NFL Offseason Report: Running Backs
Each year, the NFL offseason shuffles the deck for all 32 clubs, causing a ripple effect across the league that’s also felt in Fantasy circles. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at some of the players that have changed squads and what that’s done to their Fantasy appeal. We’ve already reviewed the quarterback and tight end positions. Now, let’s look at football’s workhorses, the running backs…
CHANGE OF ADDRESS
Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders: After a year away from the game, Lynch has returned to play for his hometown team. The 31-year-old should be an upgrade over Latavius Murray, though the key word there is “should.” Lynch struggled with injuries in 2015, and his final numbers were dismal (even if a porous offensive line bears some of the blame).
Then there’s the big question: did the year off rejuvenate Lynch? If the Raiders are getting Lynch circa 2011-14, he’s a Fantasy stud. The downside is palpable, however, given his age and mileage. Of course, the other big question is: did he switch from Skittles to chicken wings (see video below)?
Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints: Speaking of mileage, Peterson is the biggest name on this list, but he’s stepping into a timeshare situation in a pass-first offense, so it goes without saying his value will be undercut significantly. He led the NFL in rushing as recently as 2014 and drew rave reviews in training camp. Then again, what high-profile signing doesn’t?
At 32, AD carries all manner of risk. Physically, he’s coming off a knee injury that limited him to three games last year and has close to 3,000 touches on his odometer. He’s also an odd fit for the Saints given his deficiencies as a receiver and in pass protection. Draft him as an RB3 or RB4 and hope AD can still G-O.
Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks: In his first two seasons, Lacy averaged 1,500 yards and had a dozen total touchdowns with the Packers. In the two subsequent campaigns he has battled problems with his weight and corresponding injuries that limited him to 20 of 32 games. After looking downright out of shape in ‘15, Lacy slimmed down and ran hard last year before an ankle injury felled him.
The Packers had seen enough, but the Seahawks hope he can recapture his form and provide a power option alongside Thomas Rawls in the backfield. Lacy is a sketchy third back.
LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles: Did you know that Blount led the NFL in rushing TDs (18) last season? Or that only Ezekiel Elliott had more carries than Blount’s 299? The dude is a workhorse. But Blount is also a liability in the passing game, and it’s highly unlikely he’ll approach last year’s production with Darren Sproles a more natural fit for Philly’s dink and dunk style of offense. Still, Blount could serve as your third RB (downgrade to RB4 in PPR formats).
Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings: Just as Lacy replaced Lynch, Murray initially stepped into Peterson’s shoes with the Vikes. It didn’t last. The team drafted Dalvin Cook in the second round, thrusting Murray into a secondary role. Perhaps that’s a better spot for him: he averaged 5.2 YPC as a part timer in ‘14 and only 4.0 YPC as a starter the past two years. Regardless, barring injury to Cook, Murray offers late-round depth.
Jamaal Charles, Denver Broncos: Once counted among the NFL’s elite playmakers, Charles has only suited up eight times over the past two seasons combined due to multiple knee surgeries. He’ll share time with holdovers C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker (once Booker’s healed), making Charles a final-round flier for those with a nostalgic ache.
Danny Woodhead, Baltimore Ravens: It’s officially undervalued time on our list, starting with Woodhead, who is coming off his second catastrophic injury in three years. Granted, that’s not a ringing endorsement, and the 32-year-old’s durability is a red ass flag, but… have you looked at Baltimore’s skill position players lately? Fuuuuuuuuuck. Has beens, never weres, JAGs and Jeremy Maclin (and Mike Wallace if you’re feeling generous).
Woodhead could clean up on inside handoffs, check downs and screens. He caught 80 balls, topped 1,000 yards and scored nine times in 2015. He could surpass that, if he can stay healthy. Let’s call him an RB3 with RB2 upside in the PPR world.
Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots: Gillislee was a perfect complement to LeSean McCoy last year. Now, Gillislee gets to step in as the nominal No. 1 back in New England. We say nominal because he won’t get the type of touches that a lot of top backs will, but he should be the most valuable option out of the Pats backfield. Bill Belichick is adept at identifying guys that fit roles, and he ponied up to get the 26-year-old out of Buffalo. Gillislee is an intriguing third back.
STILL OUT THERE
Ryan Mathews, UFA: A former first-round pick, Mathews is a talented back that simply cannot stay on the field. He was effective during a two-year stint with the Eagles, and it’s a virtual lock he’ll be scooped up after Week One so that his 2017 salary won’t be guaranteed. Watch list.
DeAngelo Williams, UFA: Effective as a stopgap/backup alongside Le’Veon Bell the past two seasons, the 34-year-old Williams hasn’t found a home yet. At this stage he’ll probably be an emergency option when someone loses one of their backs. Maybe a watch list designation to see where he lands, if he even does.
Chris Johnson, UFA: Cut by the Cardinals last week, there’s a chance Johnson could latch on somewhere else. The more likely scenario is that he’s done.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which running back from the 2017 free agency class is on your radar.