFleur wasn’t calling the plays for the LA Rams last year, he still had an influence in the offense which saw Todd Gurley get targeted 87 times in the passing game. That being said, Derrick Henry is an almost zero in the passing game, and that is where Dion Lewis excels. Dion Lewis will be more valuable in PPR leagues, but given the way the Titans project to use their running backs in the passing game, Lewis has a lot of value, especially since the Titans play some really good run defenses inside their own division.
22 – Rashaad Penny – As I mentioned in my Top 10 Rookie RB breakdown earlier this year, Penny has a chance to be an RB2 this year as long as Seattle doesn’t roll out a full-blown committee at running back. Seattle has a much improved offensive line from last year and with Russell Wilson lining up under center, Penny should never see a stacked box.
23 – Alex Collins – Alex Collins is a 24-year-old version of Marshawn Lynch, he runs with such power and aggression it’s hard not to like this guy. However, it’s hard to trust him with an early round pick (5th round ADP according to MFL) because the body of work simply isn’t there given he’s only started 12 games in his career. In 12 starts for the Ravens in 2017 after being released by the Seahawks, Collins ran for 4.6 yards per carry, but was only targeted 36 times in the passing game, hauling in just 23 of them which is Jordan Howard-like. The Ravens played most of 2017 without Marshal Yanda, one of the best guards in football, so getting him back should help the running game tremendously. In 2017, Alex Collins ran for 2.98 yards after first contact, a number which was beat only by LeGarrette Blount, Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Marshawn Lynch, Mark Ingram and Kareem Hunt (considering only RB’s that handled at least 50% of the team’s carries).
24 – Jay Ajayi – Jay Ajayi rushed for a decent 2.77 yards after first contact in 2017 but I just don’t know if I feel comfortable with how he will be used this season. Ajayi was traded to the Eagles in late October last year and I understand it takes time to acclimate to a new team and all, but the most carries he ever received last year during the regular season was 15. However, LeGarrette Blount has left Philadelphia, leaving Ajayi as the main every down back, and Darren Sproles and Corey Clement to handle passing down work.
25 – Derrick Henry – Derrick Henry averaged 3.23 yards after initial contact last year which is fantastic, and he broke 1 of every 22 runs for 15+ yards. With DeMarco Murray gone, Henry should get a majority of the early down work, and if the Titans are leading into the 4th quarter, Titans games are likely to turn into the Derrick Henry show. Monitor the status of left tackle Jack Conklin as training camp starts, because if he has issues returning from his ACL, the offensive line as a whole may take a step backwards.
26 – Sony Michel – I want to say the Patriots are sure to use Sony Michel early and often in the running game this year because they used a first round pick on him, but I just don’t know, it’s the Patriots. However, if anybody in the Patriots backfield could break out, it’s Michel, as he’s the most explosive of all the Patriots backs. Monitor the Patriots backfield situation throughout the preseason, because if Sony Michel shows well and the team moves on from Gillislee or Hill, he may climb up draft boards. Personally, I feel comfortable taking him as a late round guy, not as a 4th or 5th round guy (where his current ADP has him going), so the further he slips down draft boards, the better I will feel about drafting him.
27 – Tevin Coleman – In 2016, under Kyle Shanahan, Tevin Coleman only had 118 carries but he racked up 520 yards and 8 TD’s with those carries. Coleman also added 31 grabs for 421 yards and 3 TD’s. Skipping ahead to 2017, in year 1 of Sark calling plays, Coleman actually saw more volume because Devonta Freeman missed some time with a concussion and he rushed for more yards than he did in 2017, but his touchdown totals came down, which could be chalked up to the play caller, or it could be attributed to flukey nature of touchdown scoring. Based on Coleman’s consistency over the last few years, it’s safe to say Coleman should be a back-end RB2, but his week to week ceiling will be dependent on touchdowns given Devonta Freeman’s presence.
28 – CJ Anderson – Norv Turner loves to pound the rock with his running backs and Christian McCaffrey clearly isn’t a guy that can take significant pounding between the tackles. That being said, it makes sense that CJ Anderson will see significant work this season, it’s just a matter of game flow and game plan. If the Panthers fall behind, I cannot see how Anderson sustains much production, but in games where the Panthers win or maintain a lead, I can envision Anderson getting 20+ carries with Christian McCaffrey supplementing in the passing game. Although the volume should be there, Anderson isn’t the most exciting of picks as he doesn’t break many long runs, only taking 9 of his 245 runs for 15 or more yards in 2017.
29 – Marshawn Lynch – I am going to stay away from Marshawn Lynch this year because of his age. I simply don’t see how a guy with his running style, at his age can keep it going deep into the fantasy football season. At his current ADP according to MFL, however, he has been going around the 120th overall pick, which is the 10th round, making him somewhat of a draft day value. I will only consider drafting him if he falls to the 9th or 10th round.
30 – Isaiah Crowell – Bilal Powell cannot handle a full workload and it’s clear that if the Jets felt Elijah McGuire could handle every down work, they wouldn’t have signed Crowell in free agency. Crowell isn’t the flashiest back, but he’s fast enough to break loose, and he’s pretty good after contact, gaining an average of 2.63 yards after initial contact, meaning he creates for himself. For reference, Le’Veon Bell gained 2.60 yards after contact and Ezekiel Elliott averaged 2.81 yards. Crowell has been going in the 9th round of drafts, making him a late round steal.
31 – Tarik Cohen – In 2017, Tarik Cohen averaged 1.8 yards per route run, which is better than Jerrick McKinnon who people are in love with heading into the 2018 season. Although Cohen was efficient with the time he played, he was only targeted 65 times in the passing game. In order for Cohen to be fantasy relevant, he needs to play more snaps and get more targets. To me, Tarik Cohen’s value is going to fluctuate on a week to week basis based on how competitive the Bears are in games.
32 – Chris Thompson – Chris Thompson exploded onto the scene last year as the Redskins top pass catching RB, especially since Jamison Crowder was banged up and Terrelle Pryor was a bust. However, Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley were more or less zeros in the passing game, and with the presence of Derrius Guice who figures to be a factor in the passing game, Thompson may see his snap share decrease. Thompson is being drafted in the 9th round which isn’t too costly, so he is worth a shot late in drafts, especially PPR leagues.
33 – Ronald Jones – I am not sure how I feel about Ronald Jones, but the fact is the Bucs don’t have other options at the running back position, so he will get opportunities. I don’t like any of the Tampa Bay backs this year, and according to MFL ADP data, Jones costs a mid 5th round pick which is simply too rich for me. However, if Jones is the guy who gets a majority of the volume in Tampa Bay, he may come through for fantasy
34 – Carlos Hyde – Carlos Hyde figures to be the early favorite for early down work in Cleveland but with his current 9th round and Nick Chubb looming, I would almost prefer taking a guy with more upside at this in the 9th round instead of taking an unexciting option like Hyde. Carlos Hyde has never been able to stay healthy for a full season, until last year, when he played a full 16 in a contract year, but he still didn’t have that good of a year. Hyde really came through in PPR last year because the 49ers checked the ball down to him so much, so he benefited from volume, but he didn’t do that great as a runner, averaging under 4 yards per carry for the first time in his career. To put things into perspective regarding his usage in the passing game, Hyde was targeted 88 times last year which is more than he had in his first three seasons combined.
35 – LeGarrette Blount – LeGarrette Blount is an absolute beast and he led the league in yards after initial contact in 2017, pushing for 3.56 yards after getting hit by defenders. Blount also broke 35 tackles on 173 rushing attempts which means he broke a tackle on about 20% of his runs. To compare, Zeke Elliott broke a tackle on just over 12% of his runs in 2017. The Lions brought Blount in for a reason, and it’s because they want to have a relevant rushing attack for the first time since Barry Sanders retired. Blount will be the hammer and Theo Riddick will be the pass catcher, and as long as Blount doesn’t look like he fell off a cliff in the preseason, he should be an RB2 with potential to score a lot of touchdowns. At his current ADP around 200, he’s being taken around guys like Doug Martin, TJ Yeldon, Bilal Powell, James Conner and Spencer Ware…I would take Blount over those guys any day of the week.
36 – Jamaal Williams – Jamaal Williams ran for under 4 yards per carry in 2017 but he did so against some pretty stout rush defenses. Against Tampa Bay, Williams ran 21 times for 113 yards and a TD. Williams had 3.0 ypc against Carolina, 3.2 ypc against Baltimore and 3.9 ypc against Minnesota. When you play against solid run defenses, your yards per carry is sure to suffer. Aaron Jones was likely to be the starter in Green Bay, but the fact is the Packers didn’t heavily invent in Jones or Williams last year, so if Williams can come through early, he may hold on to the job long-term, making him well worth his late 9th round ADP.
37 – Marlon Mack – I am staying away from Marlon Mack this season. Mack bounces everything outside and I just don’t see how he’s going to have success running the ball. Mack did have an impressive 3.1 yards after initial contact in 2017 but he did so in a very limited sample, only carrying the ball 93 times last year. Similar to the Packers in 2017, if the Colts felt good about Marlon Mack heading into the 2018 season, they wouldn’t have drafted two backs in the 2018 draft.
38 – Latavius Murray – Latavius Murray wasn’t bad filling in for Dalvin Cook after he tore his ACL in 2017 and if you are a Cook owner, you really need to target Murray who is being drafted over 170 picks into drafts, which is basically a throw away pick.
39 – Corey Clement – Corey Clement doesn’t have a huge body of work but he showed us in the Super Bowl that he can be a matchup nightmare. On a per play basis last year,Clement ran for over 4 yards per carry and gained over 10 yards per reception. Even with Darren Sproles back in the fold, LeGarrette Blount is gone which figures to free up a lot of snaps in the backfield. Clement may be worth a shot with one of your final picks in the draft, he is on breakout alert.
40 – Nick Chubb – The Browns used a 2nd round draft pick on Nick Chubb for a reason. If there’s a buzz around Chubb in training camp and it looks like he will beat out Carlos Hyde for early down work, then his draft stock will soar.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday July 22nd, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #130 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Major League Fantasy Football Radio Show: Join host Corey D Roberts and James Wilk live Thursday July 26th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #86 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. Call in number is 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the host. We will hit free agents, rookies, and fantasy football as a whole for each team for 2018. This week we will discuss everything NFC North!