In last week’s edition of “Stromme the Way”, I touched on the notion that you can’t win your league in the first round, but you can easily lose your league if your first-round pick doesn’t hit, which is why I preached dependability and drafting borderline-boring picks early. Make sure you know what you’re getting in the early stages of the draft.
The latter rounds, starting around round eight or so, is where you need to take shots. Draft upside later on in your draft. The teams that win, win with the Emmanuel Sanders’ and Odell Beckham’s of the world. Players that outplay their ADP are what make this game great.
Today, I’m going to look at five running backs that are going in the eight, ninth, sometimes tenth round that have major upside. Each one of these running backs has the potential to take their respective backfields by storm and run away with, potentially, three-down work.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets
This guy is probably the most underrated of the bunch. It seems like NOBODY wants this guy. He perpetually slips in just about every draft I’ve done this season. He is a hard, physical runner who will see, at the very least, early-down action that could evolve into a three-down back. His 6′ 222 lb frame is more than capible of handling the load of a bellcow.
Until Stevan Ridley comes back from injury (reports suggest he will start the season on the PUP), Ivory’s main competition for carries are the underwhelming Zac Stacy and Bilal Powell. Powell, who is likely to presume the passing-down duties, is the only one who could potentially throw a wrench into the notion of Ivory being a three-down guy.
During the Jets’ Week 2 preseason game against the Falcons, Ivory caught three passes in what essentially was a quarter and a half of action. Granted, it was only preseason and Powell was out there for the blatantly-obvious passing downs, but could this be the beginning of Ivory taking on a larger role with the Jets? Do Todd Bowles and Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey see something in Ivory that the previous regime did not? For fantasy purposes, I sure hope so.
Ivory’s two previous seasons with the Jets have looked like this:
Even with the likes of Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell taking snaps away from him, he still managed 800+ yards in back-to-back seasons. Even if his carries receive a slight up-tick, say he gets 230 or so carries, that would put him over 900 yards if he were to stay true to his average of around 4.4 yards per carry. Pair that with a few extra touchdowns and you’re looking at very solid RB2 production that can be had in the middle of your draft.
Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
In a draft chock-full of rookie running backs that seem poised for stardom, Ameer Abdullah seems to be the forgotten one.
The first-year running back out of Nebraska has done nothing but impress in the Motor City this training camp. He’s turning heads, even opposing coaches have taken notice.
“He looks like he did in college… He’s about as quick as Barry Sanders. I’m not saying he’s Barry, but he’s a good running back,” said New York Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles following a Week 1 preseason loss to Abdullah’s Lions.
Abdullah finished the game with 67 yards on seven carries, including a 45-yard run between the tackles that you’vemore than likely seen on SportsCenter more than once.
Abdullah is, by far, the most talented running back the Lions have. Joique Bell and the 3.9 yards per
carry do not belong in a feature role, and Theo Riddick and his 29 career carries show that he isn’t that much more experienced than Abdullah. Besides, I think the Lions see Riddick more as a slot receiver than a running back, let alone a potential feature back.
The Lions’ internal depth chart, according to The Detroit Free Press, has Theo Riddick at number one, but many believe this to be a tactic to have the rookie “earn his keep”. We all know what Abdullah can do, he will be the feature back in Detroit sooner or later. He is a complete and utter steal in the middle rounds.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Let’s go back to the year 2012 for a bit. There was the potential end of the Mayan Calendar, Gagnam Style, kids in backwards Mitchell and Ness snap-backs saying awkward phrases like “Yolo” and “swag”, and there was Doug Martin’s rookie year.
In case you forget, Martin finished his rookie campaign to the tune of 319/1,454/11 with 49/472/1 receiving. That’s right, RB1 numbers.
In the two seasons to follow, Martin has been…well, a disappointment. Hell, he combined for 262/950/3 with 25/130/0 in 17 games since 2012. Not a good look for a running back who looked like a player who would be perennially drafted in the first round.
It seems like many owners are treating the running back formally known as “muscle hamster” like a piece of under-cooked chicken that gave them food poisoning, turning them off poultry for good. I’ve seen Martin go as late as the 11th round, that’s nuts! Chicken is delicious when properly prepared and cooked, and the same approach should be taken when drafting Doug Martin. Yes, he may have burned you big-time if you drafted him in the first round in 2013, but you can’t let one bad experience ruin your appetite for a running back that is still only 26-years-old with plenty of upside. He is a relatively late, great value.
Charlie Sims will be taking on the passing-down duties in Tampa, but Martin is the clear-cut favorite for early down and goal line work. He should end the year, if he stays healthy, with around 200-220 carries. That would be easy RB2 numbers if the reports of a slimmed down Doug Martin looking like his old self are true. Why not take a chance? I know that I will be looking his way.
Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons.
The Tevin Coleman hype-train had potential to go off the tracks early in the draft season. However, a hamstring injury and, what appears to be his time-share partner, Devonta Freeman have virtually locked-down a RBBC of sorts for the Falcons going into Week 1.
Don’t let the vaunted running back-by-committee fool you, I’m confident that Coleman will achieve feature back status by season’s end. The rookie is a physically gifted, one-cut runner with a 6’1″ 210 lb. frame. A perfect fit for a Kyle Shanahan offense.
In 2014, Shanahan’s Browns ran over 60% of the time in the red zone. Coleman profiles as the
between-the-tackles runner that should see a good portion of carries inside enemy territory. The touchdown numbers will be there forColeman, committee or not.
When drafting Coleman, use the RBBC stigma to your advantage. He has the ability to take the job and run. The ninth or tenth round is a fantastic spot to take a running back who has the potential to be a three-down guy. The committee, the hamstring injury in camp, and the overall uncertainty with drafting a rookie running back, all pose as a buying opportunity. Draft Coleman for his ability, let everyone else worry about the question marks.
Alfred Blue, Houston Texans.
Despite Arian Foster going down, for what appears to be, an extended period of time, people still aren’t giving Alfred Blue his due. The second-year running back may not have much by means of natural ability, but as long as Foster is out of the lineup, he’s the bellcow.
In Week 11 of last year, a game in which Arian Foster was inactive, Blue ran for a stat line of 36/156/0 against Cleveland. That’s almost unheard of! Bill O’Brien fed Blue the ball like he was at Golden Corral and running the ball was the only thing at the buffet.
Now, there’s no way Blue (or any running back, for that matter) will see 36 carries a game. This isn’t the 1940s. The Texans do seem dead-set on using whoever they have at running back in a three-down type of way. In Week 1 of the preseason, Blue saw nine carries for 59 yards, all of which came with Brian Hoyer and the first-team offense. Chris Polk and Kenny Hillard haven’t shown enough to really challenge Blue for the interim starting gig. This job is Blue’s until Foster comes back.
In a best-case scenario, Foster won’t be back until early October, and that’s if minor miracles happen along the way. The original timetable given to Foster, a second-half return, is more likely. Grabbing a guy who will get a boat-load of carries for half a season seems like a pretty decent value in the round ten.
Well, that does it for this week’s edition of “Stromme the Way”. Next week, we order off the value menu and look at late-round flyers who could prove to pay dividends.
Until then, cheers!
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday August 30th from 11-1pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Sports Show sponsored by the Sports PaloozaRadio Network. Call in live at 646-915-8596. This week we will discuss the offenses of the Giants, Saints, Chargers, Raiders, and Jets. Defensively we will discuss the Rams, Vikings, Texans, Dolphins, and Bills. If it’s fantasy football relevant we will discuss it.