RB3s With RB1 Potential (2019 Fantasy Football)
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Last week, we examined sleepers at the wide receiver position. More than sleepers, we asked our writers to identify players that are currently being drafted as WR3s that carry WR1 potential. This week, we’re taking a look at running backs who carry the same upside.
As you get into the middle and later rounds of fantasy drafts, you are looking for upside more than security, especially at the running back position. That’s exactly what these players provide.
Which player outside the top 30 RBs has the best chance to finish as an RB1 for the season?
Duke Johnson (HOU): ADP RB33
Johnson’s ADP is going to start going up between now and the start of the NFL season with the season-ending injury to Lamar Miller. There has been talk that the Texans may try to acquire a proven running back and that would obviously negatively impact Johnson’s upside. I think the Texans should take a chance on Johnson as their lead back. There is a perception that he is a smaller player that is not able to withstand the pounding of a lead back and that his only role in the league is as the scatback or third-down running back. Johnson is not a tiny player, as he is 5′ 9″ and 210 pounds. He is not the biggest back in the league, but New England Patriots running back Sony Michel is only 5′ 11″ and 216 pounds, and I do not hear anyone talking about him being too small to be a lead back in New England. I would not give Johnson 25 carries per game between the tackles, but I think he can definitely handle 18 to 20 touches per game as both a runner and a receiver. I liked Johnson when he came out of college, and he has shown flashes in the NFL but has never given a big enough role to be a consistent fantasy option. Miller’s injury will open the door for Johnson to finally be the lead running back, and he has a chance to be a special player if the Texans give him a chance to be their lead back. In that offense, he has a great chance to dominate fantasy football this year.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)
Darwin Thompson (KC): ADP RB43
I could go with Duke Johnson here, but I expect his ADP will already be in the mid-20s up until the season starts. I feel like I’ve already pounded the table enough for Latavius Murray. If you’re letting him drop to RB31, you will regret it. Instead I’ll go in another direction with a guy who has the potential to produce a ton of RB1-caliber weeks for you, and that’s Darwin Thompson. Yes, Thompson is a sixth-round pick, but a brief look at Andy Reid’s recent history with the Chiefs should put your mind at ease. In 2016, Jamaal Charles got injured in Week 5. For the next eight games, Reid rode undrafted second-year pro Charcandrick West for 720 total yards and five touchdowns. The following season former sixth-round pick Spencer Ware posted 1,368 total yards and five touchdowns in just 14 games. When Ware got injured prior to the start of the 2017 season, Reid inserted third-round rookie Kareem Hunt, and he finished as a top-five fantasy back. When Hunt was released near the end of the 2018 campaign, career journeyman Damien Williams stepped in and put up 17 or more points in five of his final six games. Are you seeing a trend yet? Thompson should have standalone value, especially in deeper leagues, but if Williams were to struggle or get injured, the sixth-round pick could find himself in RB1 territory.
– Elisha Twerski (@ElishaTwerski)
Tony Pollard (DAL): ADP RB45
This feels like cheating because Tony Pollard’s ADP is going to slowly creep into the top 30. If we knew with 100% certainty that Ezekiel Elliott was not playing in 2019, where would Pollard be drafted? I say the third round. Any replacement level or better running back seeing at least a 60% opportunity share in the Cowboys’ offense is going to be a fantasy RB1. Guess what? At this point, Zeke isn’t playing this season and by all accounts, this is not going to be a timeshare. Pollard has played every single snap with Dak Prescott this preseason. He’s looked good. This is Pollard’s job, and he is going to be a three-down back. Feel free to disregard all of this if Zeke shocks me by actually signing.
– Jason Katz (@jasonkatz13)
Latavius Murray (NO): ADP RB32
In the past four years, eight running backs drafted outside the top 30 finished as RB12 or higher in half-PPR scoring. In 2018, James Conner finished as RB6 (ADP: 157 and RB60) and Phillip Lindsay finished as RB12 (ADP: N/A). In 2017, it was Alvin Kamara who finished as RB4 (ADP: 140 and RB52). In 2016, LeGarrette Blount finished as RB8 (ADP: 92 and RB38), Jordan Howard finished as RB10 (ADP: N/A), and Jay Ajayi finished as RB11 (ADP: 111 and RB44). In 2015, Devonta Freeman finished as RB1 (ADP: 96 and RB40) and DeAngelo Williams finished as RB3 (ADP: 129 and RB49). If you looked closer at these players and how they outperformed their ADP, you will notice some were due to injury or a suspension while other players were just too productive to keep off the field. It’s hard predicting injuries, and something I do not like doing, so my choice is based on his previous production and his current situation — Latavius Murray. One of those names listed above was Alvin Kamara in 2017. Mark Ingram, the guy who Murray will be taking over for, was on the same team as Kamara and finished as RB6 in the same year! The Saints’ offense likes to utilize two running backs, so I see Murray getting plenty of work to produce RB1-type numbers. After all, New Orleans acted quickly on day one of free agency to sign Murray, and I think Sean Payton has big things in store for him. At a current ADP of 86 and being taken as RB31, Latavius Murray could be drafted as a top-50 overall player.
– Kevin O’Connor (@22koconnor)
I’m going to keep this simple. This dude was not far from being a top-10 RB in his time with Oakland. He actually showed signs of that player with the Vikings last season. I expect Murray to hop right into the Mark Ingram role, someone we were drafting as a top-50 player in this same role. If Alvin Kamara misses time with injury, I think we’re looking at a guaranteed top-10 RB.
– Joel Bartilotta (@Bartilottajoel)
Matt Breida (SF): ADP RB40
I was torn between Matt Breida and Darwin Thompson, but since it will take a Damien Williams‘ injury for Thompson to soar in the rankings, I decided to write about Breida. For the record, I believe Thompson’s ADP is going to continue to skyrocket as we get closer to the regular season. Breida had 1,408 yards from scrimmage in 2018 despite playing through various injuries. He played through a high-ankle sprain and dislocated shoulder but still managed to put up respectable numbers last season. Breida should still see a sizeable role thanks to his blazing speed. He topped 22.09 MPH on a touchdown run in Week 12 and his 5.3 YPC and 8.4 YPT were among the league leaders by running backs. The 49ers did sign Tevin Coleman, but Breida has outplayed him this preseason. With fellow running back Jerick McKinnon still recovering from a torn ACL, first-team carries are up for grabs between Breida and Tevin Coleman. Breida has been more efficient from his rookie campaign, when he averaged 4.4 yards per carry, picking up his output to 5.4 yards per rush over his past 16 regular and preseason contests. The 49ers offense under Kyle Shannahan has always been fantasy-friendly to running backs. If Breida can receive a lion’s share of the carries he could rise to the top-30 ranks for running backs.
– Brad Camara (@beerad30)
Derrius Guice (WAS): ADP RB35
Currently the 34th running back taken based on consensus ADP, Derrius Guice has the best chance of any running back outside the top-30 to finish as an RB1 at the position. With Bryce Love now looking likely to redshirt his rookie campaign, Guice has a much higher floor and ceiling. He is the only back outside the top 30 with both RB1 talent and a projected starting role. Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson will get their game-flow-based touches, but Guice is the most talented and is the only back on the roster with a true every-down skillset. If Guice were to garner 60 percent of Washington’s 414 carries from the 2018 season, that would put him over 245 for the year and on track for a 1,000-plus yard rushing season. Add in his production through the air, and we have the makings of an RB1. He proved that he is ready in the third preseason game, and barring an injury is looking like a high-end RB2 or low-end RB1.
– Raju Byfield (@FantasyContext)