Late Round Draft Targets: RB (Fantasy Football)
Who qualifies as a late-round target? For the sake of having a firm rule of thumb to work off of, I’ve decided anyone drafted after pick 100 overall qualifies as a late-round pick. In 12-team leagues, a pick in the triple digits would be after round eight. That’ll suffice. Three backs received the nod for this piece, and two are second-year players. The two young backs and the veteran back with a solid resume and new home who rounds out the trio of included backs make for solid late-round picks at running back. Additionally, you can check out a couple of backs who are frequently going undrafted who I’m a fan of here.
Jamaal Williams (GB) – Overall: 104, RB39
Let me start by addressing Williams’ backfield mate, Aaron Jones. Jones is actually the next running back off the board as RB40, and his ADP of 106.6 is only a pinch below Williams. I like both backs, however, I’ve chosen Williams because I like his 2018 outlook better. One of the primary reasons I like Williams better than his fellow second-year back teammate is due to Jones’ two-game suspension to open this year. The suspension will give Williams a clear path to the lion’s share of backfield work — albeit while still ceding some touches to Ty Montgomery — in the first two games of the year, and strong showings in those two contests could provide Jones a road block to cutting into Williams’ workload.
Williams’ rookie season got off to a slow start, but he ultimately finished with solid numbers in many areas and flashed upside. Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked him a lowly 42 out of 58 qualified backs in overall running back grade, but he was hurt immensely by his receiving grade. He graded in the middle of the pack as a runner, and he ranked fourth in pass blocking grade at the position. Keeping Aaron Rodgers upright is of the utmost importance to Green Bay, and it should help Williams’ cause for claiming a large piece of the pie in Green Bay’s committee backfield.
Getting back to Williams’ work as a runner, Football Outsiders (FO) ranked him 12th out of 47 backs who rushed the ball a minimum of 100 times in DYAR (108) and 12th in DVOA (7.4%). Jones actually outgained him in DYAR (143), and his DVOA (31.3%) was the highest among backs who carried the ball 20-99 times and would’ve trailed only Alvin Kamara among qualified backs. Again, in addition to liking Williams, I like Jones. Both are strong late-round picks, but when choosing between the two I’ll go with the back who will have the first crack at work out of the chute.
Williams carried the ball only 11 times and caught two passes through Green Bay’s first eight games last year, but he came on strong as the feature back in the second half of the season. During the last eight games of 2017, Williams reached triple-digit yardage from scrimmage four times, and he fell short of 60 yards from scrimmage just two times during that eight-game stretch. He and all of Green Bay’s offensive players will benefit from Rodgers being healthy to open this year after missing nine games last year. Even in a committee, Williams should be a reliable week-to-week flex play, and his upside is much greater than that if he headlines the backfield committee and carves out a 15 to 20-touch role in a Rodgers-led offense.
C.J. Anderson (CAR) – Overall: 110.6, RB41
Anderson is probably the least exciting player touted in this piece, but he’s rock solid. Last year, he eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing (1,007) for the first time in his career, and he added 28 receptions for 224 yards, though, he scored just four total touchdowns. The Broncos opted to move on from Anderson and released him. He’s since signed to serve the between-the-tackles complement to second-year back Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers fired their 2017 offensive coordinator, Mike Shula, and replaced him with unexciting Norv Turner. In Shula’s offense, Stewart ran the ball 198 times and caught eight passes. It’s possible Turner won’t lean on the team’s bruising back — Anderson — as much as Shula did last year’s bruiser, but a 200-ish touch season isn’t out of the question for the former Bronco.
Anderson is a far better back than J-Stew at this point in each back’s career. PFF ranked Anderson sixth in overall running back grade, and he graded especially well as a runner and pass blocker. Anderson’s biggest deficiency was as a receiver, but that’s McCaffrey’s specialty, making the combo a nice pairing of skill-sets. Should the injury bug bite McCaffrey, Anderson would immediately become an RB2 at the least with RB1 upside. Having said that, even if McCaffrey stays unscathed, Anderson will likely see the ball enough to be in the flex conversation.
D’Onta Foreman (HOU) – Overall: 128.6, RB45
Foreman’s inclusion in this piece is probably more about the back who’s in front of him than about his own ability. That’s not to say Foreman is a slouch, but Lamar Miller’s unexciting work in two year’s as Houston’s feature back leaves open the door to at least a committee situation. Miller’s averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in his two years in Houston, and volume has helped his fantasy value out immensely. Miller was far more efficient in a committee through his first four years in the league with the Dolphins, and the Texans would probably be wise to scale back Miller’s workload to increase his efficiency.
Enter Foreman as the back to help ease Miller’s workload. The Texans selected Foreman in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft with the 89th pick overall. The rookie runner averaged 4.19 yards per carry, and even in a change-of-pace role, he reached at least 80 yards from scrimmage in two of 10 games played. Foreman’s best game of his rookie season was his last. In Week 11 against the Cardinals, Foreman rushed for 65 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, and he hauled in all three of his targets for 15 yards and a touchdown. He suffered a torn Achilles on a 34-yard touchdown run to end his rookie season prematurely. Foreman is still rehabbing the injury, but the club reportedly, “remain hopeful that he will make a full recovery before the start of the regular season.”
Foreman won’t be the only second-year player returning from injury for the Texans. Quarterback Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in practice leading up to their Week 9 contest versus the Colts. Prior to the injury, Watson dazzled and had Houston’s offense clicking on all cylinders. The team posted 33 points or more in five straight contests before Watson’s season came to a close. Watson is expected to be healthy for the start of training camp, and he has no intention of curtailing his electrifying play in the wake of the injury. A healthy Watson makes the Texans a potentially high-scoring offense this year, and Foreman represents a cheap piece of exposure to it. Sign me up for that.