By Amol Nadkarni
This fantasy season seems to be different than previous seasons in that it that wide receivers look like they might be more valued than running backs. This could be due to the fact that the NFL is becoming a pass first league or that the committee backfield approach is starting to become the new norm amongst teams, but it is starting to look like the “Zero-RB” draft strategy might be more commonly used this upcoming draft season. Whether that will become a new trend remains to be seen, but it does say a lot that the first three picks of most drafts this season will likely be receivers (something that I personally have not seen before in my years playing fantasy football). Although the league is full of very talented receivers and the NFL is entering the “Golden Age” of passing, to me running back still remains the most important position in fantasy. As a result, it is important to understand the role each running back will have in their respective offenses in order to determine their fantasy value come draft time. This article will categorize the NFL’s starting running backs based on their 2016 fantasy outlook.
The Work Horses
Todd Gurley (LA) – If there was ever a true every-down workhorse it would have to be RB Todd Gurley. The Rams lack offensive skill position talent outside of Gurley and as a result they will lean on him to move the ball on a consistent basis. In only 13 games, Gurley managed to amass 1,294 yards and 10 touchdowns and he achieved that feat coming back from an ACL injury. Imagine what a fully healthy Gurley can produce. Although he was not used much in the passing game last season, I could see that change in 2016 as the Rams will look to get the ball to the reigning “Offensive Rookie of the Year” any way possible.
Adrian Peterson (MIN) – Workhorse and RB Adrian Peterson go hand-in-hand. Since he was drafted in 2007, there has arguably no better running back in the league than AP. Despite his high-profile status, he seemed to fly under the radar last season even though he rushed for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns. Although he has never been a real threat out of the backfield, his running ability has been so elite it that his lack of involvement in the passing game has not mattered when it comes to fantasy. AP is the type of back that knows he will be facing seven man fronts primed for stopping the run and can still produce elite numbers. This season should be no different and it can be argued that he is in the most balanced offense he has even been in since his days playing with former QB Brett Favre.
David Johnson (ARI) – RB David Johnson is both a workhorse in the running and passing games, as evidenced by his eight rushing, four receiving and one kick return touchdowns last season. The Cardinals have been raving about their second year back this offseason and he is poised to carry the full workload going into the 2016 season, after featuring in a committee backfield last season. HC Bruce Arians admitted that despite impressing every time he was on the field, he wanted the then rookie Johnson to remain “grounded” and that is why is he did not have him carry the full load in his first NFL season. Despite his “limited” role in the offense, Johnston still managed to have over 1,600 all-purpose yards and score 13 total touchdowns in 2016. Johnson will be a force in 2016, as the “training wheels” will be off and he will be able to go full throttle in Arizona’s explosive offense.
Le’Veon Bell (PIT) – Normally RB Le’Veon Bell would be considered a workhorse back, as he excels in both the run and passing games however it is the issues surrounding him off the field that see him end up in this category. Bell might be the best back in football however he continues to limit his own potential by failing drug tests. This season he will miss the first four games of the season, which directly reduces his fantasy value and RB DeAngelo Williams will fill in for him as the lead back until he returns. However his repeated transgressions might see him return to a running back committee, especially if Williams performs at a high-level during his absence (something Williams is more than capable of doing). I expect Bell will return as the workhorse after Week 4, but I cannot say that with certainty. I think it is a risk to draft him in the first round and I would be feel much better taking him in the mid-to-late second or early third.
Ezekiel Elliot (DAL) – There probably isn’t a more polarizing back going into fantasy drafts than the Cowboy’s rookie RB Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot was drafted with the fourth pick in this year’s draft and was instantly considered to be the main back in Dallas. Running behind the best offensive line in the league coupled with his superior athleticism, size, vision and pass-catching ability, pundits immediately pounced on the opportunity to anoint him the favorite for the 2016 “Offensive Rookie of the Year” award. Despite everything working in his favor to be the workhorse in Dallas, you cannot overlook the two backs behind him. Both RB Alfred Morris and RB Darren McFadden are former pro bowlers and their contracts suggest that they will have a role to play in the Cowboy’s offense. Couple that with the fact that despite how talented Elliot is, at the end of the day he is a rookie and to me it’s a risk to draft him as your RB1 based off his current situation. If he falls to the mid-to-late second I’d be more than comfortable taking him than spending a first rounder on an unproven talent.
Lamar Miller (HOU) – This offseason the Texans opted to let RB Arian Foster walk and instead they decided to sign RB Lamar Miller to a four-year $26 million contract, which is essentially starter money. Miller will most likely get the majority of carries for the Texans, as RB Alfred Blue and RB Jonathan Grimes don’t pose a real threat to his workload. The real question I have is can Miller actually be a workhorse back? In his four seasons in Miami, Miller only managed to top 1,000 yards rushing once, back in 2014. His past production does not really justify the contract he was awarded however HC Bill O’Brien must believe he can handle the load and produce at a high level. Miller will be given every opportunity to be the “guy” in Houston, however he is being drafted as a RB1, which I do not think he is (at least yet).
The Bounce Back Backs
Jamaal Charles (KC) – Entering last season RB Jamaal Charles would have surely been in the workhorse category however in 2015 he only managed to play five games before suffering a torn ACL. Charles has recently been cleared to practice and it looks like his recovery has experienced no setbacks. The question is will Charles be able to come back from his second ACL injury of his career and produce at the level we all expect of him? I think he will. The Chiefs have taken a cautious route with easing him back from the injury and you can’t ignore the fact that he has come back from this injury before and produced pro bowl seasons. RB Charcandrick West and RB Spencer Ware could feature more in the rotation just to make sure Charles does not overwork himself but I still believe he will still get a significant amount of the carries. I think he will produce more high-end RB2 numbers this season but should still be a strong weekly play.
Eddie Lacy (GB) – 2015 was a season to forget for RB Eddie Lacy. He finished the season with just 758 yards rushing and three touchdowns, after rushing for over 1,000 yards his first two seasons in the league. Part of his poor production can be attributed to injuries but the other part of it has to be chalked up to his inability to maintain a healthy playing weight. This offseason Lacy has made a concerted effort to return to his best playing weight and he says he “feels more explosive” than last season, which is obviously a great sign. Besides RB James Starks filling in occasionally on third down, Lacy is the primary back in Green Bay’s high octane offense and if he can regain the form he showed in his first two seasons in the league, he will be a steal in the mid second round. I think Lacy has it in him and a team that has Super Bowl aspirations, as the Packers do, won’t allow a key piece to falter. Expect a bounce back season for the former Alabama running back.
C.J. Anderson (DEN) – Much was expected of RB C.J. Anderson at the start of last season, after he broke out during the latter part of the 2014 season. However he turned out to be a frustrating fantasy player as he only produced 720 rushing yards and five touchdowns all season, despite being considered one of the top fantasy backs heading into 2015. Although last season he failed to replicate his 2014 form, the Broncos opted to resign him to a 4-year $18 million contract, which suggests that he will likely be the starter in 2016. The problem for Anderson is that despite making the most money of the running backs, he still faces stiff competition from a new face in rookie RB Devontae Booker. The former Utah Ute had an impressive college career in Salt Lake City and reports out of Broncos training camp is he is “turning heads”, even getting first team reps. Anderson will likely be drafted in the late second or early third round, but I would wait till the late third or fourth before pulling the trigger on him. Booker is a guy I think might worth taking after the 12thround, as I think he has great upside.
Dion Lewis (NE) – RB Dion Lewis will look to bounce back from a breakout year. What I mean by this is in 2015, Lewis was on pace to have his best season a pro. In seven games with the Patriots, Lewis had 234 rushing yards and two touchdowns and had 36 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Lewis was turning out to be a dual-threat for QB Tom Brady, similar to RB Shane Vereen and RB Kevin Faulk during their New England days. However his breakout season came to an abrupt end on November 8, when he tore his ACL against the Washington Redskins. This offseason the Patriots have been super cautious with Lewis and have not rushed him back into full training. In fact, Lewis looks like he might sit out all of the preseason as a precaution but should be full-go to start the regular season. The Patriots have talked about curbing back his usage this season however they still see him as a big part of both their passing and running games. I believe Lewis will continue where he left off in 2015 and continue to grow into an important cog in the Patriot’s offensive machine. Backs that can run and catch have been hugely important during the Belichick-Brady Era and Lewis looks poised to continue that tradition. Lewis is a strong RB2/Flex, especially in PPR leagues, and if you can get him after the fifth round that would represent tremendous value for a dual-threat back. UPDATE: Dion Lewis recently had surgery to clean up his knee and is out indefinitely.
The Reliable Starters
Mark Ingram (NO) – Although he has never rushed for over 1,000 yards in his career, RB Mark Ingram has still managed to produce consistent RB2 numbers during his NFL career. In the Saints offensive attack, Ingram has a monopoly over the ground game but last season showed that he might start to have a bigger role in the passing game as well. Last season he rushed for 769 yards and six touchdowns and caught 50 passes for 405 yards (most catches and passing yards in his career) in just 12 games. With the likes of RB C.J. Spiller, RB Tim Hightower and RB Travaris Cadet behind him, Ingram really does not have to worry about losing goal-line carries and if he continues to be part of the passing game, his stock will only further rise. Ingram represents excellent value in the mid-to-late second as a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2.
LeSean McCoy (BUF) – Throughout his NFL career RB LeSean McCoy has shown that when he is fully healthy he is one of the best backs in the league. Last season McCoy was limited to just 12 games but he still managed to rush for 895 yards and three touchdowns and catch 32 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns. In the league’s best rushing offense McCoy is the starter but he does share the load with a group of talented running backs in RB Karlos Williams, RB Jonathan Williams and RB Reggie Bush. That is always a concern in fantasy, however since Buffalo rushes the ball so often he still sees a lot of playing time and the constant rotation actually keeps him very fresh so he can have an impact every time he steps on the field. The four game suspension of Karlos Williams will mean McCoy will get even more snaps to start the season. McCoy is a consistent back who can produce RB1 numbers any given season due to his elite natural ability. If you can get him at the end of the second or early third, you have gotten a steal in my opinion. UPDATE: Karlos Williams has been cut.
Matt Forte (NYJ) – Since coming into the league in 2008 there might not be a better all-purpose running back than RB Matt Forte. For so many seasons with the Bears, Forte showed time-and-time again that he can be a threat on the ground or through the air. This season will be Forte’s first outside of the “Windy City”, as he will look to continue his dual-threat production in an offense, under OC Chan Gailey, that will utilize him consistently in both the running and passing games. Last season Forte had a rare below standard season, racking up 898 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns and 389 receiving yards and three passing touchdowns in 13 games. Some might believe he is on the decline, but for me I think he still can produce high-end RB2 numbers this season. If you can get him during the fourth round or later you might be getting the biggest running back steal in the draft.
Doug Martin (TB) – In his rookie season RB Doug Martin broke onto the scene, rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, while snagging 49 passes for 472 yards and one touchdown. It looked like he was primed to be a star running back for years to come but instead he followed up his excellent rookie year with two disappointing seasons where he rushed for a grand total of 950 yards and three touchdowns. Injuries played a big part of his poor production and it looked like he would not recover his rookie form. Then the 2015 season happened and Martin produced out of nowhere a pro bowl season, rushing for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns and adding one more through the air. The question with Martin is can he continue to produce at that level this season? He has never done so before and his injury history really worries me, considering many people are drafting him as early as the third round. I don’t know if I can trust Martin to draft him that early and RB Charles Sims also will factor heavily into the Buccaneers backfield equation. I think drafting him in the mid-to-late fourth or later represents much better value due to the risks surrounding him.
Devonta Freeman (ATL) – Former Florida State Seminole RB Devonta Freeman had a breakout season last year, totaling 1,634 all-purpose yards and 13 total touchdowns. He ended the season as the best RB1 in fantasy, however if we analyze the player and his production, there are reasons to be concerned heading into 2016. First, Freeman started off the season exceptionally well but he eventually hit a “wall” during the second half, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry. Freeman is not built to be a workhorse and it showed during the latter part of the season. Factor in that RB Tevin Coleman is also a back that the Atlanta coaching staff, particularly OC Kyle Shanahan, is very high on and he will give every chance to make an impact this upcoming season. Freeman is going as high as the early second round and to me that is too much of a risk to take on a player that really is not suited to carry the load for a second straight season. I would probably target Tevin Coleman in the later rounds and just avoid Freeman altogether, as I feel he has huge bust potential this season.
Thomas Rawls (SEA) – I understand the hype surrounding RB Thomas Rawls. In his six starts as a rookie, the Seahawk running back led the NFL in rushing yards per game and had an impressive 5.7 yards per carry. He looked like he would be the heir apparent to RB Marshawn Lynch however in Week 14 his season came to an abrupt end with an ankle injury. Rawls is currently still recovering from that injury and has only now started to practice. That is not the only concern surrounding Rawls. The Seattle rushing attack is starting to look more and more like it is going to be a committee approach, with Rawls as the likely “starter” but RB Christine Michael and RB C.J. Prosise also featuring heavily. The injury questions coupled with the potential for a committee backfield make Rawls, in my opinion, someone to avoid until after the fifth or sixth round.
Matt Jones (WAS) – Last season RB Matt Jones showed flashes that he could become a very good back in the league, but at the end of the day he capped the 2015 season with a underwhelming stat line of 490 rushing yards and three touchdowns, with only 3.4 yards per carry. Those numbers don’t scream every-down back but the Redskins decided this season that he could carry the load by not resigning former pro bowl back Alfred Morris. Jones will be given every opportunity to show he can be the bell cow the Redskins want him to be, but ultimately I just don’t think he is capable of being the “guy”. Getting him after the seventh round would represent good value but I’m sure he will go two rounds earlier in most leagues.
Steady At Best
Frank Gore (IND) – If there was ever a running back that was a model of consistency it would have to be RB Frank Gore. Last year in his first season in Indianapolis, Gore rushed for 967 yards and six touchdowns, while also catching 37 passes for 267 yards and one touchdown. Not bad for a 33 year old running back. Gore is the kind of back that you can rely on to contribute, as well as stay healthy. With the Colts, Gore does not have much competition in terms of carries and will continue to be the main ball carrier in 2016. If you can snag Gore in the ninth round or later, you immediately have yourself a strong flex option who can be plugged into the RB2 slot when needed. There are few players over 30 that I trust in fantasy and Gore tops my list.
Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – RB Jonathan Stewart is an interesting case study in that a lot was expected out of him coming out of the University of Oregon in 2008. However he really has never lived up to the hype but he also cannot be considered a “bust”. Injuries have hurt him but over the last two seasons, Stewart has put up respectable numbers and last season he had his second best year as pro, rushing for 989 yards and six touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. Stewart is a reliable low-end RB2/Flex option, if there is such a thing. You might not be excited to have him but he is in a situation in Carolina where he will get the bulk of the carries. If you get him between rounds five and eight, you have gotten a steady back who you insert weekly to get you at least nine points. Not flashy but effective.
Boom or Bust
Carlos Hyde (SF) – Coming out of Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde was considered to be part of the next wave of great backs heading into the NFL. In his two seasons in the league that has never materialized. Last season he only managed to feature in seven games and ended up only producing 470 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He now enters a make or break season. Hyde has shown flashes of his natural ability and this season might be the season he puts it altogether. In new HC Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense, running backs have had success. Hyde is by far the 49ers most talented offensive player and although their offensive line has question marks, Kelly’s scheme should patch over the unit’s deficiencies. Hyde has shown he can be a workhorse in college and I think this season Hyde could have a breakout season. I think getting him at the end of the fourth represents ideal value.
Latavius Murray (OAK) – RB Latavius Murray had his best season as a pro last year, rushing for 1,066 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4 yards per carry. The reason why he could be considered a “boom or bust” candidate rests on the fact that he has another back to compete with, who has been making headlines with his impressive play in OTAs and Minicamp, in rookie RB DeAndre Washington. Murray proved last season that he could carry the load when called upon and I fully expect him to do the same in 2016, however the lurking presence of Washington is something to monitor. Still Murray is a solid RB2 with low-end RB1 potential, as Oakland’s offense is shaping up to be an explosive unit this season. You should he happy to get him anywhere after the fifth round and I would not be surprised if he tops his previous year’s output ,seeing as I consider him the most athletic back in the NFL.
Derrick Henry and Demarco Murray (TEN)- One of the most intriguing running back situations in fantasy has to be the Tennessee Titan’s backfield. RB Demarco Murray, who had a season to forget in Philadelphia, was traded to the Titans this offseason and it looked like the 2014 rushing champion would assume the role of lead back in HC Mike Mularkey’s run heavy offense. Then the 2016 draft came around and the Titans, in the second round, drafted Heisman winner RB Derrick Henry out of Alabama. Immediately the backfield situation became muddled, as fantasy pundits tried to predict which back would see the majority of carries in 2016. The interesting thing is that both Murray and Henry have similar physical running styles and they are not the ideal compliment to one another. It is hard to tell which back will see more playing time and it will likely be split pretty evenly but I would say it makes more sense to target Henry after round 12 instead of reaching for Murray between rounds seven and nine. Murray has some “wear and tear” on him while Henry is fresh off a Heisman season and has that winning mentality Alabama players bring into the NFL. It is clear that regardless of this season Henry represents the future at that position for the Titans and that is why you should make the low risk move and get him in the later rounds.
Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi (MIA) – On the surface the running back situation in Miami might not be seen as a committee backfield, however I think it will be until one of the backs gains hold of the starting job. RB Arian Foster has been one of the top backs in the NFL since he came into the league as an undrafted free agent however last season an Achilles injury limited him to just four games. He signed with Miami late in the summer and will look to show he has overcome his injury however I just don’t think Foster can be viewed as a reliable back anymore. His vast injury history coupled with the fact that he is pushing 30 (which is old in running back years) means that he will likely not be able to produce at the level we used to expect of him. I think RB Jay Ajayi is the back that you want to own in the Miami backfield. An injury derailed his rookie season but at Boise State Ajayi was a workhorse and in his three seasons with the Broncos, he rushed for 3,796 yards and 50 touchdowns. Those are very impressive numbers and that is why the Dolphins drafted him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. Not only is Ajayi the back to own in Miami but I think he can have a breakout candidate. I feel like the Dolphins brought in Foster to have a veteran presence in the backfield but I am convinced that Ajayi will be given every opportunity to make the job his own under new HC Adam Gase. Ajayi could be a huge steal in the 10th round or later. Even though Foster will likely get drafted earlier than Ajayi (probably fifth thru seventh rounds), I think Ajayi will pay off down the road.
Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead (SD) – RB Melvin Gordon’s start to his NFL career could not have gone any more wrong. Last season Gordon, who was selected with the 15thoverall pick in the 2015 draft and considered a can’t miss running back prospect coming out of Wisconsin, managed only 641 rushing yards, 192 receiving yards and zero touchdowns in 14 games (he also lost six fumbles), 12 of which he started. Those are terrible numbers for a player that was expected to make an immediate impact. To add insult onto injury, his season ended in late December, when he sustained a knee injury. On the flip side RB Danny Woodhead, who might be one the most “blue collar” players currently in the NFL, had a strong dual-threat season, rushing for 336 yards and three touchdowns while catching 80 passes for 755 yards and six touchdowns. Woodhead is definitely a guy to target in PPR leagues during rounds seven thru nine but do not count out Gordon just yet. Reports out of Chargers camp suggest that Gordon is on track to have a great season, as he has shown up more focused and ready to showcase the ability he displayed at Madison, when he rushed for 2,587 yards (second in FBS history to HOF RB Barry Sanders) and 29 touchdowns in 2015. I think drafting Gordon after round six represents amazing value for a player who could end up producing RB1 numbers by season’s end.
Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard (CIN) – RB Jeremy Hill and RB Giovani Bernard complement each other really well in real life. Hill contributes more to the ground game with his bruising running style, while Bernard handles the passing game, as he is more elusive and shifty. Last season Hill rushed for 794 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Bernard had 730 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while also hauling in 49 passes for 472 yards. Although Bernard is dual-threat, Hill has established himself as the primary goal-line back and will be first in line for touchdowns. Fantasy wise the situation is not ideal. Bernard is the better option in PPR but he is better suited as a high-end flex option or at best low RB2. If you can get him after the seventh round he will be a solid streaming option. Hill could probably be had two rounds later but he is so touchdown dependent that if he is not finding the end zone, he is a waste of a roster spot.
Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon (JAX)- After spending many seasons in a crowded backfield in New Orleans, RB Chris Ivory got his chance to be a lead back with the New York Jets and he did not disappoint. He ended last season with 1,070 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, while also catching 30 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown. Despite having his best season in the NFL, the Jets opted to not resign him and instead he decided to join the Jaguars and running mate RB T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon’s rookie season was nothing to write home about, as he rushed for just 740 yards and two touchdowns. The former Crimson Tide player had a fantastic college career at Tuscaloosa, rushing for over 3,332 yards and 37 touchdowns, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Yeldon was a guy I was high on going into the offseason and was disappointed that the Jaguars signed Ivory, as I thought Yeldon would make the leap in 2016. I still think he can and that is why I would target him over Ivory. Yeldon has more upside, while Ivory’s physical running style does not have a good track record of lasting in this league (remember Marion “The Barbarian” Barber of Dallas and Chicago). Yeldon could be a sleeper after the 10th round and I think the Jaguars have too much invested in him (used the 36th overall pick in the 2015 draft on him) to not do everything in their power to make sure he succeeds.
Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Jordan Howard (CHI)- One running back situation in the NFL that is extremely muddled has to be the one brewing in Chicago. At the start of the season, RB Jeremy Langford looked like he would take over the lead role after the departure of RB Matt Forte. Instead Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com has reported that the Bears will use a running back-by-committee approach in 2016. According to Dickerson, Langford has been suffering from a case of drops in camp and the Bears coaching staff believes that RB Jacquizz Rodgers is better suited to be the pass-catching back. Meanwhile the team also likes RB Ka’Deem Carey in the redzone because of his physical and powerful running style. At the same time rookie RB Jordan Howard had an impressive career at Indiana and could factor into the equation with a strong preseason. All in all this is a situation to avoid in fantasy and although Langford might be the back to target in drafts, I still would not touch him until after the 12th round and even then there is no guarantee he would get the bulk of the carries.
Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Stevan Ridley, and Zach Zenner (DET) – The Lions running back situation might be just as murky as the Bears but it really didn’t have to be. RB Ameer Abdullah is clearly the most talented back in the group and last season he was given every opportunity to make the job his own. Even though he played in all 16 games his rookie season, he only managed 597 rushing yards and 183 receiving yards and three total touchdowns. The reason for this low production can be chalked up to the fact that he just could not hold onto the ball (5 fumbles last season, 2 lost) and as a result HC Jim Caldwell benched him during games. Heading into 2016, the Lions will likely use a rotation however if there is one back to draft it still is Abdullah. If he can get past his fumbling issues, you have a really good football player. The guy had an amazing college career at Nebraska (4,588 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns and 690 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns) and he has the physical tools to be a dominant player. If he gets the mental side of the game down, Abdullah could be a real steal after the 11th round.
Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles (PHI) – With RB Demarco Murray in Tennessee, the competition for carries in Philly is now down to RB Ryan Mathews and RB Darren Sproles. Mathews will likely handle first and second down duties while Sproles will be the exclusive third down back option. Both Mathews and Sproles are coming off down years but if I had to choose one back to draft I would have to say go for Sproles. Mathews has had injury problems throughout his career while Sproles rarely misses game. Sproles is definitely more of a role player but he does that job extremely well and in PPR leagues he is a must own. With Mathews as his only real competition and Murray out, Sproles should see more of the field this season. Grab Sproles after the 15th round and you have a high-quality streaming option any given week.
Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams, and Paul Perkins (NYG) – RB Rashad Jennings and RB Shane Vereen will be first in line to see the most carries, with the former likely being named the starter. Jennings had a “so-so” season last year, rushing for 863 and three touchdowns in 16 games. Those are not starter running back numbers and I think the Giants will utilize all four of their backs this season, in a true committee approach. I would stay clear of the Giants running backs and if I had to get one, I’d draft rookie RB Paul Perkins after the 15h round. Perkins had a great career at UCLA and his slasher-style might bring something new to the Giants backfield that HC Ben McAdoo might want to utilize. He has upside and that’s basically all you want when looking at the Giants running back situation.
Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell (CLE) – The Browns are a team devoid of offensive talent but the running back position might be an area where they might have a true gem in RB Duke Johnson. RB Isaiah Crowell was the starter last season and put up a below average season rushing for just 706 yards and four touchdowns (add in one receiving touchdown). In his short career Crowell really has not shown that he can handle a full workload and although he might go into 2016 as the “starter”, I think Johnson is the back you want to own, due to his tremendous upside. Although last season he did not have a great year by any stretch of the imagination, he still has huge potential and at the University of Miami he showed that he can be an explosive player when given the opportunity. Getting Johnson after the eighth round would be an ideal pick up, as he has the potential to play a significant role in new HC Hue Jackson’s running back friendly offense. Think Giovanni Bernard.
Justin Forsett, Javorius Allen, Terrance West, and Kenneth Dixon (BAL) – It seems like only yesterday that RB Justin Forsett broke out onto the scene totaling 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns. Sadly that was in 2014 and last season Forsett struggled with injuries (as did the entire Ravens team) and was limited to 10 games. Heading into 2016, Forsett sees himself in a committee with second year back Javorius Allen, veteran journeyman RB Terrance West and rookie RB Kenneth Dixon. I think Forsett will be given every opportunity to regain his starting job back, but I think Dixon is someone to keep an eye on. The rookie out of Louisiana Tech has all the qualities to be a three-down back, as he has a physical running style coupled with the ability to catch balls out of the backfield. I think if you draft Forsett after the 10th round make sure you also target Dixon in the last three rounds as a high-quality handcuff.