Running Back Roundup: Preseason Edition (2018 Fantasy Football)
We’re fast approaching the start of the 2018 NFL season, but there is still plenty left to be decided when it comes to fantasy football’s most important position. While some running back situations are set in stone to begin the year, others are as clear as mud. This team-by-team look at NFL backfields will be with you throughout the season to sort through the muck and the mire and help you figure out waiver wire pickups, buy/sell candidates, and start/sit conundrums.
Of course, we’re still in August, so maybe you haven’t even drafted your team yet (I still have a couple upcoming drafts of my own). In that case, perhaps this preseason edition of the Running Back Roundup can help you figure out who to put on your team in the first place!
Whether you’ve already drafted or not, we’ll help get you situated by covering all 32 NFL backfields here. Then, during the season, we’ll hone in on the backfields that are in flux each week.
David Johnson is fully recovered from the wrist injury that wiped out his 2017 season, and he’s locked in as a top-five RB in both standard and PPR leagues. Johnson was the number one RB in both formats in 2016, and while I rank him behind Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell due to team context, it would come as no great shock if DJ returns to the top of the heap. He projects to once again be a three-down, bell-cow back, and he should also be a very active pass-catcher since Arizona has few proven receiving options outside of Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals selected Chase Edmonds in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, and he has already ascended to second on the team’s depth chart. Edmonds may not see much action while Johnson is healthy, but he would instantly vault into the RB2 conversation should Johnson suffer another significant injury. Edmonds makes for a good handcuff and late-round lottery ticket in redraft leagues, and he is also an intriguing dynasty stash, as Johnson’s contract runs out at the end of the season.
The Falcons have had one of the most stable backfields in the league over the last few seasons, and that should continue in 2018. Devonta Freeman has finished as a top-15 RB in three straights seasons, and Tevin Coleman has finished as a top-20 RB in back-to-back years. It is worth noting that Coleman has gradually been getting a larger share of the workload each year, but some of that is due to Freeman missing more games than Coleman for the first time last season. A 60-40 split in Freeman’s favor is a reasonable expectation for 2018, but no matter how you slice it, the Falcons have proven that they can support two viable fantasy starters at the position.
Coleman deserves a slight bump in dynasty/keeper formats, as he’s a free agent at the end of the season and could finally get his shot to be the lead back for another team next season. The Falcons drafted Ito Smith in the fourth round of the draft, and he’s not an awful late-round pick as a potential handcuff for both Freeman and Coleman. Look for Smith to step in for one of Atlanta’s top-two backs on a permanent basis in 2019.
After being sporadically used in Seattle, Alex Collins had a breakthrough season in Baltimore in 2017, finishing with 1,160 total yards and six scores. Collins should begin the year as the Ravens’ clear lead back, handling early-down work and probably goal-line opportunities as well. Buck Allen will likely serve as the team’s third-down back, with Kenneth Dixon relegated to backup duties.
Collins has quite a bit of upside and he’s well worth an early-round investment, but just recognize that his spot atop the depth chart is probably not as firm as many other lead backs around the league. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that any of Baltimore’s three backs could finish the season as the one to own in fantasy leagues.
Some ugly off-the-field allegations surfaced in July regarding LeSean McCoy, but McCoy and the Bills have expressed confidence that he will avoid a suspension and there hasn’t been a lot of news about the issue of late. If McCoy does indeed play 16 games, he should occupy the same bell-cow role he’s had in Buffalo for the last three years — and in Philadelphia before that.
However, a potential suspension isn’t the only concern when it comes to McCoy. There’s also the matter of the Bills’ offense, which projects to struggle, whether it is A.J. McCarron, Nathan Peterman, or (most likely) rookie Josh Allen under center. McCoy should get all the work he can handle as long as he’s active and available, but he’s likely to face stacked boxes and scoring opportunities could be few and far between.
The Bills signed Chris Ivory away from Jacksonville to serve as McCoy’s backup. Ivory is hardly a special talent, but he has shown he can be a serviceable fantasy option when given a heavy workload. Ivory is a defensible handcuff in deep leagues given McCoy’s lingering off-field issues, but it’s possible Marcus Murphy overtakes him on the depth chart.
Christian McCaffrey has been skyrocketing up draft boards this preseason, and rightfully so. The Panthers are obviously being unrealistic when they say they want McCaffrey to see 25-30 touches per game, but it does show that Carolina plans to heavily feature him. CMC has had a couple huge plays in the preseason, but the best news is that he’s played almost 90 percent of the snaps with Cam Newton, including every snap inside the 10-yard line.
The Panthers have some concerns on the offensive line, but McCaffrey’s projected volume increase more than makes up for that. He was a top-15 fantasy RB in standard leagues and top-10 RB in PPR last season, while averaging 12 touches per game — less than half the number Carolina says they want him to have this season. Even if he only sees a handful of additional touches per game, it should be more than enough to vault him into the “every-week RB1” status in all formats.
C.J. Anderson is coming off of a 1,000-yard season in Denver, but it doesn’t look like he will be utilized nearly as much in Carolina as many people initially anticipated. At this point, he is little more than a handcuff/lottery ticket, and has less stand-alone flex appeal than guys like Latavius Murray and Frank Gore.
Jordan Howard has a very similar profile to Alex Collins, albeit with a bit better job security. Howard is an early-down grinder on a mid-tier offense who should be able to pile up touchdowns but may struggle to add meaningful receiving yardage.
New Bears coach Matt Nagy has made it a point to proclaim that Howard will play on third downs this season, which could make some sense as an effort to keep defenses from predicting whether the team will be running or passing the ball on any given play. Still, it’s hard to believe that Howard will receive a lot of targets when the Bears have one of the better pass-catching backs in the league in Tarik Cohen.
Nagy is an innovative offense strategist, so perhaps Howard and Cohen will be on the field together more frequently this season. But we should still ultimately expect Howard to be an RB2 who is better suited to standard leagues, and Cohen a flex option with much more appeal in PPR leagues.
Many people are expecting a big breakout for Joe Mixon this year, and while my rankings reflect more of a “prove it” perspective, the opportunity is certainly there. Mixon was not an effective rusher as a rookie, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, but he was better later in the season. Cincinnati invested a second-round draft pick in Mixon and clearly want him to emerge as their lead back over Gio Bernard. Mixon is certainly talented, and if he can put it all together there is certainly the possibility he finishes as a top-12 RB. I would just be careful not to pay for his ceiling without factoring in the risk.
Bernard, meanwhile, will likely begin the season in the same third-down and two-minute drill role that he has had for his entire career in Cincinnati. The difference is that Bernard has also emerged as Mixon’s clear handcuff, proving late last season that he could be a viable RB2 if given a heavy workload. Given Mixon’s limited track record of success, Bernard is an interesting player to own for his immediate PPR flex appeal and potential RB2 upside if Mixon falters.
The Browns’ backfield looked like a potentially messy one heading into training camp, but Cleveland has made things simpler for fantasy owners by showing a clear preference to use Carlos Hyde over rookie Nick Chubb as the early-down back. Hyde was a top-10 fantasy RB in San Francisco last season, and while it’s a bit ambitious to expect him to repeat that level of performance, he should have every-week RB2 value as long as he’s operating as the Browns’ lead back. Chubb is the direct backup to Hyde, and while he could ultimately overtake Hyde, Chubb is more appealing in dynasty leagues than redraft to begin the season.
Then there’s Duke Johnson, who should again handle the pass-catching role he’s played in Cleveland for the last three years. Last year, that translated into RB2 value in standard leagues and borderline RB1 value in PPR formats, but that was likely a best-case scenario for Johnson’s fantasy value. With more competition for short and intermediate targets from Cleveland’s WRs this year, particularly Jarvis Landry and David Njoku, Johnson will likely take a small step backward. But he’s still a solid flex option with RB2 upside in PPR leagues.
Much like David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott projects to again be a true bell-cow back in an offense that may struggle to consistently score points. Elliott faces no serious competition for carries, and he could well set a career high in receptions this season given Dallas’ severe lack of proven wide receivers and tight ends. But Elliott was already likely to face stacked boxes, and now he will have to do so without the help of All-Pro center Travis Frederick, who is out indefinitely with a rare autoimmune disease. Three other members of the Cowboys’ vaunted offensive line are battling preseason injuries. Elliott is still a clear-cut RB1 in all formats, but he’ll really have to prove his worth this year.
The Cowboys drafted Bo Scarbrough in the seventh round of the draft, but Rod Smith remains the clear backup to Elliott. Smith is a good player to have on your roster whether you own Elliott or not. Even with the Cowboys’ offensive line woes, Smith would likely be an RB2 with RB1 upside if something were to happen to Elliott.
The Broncos invested a third-round pick in Royce Freeman this spring, and those who closely follow the team seem to agree that Freeman has far outplayed Devontae Booker this preseason. Right now, the most likely scenario for this backfield is the one Denver Post beat writer Ryan O’Halloran recently laid out: Booker begins the season as “starter” in name only, but Freeman quickly overtakes him, leaving Booker with a role as the third-down back.
If that is indeed what transpires, Freeman has a good shot at RB2 value in all formats. Booker, meanwhile, would only be a PPR flex option and handcuff for Freeman. Booker is still worth drafting and owning in just about all formats while we wait to see how this plays out, but Freeman’s fantasy draft stock is rightfully on the rise.
The Lions’ backfield was a fantasy quagmire last season, as Detroit failed to produce a back with RB2 value in PPR leagues and barely even produced an RB3 in non-PPR leagues. To address the position, Detroit spent a second-round pick on Kerryon Johnson, who is certainly the most intriguing Lions RB this season. But Detroit also signed LeGarrette Blount, and Theo Riddick and (at least for now) Ameer Abdullah still remain on the roster, so this backfield hierarchy remains highly unpredictable.
At the moment, it stands to reason that Blount will be a goal-line specialist, Riddick a pass-catching specialist, and Johnson will inherit Abdullah’s old role as the between-the-20s rusher. If that’s the case, we may be in store for another season where Detroit fails to produce a reliable fantasy back. However, the Lions’ running backs coach has referred to Johnson as a “three-down player,” so there’s certainly a chance Johnson is eventually able to emerge as the team’s unquestioned lead back. The problem is that veterans Blount and Riddick won’t be easy to displace from their respective roles, so Johnson will need to really impress.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers present another complicated running back situation. Green Bay should be one of the league’s highest-scoring teams with Aaron Rodgers under center, so whoever ultimately emerges as the lead back has the potential to carry fantasy teams.
The two most likely contenders, at least in terms of early-down and goal-line work, are Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. Jones is widely viewed as the better pure rusher, but he is suspended for the first two games and also dealing with a hamstring issue. Williams wasn’t a very effective runner as a rookie (3.6 yards per carry), but he is the better pass blocker than Jones and should get the first crack at the starting job over Ty Montgomery. Williams deserves to go ahead of Jones in drafts, but both backs have the upside to be fantasy league-winners if the stars align.
Montgomery probably doesn’t have quite as much upside as Williams or Jones, but he has the highest floor of the trio. While he’s often thought of as a third-down back, it also wouldn’t be surprising to see Montgomery frequently deployed out wide. The Packers have very few reliable pass-catchers in the receiver corps this season, and Montgomery is one player who has earned Rodgers’ trust.
In many respects, Lamar Miller is the ultimate example of opportunity trumping talent in fantasy football. Miller is an uninspiring rusher and will rarely break big plays. But with D’Onta Foreman expected to begin the season on the PUP list after tearing his Achilles last November, Miller is locked into a huge workload in Houston. Miller is an adept pass catcher, so he will likely be active on all downs and distances, and should begin the year as a low-end RB2 by default. But I still find myself reluctant to take him inside the first four rounds of drafts.
With Foreman at least temporarily out of the picture, Alfred Blue is set to again serve as Miller’s direct backup. With a YPC of just 3.6 through his first four NFL seasons, Blue is unlikely to push his way up the depth chart unless Miller goes down.
There are few if any backfields across the league that are as up in the air as the Colts’ backfield. Last year, Marlon Mack served as the understudy to Frank Gore, but Mack often ran backward instead of gaining positive yardage. With Gore out of the picture, Indianapolis hardly gave Mack a ringing endorsement by selecting Nyheim Hines in the fourth round of the draft and Jordan Wilkins in the fifth round. As if that isn’t enough names to consider, the Colts still have Robert Turbin — who will be suspended for the first four games — and brought in Christine Michael, who has been getting some first-team reps with Mack banged up.
Turbin and Michael can’t be counted out entirely, but right now the Colts’ main rusher appears likely to be Mack or Wilkins, with Hines playing a pass-catching, third-down role if he can address his fumbling issues. It is very tough to say whether Mack or Wilkins will end up being the lead back, so whoever goes later in your draft may end up being the better value.
The Jaguars have a fairly straightforward running back set up. Leonard Fournette is coming off a fantastic rookie season,and is the obvious lead back in Jacksonville as long as he can avoid the foot and ankle injuries that have plagued his career to date. Even with those concerns, he is a top-10 fantasy running back given his ability and huge projected workload.
T.J. Yeldon is next on the depth chart behind Fournette, and still has a bit of upside of his own. Yeldon served as a third-down back last year but may be more of a traditional backup who spells Fournette on all three downs this season. Were Fournette to miss time, Yeldon would jump into the RB2 conversation, with Corey Grant likely chipping in some carries as well.
Kansas City Chiefs
Following Spencer Ware’s season-ending knee injury last August, Kareem Hunt fully lived up to the hype as Andy Reid’s bell-cow back, leading the league in rushing and scoring 11 total TDs. Hunt slowed down considerably after an incredible opening month, but that’s really just nit-picking. If Hunt receives a similar workload again this season, he is very likely to finish as a top-10 fantasy RB.
Whether Ware will eventually eat into Hunt’s workload in a meaningful way is an open question. Ware just saw his first game action since he suffered the injury, so it’s likely that Kansas City will bring him along slowly. But the Kansas City Star speculates that once he’s back to full speed, Ware could “give the Chiefs a strong, move-the-pile type of back.” So it will be worth watching how the Chiefs allocate goal line carries, at the very least.
Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley lapped the field as the best running back in fantasy last season, finishing with an other-worldly 2,093 total yards and 19 touchdowns. Expecting that level of dominance again may be a stretch, but Gurley deserves to be the first-overall pick in drafts, especially considering the chance that Le’Veon Bell again starts slow following his contract holdout.
The only intrigue in the Rams’ backfield is who will be Gurley’s direct backup. Malcolm Brown played that role last year, and looked decent when given some work in garbage time of a few blowouts. But the Rams drafted John Kelly in the sixth round of the draft, and Kelly has been lighting up the field this preseason. Kelly may have the most upside, but Brown still sits second on the depth chart. We won’t really know how these two stack up until we see how they’re deployed in the regular season, but for now, it’s fair to think that a committee would form if Gurly were to go down.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers feature a clear three-down back in Melvin Gordon, who has been a top-eight fantasy RB in back-to-back seasons. Gordon was already one of the most highly-targeted running backs in the league, but Chargers coach Anthony Lynn says he wants to use Gordon even more heavily in the passing game this season. So despite his mediocre efficiency as a runner (career 3.8 YPC), Gordon has one of the highest fantasy floors of any player in football.
Sitting behind Jay Ajayi and then splitting work with Damien Williams, Kenyan Drake didn’t receive double-digit carries in a game last year until December, but he averaged 88.8 rushing yards and 30 receiving yards over the Dolphins’ last five games. Drake looked set up to be Miami’s featured runner this season, but then the Dolphins brought in Florida native Frank Gore. They’ve been saying ever since that this will be a near-even committee.
Drake is certainly the more talented back at this stage of their respective careers, but betting against Gore hasn’t tended to be a winning proposition. Drake has plenty of upside and his value may well grow as the season progresses, but he can’t be considered anything more than a low-end RB2 to begin the season, while Gore is in the RB3/flex conversation.
Dalvin Cook was second to Kareem Hunt in rushing yards through the first three games of last season, but then Cook tore his ACL and was lost for the season. He enters this season healthy, but is likely to be brought along slowly to begin the year.
That means that at least in the early going, Minnesota is likely to feature a heavy dose of Latavius Murray, who rushed for 842 yards and eight touchdowns for the Vikings last season, and scored 12 TDs for the Raiders in 2016. Murray will probably maintain a regular role even once Cook is back to full speed, and it’s quite possible that Murray remains the designated goal-line back all season.
Cook proved through the first month of last season that he has top-five fantasy RB upside, but Murray is a significant obstacle in his way of realizing that upside this season. I find myself shying away from Cook at his early second round ADP.
New England Patriots
There’s always fantasy value to be found in the New England backfield, but Bill Belichick and the Patriots never make things easy on fantasy owners. That isn’t likely to change this year.
There was some hope in the fantasy community that Sony Michel would run away with the lead back job after the Patriots surprisingly took him in the first round of April’s draft. But Michel started off slowly in training camp and then had a minor procedure on his knee that will sideline him right up until the start of the season. His early-season role is uncertain at best, but he still has plenty of upside.
In Michel’s absence, Rex Burkhead has emerged as the most highly-regarded fantasy back in New England, although it was reported that he had a “small tear” in his knee. As with Michel, Burkhead’s injury is considered minor and he should be ready to go for the start of the season. Burkhead will reportedly be a “focal point” of the Patriots’ offense, which is a promising sign that he’ll have RB2 value, but we’ll have to wait until Week 1 to see exactly what that means in terms of weekly touches.
Meanwhile, James White returns to play the passing down role that has given him decent RB3/flex value in PPR leagues over the last couple seasons. With heavily-targeted slot man Julian Edelman facing a four-game suspension, White could be particularly useful early in the year.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the battle for New England’s fourth running back job. Jeremy Hill appears to be the favorite over Mike Gillislee, and while neither back projects to have much fantasy value, there’s always the chance one of them comes out of nowhere to score double-digit touchdowns. Gotta love the Patriots, right?
New Orleans Saints
Alvin Kamara determined a lot of fantasy leagues last year, emerging out of relative obscurity to finish as a top-five RB in standard and PPR formats. Kamara’s 728 rushing yards and eight rushing scores were quite good for a rookie, but what really stood out were the 826 yards and five TDs he added as a receiver. The Saints probably won’t rush for quite as many touchdowns as they did last season, but Kamara might, considering that Mark Ingram will miss the first four games due to suspension. Kamara is essentially an RB2 and a WR2 wrapped up in one player (RB2 + WR2 = RB1).
As for Ingram, he’s now been a top-15 RB in both standard and PPR leagues for four years in a row. So even if he ends up ceding more touches to Kamara, he should be a weekly RB2 at the very least once he returns from his suspension.
It looks like Jonathan Williams will fill in for Ingram over the first month of the season, so he’s a name to keep in mind as well, particularly for those who draft Ingram. Williams is unlikely to quite match Ingram’s production, but he’ll at least belong in the low-end RB2 discussion to begin the year.
New York Giants
The Giants selected Saquon Barkley with the second-overall pick in April’s draft, and he’s going nearly that high in fantasy drafts (pick 6.4). Barkley is the unquestioned lead back in New York, and projects to be a true bell cow. Based on his talent and projected workload, Barkley should be an RB1, assuming his hamstring issues don’t linger. He’ll just need to prove he can do it on a team that hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012.
New York Jets
Isaiah Crowell is listed atop the Jets’ depth chart, but Bilal Powell started the team’s third preseason game and head coach Todd Bowles says he will “ride the hot hand” between the two. If last season is any indication, this is a team that will use its running backs interchangeably rather than giving them defined roles. The Jets could struggle to score points with rookie Sam Darnold at quarterback, so neither back is likely to approach consistent RB2 value unless they are given the vast majority of the carries.
Marshawn Lynch’s numbers from last season — 891 rushing yards, seven TDs — don’t jump off the computer screen, but Lynch averaged 86.8 yards rushing over his final five games, topping 95 yards three times in that span. He’s got a good shot at RB2 value if he is used in the workhorse role he played down the stretch last season, but that isn’t guaranteed.
Oakland has brought in Doug Martin, another veteran with some big seasons under his belt. The Raiders haven’t given either player much run in the preseason, so it is hard to get a feel for how new head coach John Gruden will divvy up the carries. For now, I’d expect something resembling a 65-35 split in Lynch’s favor, which means he is probably best viewed as a borderline RB2/3 to begin the year.
One other player to keep an eye on is undrafted rookie Chris Warren. It certainly doesn’t seem like the Raiders view Jalen Richard or DeAndre Washington as the RB of the future, so with two grizzled veterans currently manning the position, Warren is the only RB in this group who could conceivably do some depth chart climbing as the season progresses.
This was a tough backfield to figure out last season, and it’s possible that will be the case again this year. Jay Ajayi was a very effective runner upon coming over from Miami, but he was never given the opportunity to be a workhorse in Philadelphia. Perhaps that will change this season, but I would expect Corey Clement and Darren Sproles to continue to be regularly mixed in.
My initial expectation is that Ajayi sees roughly 70 percent of the early-down carries, with Clement handling the rest as his direct backup, and Sproles operating as the team’s RB on third down and in the two-minute drill. In the end, Ajayi is a decent bet to return RB2 value, but he may never return to the low-end RB1 numbers that he put up in Miami in 2016.
For the second straight year, Le’Veon Bell is sitting out the preseason due to a contract dispute. The Steelers honestly may not mind, as more and more teams are resting their starters for most of the preseason anyway. Last year, Bell started out slow in the first three games following his holdout, so that is something we may see again. Even so, the Steelers will likely rely on Bell as heavily as ever this season, which means he has a strong chance to finish as the top overall RB.
While Bell has sat out, James Conner has further solidified the second spot on the depth chart. Conner has been drawing rave reviews all preseason, and has operated as an every-down back with the first team in Bell’s place. Conner could well be auditioning to take over for Bell next season, and he’s one of the better handcuff/lottery ticket options available in drafts whether you own Bell or not.
San Francisco 49ers
I’ve already made my love for Jerick McKinnon well known, so check out my debate with Eli Weiner if you want all the glorious details. Suffice it to say that McKinnon is set up to succeed in the Devonta Freeman role in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which puts him in the low-end RB1 conversation to begin the season.
Freeman wasn’t a bell cow under Shanahan, and McKinnon won’t be, either. That means there will be plenty of opportunity for Matt Breida to play the Tevin Coleman role, which has proven quite fruitful in Atlanta. Breida is a worthwhile player to own as both McKinnon’s handcuff and someone with a path to standalone RB3/flex value, and perhaps even RB2 value in a best case scenario.
With both McKinnon and Breida suffering relatively minor injuries, the 49ers have also brought in Alfred Morris. McKinnon and Breida are both expected to be ready for Week 1, and Morris should remain behind them both in the pecking order, but he could quickly become fantasy relevant if either of the other backs get hurt again.
The Seahawks had one of the league’s worst rushing attacks last season, so they went out and drafted college football’s rushing leader Rashaad Penny in the first round of the draft. But then a funny thing happened. Chris Carson, the 2017 seventh-round pick who showed flashes last year before suffering a season-ending leg injury, reemerged this preseason and thoroughly outplayed Penny, who is currently dealing with a broken finger.
Carson is now expected to be the starter in Week 1, and while many in the fantasy community firmly believe that Penny will eventually take over for him, that may not happen if Carson is effective. While it’s unlikely that either back will be a true bell cow, Carson enters the season in the RB2 conversation while Penny is on the outside looking in for flex consideration.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another rookie running back who has seen his fantasy stock plummet this preseason is Ronald Jones. Taken in the second round of the draft, Jones was widely expected to vault to the top of an uninspiring running back contingent in Tampa. Instead, Peyton Barber has run laps around Jones, dominating first-team work and setting himself up to be the team’s clear lead back to begin the season.
The 143 total yards that Barber put up against Green Bay last December provides a glimpse of his upside if entrusted with a mammoth workload. For now, he should be viewed as an RB3 with RB2 potential. Jones will likely have a chance to get into the mix as the season evolves, but he looks to be starting out well behind Barber and won’t be a reliable flex option in Week 1.
For the third straight year, many people are expecting very big things from Derrick Henry. For the third straight year, he may disappoint.
The Titans replaced DeMarco Murray with another accomplished rusher, signing Dion Lewis to a sizable free agent deal. Lewis was a borderline RB1 as a member of the Patriots last year, and despite his size, he did most of his damage running between the tackles.
Henry is going well earlier than Lewis in fantasy drafts, but this is shaping up as a near-even committee, with Lewis’s projected receiving role perhaps serving as a tiebreaker. Henry will need to hog the goal line work in order to outperform Lewis in fantasy leagues, but it is not clear that will be the case. Lewis was heavily utilized in the red zone by the Patriots — and was the third-most effective red zone RB in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Redskins thought they had solved their running back problems when they selected Derrius Guice in the second round of the draft, but then he suffered a torn ACL that will cost him the entire season. Instead, they will turn to 33-year old Adrian Peterson, who acted as the team’s clear early-down back in the third preseason game. Rob Kelley and/or Samaje Perine may occasionally mix in, but Peterson will be an RB3 with RB2 potential if he is given the workload that Guice was supposed to have.
Guice’s injury also boosts the fantasy value of third-down back Chris Thompson, who exploded on the scene last year with two 100-yard receiving games — not to mention six touchdowns in 10 games — before breaking his leg in November. Thompson’s per-touch production last season was almost certainly unsustainable, but he could now be looking at a few more opportunities than he would have been given were Guice around. Thompson has a good shot at weekly flex relevance as long as his slow recovery from his broken leg doesn’t hold him back.