You hear that sound? That’s the sound of NFL news and rumors swirling as the impending storm of football season approaches our shores! There’s always some sort of outrage going on, be it gambling suspension or NIL issues in college football but the topic du jour is this - are NFL running backs underpaid? Guys like Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard are battling the franchise tag while Joe Mixon isn’t making things easier on everyone else by taking a bit of a hometown discount with his contract restructure. It’s been enough to prompt vets like Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, and Austin Ekeler to weigh in on it. And, even with all that going on, there is one shoe that needs to drop first for the rest of the free agent running backs like Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournete, and Kareem Hunt to find a home. One man that can get those wheels in motion so that we can finalize our fantasy football rankings, get some clarification at ADP, and make some moves in our dynasty leagues. We are all waiting on the king of the free agent running back hill - Dalvin Cook. And, if the RB Highlander signs with the current favorite in Vegas betting odds, the New England Patriots, we will all be very upset.
Here are the current leaders to land Dalvin Cook based on DraftKings Sportsbook:
After that, you have much longer shots at three times the odds, minimum:
- Commanders, Cowboys, Broncos +1500
- Giants, Bills, Raiders +1500
- Bears +2000
Everyone else is over +3000. And teams like the Cowboys, Giants, and Raiders are really only in there because the starting running backs for all three teams are currently on the franchise tag and threatening to hold out. These teams are locked into paying the starting RB $10 million if they sign the tag and none of the teams wanted to pay much more than that so I find it hard to believe they will now go out and spend what it takes on Dalvin Cook. So it’s really a three horse race if you think about it though the one team I would consider sprinkling some money on out of those longer-shot teams is the Denver Broncos if Javonte Williams’s knee is worse than we’ve been led to believe.
New England Patriots Fantasy Impact
I’ll be honest with you here that I am a Patriots fan. But, first and foremost, I’m a fantasy football analyst. So I’m willing to recognize that everyone who is not a Patriots fan would dislike this move. We want as many “bellcow” running backs in fantasy football as possible, which Rhamondre Stevenson seemingly emerged as last year. If Dalvin Cook goes to New England, it seems pretty clear that there would be a split between Rhamondre and Dalvin that would hurt both of their values for fantasy. And it’s absolutely something Bill Belichick would do because he does not care about your fantasy teams.
What’s perhaps even more interesting is what happens if Dalvin DOESN’T sign. Just the fact that it’s highly being considered tells us New England is interested in having someone contribute in that pass-down role that was previously occupied by guys like James White, Danny Woodhead, and Kevin Faulk. Last year, in Week One, Ty Montgomery played 20 snaps out of the backfield and got four targets before getting hurt in that game. His name was thrown out by former Patriots RB coach Ivan Fears as a candidate. But the more exciting option is second year player Pierre Strong who ran a 4.37 forty which is 99th percentile for running backs. Patriots beat writer Evan Lazar says that he should be on our radar as a breakout candidate. All this is moot, of course, if Dalvin Cook comes to town.
Miami Dolphins Fantasy Impact
Right now the Miami Dolphins backfield is currently looking like either a two-headed or three-headed monster depending how you feel about it. So, if Dalvin Cook lands there and takes over the top spot, it’s a little easier to stomach for dynasty fantasy gamers and early fantasy drafters. Currently, based on our composite ADP, Rhamondre Stevenson goes at the start of the third round at pick ~27. Here is where the Dolphins’ backs are going.
Assuming Dalvin doesn’t go there, know that Jeff Wilson will have a role to some degree as the bruiser back in short yardage. The speedster Raheem Mostert is also a favorite of Mike McDaniel’s from their time in San Francisco so he’ll get some touches. The real wild card is rookie De’Von Achane, who ran a blazing 4.32 forty at the NFL combine. It could be a world where he’s simply a backup for Mostert as the guy in space (in which case he could end up seeing the field anyway considering how often Mostert gets hurt). Or Achane has the chance to potentially be the best back in the room from day one and earn that starting job. That high-risk, high-reward proposition has Achane going earliest of the bunch.
New York Jets Fantasy Impact
As much as we dislike it for fantasy football purposes - especially dynasty leagues where we spent up to acquire Breece Hall, we can’t really deny that this one makes a lot of sense right? Hall is coming off a torn ACL. They just traded for a 39 year old quarterback. They are in win-now mode and really don’t have time to fool around. So how could we really blame them for taking a shot on Dalvin? Aaron Rodgers competed against him for a long time in the NFC North and likely has a lot of respect for him so he could join the list of players that Rodgers has handpicked for the Jets.
If they do bring Dalvin in, that crushes any remaining hype surrounding Michael Carter that wasn’t vaporized by Breece Hall already. The same goes for the excitement for Zonovan “Bam” Knight from his limited work last year after Hall went down. And it also takes pre-draft darling and fifth round pick Israel Abanikanda and puts him even farther on the outside looking in. So yes, it does make sense for the Jets to go all in now with Dalvin Cook. And it could prove to be a solid spot for his redraft value in 2023. But that’s not much fun for dynasty gamers out there stashing these other backs.