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Now starts one of the biggest lulls of the NFL offseason, where news trickles in slowly, and it’s usually dominated by veterans signing with teams. With that, we’ll be going position by position to pick out some running back targets that are attractive values at ADP. All ADP is per Underdog Fantasy and is from the just-released Best Ball Mania IV.
Best Ball Fantasy Football Running Backs Early-Round Targets
Stevenson is one of the big winners from the NFL Draft, and the Patriots drafted nobody to add to the running backs room. As it stands, Stevenson, James Robinson and Pierre Strong sit atop the depth chart, and frankly, neither Robinson nor Strong are threats to the three-down workload of Stevenson. Who knows if Robinson even makes the 53-man roster for New England, as The Athletic is projecting Robinson not to make the final Patriots’ roster.
With 82 targets (third among NFL running backs) and 58% route participation last season, Stevenson represents immense value at a not-so-high price point. While the Patriots do lack some offensive firepower in the passing game, and there are a bunch of questions about Mac Jones’ ability to lead this offense, there’s no question about Stevenson, who was PPR’s RB10 last season.
Not drafting anybody to add to the depth behind him is always a great sign and instills confidence in fantasy managers looking to select him. Stevenson is a current mid-third-round pick in Best Ball Mania, and the RB12 off the board just before Jacksonville’s Travis Etienne and after the mercurial Kenneth Walker, who should slide a bit further down draft boards with the addition of Zach Charbonnet to the Seahawks’ backfield.
Even if I rarely draft running backs in the first few rounds, Stevenson is one I will draft as his floor is rock-solid, and his ceiling is that of a top-six running back, thanks to the receiving prowess he showed last season.
Best Ball Fantasy Football Running Backs Mid-Round Targets
J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens (RB19)
Some people bought into the talent even though he was coming back from a very complicated multi-ligament knee injury suffered at the end of training camp in 2021 to mixed results. The excuses are over for J.K. Dobbins as he enters his third NFL season and — hopefully — his first full season as the Ravens’ starting running back.
Dobbins’ 2022 was a mixed bag, with three top-20 fantasy running back performances in PPR, but little to no receiving production to speak of. That’s the name of the game for Dobbins, but the hope is that he can at least chip in a bit more in that regard.
On the ground is a different story, where in his last four games of 2022, Dobbins reeled off double-digit carries in every game and at least 93 yards rushing in three contests. Overall, this abbreviated season for Dobbins netted 5.7 yards per carry and halfway to 1,000 rushing yards on just 92 carries. With a full offseason, Dobbins should be 100% and ready to go from the jump.
The Ravens clearly think his juice is worth the squeeze, as the team added exactly zero running backs in both free agency and the NFL Draft. That’s a vote of confidence if I’ve ever seen one. Gus Edwards and Justice Hill remain in tow for Baltimore, but I’m less worried about the other rushers in this offense, considering it’s not like Dobbins is volume-dependent to produce. He’s efficient and a home-run hitter. The lack of receiving is the only wart, but one we can excuse as the current RB19 in Underdog Fantasy’s Best Ball Mania 4.
Especially in this format where it’s half-PPR, Dobbins’ lack of receiving production matters less, so I’m scooping him up as an easy RB2 with RB1 potential even with a potential shift in philosophy from offensive coordinator Greg Roman to Todd Monken’s likely increased use of the passing game.
Best Ball Fantasy Football Running Backs Late-Round Targets
Devon Achane, Miami Dolphins (RB42)
Achane (pronounced AY-CHAIN), the tantalizing third-round rookie running back from Texas A&M, is a perfect draft pick for a Miami Dolphins team that stresses speed, speed and more speed. He’s a bit undersized at just 188 pounds, but he ran a 4.32 40-time at the NFL Combine in February.
The best part about Achane is that he doesn’t have to be an immediate focal point of the Dolphins’ offense. He can be a “better in best ball” running back where he can take an easy pass or break off a long run for a touchdown. When you have to account for Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in the passing game, adding Achane to the Dolphins’ weaponry represents yet another game-breaking option defenses must account for.
If you want to know how fast Achane is, per The Ringer’s Danny Kelly, Tyreek Hill’s personal best 100m dash time is 10.19 seconds. Achane’s is 10.14. Wow.
Achane not going to be an every-down player for Miami, and with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson in tow, he’s likely going to sit third on the running back depth chart to start. However, Mostert has had a recent history of injury and missing games; plus, he just turned 31 years old last month. Achane feels like a natural extension and a younger version of what Mostert brings to the table in terms of skills, minus some of the between-the-tackles work. Wilson profiles as a “bruiser” in the Dolphins’ offense, but as we know about disciples of Kyle Shanahan and Miami being essentially “San Francisco Southeast,” the Dolphins and head coach Mike McDaniel will use multiple running backs and will mix and match on a whim.
For best ball purposes, Achane is a handcuff with some standalone value at the beginning of the season. We know Achane has the speed to rip off long gains, so right now, he’s the running back version of a deep-threat wide receiver with the upside to mix into a committee with earning more playing time or, if injury strikes one of the two incumbent backs in Miami. I’ll be all over him in drafts this spring and summer.
Kendre Miller, New Orleans Saints (RB49)
The New Orleans Saints’ backfield situation is one that is incredibly fluid with off-the-field issues, not regarding Kendre Miller himself but of the current and long-time fantasy stalwart Alvin Kamara. The Saints selected Miller in the third round from TCU and slots into the mix with Kamara and free-agent addition Jamaal Williams.
It seems as though the Saints feel that they need to pick up some kind of insurance policy at the position in the event that Kamara misses time due to an altercation from two years ago in Las Vegas during Pro Bowl Weekend.
If Kamara misses a number of games due to suspension or injury, some combination of Miller and Williams will do the backfield’s heavy lifting. It’s not like Kamara has the best recent track record, even when he’s been healthy. Over the last two seasons, Kamara has hovered around the 4.0 yards per carry threshold and receiving work has declined across the board. He’s averaged 72 targets and 52 receptions in the last two seasons; compare that to his first four seasons, where he averaged 102 targets and 82 receptions. He will be 28 (as will Williams) when the 2023 season begins, so there’s reason to be at least a little bit worried about his future production.
Nabbing a tough, productive runner in Miller, who is only 20 years old was smart by the Saints, as Kamara and Williams won’t be around forever. Miller won’t have the same kind of receiving upside that Kamara has shown during his elite fantasy seasons, but he’s a much tougher inside runner that, in a best-case scenario, could at least see Miller chip in with a few receptions in addition to his running.
Miller is going off of best ball draft boards at RB49 in the 13th or 14th round, and that represents a very nice contingent value bet that could pay off immediately, given a Kamara suspension. Or Miller could force the issue himself for more playing time if Kamara plays and continues his inefficiency for a third straight season or something happens to one (or both) of Kamara and Miller.
Related NFL Links:
- Best Ball Fantasy Football Draft Recap: Fantasy Alarm & Bettor Sports Staff Draft
- 2023 NFL Draft: First Round Winners and Losers for Fantasy Football
- 2023 NFL Draft: Second and Third Round Winners and Losers for Fantasy Football
- Dynasty Fantasy Football: 2023 NFL Rookie Wide Receiver Rankings