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After plenty of blood, sweat and beers, another season is in the books. It's time to reflect on the year that was and look ahead to what's on the horizon for 2016. As any degenerate gamer knows, fantasy football thoughts are always at the forefront. Wednesday's topic: Running back.
Every year, new lessons are learned. Subsequently, what New Year's resolution, player specific or in general, will you adhere to at RB in light of experiences gained this past fall?
Brandon – FADING RB EARLY. As it stands, there are only four RBs I'll even consider in Round 1 in '16 drafts - Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Le'Veon Bell and Adrian Peterson. But I'll be specifically targeting Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham and Julio Jones first and foremost. There has never been a time in my fantasy football history where I've even wanted a single WR ahead of any at the RB position.
Brad – ZERO RB IS GAINING MOMENTUM. Charcandrick West, Denard Robinson, David Johnson – these were just a few names who emerged from the RB bloodbath and carried owners to Title Town. Most damning to RB-RB zealots, seven of the top-12 rushers selected in drafts failed to finish inside the top-15. That's a 58.3 percent failure rate, well above the 43.1 bust percentage from 2009-2014. Avoiding the position until Rounds 4-5 then stockpiling upside handcuffs late is a sage strategy.
Andy – Whichever Denver running back you think you like on draft day, it's the wrong guy. AVOID. DO NOT DRAFT.
Liz – HANDCUFFS. Forget about drafting one in August. Focus on targeting backups come Week 10. As the season wears on and the position thins out surprise starters will emerge. Don’t waste a bench spot on perceived insurance. Add depth once there’s clarity.
Scott – We've never seen a time where running backs were less important or more volatile. I'm not swearing to avoid them in the early rounds of 2016, but I'm more comfortable ignoring the position and attacking it with later resources. The league has shifted, and what's acceptable for a starting fantasy back is lower than we've ever seen. I also completely agree with Liz's point on Handcuff Season: it's around Halloween, not in August. In the summer, just grab the most interesting lottery tickets you can, no matter if they correspond to your starters or not (I'd prefer they don't at the draft; we'll change the tune once definition creeps in).
Dalton – I always wait on quarterbacks and usually draft a running back with two of my first three picks, at least typically. While I'll continue to wait on QB, running back just continues to become more and more volatile, so I could see starting numerous drafts taking three straight wide receivers in 2016.
What rushing prospect, presumably set to enter the 2016 NFL Draft, are you most excited about?
Brad – KENNETH DIXON. He's a quick, tough, decisive and ultra-versatile back who is second in all-time TDs at the FBS level. Knocking him for playing at LA Tech is unwise. He owns the skills needed to be a three-down contributor at the next level. Think DeAngelo Williams.
Andy – For me, it's EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, and no one is particularly close. He's averaged 6.6 YPC over the past two years, crossing the goal line 37 times. No question, he looks the part of a full-workload first-round RB.
Liz – KENNETH DIXON. The best thing about Dixon is his versatility. He’s a tough runner with an aggressive rushing style, but he also has a pair of reliable hands and excels as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He’s not terribly fast, but possesses excellent vision and the intellectual maturity to succeed at the next level.
Scott – EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, for the Ohio State tape and the Pulp Fiction potential.
Dalton – EZEKIEL ELLIOTT. Of course, the situation in which each back ends up will be just as important as talent alone when it comes to 2016 fantasy value, but Elliott probably has the most upside should he land in a favorable spot.
Brandon – KENNETH DIXON. Didn't play against elite competition very often in college, but I love the short, stout backs that can run with power and also get it done in the passing game. Dixon had 194 receiving yards and four TD catches in his final two college games, so he can definitely get it done in the passing game - always important for an RB's fantasy value.
The Bold and the Disputable. Describe one nutty, but completely plausible, prediction at RB for the 2016 season.
Andy – JEREMY LANGFORD is a late-first round running back in fantasy, and we'll consider him a bargain next December.
Liz – ISAIAH CROWELL is a top-15 fantasy RB in 2016. Scoring three TDs in his last three outings, Crowell’s stock has risen with Johnny Manziel under center. Benefitting from the young signal caller’s mobility, the Crow has averaged at least 3.8 YPC in four of Manziel’s six starts. Assuming the duo is reunited next season and the Browns offensive line returns to health, Crowell could be a sneaky value pick come August.
Scott – CHARLES SIMS is a Top-12 back in PPR formats. Screened by Doug Martin, Sims quietly offered a 5.0 YPC and a handy 42-487-4 line through the air. He might need Martin to leave town or get hurt, but those types of things happen regularly in modern backfields. (You can copy and paste most of this for Bilal Powell, if you so desire. Yes, they're undersized backs, but we're in a brave new world.)
Dalton – THOMAS RAWLS finishes as a top-three fantasy back. And if that's not nutty enough, I'll say MATT JONES finishes top-10.
Brandon – Dalton stole my thunder here by not going nutty enough on his Rawls prediction, but I too think MATT JONES could conceivably be a top 10 RB as he stands to takeover for Alfred Morris (free agent) in the Redskins' backfield.
Brad – LAMAR MILLER escapes the clutches of Miami via free agency, signs with a team committed to giving him the rock 20 times per game and finishes as a top-five RB.
What RB will you vigorously chase in drafts next year? What round do you expect to acquire his services in 12-team drafts?
Liz – DAVID JOHNSON. I’d be surprised if he’s still on the board at the start of the second round.
Scott – DAVID JOHNSON certainly is going to be a first-round pick, and I'm willing to consider an exception to the new running back rules when it's my turn to pick. I'm also thinking I'll probably have some T.J. Yeldon shares next year; he's still just 22, and he's owed some positive touchdown regression.
Dalton – DAVID JOHNSON. I worry about Carson Palmer's ability to stay healthy again, but all of the other pieces on Arizona's offense present a terrific opportunity for its lead back, and it'd be surprising if Johnson isn't given that role in 2016. He sure looks like the real deal and a true three-down RB who's also strong at the goal line. I expect Johnson will cost a top-five pick, and I'll be willing to pay the price.
Brandon – DALLAS RB. As good as Darren McFadden has been this year, I doubt the Cowboys plan to have him lead their backfield charge next year. Be it through the draft or free agency (Lamar Miller?), I expect the team to bring in a new face to man the featured RB role. That will be a player that I will be very interested in.
Brad – THOMAS RAWLS. Lynch will almost certainly enter training camp atop the depth chart, but the veteran's advanced age and high odometer reading suggest Rawls could earn 10-12 touches per game in a presumed tandem backfield. More attractive, if Lynch succumbs to another series of ailments, Rawls would surely carry the mail and deliver RB1 totals. Recall in six games with 15-plus touches, the youngster averaged 18.2 standard fantasy points per game. Devonta Freeman led all RBs with a 16.7 mark. Rawls is a must-target in Round 7 on in 12-team drafts.
Andy – Vigorously? Well, I try not to get too unhinged on draft day, but I'm sure to pursue KARLOS WILLIAMS. He's shown us breakaway speed and devastating power, plus he's tied to an offense that never stops running. Even if he remains an understudy, he profiles as a flex-worthy back.
List your RB top 16 for '16.
Scott – 1) Todd Gurley, 2) Le'Veon Bell, 3) David Johnson, 4) Adrian Peterson, 5) Devonta Freeman, 6) Jamaal Charles, 7) Doug Martin, 8) Mark Ingram, 9) Ezekiel Elliott, 10) Eddie Lacy, 11) LeSean McCoy, 12) Marshawn Lynch, 13) Jeremy Langford, 14) T.J. Yeldon, 15) Lamar Miller, 16) Latavius Murray
Dalton – 1) Todd Gurley 2) David Johnson 3) Le'Veon Bell 4) Devonta Freeman 5) Adrian Peterson 6) Thomas Rawls 7) Jamaal Charles 8) Doug Martin 9) Jeremy Langford 10) LeSean McCoy 11) C.J. Anderson 12) Ezekiel Elliott 13) Carlos Hyde 14) Lamar Miller 15) Javorius Allen 16) Latavius Murray
Brandon – 1) David Johnson, 2) Todd Gurley, 3) Le'Veon Bell, 4) Adrian Peterson, 5) Thomas Rawls 6) Jamaal Charles, 7) Mark Ingram, 8) Devonta Freeman, 9) Doug Martin, 10) Eddie Lacy, 11) Lamar Miller, 12) Jeremy Langford, 13) Ezekiel Elliot, 14) Latavius Murray, 15) Carlos Hyde, 16) LeSean McCoy
Brad – 1) David Johnson, 2) Todd Gurley, 3) Le'Veon Bell, 4) Adrian Peterson, 5) Lamar Miller (He signs elsewhere), 6) Jamaal Charles, 7) Doug Martin, 8) Jeremy Langford, 9) Eddie Lacy, 10) Marshawn Lynch, 11) Latavius Murray, 12) Ezekiel Elliot, 13) Mark Ingram, 14) Carlos Hyde, 15) LeSean McCoy, 16) Devonta Freeman
Andy – 1) Gurley, 2) Le'Veon, 3) Peterson, 4) Charles, 5) Martin, 6) David Johnson, 7) Freeman, 8) Lacy, 9) Lynch, 10) J-Stew, 11) Langford, 12) Latavius, 13) Elliott, 14) Ingram, 15) Miller, 16) Ivory.
Liz – 1) Le’Veon Bell, 2) Todd Gurley, 3) David Johnson, 4) Adrian Peterson, 5) Mark Ingram, 6) Devonta Freeman, 7) Jamaal Charles, 8) Marshawn Lynch, 9) Eddie Lacy, 10) Jeremy Langford, 11) Doug Martin, 12) Latavius Murray, 13) Lamar Miller, 14) Carlos Hyde, 15) Isaiah Crowell, 16) Jonathan Stewart
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