RBs Who Will Finish Above & Below Consensus (2019 Fantasy Football)
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FantasyPros’ expert consensus rankings (ECR) is one of the greatest tools available for fantasy research during the offseason. It’s a compilation of over 100 different rankings by experts across the entire fantasy football industry, and it gives you a great basis to see how players are being valued.
It’s also worthwhile to understand how far away you are from the consensus on any given player. If you value a player a lot higher than the consensus does, you know that you may be able to wait on him in your draft and don’t need to feel an urgency to draft him early. Conversely, if you value a player a lot lower than the consensus, you can pretty much wipe him from your draft strategy because he’ll be gone before you’d feel comfortable taking him.
In this article I’m going to analyze running backs who I believe will finish the season higher than their consensus ranking, as well as running backs I think will fall short of their consensus ranking in half-PPR scoring leagues.
Le’Veon Bell (RB – NYJ): RB7
For the entirety of Le’Veon Bell’s career until this season, he’s had the following luxuries: a top offensive line (Pro Football Focus has given the Steelers’ unit a top-15 run-blocking grade in every season since Bell has been there, and they’ve given the Steelers a top-10 grade in the last two seasons he actually played), a top overall offense (the Steelers have been top-10 in the league in both offensive points and yards every year since 2014), a prolific quarterback who can stretch the field (since Bell entered the league, only Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Philip Rivers have more passing yards than Ben Roethlisberger), and an outstanding head coach (Mike Tomlin is currently the third longest-tenured coach in the league with the fifth-highest winning percentage). As a New York Jet, Bell has none of those things. The Jets ranked 30th in run blocking last year, their offense has ranked in the bottom-10 in both yards and points in each of the last three seasons, Sam Darnold is a young developing quarterback who’s still learning the game, and Adam Gase has a career record of 23-25. Bell’s specialty is his ability to be patient behind the line and wait for holes to open up for him, but in New York, he’s going to be forced to hit those holes a lot earlier. He should command a ridiculous usage rate which is why I have him as a fringe RB1, but I don’t think the Jets are going to put enough points on the board for him to warrant a top-10 ranking.
Joe Mixon (RB – CIN): RB9
Joe Mixon faces many of the same hurdles to fantasy stardom that Le’Veon Bell does, as he’s running behind a poor offensive line on an offense that doesn’t project to score many points. The Bengals were 21st in rushing yards last season and then their first-round pick in 2019, offensive lineman Jonah Williams, got injured and will likely be out the entire season. So the Bengals haven’t really improved their line much since last year. Additionally, without A.J. Green in the lineup, their entire offense is extremely unthreatening. We know Green is going to miss at least a couple of games, and at his age, with his injury history, it could end up being significantly more time. Defenses will know they only have to worry about Mixon, and while he should get a ton of work, he’s not Saquon Barkley or Le’Veon Bell. He’s not good enough on his own with no surrounding help to be a top-10 fantasy running back.
Derrick Henry (RB – TEN): RB19
Derrick Henry blew up in the last four games of 2018 and ended the season averaging 4.93 yards per carry with a total of 12 touchdowns. However, over the first 12 games of the season, he only averaged 3.7 yards per carry and had a total of five touchdowns. I don’t trust a late-season surge when everything else we’ve seen from Henry’s career would not have warranted a ranking in the top-20 of running backs. The Titans are still a team that finished 27th and 25th in offensive points and yards last season, they are still led by Marcus Mariota, who seems to be moving in the opposite direction from his potential, and Dion Lewis is still right behind him. Last year, Henry was supposed to be the starter but after averaging just a hair over three yards per carry through his first three games, Lewis was given a much bigger role. If Henry’s late season outburst proves to be just a flash in the pan, they have no reason to continue feeding him when Lewis, a more versatile back, is right behind him.
Dalvin Cook (RB – MIN): RB10
Dalvin Cook is someone I’ve been pumping up all offseason because he’s finally healthy. In the games he’s played in his career, Cook has averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry. When he’s on the field, he runs the ball efficiently. Also, Latavius Murray is gone, and Cook is the workhorse back. Minnesota has an ideal situation for the success of a running back. They have an elite defense, a quarterback who can stretch the field with multiple aerial threats to keep defenses on their toes, and an upgraded offensive line with their first and fourth-round draft picks in 2019. Cook also averaged nearly five targets per game and scored two receiving touchdowns with Murray in the lineup last season. Those numbers should only go up.
Leonard Fournette (RB – JAC): RB18
Last season was ugly for Leonard Fournette. He was injured, suspended, inefficient, and ultimately available for only eight games. However, almost his entire offensive line was injured, his quarterback was Blake Bortles, and he’s still averaging 15.3 fantasy points per game in his two-season career. Those 15.3 fantasy points per game over the full season would have put him at RB8 in 2018. Fournette has spent the offseason getting healthy, shedding weight, and getting “the bad people out of [his] life.” When healthy, the Jaguars have an above-average offensive line, and Nick Foles should pose a slightly bigger passing threat than Bortles. The offense will still run through Fournette as the focal point, and if he can have a healthy body, a healthy mind, and a healthy offensive line, he could easily return to the fantasy monster he was as a rookie just two years ago.
Lamar Miller (RB – HOU): RB28
In his three years in Houston, Lamar Miller has finished 18th, 16th, and 22nd among running backs. Despite the Texans bringing in Duke Johnson, Miller’s role shouldn’t change that much. Miller has been in on at least 63 percent of Houston’s offensive snaps in all three years he’s been there, no matter who else was in the backfield. While Johnson may be the best RB2 that the Texans have had since they brought Miller in, he’s never been a workhorse or the primary back on a team, and he will again be playing second fiddle in Houston. Johnson takes away some of Miller’s receiving game upside, but not enough to move Miller six spots lower than the worst fantasy finish he had as a Texan.