2017 Fantasy Football Running Backs: Fallout from Week 3
Preseason football can be a help or a hindrance, this week it was a hindrance. Dan Malin is here to breakdown the fantasy side of the injuries for the running backs.
Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities opens with one of the most recognizable lines in literature: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” And week three was definitely the worst of times. Last week brought severe injuries to Julian Edelman, Spencer Ware, and Cameron Meredith. It certainly sucks to lose guys like that. Even Meredith who was a fantasy darling in 2016 was going to play a big role in the Bears offense this year as a primary target and he was going very late in all formats. Hopefully your league didn’t draft this weekend and waited until all the dress rehearsals were complete. But with injuries come opportunities for other players especially the running backs.
With the injury to Spencer Ware, Kareem Hunt becomes an instant candidate to see a large volume of work in Kansas City’s running game. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Hunt’s ADP has spiked over the past few days launching him up the draft boards by two-to-three rounds. His ADP could easily climb even more in the coming days. It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility for Hunt to see 15+ touches per game. That’s a startable running back each week. It’s worth noting the Chiefs have depth at the position with Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller who has found a new purpose in KC. Hunt has looked solid running with the first team and he could easily see a starter’s reps with Ware done for the year.
Where can you take these guys?
Kareem Hunt: 4th Round (Maybe Sooner!)
Charcandrick West: 12th Round (if you really need the handcuff to Hunt, maybe Round 10)
C.J. Spiller: Grab off Waivers if need be
Julian Edelman’s Injury
With so many mouths to feed, why bother mentioning a New England WR group? Well because it’s not entirely a sure thing that the targets left behind by Edelman will be distributed to just the wide receivers. Everyone ranted and raved about Chris Hogan’s performance sans Edelman. He didn’t even have 60 targets last year in 15 games. Will he see more? Probably, will it be an enormous amount? Tough to tell. Hogan is a late-round commodity especially because he was so efficient with 17.7 yards per reception last year. The loss of Edelman could also mean more work for Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola reportedly will see more work on special teams and offense.
But why not the running backs? Fantasy players should have considerable interest in James White. He was a key part of the Patriots Super Bowl victory and he caught 60 passes last year on 86 targets. Over the weekend Bill Belichick didn’t exactly give a glowing endorsement of Mike Gillislee who is still being drafted in the fifth-sixth rounds. And don’t forget about Rex Burkhead who is going much later. The value you get with White and the upside of Burkhead makes the Patriots backfield pretty tempting in a PPR format with Edelman now out.
James White: Can be had in the 12th round (Grab him in 11 as a dart throw)
Rex Burkhead: Currently going in the 11th round of 12-team leagues
Dion Lewis: 14th-15th round, but he’s not as exciting as White or Burkhead (but New England is undefeated when Lewis suits up and plays)
All DownHILL From Here
So Jeremy Hill, for what it’s worth, was having a decent training camp. Unfortunately he suffered an ankle injury that forced him to leave Cincy’s last preseason game against Washington. It hurts Hill’s value a little bit as he really didn’t do much to lose the starting RB job. The injury is a setback and an opportunity for Joe Mixon to take the reigns for the Bengals. Mixon, who was a favorite in this piece earlier, is going a bit too high as of right now. His rushing numbers so far in the preseason aren’t an indictment of him as a player, but rather it’s a telling sign of what to expect from the guys blocking for him. The Bengals have a bad offensive line and the rookie is currently being drafted in the third or fourth round of 12-team leagues. That’s a bit too high for a guy with a terrible offensive line and who could find himself in a committee. Coaching staffs, historically, are hesitant to just go out and hand a rookie the starting job. Ezekiel Elliot in 2016 was the exception, not the rule. Does Mixon have the tools and physical build to be an every down RB? Absolutely. However, Gio Bernard made his long-awaited preseason debut with four rushes for 25 yards. It’s a very small sample size, but fantasy owners are falling head over heels way too fast for Mixon.
Joe Mixon: Drafted at the three-four turn in 12-team leagues.
Jeremy Hill: ADP may drop due to injury but currently going at nine-ten turn.
Giovani Bernard: 14th round. He’s a hell of a dart throw late in your draft.
Go Home Latavius!
Latavius Murray made his long-awaited debut for the Vikings. “Long-awaited debut” is being quite generous since nobody actually gave a crap save for the coaching staff. Dalvin Cook has looked like he should be the starting running back this year for Minnesota. Even with a horrible offensive line that allowed Sam Bradford to be sacked thrice and pressured multiple times in the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Despite the horrible blocking Cook has looked like he’s ready for the workload. And here comes Latavius. Behind in studying the playbook and behind in terms of reps. Is there reason to believe his appearance in game three meant anything significant? Hardly. The coaching staff likely wanted to see how he looked with the first team. They know Cook is a special talent, but Murray is coming off injury and he needed to be seen on the field. It wasn’t a great debut so fantasy owners shouldn’t be too worried about Cook’s standing with the coaching staff.
Dalvin Cook: Round three (which is high, he’s better suited in round four)
Latavius Murray: Round 10 (which is reasonable, but it would be better if it was Round 11).
With the loss of Cameron Meredith in Chicago there are extra targets to go around. In his rookie year Howard had 29 catches on 50 targets, which isn’t a great catch percentage by any means, but he could be in line for two-three catches per game at worst heading into this season. He’s still a second-round value, but the potential of additional targets in the passing game increases his potential as a top five running back. Also in Buffalo, Lesean McCoy might see additional reps in the passing game. He’s already a workhorse RB and even though he’s getting older he’ll still get his share. The departure of Sammy Watkins didn’t do much to increase his value, but with the retirement of Anquan Boldin and Jordan Matthews learning the playbook on the fly there’s a little more optimism surrounding Shady. Both Howard and McCoy can be had in the first couple rounds so it’s not like they’re great values. It is, however, worth noting the losses in their offenses could open a few more doors for the both of them.