4 Bounce-Back RBs (2019 Fantasy Football)
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Everyone loves a good comeback story, right? Many things can lead to a comeback season. Maybe it’s coming back from an injury. Maybe it’s an improved situation on offense. Or maybe it’s actually deciding you want to play football this year. Not that I’m calling anyone out or anything — *big eyes emoji in the direction of Le’Veon Bell*.
Well anyway, in fantasy football being able to forecast a comeback or bounceback season can lead to great values on draft day if you can predict them ahead of your competition. Here are four RBs in addition to our friend, Mr. Bell, who I think could bounce back nicely from a down 2018.
Leonard Fournette (JAC)
2018: Eight games, 624 total yards, PPR Rank: RB40, one suspension for fighting. Good times.
Fournette pretty much hit the trifecta to be a fantasy bust in 2018. He missed time on multiple occasions due to injury, was suspended in Week 13, and was ineffective in the fantasy playoffs. So why is Fournette in for a bounceback season? While things looked bleak for the Jacksonville RB after the Jaguars voided his remaining salary guarantees at the end of 2018, everything since then has come up roses.
Although many thought Fournette might be done in Jacksonville, he’s remained with the team. Jacksonville also let mid-season acquisition Carlos Hyde and former backup T.J. Yeldon move on to other teams this offseason while doing very little to replace them. In addition to less competition for work, the offense is more than likely in for a better season with Nick Foles now under center, and a (hopefully) healthier offensive line since three linemen all missed substantial time last year. While injuries will always be the biggest concern for Fournette, we have seen him carry a heavy workload in the past. With Yeldon no longer in town, I think 45-50 catches this season is within the realm of possibilities.
Devonta Freeman (ATL)
2018: Two games, 14 rushing attempts, and only 91 more total yards than me last year.
Freeman had one of the more disappointing seasons of any RB in 2018. Yes, it was due to injury and not necessarily lack of effectiveness, but that didn’t make it any easier on fantasy owners. While it feels like forever since Freeman was the RB1 in his breakout sophomore season in the league, he’s still a young 27 and will be entering just his sixth NFL season.
After back to back seasons of 12+ TDs, Freeman was still solid in 14 games the last time we really saw him on the field in 2017. Freeman has always had a nose for the endzone and has traditionally received a good amount of opportunities down near the goal line. From 2015 – 2017, he was top 10 each season in carries inside the 10, and top five in carries inside the five-yard line.
Similarly to Fournette, Freeman will also be without his main source of competition this year with Tevin Coleman leaving this offseason via free agency. Oh, and did I mention that the Falcons added two first-round offensive linemen in this year’s draft? Feels to me like Freeman could return to RB1 glory this year.
Mark Ingram (BAL)
2018: 12 games, 815 total yards, PPR Rank: RB32
After back-to-back seasons of finishing inside the top 12 at the position, Ingram had a pretty disappointing season in 2018. Yes, he missed the first four games due to suspension, but even upon returning, the fantasy production did not resemble what owners had come to expect from him.
One of the biggest changes to Ingram’s game was the lack of involvement in the passing game. After three straight seasons of 45+ catches, Ingram totaled just 21 catches across 12 games in 2018. In addition to the decline in catches, Ingram also saw almost three fewer carries per game in New Orleans last season. Heading into 2019, Ingram now has a new home in Baltimore, and while he may not get back to the 40+ catches we saw with the Saints, if the Ravens do one thing, they run the ball…a lot.
With Lamar Jackson under center last year, the Ravens easily ran the ball the most times in the NFL, which included a nice workload for the starter, Gus Edwards. During Jackson’s seven starts to end 2018, Edwards averaged 17 rush attempts and 93 yards per game. While Ingram might not get back to his former top-12 status, if he’s in line for that workload, I think we could be looking at a top-15 RB this year.
Rashaad Penny (SEA)
2018: 85 attempts, 494 total yards, PPR Rank: RB67
Penny was one of the biggest NFL draft day surprises after being selected 27th overall by the Seahawks, but, unfortunately, last year did not go as planned for the young RB. After out-carrying Chris Carson 17 to 13 through the first two weeks, the Seahawks decided to use Carson as the primary ball carrier and he never looked back. Penny also dealt with injuries that kept him out of a few games, but overall, the lack of opportunity led to a poor season for the rookie.
Turning the page to 2019, Penny has already been tagged with the “best shape of his career” narrative and will look to gain a bigger workload this season. While Chris Carson is still in town, and I’m still a big believer of his, the Seahawks did let Mike Davis leave for Chicago, which vacates 112 carries and 34 receptions. Seattle was second in the NFL in 2018 with 534 rushing attempts and will more than likely continue to be one of the most run-heavy offenses this season. As we’ve seen in the past, Pete Carroll won’t just give the job to the player the organization has sunk the most resources into, (remember Matt Flynn?!) so Penny will need to earn a bigger role in this offense. Regardless, even if he can work his way into the shorter end of a 55/45 split, he’ll be in line for roughly 190 carries this year, which could make him a viable flex or low-end RB2.