FIRING BULLETS – RB QUICK TIPS, TRENDS AND TAKES TO KNOW ENTERING THE SEASON
• Predictable considering physical demands, the bust rate for RB1s (Rushers drafted inside RB top-12 tha finished outside top-15) over the past six seasons is 43.1 percent, the highest at any position in fantasy football.
• Ameer Abdullah is the fastest rising RB in early drafts according to average draft position (ADP) values tracked at Fantasy Football Calculator. His value has climbed from 67.4 ADP to 58.1 over the past month.
• On the flip side, of the plowshares not named Arian Foster, "The Human Egg" Darren McFadden, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, has seen the biggest value decline. Over the past 30 days his ADP has fattened from 79.7 to 97.4.
• In 2014, the biggest RB kings of consistency, players who ranked inside the RB top-12 and totaled the most above-average performances (over 12.2 points per game average) were DeMarco Murray (14, 87.5%), Marshawn Lynch (11, 68.7%), Matt Forte (10, 62.5%), Eddie Lacy (10, 62.5%), Foster (8 (out of 13 gms) 61.5%)
• Foster is far and away the most difficult RB to properly evaluate. Originally expected to miss upwards of six months with a groin injury, he may only be sidelined 4-6 weeks post-hernia procedure says the Houston Chronicle. No surprise, his ADP has plummeted from a season-high 7.6 in mid-July to a season-low 56.4 August 12.
Below are eight pressing questions about RB nearing draft season.
You just scored the No. 1 overall pick in your .5 point PPR league and are determined to go running back. From the pool of eligible candidates what projected workhorse do you saddle up: Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy, Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles or Le'Veon Bell?
Andy – For me it's JAMAAL CHARLES, a guy who's found the end zone 33 times and caught 110 passes over the past two seasons. Charles hasn't averaged less than 5.0 YPC in any of his seven seasons, which is absurd. Handcuff with Knile Davis, if you're that sort of fantasy manager, but don't worry about Jamaal's backup poaching an excessive number of touches. (Please check Davis' career numbers before telling me how great he is.)
Dalton – JAMAAL CHARLES. I get the case for Peterson, but Charles has averaged 1,683 yards from scrimmage over the past three seasons (despite missing two games), totaling 39 touchdowns over that span. He also played through injuries last season. Charles averaged just 250 carries over those three years, never once reaching more than 285 rushing attempts. He's gotten 5.5 YPC throughout his career and is still just 28 years old and will remain the focal point of Kansas City's offense.
Brad – ADRIAN PETERSON. I've shouted from the tallest mountain my support of the Purple Hey-Zeus previously. He's a first ballott HOFer who is extremely motivated and farm-to-table fresh after last year's layoff. The offensive situation in Minnesota is much improved with the addition of Mike Wallace and advancement of Teddy Bridgewater. Also, with Norv Turner calling the shots he should see an uptick in receptions, likely besting his career benchmark of 43 catches in 2009. And let's not freak out about his date of birth. Several RBs have recorded exceptional seasons from Age 30 on. Just look at Frank Gore. I'm oconvinced Peterson blazes a trail to 2,000 combined yards and 15 touchdowns.
BELIEVE or MAKE BELIEVE: C.J. Anderson keeps Denver's RB starting job the entire season totals close to 1,500 yards with double-digit scores and finishes inside the RB top-six.
Dalton – BELIEVE. All running backs carry risk, let alone those who have such a short track record as Anderson, but he sure looked like the real deal last season and will be in an ideal situation in Denver as long as Peyton Manning stays healthy. Anderson easily has the upside to be the No. 1 fantasy back this year.
Brad – BELIEVE. Anderson is not Montee Ball the sequel. He's a burly, versatile rusher who's downhill style meshes perfectly with Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme. Admittedly, Denver's makeshift offensive line is a question mark, but he should be a true workhorse commanding roughly 20 touches per game. It would be no surprise if he matched his top-three second-half production from last year. Extrapolate what he accomplished as a starter over 16 games (2,114 total yards, 20 TDs) and you're looking at a VERY lucrative season.
Scott – BELIEVE. I want a back in a Peyton Manning offense, unless his name is Montee Ball (no instincts, slower than dial up). I want a back in a Gary Kubiak offense. Anderson has taken to the featured role, worked his tail off in the offseason. A monster campaign is coming. I can defend Anderson as a pick in the late-first round, and I love him anytime in the second, should that fall to you.
Doug Martin, Zac Stacy, Toby Gerhart, among others, forced owners to have long consultations with Jose Cuervo after busting HARD last year. Who is your BIGGEST BOUNCE BACK CANDIDATE (And, no, Adrian Peterson doens't count)?
Brad – DANNY WOODHEAD. Another oldie, but still goodie, fantasy's Wooderson is a true diamond in the rough at his 124.4 ADP. He's expected to resume his hybrid role within Mike McCoy's offense uptempo offense. Melvin Gordon is a flashy rookie, but his struggles in pass protection and catching the ball are eyesores. Woodhead, who excels in those areas, is sure to pick up the slack. It's unlikely he'll match 2013's production, but somewhere around 850-900 total yards, 50-plus receptions and 4-6 TDs are likely. In other words, he's FLEXY SEXY in PPR leagues.
Scott – DOUG MARTIN, a little by default. I don't see anything to like about the other two guys. But Martin is just two years removed from a snappy rookie season, and Charles Sims probably doesn't have the skill set to play on all three downs.
Liz – DOUG MARTIN. Again. You may not like him. I may not like him. But his OC Dirk Koetter does. In fact it was Koetter who, after watching Martin's game tape, pulled him off the trading block and saved his job. In a contract year, Martin appears motivated to make a comeback. He's lost nearly fifteen pounds and has appeared noticably faster in camp, receivng glowing reviews from the likes of Mike Mayock and Jeff Darlington. He's currently the Bucs RB1 and expected to command the bulk of the ground game with receiving back Charles Sims handling the passing duties. Likely to finish 2015 with a little over 700 yards and 6 TDs, Martin could pull off low-end RB2 numbers.
Arian Foster is a point of contention after underoing hernia surgery. Not knowing exactly what the future holds for the Texan, what round would you be willing to roll the dice on him in a 12-team league?
Liz – Late ROUND 7/Early ROUND 8. He's obviously an elite talent, but there are too many question marks surrounding his return to take him much earlier than that. Even if he were to play the last eight games of the season we have no idea what sort of volume he'd see, whether he'd be eased in or shelved if Houston's record necessitated it. Bottom line: I'd take him before Atlanta's mishegas, but after Chris Ivory or Tre Mason.
Brandon – ROUND 7-8. I have him ranked at No. 26 among running backs, and that might be doing him a disservice if it ends up being more of a 4-8 weeks injury instead of 4-8 months. It could be that he only misses the first few games of the season, in which case he's no different than Le'Veon Bell. Except, of course, his age and injury history, and you can't rule out that he might miss further games down the road because of re-injury. But I'm looking at 10-12 games as the target, in which case I'd be happy to land him in the pick 75-85 range, after I've already taken some combination of 5-6 running backs/receivers.
Scott – NYET. Do I even have to put a round in? Judging from the tempo of Twitter, it seems like most of the free fantasy world is ready to talk themselves into Foster's miraculous comeback, starting in Week 10. Here's what I ask you: are we sure Foster will be fantasy playable the moment he returns? What if Houston's season is under water at that point? What if Houston finds a solid back between now and then; could that back keep at least part of the role? Isn't it conceivable that a high-attrition player like Foster, into his age-29 campaign, might have setbacks along the way? And do you understand the concept of an opportunity cost? Why play one man down for 2-3 months? (You want a number? Fine, Round 11, nudge me. I know Foster won't be there, though. Reckless Optimism rules the world.)
What overlooked RB is the virtual game’s most undervalued?
Liz – CHRIS IVORY. The Jets' backfield is much less muddy than it seems. Stevan Ridley is less than a year removed from an ACL tear. Zac Stacy lost his job to a rookie last season. Bilal Powell will be limited to work on third downs. Ivory is a reliable bruiser who has averaged 4.7 YPC over his career. He's in line for every-down work on a team with a questionable aerial attack.
Brandon – JOSEPH RANDLE. How can the fantasy community be giving any credence to the idea that Darren McFadden is going to steal meaningful carries away from Randle. How many times must we travel down that road. Randle may not be an elite athlete, but he's decent enough. And he's got young, fresh legs, which is really all you need behind this All-World Dallas O-line. Randle is the No. 23 RB off the board, but it's not that hard to envision him finishing inside the RB top 15.
Andy – Based on a review of my ranks relative to the industry, I have to go with CHRIS IVORY. He has a clear shot at being an every-down rusher for a run-heavy team, and he's built for goal line duty. Stevan Ridley is only nine months removed from ACL surgery, not yet ready to pose a threat.
Conversely, what rusher is the most overvalued?
Brandon – MATT FORTE. I love Forte's receiving skills, but it's tough to look at how much better (in fantasy) he was in that capacity under Marc Trestman, who is now gone. If Chicago goes more run-heavy, as it is expected it will, it's not easy to be optimistic about that part of Forte's game. He barely broke 1,000 rushing yards last season on a lowly 3.9 YPC. His offensive line is considered one of the worst in the league. And Forte will turn 30 this season. That's a lot to take on with your No. 12.5 overall pick (ADP).
Andy – There's always someone who likes ALFRED MORRIS a whole lot more than me. He's almost dead-even with Ivory on my board, but he's way more expensive at the draft table. Don't tell me you're expecting big things from Washington's offense.
Dalton – Based on my rankings, it appears it's ANDRE ELLINGTON. At his current Yahoo ADP of 64.5, he's far too worrisome health wise for my taste.
Scott – ARIAN FOSTER, kids. Don't be overly optimistic with long-term returnees (Josh Gordon waves hello), especially when it's tied to injury. The NFL is the ultimate reshuffle league. Come Thanksgiving, the NFL might have 42 franchises, a new commissioner, and a Tuesday night package televised from Jupiter. Don't look too far ahead.
Gaze into the crystal ball, what rookie RB will leave a more indelible mark: Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley, Ameer Abdullah, T.J. Yeldon or WILDCARD?
Andy – Just so we're clear, I would take the field over any individual rookie rusher. But if you make me take one, I have to go MELVIN GORDON. He's the featured early-down/goal-line runner for a respectable offense, and only Gurley can claim to have more impressive college tape. I'd say there's a good chance that Gurley is the guy to own at the end of the year, but Gordon has the better shot to be the top full-season scorer.
Dalton – MELVIN GORDON. As Andy said above, I agree and would easily take the field here, but if choosing one from this group it's Gordon. His college numbers were pumped up by his system, but he should absolutely be given the chance to be San Diego's featured back, which is a pretty good situation to be in.
Brad – AMEER ABDULLAH. Everyone assumes Gordon will open up a can in his inaugural campaign, but inadequacies in pass blocking/receiving are hinderances. Abdullah, who's drawn rave reviews this summer for his nimble feet, acceleration, hands and blitz pick-up, will work in a loose committee with Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. However, if he would gain the upper-hand with a strong preseason. In a New Orleans-styled offense that typically loves throwing to RBs (113 times in '14), he should command 14-16 touches per game.
Play the Powerball. What late-round lottery ticket (100-plus ADP) could have deep-leaguers rolling in greenbacks come year’s end?
Andy – Again, I've gotta go CHRIS IVORY (Yahoo ADP 119.2). He doesn't have a healthy challenger for the No. 1 role in the Jets backfield at the moment.
Dalton – DOUG MARTIN. He's been a bum for two years running, but this is still a 26-year-old who totaled 1,926 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie three seasons ago. He's already been declared Tampa Bay's lead back, yet Martin's Yahoo ADP is still a paltry 111.8.
Brandon – RYAN MATHEWS. With an expected 8-10 carries per game out of the gate, he's more than just a Murray handcuff. This is one of the best, high-volume rush attacks in the league, and if an injury were to befall Murray, Mathews owners would be rolling in the greenbacks.
Brad – DOUG MARTIN. Your overweight uncle has contributed more to fantasy than Martin since his breakout rookie season, but the slimmed down 'Hamster' is worth the low-risk investment. At a minimum, he's expected to be the early-down back in a more respectable Bucs offense. He's reportedly looked "fantastic" so far in camp. At a career crossroads, Martin is a viable rebound candidate. Recall last year, despite awful exterior numbers, he gained 58.2 percent of his yards after contact.
Scott – Finally, I'm asked a question where the answer is CHRIS IVORY. He has an outstanding chance at getting the baton with the Jets, and that's a team that certainly wants to run first, ask questions later. I'm stunned the bidding stopped at $2 in the Stopa League auction earlier this summer. If you want someone a little less trendy, I'll throw a lottery-ticket amount at Jonas Gray in New England.
Liz – I've already professed my affection for Doug Martin and Chris Ivory, so I'll go with SHANE VEREEN this time around. A pick geared towards PPR enthusiasts, Vereen figures to see more consistency and volume in New York than he did in New England. He's been impressing in camp and even leading Rashad Jennings in first-team reps. His rushing stats won't jump off the page, but his receptions will have bargain hunters patting themselves on the back.
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