The NFL’s evolution into a pass-first and pass-often league has made the bell cow running back somewhat of a fantasy football unicorn in recent years.
Stars like Jonathan Taylor and Derrick Henry still boast league-winning upside, but without a top-five pick in your draft it’s hard to pencil in one of those stars, which could result in you dashing for an RB1 from a pile of not-so-great choices.
That leaves you with two options: overdraft a so-so running back while passing on other game-changing talents or, preferably, shocking the world by nabbing an impact sleeper in the later rounds. Here are three particularly intriguing names that fit the bill as excellent late-round options to help you round out your championship-winning squad.
Coming into his sophomore season, Rhamondre Stevenson has a ton of desirable attributes on merit alone. An explosive rusher, Stevenson can pound an opposing defence with the best of them. His 2.7 yards after contact last year ranked fourth league-wide in a cohort with Pro-Bowl level stars like Jonathan Taylor and Nick Chubb.
Stevenson’s hands are also an exciting part of his game, as he ranked second amongst Patriots backs in 2021 in yards per target behind the departed Brandon Bolden. The ingredients clearly appear to be there for a breakout year from a skill perspective.
What takes Stevenson’s upside to the next level, however, is the context and system that he projects to be a part of. With the retirement of James White, the Patriots backfield is wide open, with his only real competition for touches coming from Damien Harris.
Given that Stephenson has worked with the first-team squad in a pass-catching role during camp, the only question is if there will be enough rushing opportunities for Stevenson to be a piece with standalone value.
The 24-year-old has upside as an every-down back in the case of a Harris injury, and with the continued growth of Mac Jones and the Pats' passing game, Rhamondre Stevenson suddenly becomes an enticing high-ceiling bet late in your upcoming draft.
Chase Edmonds, Miami Dolphins
Right now, Chase Edmonds has an ADP as RB34, which is frankly ludicrous on several levels. The former Arizona Cardinal moves to a Dolphins team with plenty of incoming talent and a situation that he should be able to parlay into a successful season.
For starters, despite the Dolphins adding several bodies to their backfield, nobody quite got the payday that Edmonds received. The fifth-year back was the first player signed by anybody during free agency, indicating that the Dolphins explicitly targeted his services and will look to him in part to solve the club's futile 30th-ranked rushing attack from last season.
Additionally, the installation of Mike McDaniel as Miami’s new head coach only further underscores the relevance Miami’s running game will have this year.
Coming over from the 49ers, McDaniels has been known to produce high-quality rushing attacks, including the exceptional 2021 campaign of Deebo Samuel that McDaniels helped mastermind. That incoming “McDaniels effect” could have a trickle-down on other notable backs for the Dolphins, which makes other backfield additions like Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel worth a flier, but it’s Edmonds and his perch atop the depth chart that make him a notable sleeper heading into the 2022 season.
Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rachaad White is the most volatile option of these three players, especially since the gap between him and his competition is the most significant.
Leonard Fournette is once again likely to be a staple in the Bucs offence, given his exceptional season with Tampa Bay last year that saw him put up similar target/catch numbers to last year’s RB2 Austin Ekeler. The pair ranked second and third respectively in receptions amongst RBs last year, with Ekeler just barely edging out Fournette. Needless to say, Fournette is obviously the guy without hesitation, and he’s not a guy to be fading given the system he’s part of.
What’s intriguing about White, however, is the type of numbers he could put together if anything happened to Fournette on the injury front.
The rookie out of Arizona State was a pretty slick pass catcher himself out of the backfield for the Sun Devils, racking up 43 catches and an explosive 10.6 yards per catch on his receptions. Clearly, White has the tools to make things happen on the versatility front, and there isn’t much in the way of competition behind him that looks poised to challenge should an opportunity arise.
All these circumstances surrounding White, a high upside pass catcher that could step into a big role on an elite team, make the 23-year-old rookie the exact high-upside insurance swing worth nabbing in the late rounds of your draft.
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