4 Running Backs Set to Bounce Back in 2016
Eric Moody discusses six wide receivers that are set to bounce back in the upcoming fantasy football season.
Cognitive biases are tendencies to think in certain ways that can lead to deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment. I am fascinated with the parallels of investing and fantasy football. Recency bias is where investors evaluate their portfolio performance based on recent results or on their perspective of recent results and make the wrong conclusions that ultimately lead to incorrect decisions about how the stock market behaves. This is a very important concept to understand in fantasy football. It is the equivalent of driving in your car constantly looking through the rear view mirror instead of looking straight ahead. The purpose of this article is to showcase four running backs currently being drafted middle rounds of 12-team leagues who are primed for a bounce back season.
Gordon was outplayed by Danny Woodhead last season. The 15th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft produced 0.34 fantasy points per touch in 2015. While Woodhead produced 0.92 fantasy points per touch. Gordon was only given 12 carries inside the 20 yard line. He underwent microfracture surgery in January, but all reports from the San Diego media suggest Gordon’s rehab has gone well. Gordon even reached out to Adrian Peterson to correct his fumbling issue. He feels more “comfortable” in his second training camp according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. It is difficult to give up on a talent like Gordon heading into his second NFL season.
Gordon only played 396 snaps as a rookie last season. Woodhead is entering a contract year with the Chargers and at age 31 may be viewed as expendable. Contracts and the egos of NFL front office executives can be the catalyst for many decisions. Gordon will be given every opportunity to succeed in 2016 and the arrival of Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will help with that. Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator in San Diego in 2013 before a disastrous stint as the Titans head coach from 2014 to 2015. Under his leadership, the Chargers offense produced 2.3 points per drive with 42 percent of them reaching the red zone. This ranked second in the NFL that season. Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead finished as top 20 fantasy running backs.
Gordon can be drafted anywhere from the seventh to eighth round in 12-team leagues according to Fantasy Football Calculator. He is currently RB25 according to FantasyPros consensus ADP (average draft position) rankings.
The only reliable running back out of the Lions backfield was Theo Riddick. Abdullah was drafted by the Lions in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft and disappointed fantasy owners. He produced 0.54 fantasy points per touch in spite playing the second-most snaps (430) of the Lions running back by committee. Abdullah struggled early in the season which resulted in an inconsistent workload from game to game. He did average 4.7 yards per carry over the Lions’ final 10 games.
Abdullah enters his second NFL season fully recovered from his offseason shoulder surgery and avoided the active/PUP list to begin training camp. The risk in the Lions running back by committee is in how the carries are split. The team has generally given each running back a role. Joique Bell served as the running back at the goal line or in short yardage situations. Riddick has served as the team’s receiving back. With Bell out of the picture, what role will Abdullah fill? The Lions signed Stevan Ridley who may be finally healthy after tearing his ACL in 2014. Could he fill that role for the Lions? Abdullah is the most talent running back the Lions have on the roster. He will be given an opportunity during the preseason to separate himself from Riddick, Ridley, and George Winn. Abdullah can be drafted anywhere from seventh to ninth rounds in fantasy football drafts. He is currently RB27 according to FantasyPros consensus ADP rankings. Gordon, in my opinion, has more upside than Abdullah. Lions running back coach David Walker, according to the Detroit Free Press, said the team does not “need” a 1,000-yard rusher. This does not mean that he will not have usable weeks, but it does provide a lower ceiling on Abdullah’s upside.
Forsett was a fantasy difference maker during the 2014 season. He took advantage of the opportunity to become the Ravens starting running back and ran with it (no pun intended). He finished as a top eight fantasy running back in addition to being a core component of many championship teams. Forsett’s ADP rose to anywhere in the second to third round in fantasy drafts last summer heading into the 2015 season. His 2015 season ended when he was tackled for a five-yard loss by Rams’ s defensive tackle Aaron Donald in the first quarter of the Week 11 game.
Forsett returns for his second season in Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman’s scheme. The Ravens had the most pass attempts (676) of any NFL team last season. Trestman mentioned to the Baltimore Sun that he would like to run the ball more. Forsett is still leading the Ravens committee, but faces competition from Buck Allen, Terrance West, and fourth round draft selection Kenneth Dixon. He can be drafted as late as the ninth round in fantasy drafts. Forte finished as a top five fantasy running back in back to back seasons (2013 and 2014) in this offense.
Forsett has overcome a lot of adversity in his career and has the mental toughness to earn the right to be the starter. He is entering his 31 season, but only has been 923 career touches. The Ravens opportunity was the first time in Forsett’s career he was the lead back. I do not anticipate him letting go of that position without a fight. This is one training camp battle I am monitoring very closely.
The Giants four-headed running back by committees was an abomination for fantasy football players in 2015. This committee included Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen, and Orleans Darkwa. The Giants offense was one of the most effective in the NFL last season. The team scored 2.03 points per drive in 2015. Jennings can finish 2016 as an RB2 in this offense if given a consistent workload. The New York Daily News believes it is “clear” that he will be the Giants’ lead back this season, and that the team is eliminating its committee. Jennings is currently RB37 according to FantasyPros consensus ADP rankings. He can be drafted anywhere from the eighth to ninth round. Giants.com’s John Schmeelk believes Jennings will “get around 15-18 carries a game.” The New York Daily News’ Ralph Vacchiano believes he is the “likely workhorse” in the backfield. Jennings produced 0.72 fantasy points per game and averaged 21.5 touches per game during the final four games of the season. He had the following quote back in July from an article written by Joe Giglio for the Newark Star Ledger:
There’s a difference between being an NFL player and being a pro. I think everybody that’s played the game can attest to that. Being an NFL player is a guy that comes into the league, has some talent, plays a little bit. But a pro really understands how to take care of his body, how to play the X’s and O’s, play the game before it happens. I’ve just been allowing my maturity to catch up with my age at the same time. I’m excited. As I get into my latter years, I’m getting into my prime.
Jennings has averaged 124.8 carries over his six-year career. He is only 31 years old and set his career high in rushing attempts last season with the Giants. The Giants drafted former UCLA running back Paul Perkins in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Vacchiano does not expect Perkins to make “much of an impact” during his rookie season. I share that sentiment, but it all comes down to Jennings ability to stay healthy in 2016. He will be in a position to greatly outperform his ADP. The Giants offense is one to target for your fantasy football team this season.
The 2016 draft season gives us many viable options at running back to target in the middle to late rounds. My intent was to target running backs that are part of solid offenses, have upside, and that could see anywhere from 14 to 16 touches per game. All of these players fit that criteria. Fantasy drafts are won in the middle to late rounds. The more players you have hit taken at this stage of the draft the strong your team becomes. What are your thoughts on these running backs heading into 2016? Comment below or tweet me at @EricNMoody.