Over and Undervalued Running Backs – by Richard King

Every season there are a plethora of players that for one reason or another seem to attract hype from the fantasy community. But it’s not always justified and there will always be some ‘hyped’ off-season players that will wind up letting you down. On the flip side, there are also players that the fantasy community seems down on when there may be underlying reasons for potential opportunities for them to have good seasons. Let’s take a look at some of the candidates that fall into these categories.

Overvalued Running Backs

Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins

Miami are a team that looks lost. The team looks bereft of talent with Jay Ajayi leaving last year as well as the departure of Jarvis Landry leaving fantasy owners unsure what this offense is going to look like. For me, that’s one of the things that I struggle with in projecting this team. I’m not sure that Ryan Tannehill is going to be able to craft an effective offense from a squad that has lost two of its most dangerous weapons.

I think this backfield will end up being a committee, which hugely limits the potential scoring of both Drake and Frank Gore. Combine this with the fact that Miami were only able to score 3 rushing TDs last year, and it makes me cap the upside of Drake. If I’m selecting a running back in the 4th round (where he is currently being drafted as the 22nd RB off the board) then I want some stability over the player being selected.

That being said, Drake was able to score 851 yards (619 rushing yards, 232 receiving yards- from 29 receptions) and 4 TDs (3 rushing TDs and 1 receiving TD) in nine games, which if you extend it over a 16 game season then it would be 1,512 all-purpose yards with 51 receptions and 7 TDs. That’s not a small amount, and in fact only 5 running backs were able to achieve that in 2017, and only 16 different backs have done that since 2013.

My view is that if you draft Drake at where he is currently going, you are drafting him at his absolute ceiling.  I’d really avoid doing this as I can’t see him delivering value and giving you equity in the pick.

Kenyan Drake
Photo Credit: JASEN VINLOVE/USA TODAY SPORTS

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

I’d like to make clear that I like the Titans and the guys they have on offense. I think that the team as a whole will take a step forward. I (as many do) think that the new Offensive Coordinator Matt LeFleur will get the best out of the team and build on their playoff showing. I’m also a fan of Derrick Henry and have been for some time, once DeMarco Murray was released I thought that we would finally see Henry show what he could do as a lead back. Then came the signing of Dion Lewis…..

That’s the main obstacle that I see for Henry, with Lewis able to operate as a ball carrier as well as a third down back. In my eyes, Henry’s current ADP as the 17th RB off the board (at the end of the 3rd round) doesn’t seem to take that into account that Lewis is a talented running back who has soft hands as well as quick feet.

I like Derrick Henry’s redzone threat and his ability to score touchdowns. He has scored 5 in each of his two seasons since entering the league is not to be sniffed at, I just don’t know if he is able to better his output last year as he rushed for 703 yards and 5 TDs and ran for a further 136 yards and a touchdown from 11 receptions. What that output doesn’t tell you is that a substantial amount of those carries and yards came in plays late in games when Murray was off the field and Henry streaked the field to score.

Henry’s outlook is tied to the health and ability of Lewis. If Lewis is not able to stay healthy then Henry will deliver value at where he is being drafted. That I don’t have doubt of, I just don’t know if that is the likely outcome. I think this backfield is more likely a RBBC, and one that will frustrate given the capital that has been given up to draft Henry.

Undervalued Running Backs

Lamar Miller, Houston Texans

To be honest, Miller is one of the reasons that I wanted to write this series. He is being criminally undervalued in mock drafts with his ADP in the 5th round as the 26th RB off the board! To give you some context around who is going around him, you have 5th round company in Ronald Jones in Tampa Bay, Mark Ingram (who remember is banned for the start of the season) is going just ahead of him with Royce Freeman and Dion Lewis going just behind him.

This is a back who was brought in by the current coaching staff and whose major competition is likely to be D’Onta Foreman who, at this point, looks like he is likely to start the season on the PUP list. To put this into context, this is a guy who was drafted right at the top of drafts last year. His opportunity has not changed (at least for the start of the season), the offense has arguably improved with Deshaun Watson returning to health leading the team- so why has his ADP dramatically changed?

The potential pitfall with Miller is that the Texans offensive line is not the greatest and that limits the yardage that Miller can pick up. Combine this with the fact that Miller can get banged up in games and it could well be that the Texans decide to go for a RBBC option once Foreman comes back, but at that point you may be able to trade Miller away for a more stable piece having created equity in your selection.

Lamar Miller
Photo Credit: Matthew Healey/UPI

Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders

Lynch is an RB2 and currently he is being drafted just outside of that. He may not have met expectations last year rushing for 864 yards, but that is because a lot of people thought that ‘Beastmode’ would return and drafted him that way.

I couldn’t see that happening, but I can see that the Raiders have publicly said they want to run the ball and the biggest competition he faces is Doug Martin. That isn’t much too worry about. Currently he is being drafted behind Tevin Coleman, Tarik Cohen and the glass man himself Chris Thompson, all of whom are back-ups or third down backs. Lynch to me is a RB2 who is currently being drafted in the 7th round, as the incumbent starter. That’s the value- a starting running back in the NFL who is the main goal line back in a team that wants to run the ball? Give me that all day long.

Marshawn’s age is setting him up to fail, along with the fact that the coaching staff may decide to share the workload out. Even if that happens he is going to be the goal line back, and at his current ADP I’m going to try and select him on all my redraft leagues.

Marshawn Lynch
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers

I write this after news of Aaron Jones’ ban has leaked, but my overall analysis remains the same regardless of the ban. The biggest barrier to Ty Montgomery becoming a fantasy darling is that Mike McCarthy has publicly stated that he wants to go for a RBBC.

Aaron Jones showed himself to be a great runner last season, but struggled in pass blocking. Jamaal Williams showed himself to be a good pass blocker, but not an effective runner. Ty Mont is in between both, a decent runner who only has a battle with Jamaal Williams to open the season. Even with McCarthy suggesting a RBBC publicly, if a player shows to be effective surely they would become the hot hand and be given the job. Especially if Aaron Rodgers makes noises of wanting to stick with one option.

Ty Montgomery offers a tremendous opportunity in the backfield as a runner and pass catcher, and he is currently going in the mid-9th round (I’d expect that to change given Aaron Jones ban- but I wouldn’t expect it to change immensely) with Ty at that value- give me all of that.

By Richard King – @excelgeek 

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