Why RB Latavius Murray is a Buy in Fantasy

RB Latavius Murray has huge potential with the Ravens

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

After some unfortunate injuries leading up to Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season, including JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards, the stable of running backs for the Baltimore Ravens is going to look much different than expected. Their rushing attack, in addition to quarterback Lamar Jackson of course, will now likely come from a combination of multiple running backs. This is not uncommon for the Ravens, who use a creative run-heavy scheme and can support multiple running backs from a fantasy football perspective.

The distribution of carries in Baltimore is going to be something to keep a very close eye on over the early weeks of the season. They have a few different options for who could receive the biggest workload, including Ty’Son Williams, Devonta Freeman, and Le’Veon Bell, but the leading candidate to have the most production is their newest addition to the roster, Latavius Murray. It may take a week or two to get him up to speed, but as soon as he is fully acclimated with his new team, he will likely take over as their RB1. Here is why Murray is a buy in fantasy leagues and the top choice of who to own in the ravens backfield.

Consistent and Reliable

Across his seven seasons in the NFL, Murray has only missed four games total. He has consistently solid production including 713 rushing yards and 6 rushing touchdowns per season, 4.2 yards per carry, and just two lost fumbles in his entire career. He played in three very different schemes with the Raiders, Vikings, and Saints but that never impacted his steady output so changing teams again would not appear to have any negative effect on his game. He is used to playing in situations where he has to compete for carries so being in the Ravens currently crowded backfield is no different. He has always delivered positive results when given the chance and this may be his biggest opportunity for more touches in over five years. A bigger workload in an extremely RB-friendly scheme could mean big things for Murray this year.

Weak Competition

None of the other RB options on the Ravens are nearly as dependable as Murray. Freeman has been unable to stay healthy over the last three seasons, playing in just 21 games combined, and his yards per carry have steadily decreased. His 3.5 yards per carry over the last three years are significantly lower than his career 4.1 average, which indicates regression. Williams has not played an NFL game yet but was not at all a high prospect coming out of college. In fact, he was undrafted, which speaks to his perceived low potential as a player. Bell is an interesting situation but it appears that his best days are behind him at this point.

In his five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell was one of the very best backs in the NFL with a very dynamic skill set. He eclipsed 2200 total yards back in the 2014 season and came close to the 2000 yard mark twice more in both 2016 and 2017. After sitting out the entire 2018 season because of a contract dispute, he has never been quite the same. Playing in 26 games over the last two seasons, he has recorded just 1716 total yards combined. In his prime that would be a down year for just a single season total. Now 29 years old and 4 years removed from elite status, it is more than likely that his best days are long gone.

Considering all of the question marks and inconsistencies with all of the other options, Murray is by far the most reliable back in Baltimore. All of them will get carries at some point and their play on the field will likely determine the share of touches moving forward. Murray is the newest to the team so he may not get too much of a workload in week 1 but as the season continues on it should increase drastically. All things considered, he is the leading candidate to be the RB1 for the Ravens and has an opportunity to have a huge season in this run heavy scheme. If there is one back to buy in fantasy right now, Murray is the best investment.

Fantasy: Two RBs that will decline in 2021

RB Kareem Hunt will decline in 2021

By: Brady Akins

It’s never fun to predict a downward spiral for anyway, especially football players.

These guys put their blood, sweat and tears into their work. Having some 23-year-old tell the internet that their effort is in vain isn’t fun at all. In a perfect world, everyone would be the RB1 and every player would get 100 touches a game and we’d all live happily ever after. 

It isn’t fun having to project someone having a bad season.

But in terms of attempting to build the perfect fantasy football roster, it is a necessary evil.

Kareem Hunt, Running Back, Cleveland Browns

Kareem Hunt might be one of the most talented running backs in the NFL, and he showed it last year, finishing as the overall RB10 with the Cleveland Browns.

Talent won’t be the issue for Hunt. Rather, it will be getting the necessary playing time to sustain another RB1 season with Nick Chubb still in the mix for Cleveland. Because as Chubb continues to blossom into the star running back he looks on track to be, Hunt’s role will continue to decrease.

We saw it last season. Even with his overall RB10 finish, Hunt’s production slowly dropped as the season went on, going from 14 carries per game through the first five weeks of the season, to less than half with 6.8 in the final five weeks.

Things weren’t any more promising in the playoffs, either, as Hunt saw a combined 14 carries over the team’s two playoff appearances in 2020.

What started as something close to a 50/50 split in the backfield turned into a major advantage for Chubb, who averaged 15 carries per game in the same timeframe that Hunt’s production dropped.

The tides might be shifting in favor of Chubb as the leading man in Cleveland’s backfield, which could mean the end of Kareem Hunt’s fantasy relevance. 

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

The recent word on the street is that Saquon Barkley isn’t quite ready to play at 100% after suffering a season-ending ACL injury in Week 2 last year, and might miss practice time, or even game time.

This has led to some buzz that maybe Barkley should be faded as a high first-round pick in 2021. But my ultimate hot take is that Barkley should be faded even if he is fully healthy. 

After a monster rookie season back in 2018, Barkley has been a far cry from the player that the world fell in love with. The following year, his rushing production dropped from 1,300 yards to 1,000, his pass-catching volume dropped from 91 catches to 52, and his touchdown total was nearly cut in half from 15 to 8.

And in the short sample size we saw from him in 2020, Barkley didn’t do much to quell any concerns that 2018 was an outlier, with a six-yard showing on 15 carries in his only full game of the season.

The concept of Barkley as a fantasy running back is exciting. He’s crazy athletic and has rookie tape of him being a dominant runner and pass-catcher. But the reality of Barkley’s game since then has changed. Since Daniel Jones has taken over under center, Barkley’s receiving production has cratered from 7.4 targets per game with Eli Manning at quarterback to 5.3. 

In fact, Barkley averaged more catches per game with Manning (5.4) than he gets targets per game with Jones. And now with the additions of two new receivers in Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, Barkley’s receiving volume might continue to decrease.

Add that to an inconsistent history of rushing and a 2019 season barely over 1,000 yards on the ground, and what you have is a 2021 season with the odds stacked against Barkley as anything more than a very low-end RB1 in deep leagues.

Hero Vs Robust VS Zero: best running back strategies

Drafting RBs in fantasy football

By Jesse Moeller (Twitter @JMoeller05)

I cannot tell you how excited I am about writing this article. We have five days until the first game, and I cannot contain my enthusiasm for the NFL season. However, having spent this offseason honing my craft, I wanted to mention a topic essential to set you up for success early in the year. But, of course, that would be dependent on the strategy you will be employing this year to guide your championship run.

For this article, we will be using the traditional redraft roster settings:

QB – 1
RB – 2
WR – 2
TE – 1
Flex – 1
Def – 1
Kicker – 1
Bench – 6

Now, let us dive into some of the more popular strategies that players use involving the crown jewel of fantasy, running backs. The reason every plan has a running in the title is simple. If you hit on a running back, the ceiling is higher than other positions. Below are three strategies garnering the most publicity this year:

Hero RB:

You anchor your team around one elite player at the running back position and then fade the position while you collect talent at other spots before dipping back into the running back pool later in the draft. The theory with this strategy is you gain such a significant advantage with the one running back that you grab other elite players at different positions to balance out your overall roster.

What makes this strategy so fascinating to me is you are clearly placing all your eggs in one basket, and if that Hero RB goes down early, your season likely goes down the drain with it. Let me tell you why this has been my preferred strategy this offseason. It lets you load up on elite pass catchers in the draft and then tackle running backs with upside later in the draft to help balance out your roster. There is no value-added in rostering many bench wide receivers in a traditional fifteen-round draft, as they will not see the field for you with the elite talent you have at the wide receiver and tight end position.

You want to load up on running backs with pass-catching upside or a role to a significant workload due to injury or a cloudy backfield. Teams with those uncertain backfields are ideal targets under this scenario, such as Cardinals, Buccaneers, Ravens, Rams, Bills Patriots, Texans, etc. Targets the player you prefer from these backfields. If you hit on that choice, it instantly boosts your team’s value. Looking at your roster, and if you see names like Dillon, Pollard, Bernard, White, Drake, Johnson on the bench, you have executed this strategy to a T. When one of those players hits this year, the value on your team exponentially grows. The fragility of the build makes it seem like a fair risk-reward play. But, in reality, those elite wide receivers, tight ends, and quarterbacks can also carry you.

Robust RB

You are taking the hero strategy and amplifying it to grab a stranglehold at the running back position and giving yourself a surplus of talent early and often while looking to find discounted valuable players at other positions. Hitting on this strategy can extinguish the rest of your league. Additionally, by finding dependable players at wide receiver, you maintain the edge of your team’s running backs.

By grabbing early running backs early and often, you will want to tackle the wide receiver position beginning in the middle rounds. It would be best if you also filled your bench with higher upside wide receivers. Like the Hero RB strategy, you are helping guard against a potential vulnerability if the wide receivers you selected earlier flame out. You will want to target wide receivers who are the unquestioned number one option on their team or undervalued WR2/3 in high volume passing attacks. These are the perfect players to target as they give you similar production to receivers earlier in the draft.

While those wide receivers you take late provide you some insurance with this strategy, do not be afraid to add some dart throw running back options on your bench as well. If you hit with that running back, the upside is far superior to the wide receivers going in that range.

Zero RB

The last and most challenging strategy to achieve. As what it does is flips the value of the running back position on its head. You are punting running back early in the draft to give yourself an advantage at another. What makes this strategy so tricky is the perceived lack of depth at the running back position. When you connect with the Zero RB strategy, you gain a more significant edge than any other strategy due to a value boost you gain when one of your Zero RB choices hits.

Now the margins are narrow, as the chances of that happening are slimmer, so this is why you take as many shots as possible. Once you have locked in your wide receiver core, you should line the bench with upside running backs, providing the boost you need with this strategy. The critical part of that phrase mentioned is upside running backs. Take last year, for instance. You could have picked Carlos Hyde and Devontae Booker and rolled craps. However, if you selected James Robinson and Antonio Gibson, you likely felt better about this strategy.

When picking candidates to support this strategy, you must ask yourself if the situation breaks right for the late-round running back you select, does the role improve enough for that player to make a difference? For example, there is a massive difference in selecting Jamaal Williams or Tony Pollard in your draft if both Zeke and Swift are lost for a significant portion of time. Pollard would walk into an actual league-winning role that sets you on a path towards the playoffs. Williams does not present that upside, as he would split work on a bad offense. The upside is just not the same.

Williams still has some allure for those of you brave enough to take the Zero RB plunge. But, unfortunately, it pails in comparison to a player like Pollard. So, select the actual upside play at this point in the draft. We all know that upside is the name of the game in the double-digit rounds.

I hope you enjoyed my breakdown of these three strategies. I look forward to hearing about your favorite strategy for this season. If it paid off for you in the draft, or if it went down in a blaze of glory.

Gus Edwards’s fantasy outlook and projection for 2021

What is Gus Edwards’s fantasy outlook?

By Chris Moore (Twitter: @fantasy_moore)

After an unfortunate season-ending injury to Ravens star running back J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards is now in store for a larger workload in 2021. Edwards has soured up fantasy draft boards over the past few days due to his new role in the Ravens backfield. While he may not be the talent J.K. Dobbins is, Edwards has been a highly efficient running back during his time with the Ravens. Over the past three NFL seasons, there have only been six running backs with over 700 plus rushing yards. Aaron Jones, Ezekiel Elliot, Nick Chubb, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, and Gus Edwards. That’s an impressive list. I think it’s fair to say Edwards has been sneaky good over his NFL career so far. Edwards has averaged five yards a carry over his first three years in the league.

While Edwards took a backseat to J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram in the Ravens running back committee last season, he produced 723 rushing yards on 144 carries and scored six touchdowns. Like him or not, Edwards has been rock solid for the Ravens in his short career, rushing for over 700 yards in each of his first three years in Baltimore. The Ravens believe in Edwards as a player, bringing him back on a two-year deal earlier this offseason. Edwards might not be the most talented runner in the NFL, but he is a highly efficient back who is underrated.  

Gus Edwards’ new fantasy ADP

Like I stated earlier in the article, Gus Edwards’ ADP has already skyrocketed in drafts over the past week. Edwards is currently the 77th player off the board in PPR leagues, being drafted as the RB29. With Edwards set to lead the Ravens backfield in carries in 2021, I think it’s safe to say Edwards has a very high chance of exceeding his current ADP. Volume is king in fantasy football, and Edwards will see a lot of it in 2021. With the Ravens having one of the league’s best rushing attacks, Edwards has the potential in 2021 to finish as a high-end RB2. While we don’t know if the Ravens will add more competition to their backfield before the start of the season, Edwards should be the primary ball carrier for the Ravens in 2021.

2021 fantasy projection  

With J.K. Dobbins set to miss the entire season, Edwards is a solid RB2 option for fantasy managers in 2021. The Ravens will still run the ball a ton, giving Edwards and Jackson plenty of opportunities to produce on the ground. I project Edwards to rush for over 1,000 yards and have around 8-10 rushing touchdowns in this offense this season with the potential for more. While Edwards’ fantasy potential is limited due to his lack of receiving production, he is still a solid RB2 with upside.

The Ravens have led the NFL in rushing yards and attempts over the past two seasons, and I expect that trend to continue this year. Edwards is in one of the best rushing offenses in the entire NFL, and he should have a huge season operating as the Ravens’ lead rusher in 2021.

Projected fantasy finish: RB18

Three Sleeper RBs for the 2021 Season

Target Texans RB Phillip Lindsay

Marcel Boudreau (@Marcel_BFF)

With 32 teams in the NFL, and typically only one running back (RB) on the field at a time, it’s important to strike value on later-round running backs that other league mates are undervaluing. It would be easy to write an article on the known commodities with known upsides like the Gus Edwards, Jamaal Williams, and AJ Dillon’s of the fantasy world. The goal of this article is to highlight RBs going outside of the top 48 RBs (as per 4for4.com ADP), that have a chance of finishing as a valuable fantasy asset and are worth stashing in your drafts.

Phillip Lindsay (RB50 – 165 overall)

Lindsay is the easiest player to talk about in this section, especially with the release of the Houston Texans unofficial depth chart. Lindsay was “co-starter” with Mark Ingram, both ahead of last season’s RB21 overall and 2017’s consensus fantasy first overall pick, David Johnson. Lindsay has career yards per carry of 4.78, which is a very impressive mark. His reputation was stained last season when he failed to score touchdowns as Melvin Gordon was brought into Denver and took the goal-line role. This should not alter how we see Lindsay, as the two years before he averaged 8 touchdowns per season, and caught 35 passes per year, to lead him to 19th and 13th overall finishes. It is also key to note that the Denver offense has struggled over the last three seasons, limiting Lindsay’s scoring attempts and positive game script carries. Other than his smaller frame, there are not many reasons we cannot see Lindsay take over as the RB1 in this offense, and finish as a top 30 RB. 

Kenneth Gainwell (RB62 – 224 overall)

Gainwell slipped much further in the 2021 draft than most expected. This may have been due to a lack of RB need across the league, his smaller body size, or his decision to opt-out of the 2020 college season for COVID reasons. Regardless, Gainwell is an extremely talented pass-catching RB, and many ranked him top 3 in this draft class as a pass-catcher. Why is this relevant? Philadelphia Eagles starting RB, Miles Sanders, struggled mightily in the passing game last season. This Philly team brought in Nick Sirianni as the head coach, who comes from the Frank Reich tree of coaching, who produced the RB15, Nyheim Hines, along with the RB6, Jonathan Taylor just last season (both in PPR scoring). The Philly backfield duo will not produce these finishes, but it comes to show the usage in this running back by committee approach. If Gainwell is lucky enough to see near the passing work that Hines had, Gainwell could produce high floor PPR weeks, with a decent ceiling due to his break-away ability. On top of this, Sanders missed 4 games last season, which could open the door for Gainwell to have top-20 weeks if Sanders misses more time next season. 

Rashaad Penny (RB52 – 181 overall)

Yes, we’re doing it again. When on the field, and on a per touch basis, Rashaad Penny has been very good. In fact, in his five career games with 10+ attempts, Penny has put up four top-14 weekly finishes. Why is he not being drafted higher? A combination of his horrendous injury history and splitting the backfield with Chris Carson. The Seahawks have been rumored all off-season to want to run the ball more, and because of this, there’s a world where both these backs can co-exist, while both being relevant fantasy options. To add, Chris Carson has yet to play a full season in the NFL, and if he were to miss any time, Penny would be an auto-start top-20 RB with weekly top-10 upside. Penny is a player you want to stash at the end of drafts to see his role in the offense in week 1. He has shed some weight and is reported to be looking a lot more explosive in camp, which is a scary thought, for a player who has a lot to prove after being a former first-round pick and potentially entering free agency following the season. 

To conclude, these are not the only guys that have the potential to outproduce ADP at the end of the draft, but these are backs who have could have sneaky weekly upside. Other honorable mentions: Darrynton Evans, Xavier Jones, Gerrid Doaks. I hope this article helps you prepare to go into re-draft season! Thanks for reading.

Fantasy: 3 RBs You’re Sleeping on in 2021

Three sleeper fantasy RBs to target

By: Jeremy Shulman

AJ Dillon

RB, Green Bay Packers

Current ADP: 63.6, RB28

I am shouting this one from the rooftops early this offseason. Dillon will appear everywhere in my writeups for the foreseeable future, because chances are you are too low on the second-year back.

Though Dillon’s claim to thigh supremacy in the league has been challenged recently by the Falcon’s Mike Davis thanks to Atlanta’s OTA Twitter posts, he’s still the reigning champion thanks to this:

Dillon has fully embraced his strengths, and it seems his team has, too.

Aside from inking starting running back Aaron Jones to a new, lucrative deal, the Green Bay Packers have seemed content to roll with Dillon as their RB2 in 2021. They began the offseason by letting former, productive backup Jamaal Williams walk in free agency, and the have added little competition in the backfield to-date. It’s doubtful anyone left on the wire can meaningfully compete with the Boston College product, and seventh-round draft pick Kylin Hill is likely just a special teams add.

As Green Bay’s RB2, Dillon projects to see somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 attempts on the ground and even a couple shots through the air. Though not a prolific pass catcher, he should be used to spell Jones and keep him fresh during the season on early downs and could be incorporated in drive rotations much like Dallas’ Tony Pollard has been utilized in the past. If quarterback Aaron Rodgers sticks around, this offense is elite and should push for another 13-win season, making mop up duty routine. If Rodgers refuses to reunite with the team, a reliance on the running game is probable and Dillon wins again.

For 2021, Dillon is an elite backup option who should be taken before almost all others who won’t receive a full workload. His ADP isn’t exactly low, but when you’re looking at Pollard, Kenyan Drake and Ronald Jones, take Dillon first and enjoy the production with extreme upside if Jones goes down.

Gus Edwards

RB, Baltimore Ravens

Current ADP: 108.5, RB45

This one makes no sense to me. Edwards is only 26 years old and has recently received the backing of his team with a nice salary bump in 2021. Given his previous usage, the departure of Mark Ingram and the Ravens’ reliance on the running game, it’s clear that Edwards is primed to outperform his current ADP.

First, Edwards has averaged 138 carries per season. Plus, he’s hovered around that number in each of his 3 years, so that carry mark should be considered his floor in 2021. Though Dobbins is primed to see more than the 134 carries he earned last season, and Lamar should top out at his career average of 160 per year, there should be plenty of work for Edwards to exceed value this year. And, with team RB3 Justice Hill not posing much of a threat, the pie is split just three ways in Baltimore.

Considering Mark Ingram’s move to Houston, there are just 72 carries up for grabs in this offense. Though that’s not much of a vacated workload, Ingram earned a 25.8% snap share and a 30.3% opportunity share according to Player Profiler in 2020. While many expect Dobbins to eat up most of the available work, I see it more as a 50/50 split. Edwards is assured to see the field more often, which should yield more fantasy points given his top-10 efficiency numbers at the position from a year ago.

Finally, it’s no secret by now that the Ravens run more than any team in the NFL. Last season, not even the Patriots and Titans came close to the 55/45 rushing to passing split that Baltimore employed. Though Roman and the team have made a concerted effort to bolster the wide receiver room this offseason, it’s still a good bet that the Ravens lead the league in rushing attempts again in 2021. If the trend holds, you’ll want the RB2 in this offense.

As with AJ Dillon, Edwards has historical usage on his side and a clear RB2 role out of the gate. If something happens to Dobbins, he’ll dominate touches with Hill likely mixed in at a lower rate and on third downs. Get Edwards on your team this season.

Travis Etienne

RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Current ADP: 117.4, RB49

With both Dillon and Edwards, I’m still expecting their teams’ RB1s to have great seasons. For Travis Etienne, however, I’m expecting he takes the reins as the Jaguars’ lead back in short order.

Etienne currently sits in a position to smash his ADP in 2021 thanks to a new coach familiar with his work and the top QB in the class pushing to get his college teammate on his new pro squad. The rookie back is a first round selection in Urban Meyer’s first season. That alone displays a supreme investment in the Clemson product, and it may hint at Meyer’s feelings about last year’s breakout, UDFA James Robinson.

We love Robinson in the fantasy community. He literally came out of nowhere to post top-10 numbers at the position. Forced into action after the Jags jettisoned Leonard Fournette and with backs ahead of him contracting COVID, Robinson took hold of the job over the summer and never let it go. However, Ryquell Armstead and Devine Ozigbo weren’t exactly elite competition, allowing Robinson to record the #1 opportunity share for all backs in the NFL in 2020 according to Player Profiler. And the Jags didn’t exactly have any expectations for their season, evidenced by their #1 overall pick in the draft this year.

Enter Meyer, Lawrence and, now, Etienne, who come with high expectations to turn this team around in short order. With the 25th overall selection, Etienne should see a significant split in the backfield immediately as Robinson is phased out of the workhorse role. Etienne also profiles as the better receiving back, even working as a receiver during rookie minicamp, giving more credence to the idea that an initial third down role, and maybe some positional versatility, is in his future.

With the rapport Lawrence and Etienne have already developed in their three years together at Clemson, with the significant draft capital investment this new regime has bestowed upon him and with the fact that Robinson carries no contract concerns given his UDFA status last season, Etienne will take over this backfield sooner rather than later. Don’t miss out at his current low price, especially in PPR leagues.

Grab any or all of these RBs in your 2021 drafts and you’ll finally be able to rest easy.

*all ADP data used in this article sourced from: https://fantasydata.com/nfl/fantasy-football-ppr-adp-rankings/rb

Fantasy: 3 RBs to Buy post draft

These 3 Running Backs Are Set To Take Off in 2021

By Jesse Moeller (Twitter @JMoeller05)

Now that the NFL draft has come and gone, there are some running backs whose situations look much better than they did before the draft. I will recommend three running backs whose arrow is pointing up in dynasty: one rookie, one potential workhorse, and one late-round flier.

Travis Etienne (RB16 ADP 49)

Etienne is a player every dynasty manager should be going out of their way to try and acquire, as this will be the cheapest he will be for the foreseeable future. The NFL draft could not have been better to Etienne, as he received the glorious first-round draft capital (which is incredibly important) along with landing in a great spot. (Yes, Jacksonville is a fantastic spot for his skill set.)

While Etienne’s startup cost is still low, he is pick 49 (RB16), closer to his price than in rookie drafts. Etienne going at pick 1.08 in Superflex rookie drafts is criminal. Getting a player of his caliber at that slot is what every dynasty manager should be striving to do. Etienne checks every box except the early declare. If you do not believe me take a look at the tweet from @dynogametheory below. Etienne is the running back we are looking for coming out of college. He has future RB1 written all over him, and at that cost, I am pulling the trigger every single time.

While Najee Harris is still my RB1 in the 2021 class, the difference between them does not make sense. Both players landed in great spots, received the desired draft capital, are attached to good offenses, and have an easy path to the first-year production. (Sorry, not sorry, James Robinson truthers.) The more I dive into the situation for both players, and it is a 1A/1B comparison for me. Javonte Williams is a clear tier below them both. If you have an early Superflex pick, the move would be to trade down to the 1.08 pick in the Superflex draft, take Etienne and a future draft pick.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB17 ADP 51)

Let us go back one year, and CEH was the surprise first-round pick to the best offense in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs. In a class with names such as Taylor, Swift, Dobbins, Akers, Helaire was the only rookie running back drafted in the first round. His stock took off like a rocketship to RB1 in the 2020 class. On top of that, he managed to creep into the first round of Superflex dynasty startups as RB5 pick 11, which shows what a good landing spot will do to a rookie’s dynasty value. Predraft, CEH was the RB5 in the class.

What went wrong for Helaire to cause him to drop 40 spots in one year? The offensive line was one of the worst in football during his rookie season. Remember week one against the Texans, where CEH had ten RedZone opportunities and could not score a touchdown? That narrative lingered around him throughout the year as it ended with Clyde finishing with only three total rushing touchdowns on the season.
According to ESPN, the Chiefs Team Run Block Win Rate was tied for 30th in the NFL at 67%. To put into context how inadequate that number is, you want to know who the two teams the Chiefs tied with were? The Jets and Chargers. 😲

Now before you rush out to sell CEH, the Chiefs have spent this offseason completely rebuilding the offensive line. We all saw the Bucs absolute domination of the Chiefs front in the Super Bowl as Mahomes was constantly running for his life. In step six, new faces for the 2021 season. The most notable additions are Joe Thuney and Orlando Brown Jr, two excellent linemen in the league. Those six additions instantly transform this line into one of the better groups in the league.

The entire offense is moving forward, in particular the rushing attack. Acquire CEH while his price is depressed and enjoy the production, Wait until midseason, and his price will be much higher than it currently is. CEH has RB1 seasons in his future, make sure you are out infront of the market on this one before it is too late.

Zack Moss (RB38 ADP 141)

Our second 2020 running back on the list is coming off of a disappointing rookie season. Moss had a much worse season than Helaire, and it is evident in his current cost. Moss caught Covid during rookie training camp, as it was a precursor to the season he would have in Buffalo. The Bills enjoyed success just about everywhere on the field except when it came to running. The offensive line did no favors to Moss or Singletary last year. They ranked 29th in Run Block Win Rate.

Here is a friendly reminder of the player Zack Moss was coming out of Utah.😜

Something that I find very interesting is that Zack Moss true YPC (4.1) was better than Cam Akers (3.9). 😲 Moss (.78) also produced more fantasy points per opportunity than Akers (.64). 🧐
Some stats show how explosive and elusive Moss truly is. His juke rate 29.4%, and yards created per touch (1.71) were 7th in the NFL last year.

I thought that Zack Moss was a plodder who ran a 4.65 forty-yard dash at the NFL combine? While that is true, Moss tweaked his hamstring earlier in the day, which affected his time and caused him to drop out of the rest of the combine. If we are going to give Laviska Shenault the benefit of the doubt for a slower time due to injury, Zack Moss deserves that right as well. His underlying numbers suggest he is more explosive than he tested last year.

Zach Moss has been written off due to his insufficient testing numbers (injury), playing his rookie season while battling Covid, while playing in a timeshare with a subpar offensive line in 2020. At his current cost of a mid-third-round pick, I am making that deal every time. You likely will have to upgrade the offer, as I even traded a 2022 2nd round pick for Zack Moss because I believe in the player he is. I see an offense in 2021 that will be much improved running the football, and Moss will have a more significant role moving forward. I see a top 24 season from him in 2021.

Excuse my poor spelling. I am all about standing by your work. While the community disagrees, I think it would be a great time to go out and get Moss at a considerable discount. You should be able to flip for more next offseason.

Fantasy Football: Four Best RB2s for 2021

By: Andrew Metcalfe (@drewmet_FF)

Running Backs Galore! 

I want to talk Running Backs!  The position is as deep as it’s been in years with so many potential RB1 candidates.  Each of the RBs discussed here have either flashed Top 12 RB potential or actually finished as an RB1 at some point in the past.  I want to focus on a few of my favorite targets that are currently being drafted as RB2s, but I believe will return major value this upcoming season. Average Draft Position (ADP) was pulled from UnderDog/FTN:   

Miles Sanders (ADP: RB16)

While many of the young RBs that we love (or used to love) for Fantasy has been gaining competition for carries this off-season via Free Agency, Miles Sanders has dodged any major hits to his value. Philadelphia will bring Jordan Howard back but his 1.7 YPC last season isn’t a threat. Boston Scott will continue his complementary role as well, but this looks like this will clearly be Sanders’ backfield in 2021.

2020 was an overall disappointment for Sanders, but I’ve seen a lot of overreactions regarding his value. The knee injury that he suffered in Week 6 caused him to miss the next two weeks and seemed to hinder him for several weeks when he returned. In the first 6 weeks, Sanders was averaging 6.1 YPC. He returned after the Eagles’ bye, in Week 10 and from that point, he dropped to 4.6 yards per carry.  

Sanders still showed the efficiency that we saw from him in his rookie season, as he was top 10 in True Yards per carry (YPC minus big plays), yards created per touch, and yards per touch. In the 3 games that he played with Hurts, his average production was 15.3 carries for 78.6 rushing yards and scored 3 TDs. Granted the extremely small sample size, that’s a pace of over 1200 rushing yards and double-digit TDs which would easily put him into RB1 territory.  

Joe Mixon (ADP: RB15)

Joe Mixon has been a popular topic of discussion on Twitter. The recent release of Gio Bernard doesn’t provide a huge boost for Mixon, but the 59 targets that he vacates from last year certainly won’t hurt.  Cincinnati could be on the market to find a replacement for Bernard in the rookie draft, but after the recent 4-year, $48 Million extension that Mixon signed and the emergence of Samaje Perine as a decent number 2, I don’t expect them to spend any significant draft capital on the RB position.  

The gripe against Mixon was his subpar performances every week, outside of the Week 4 blow-up against Jacksonville. It was also extremely frustrating to watch the team string along his foot injury week-to-week before finally placing him on IR in November. Although I would have liked to see more consistency from him, I love the volume that he was getting. He was 3rd behind only Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook in carries/game and even more exciting, on pace for his best receiving season. If he maintained his receptions rate for the full season, he would have ended with 56 receptions, putting him in the top 5 among RBs for that category.  

One of the main obstacles for Mixon was offensive line play. PFF graded the Cincinnati unit as the 30th best and both Mixon and Bernard were bottom 10 in yards before contact. The Bengals will be in a great position to improve their line, holding a top 5 pick currently. Mixon will also get his favorite O-line coach back, Frank Pollack. Pollack was on the staff during Mixon’s best season, in 2018, so I’m expecting a major bounce back for the 25-year-old RB.  

D’Andre Swift (ADP: RB13)

I enjoy any chance to talk up the 2020 RB class. While Jonathan Taylor had the best performance out of the bunch, don’t forget that Swift was widely considered the top RB prospect going into the draft.  The Lions drafted the Georgia Bulldog early in the 2nd round and he didn’t take long to get involved in the passing game, seeing 10 targets over his first two weeks combined. Up until Week 10, Swift was the RB13 despite only playing more than half of the snaps twice. Unfortunately, he sustained a concussion and missed Weeks 11-13. Once his Week 14 return, he finished strong with double-digit Fantasy points in 3 out of the 4 remaining games.  

The signing of Jamaal Williams has some concerned about Swift’s future workload, but not me. I mentioned earlier how effective he was with very limited touches. He showed off a high level of efficiency having the 6th most yards per route run, 14th most yards per touch and 13th highest Breakaway Run Rate (source: Player Profiler). Many expect Williams to take a chunk of Swift’s receiving looks, but I wouldn’t count on it. Williams’ career-high in receiving yards for a season is 262 yards which is barely half the 521 receiving yards Swift put up in 13 games. Jamaal was on the field mostly because of his blocking abilities, which is something he can do while both RBs are on the field together.  

David Montgomery (ADP: RB21)

My favorite RB from the 2019 class, pre-draft, was David Montgomery. It was nice to see him breakout with a top 5 RB Fantasy finish after an unimpressive rookie campaign. Monty tied Antonio Gibson for the 2nd best broken tackle rate of 8.5 attempts per broken tackle (Mike Davis led the league). He was the only RB with both 200+ carries and a top 5 broken tackle rate, meaning he was more elusive than Fantasy darlings like Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara. He also had the 5th most rushing yards after contact in 2020.

Monty certainly improved as a runner in his second year, but the big question is what happens once Tarik Cohen returns. Cohen went down with a season-ending ACL tear in Week 3. Montgomery’s snap counts received a major boost once Cohen was out of the picture, going from 50-60% to upwards of 80%+ in most weeks. While this is a clear sign of regression, I think we might be pushing Monty too far down in 2021 ADP. Even though he saw a spike in snaps, Monty only had 5 more carries in 2020 than he did the previous year. A major component of his success was his improved efficiency, going from 3.67 YPC to 4.33, it wasn’t only about the increased in volume.

Now, I’ll address the boost in receiving work. Cohen will return to have a role in the receiving game, but I believe that Monty showed the Chicago staff that he’s a much better receiver than they thought. While Cohen has been towards the bottom of the league in Yards Per Target for the past two seasons, Monty showed major improvement in this department. His 6.4 yards per target was the ninth best among RBs with 30+ targets, which was above guys like D’Andre Swift, Nyheim Hines and Austin Ekeler. I’m not so certain that HC Matt Nagy will look at his performance and continue to heavily favor Cohen as the 3rd down back.  Just to envision a “worst-case scenario” for Monty, I switched his 2020 receiving totals with 2019 and paired them with his 2020 rushing production: He still would have finished as the RB13.  While I doubt Monty will see another Top 5 RB season, don’t fade him too much because of Cohen’s return.    

Fantasy Football: 3 RBs Over 28 to Buy

By Darren Smith

Age is a huge factor in Dynasty leagues, especially at the running back position. According to statista.com, RB’s have the lowest average career length across all offensive positions in the NFL at only 2.57 years. This only gives you a short period of time to utilize running backs on your Dynasty team, making age one of the top factors to consider. But, some RB’s do last a lot longer in the league than the average. Older running backs may not bring longevity to your team, but can still produce great numbers for your roster and be a year-long filler for next year’s rookie. Even though they may still be producing, the stigma of age still lingers in managers minds – which makes these older RB’s cheap in trades. Buying these RB’s at a cheap price while they are still putting up points every week can help you go win a championship. Here are three running backs, over the age of 28, that you should buy in Dynasty.

David Johnson

David Johnson was a part of a blockbuster deal between the Cardinals and the Texans that will be criticized for years to come. Despite the Texans awful situational position they have put themselves in for the future, they still have a competent offense. They may not be winning games, but will still be putting up fantasy points for your Dynasty team. DJ finished as the RB 21 in PPR leagues in 2020. This is especially impressive because he missed a total of four games with minor injuries. The 29 year old rushed for 691 yards scoring six TDs. What’s surprising is that even with age, he is still catching passes out of the backfield. In his healthy games, Johnson averaged four targets, and even had an 11 catch game for 106 yards in Week 15. 

David has a good relationship with the Houston organization and took a pay cut in a restructured deal for 2021. His contract is one year for 4.25 million guaranteed, with a potential of $6 million in total. With the Texans cutting Duke Johnson and signing FA veteran Mark Ingram, the Texans show that they are giving DJ the bell cow role until the wheels fall off. Cutting a pass catching back like Duke also means more passing work for Johnson. Not to mention, if Watson ends up holding out, the Texans will be focused on the ground game and short yardage passes rather than using a backup QB for the deep ball. More opportunity awaits for Johnson in 2021, so expect to see him repeat 2020 – if not produce even more. DJ is largely forgotten about in Dynasty leagues, so send out some offers to buy him.

Comparable Value:

  • Mid 2021 2nd
  • Early 2021 3rd + RB Downgrade
  • 2022 2nd

Raheem Mostert

Raheem Mostert is part of a rotating carousel in the run heavy offensive of Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. Mostert signed a 3 year deal with 49ers in 2019. Injury plagued Mostert in 2020, but he’s believed to be the starting RB in SF – which of course is subject to change in the offseason. Mostert only played 8 games in 2020 at a mere 45% snap count. Dealing with knee and ankle injuries throughout the entire season, Mostert never was at 100% in 2020 even in the games that he played. Before any injury, in Weeks 1 and 2, Raheem put up monster numbers in the run and pass game, scoring 23.1 points and 17.7 points in ½ PPR. Now fully healthy, expect Mostert to return to this form in 2021. Barring any big offseason moves, Mostert only has to compete with Jeff Wilson Jr. and Jerick McKinnon, who is now an unrestricted free agent. 2020 left managers disappointed in Mostert, and at 28 years old they are ready to move on. Take advantage of this and scoop him up for cheap – you could be getting a bell cow back for a low price. Raheem Mostert is a buy in Dynasty leagues.

Comparable Value:

  • Late 2021 2nd
  • Early 2021 3rd + RB Downgrade
  • 2022 2nd

Adrian Peterson

Fantasy wise, there isn’t anything bad you can say about Adrian Peterson. At almost 36 years old, he has outlasted many people’s expectations. Despite his old age and limited playing time, Peterson finds ways to produce. In 2020, he averaged a snap count of about 30%. As little as this is, he managed to rush for 604 yards with seven TD’s, along with another 101 in receiving yards. Coming off a decent season with the Lions, Adrian is now a free agent – and looking. AP has publicly stated that he wants to play until he’s 40, win a Super Bowl, and beat Emmitt Smith’s rushing record. While this is highly unlikely, Peterson will most likely be picked up by a team needing a veteran presence in their backfield as a depth piece. Not to say that he’s going to have the lead role on any team in the NFL, but if your Dynasty lineup is severely lacking on RB’s, Peterson is dirt cheap and could be a filler piece in deeper leagues. Valued at around a 4th round rookie pick, his drive and determination outweigh his age, making him a buy.

Comparable Value:

  • Late 2021 3rd
  • Early 2021 4th
  • 2022 3rd

Follow me on Twitter @FFBirdGang and comment your thoughts

Fantasy Football: Five Second Year RBs to Move on From

Five Second Year Running Backs You Can Let Go

By Rod Villagomez @rjvillagomez 

Each year, new players enter the NFL with high hopes. Each year fantasy football players draft these rookies with equally high hopes. Some first year players rise to meet the hype. Some prove to need some time to find their footing. Most though, fail to make a name for themselves and slide into a “role player” status on their teams. Let’s take a look at five rookie running backs heading into their second seasons and make a case for why you can move on from them for fantasy purposes. Many of the names on this list are still talented backs, but their situation has kept them from reaching their full potential. 

This list is mainly geared towards those who are looking to improve their rosters in the short term. Hopefully, if you are on the fence about any of them, this can help you decide their fates. Note that this does not necessarily evaluate their overall talent. This is merely an assessment of their fantasy value moving into the 2021 season. 

Joshua Kelley  – Los Angeles Chargers

When Melvin Gordan parted ways with the Chargers to join the Broncos, the Los Angeles backfield was up for grabs. Austin Ekeler, became the front runner for the job due his dependable production over the last three seasons. Behind him sat a mixture of both Kelley and third year back Justin Jackson. Both received work as Ekeler’s change of pace, neither achieved sustained success. Even when their lead back fell injured, the Chargers failed to name either as the clear lead back. In fact, they went so far as to bring in Kalen Ballage from the Jets to assume some of the carries.

As the dust settled on the season for Kelley, his rookie resume consisted of 111 carries for 354 yards and two touchdowns. He saw action in 13 games but only managed to gain more than 30 yards in four of them. Much of that could stem from the offensive line troubles for the Chargers. Pro Football Focus ranked the unit dead last in their rankings. Another reason came by way of young Justin Herbert taking the offense by storm and finding much success in the aerial attack. Either way, there wasn’t much upside to be had for Kelley.

His situation is unlikely to improve if he remains in Los Angeles. Ekeler, when healthy, is cemented in the minds of the Chargers as the clear lead dog. This is furthered by his ability to catch from the backfield as well. Not to mention, the small sample size from Jackson gives him a slight edge over Kelley for the role of the backup. You may have picked him up on the waiver wire after Week 2 hoping for him to pop. You may have held onto him all season waiting for another Ekeler injury to catapult him to a start. Even now, you may be holding him thinking he’s a lottery ticket that may pay off next season. The truth is, if you are looking to make room for a hot trade, or if someone drops a name you’ve been wanting for a while, Kelley can take that hit for you. 

Ke’Shawn Vaughn – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It seemed as if Vaughn might have found a favorable landing spot when the Bucs took him in the third round of the draft. He was set to assume the backup role to Ronald Jones II on a team with Tom Brady. That situation took a hit in September when Tampa Bay locked up a deal with the Jaguars for Leonard Fournette. Suddenly, the former Fighting Illini turned Vanderbilt Commodores standout found himself behind two number one caliber backs. There was not much work to be had for the rookie. He saw spot carries in mop-up duty or to spell the top two backs for a down or two. 

His biggest output of the season came in Week 16 with Jones out of the lineup. He out-touched Fournette in that game turning 15 carries into 62 yards. His colleague managed nine carries for 34 yards and a touchdown. It should be noted that this all occurred in a 47-7 rout of the Lions. His contributions in the playoffs have been negligible to boot. He registered five carries for 21 yards in his only meaningful action against Washington. When the regular season ended, his final tally read more like a single game total. He finished with 26 carries for 109 yards. His lone touchdown of the year came in Week 4 on one of his two receptions that game.  

Even if Fournette moves on from the Buccaneers after this season, Jones will still reign supreme in that Tampa Bay backfield. There doesn’t seem to be much to be excited for in the way of prospects for Vaughn. Unless he’s able to secure a larger role in the offense, he is a player you can safely relegate to free agency.

Anthony McFarland Jr. – Pittsburgh Steelers

The buzz around the Steelers makes it sound as if James Connor will likely not be returning for another season in Pittsburgh. Should this be the case, it will likely elevate Benny Snell into the number one position. On the surface, it would imply that McFarland will get a shot at competing for that spot. At the very least he could stand to inherit the backup role. But, McFarland truthers may have to pump the brakes a bit. 

The Steelers running game has hit a rough patch since Le’Veon Bell took his services elsewhere. Pittsburgh has been towards the bottom of the league in the rushing category for the last four seasons. They finished this season last in average rushing yards per game with 82.5. It’s safe to think the answer to their problem is not already on their roster.

There are several free agent names floating out there that the Steelers can chase after for their 2021 campaign. Backs like Aaron Jones, Kenyan Drake, even the aforementioned Fournette could stand to improve their situation. Again, the talent may be there for McFarland, but we certainly did not get an opportunity to see it this year. His 33 carries for 113 yards did not instill the proper confidence needed to keep him on your bench. Also consider that almost half of that production came from his Week 3 showing where he carried the ball six times for 42 yards. If you have someone in your league willing to give you something in return for him, take the deal. Otherwise, here is your permission to walk away from this situation. 

La’Mical Perine – New York Jets

It probably goes without saying at this point, but there almost no part of the Jets offense valuable for fantasy purposes. This obviously includes the running backs who were led this season by the most rugged of them all, Frank Gore. One would assume that backing the 38 year old warhorse would be a choice gig. That assumption was squashed quickly when it became apparent that the only thing that could slow him down was his own offense. But this is not a love song for the grizzled veteran. This is dedicated to the viability of what he’ll leave behind should he finally decide he’s achieved enough. 

What that consists of is the soon to be second year back in Perine and an impressive now third year back in Ty Johnson. It was in fact Johnson who came out the better on the season, if not by the thinnest of margins. Johnson finished the year with 254 yards and a touchdown on 54 carries. Perine clocked in with 232 yards on 64 carries and two touchdowns. Neither separated themselves from the other and neither holds much appeal as a hopeful stash candidate the least of which is Perine. 

Much like the Steelers, the Jets may look to the wealth of the free agent market to shore up their leaks. Trying to lure in a top name may not be easy, but necessary. Should they land a bigger fish, Perine will again find himself cast back to the bench. And if there is not much value to be had from the New York starters, you can imagine what’s left from the backups. You can cut the line here with no regrets. 

Zack Moss – Buffalo Bills

Before you yell at the computer screen hear this one out. Timeshare running back situations, while more common these days, are still a frustrating proposition. The call to try and deal Moss comes purely from a lack of upside in his current situation. He has proven to be a talented running back. His Week 8 performance showed his promise and a glimpse of what we might see someday. Against the Patriots, he turned 14 carries into 81 yards and two touchdowns. He also enjoyed a three game stretch in Weeks 14, 15, and 16 where he registered double digit carries in each. In that span he accumulated 181 yards and a touchdown. 

While it may seem like this is an argument to hold Moss, the counter comes by way of his fellow running back Devin Singletary. Entering his second season in 2020, Singletary kept his hot rookie start going with another solid outing. He finished just south of 700 rushing yards on 156 carries. It was clear Buffalo wanted to establish him as the lead back. What they ended up doing was sprinkling in enough of Moss and even T.J. Yeldon to chip away at a run away season for Singletary, or week to week consistency from anyone below him. 

Yeldon is set to be a free agent this offseason, but that does little to improve the landscape for Moss. He will find himself in a similar situation in 2021 as he faced his rookie year. What you will wind up getting should you hold on to him is a frustrating flex play week to week. Your best bet is to find someone still sold on the Utah version of him and make a deal. Don’t just drop him as there is still sentimental value attached to his name.        

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