“Big Rigg” Running To Greener Pastures
In my last piece I discussed quarterbacks with new homes for the 2017 season. This week, I will break down the running backs who have left their 2016 homes for greener pastures. DeMarco Murray looked like his career was over while playing for the Eagles in 2015. Murray signed with the Tennessee Titans before the 2016 season and needless to say, there was no hype around him on draft day. If anything, it was questioned whether drafters were wasting a pick by selecting Murray at all, fearing he was washed up, especially with the Titans selection of Derrick Henry in the draft. Murray rebounded nicely, rushing for 1,287 yards, becoming a top 5 fantasy running back and paying huge dividends for those who had faith in him.
In 2016 the hype train for Lamar Miller was out of control even though the Texans offensive line was in shambles. For years, fantasy football analysts questioned why the Miami coaching staff disliked Miller, refusing to unleash him for 300+ carries given his high yards per attempt. Last year, the Texans paid Miller like a workhorse running back, and they attempted to use him as such. However, the attempt to use Miller as the foundation of the offense proved he could not maintain a full workload throughout the course of a full season. Miller had a decent RB2 season last year, but he didn’t live up to the Adrian Peterson-like hype he was getting, so he was viewed by some as a bust.
Moving forward to 2017, there are several running backs who have found new homes, some of whom may believe the grass is greener outside of their former team. Will one of these running backs be 2017’s DeMarco Murray? Whose hype train will be out of control this summer like Lamar Miller in 2016? From Marshawn Lynch to Rex Burkhead, hopefully this article helps you see through the hype. For reference, all ADP’s listed below are based on Fantasy Football Calculator ADP for 12 team leagues.
Eddie Lacy is 27 years old and coming off a season plagued by an ankle injury. Lacy signed with the Seahawks and has a weight clause in his contract. Controlling his weight should help him keep his lower body healthy with less pressure on those joints. Lacy has been in the league since 2013 and has only logged 788 carries to this point in his career. Even with his excessive weight in 2016, Lacy was at 5.1 yards per carry before he went down for the year. Lacy has a career average of 4.4 yards per carry in a pass happy Green Bay attack.
The Packers aren’t typically known for their offensive line because their offense is so focused on the passing game. But in 2016, they had the #5 offense line in the NFL according to PFF rankings. Lacy will go from running behind a top 5 offensive line to the 32nd ranked offensive line in football. The Seahawks did make some improvements to the unit in the offseason, but they aren’t going to be world beaters in the matter of one year. The Seahawks are much more committed to the run than the Packers ever were, but the questionable offensive line is going to make me pump the breaks while pondering whether to select Eddie Lacy in the 5th round in standard leagues and the 6th in PPR. At the end of the day, if Lacy is your RB2 and you already have a nice RB1 and 3 solid wide receivers to roll out there with him, then you will be ok.
Latavius Murray is 27 years old and has played behind one of the best offensive lines in professional football his entire career. Even though Murray ran behind the #4 offensive line in football last year, he still only popped off 4.0 yards per carry, which is extremely average. Murray was an RB2 last year but he was extremely touchdown dependent, racking up 12 of them, a number which isn’t likely to repeat in his new home, Minnesota.
Murray is an extremely upright runner and opens himself up to some hits because of it. Murray has no concussion history prior to the NFL, but he’s had 2 of them since he started getting consistent work in 2015. Murray has also been nursing ankle, toe and foot injuries since 2013. He had ankle surgery this offseason and has fallen behind Dalvin Cook in OTA’s because he simply hasn’t been able to participate. Murray currently has a 7th round ADP in standard and 8th round ADP in PPR, and at that point, I am willing to forego Murray and draft a running back with upside in the 7th or 8th round. Murray is what he is, and he is going to be running behind a much lesser offensive line than he did last year. Unless you go all in on the Vikings backfield this year and draft Dalvin Cook, I would let somebody else draft Latavius Murray.
Beast Mode aka Marshawn Lynch is now 31 years old and has 2,144 carries to his name in his NFL career. The last memory people have of Beast Mode is an injury riddled 2015 season where he played behind a declining Seahawks offensive line. Even though he’s 31 and has been out of the league for a year, he is coming back to a top 5 offensive line and will be playing with arguably the best quarterback and skill players he’s ever been paired with in his career. Marshawn has never been a burner, and his career yards per carry is 4.3 so it’s not like he’s dependent on 4.3 wheels to break off 50 yard runs to have success. Lynch will have a real red zone presence this year, and if he looks like he’s running well in the preseason, then his 2nd round price tag in both PPR and standard leagues looks to be fair market value. Personally, I want to watch Lynch play in a preseason game to see that he still has some quickness before I invest a pick in back who spent the entire 2016 season filming commercials in Scotland. If you are drafting in the top 5 of your draft and you start the first two rounds by drafting Le’Veon Bell and Marshawn Lynch, or Odell Beckham Jr. and Marshawn Lynch, that would be a pretty good start.
Jamaal Charles is now 30 years old but has never taken the pounding of a traditional feature running back. Charles has only accrued 1,332 carries to date and only 93 of those came between the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He hasn’t seen consistent meaningful action since 2014. That is a red flag for some, but it’s also a positive in the wear and tear department. Charles has never been a pounder, and if he looks like 90% of the old Jamaal, he may be an intriguing pick come August. Fantasy Football Calculator has Charles coming in with a late 8th round ADP in standard, 9th round in PPR, which means if you want him, you most likely won’t have to draft him to be your RB1 or RB2 and you could draft him to be your #3 back unless you play in an incredibly deep league. Mike McCoy returned to his former role in Denver as offensive coordinator and he loves to throw the ball. Having a pass catcher like Jamaal Charles could make the offense extremely potent, as he brings 285 career catches and a home run threat to the backfield. Keep an eye on Charles in the preseason because if he looks like he still has gas left in the tank, he may be a steal in the 8th round.
Adrian Peterson defied the odds in 2012, returning from a torn ACL in December 2011 to rush for over 2,000 yards. At 32 years of age, can AP defy the odds once again and rebound from an injury plagued 2016 season? You never want to bet against Adrian Peterson because he is a different type of athlete. Peterson is in his own category of elite. Unlike Jamaal Charles, however, Peterson has logged 2,418 carries in his career and has been a between the tackles beater. Although Peterson isn’t known for his pass catching ability, he has logged 241 career catches, which is almost as many as Charles.
Many people will question whether Peterson still has any gas left in the tank, but as recently as 2015 he rushed for 4.5 yards per carry behind a less than stellar offensive line. The Vikings offensive line was atrocious in 2o16 and that a played big role in Peterson’s 1.9 yards per carry and his injured knee. Flush Peterson’s 2016 season from your memory. According to PFF, the Vikings had the 29th best offensive line in the league in 2016 compared to the Saints who had the 12th best line.
If Peterson looks fresh in the preseason and training camp reports are good, his ADP which currently sits around the 4th round in standard and 5th round in PPR is sure to skyrocket. At this time, before I see any preseason action, I am more likely to sit back and let somebody else draft Peterson in the 4th round and take another running back or wide receiver with upside, or a stud quarterback or tight end if they’re available. At this time, players such as Demaryius Thomas, Sammy Watkins, Drew Brees, Travis Kelce and Davante Adams are being drafted near AP. Even if Peterson does look good, he has competition with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, neither of whom are slouches. The Saints backfield could be a tough one to figure out week to week in 2017 and that isn’t something I want to sign up for, at least not at a 4th round price tag. Peterson is usually at his best when he has something to prove, and the Vikings opted to move on from his this offseason, so file that thought away.
Rex Burkhead exploded in week 17 of the regular season with 27 carries for 119 yards, 2 rushing touchdowns and 2 catches for 25 yards. Burkhead is 27 years old, quick, and stands 5’10”, 210 pounds. Burkhead is not a bruiser, but he’s also not your traditional scat back. He’s more like an average guy with above average quicks. Burkhead has logged only 87 career carries and 34 catches. He simply doesn’t have the body of work to show he can be an every down back, other than having one good game. Burkhead is, however, an average football player who can play special teams and fill a role when needed. So, he’s the perfect Patriot. Burkhead is currently going in the 14th round of drafts and that might be a rich price considering the Patriots have Mike Gillislee, Dion Lewis and James White already on the roster. At this time, Burkhead is somebody you should likely pass on in drafts unless you are in extremely deep leagues that draft 20 rounds. Burkhead is somebody you should monitor on the waiver wire, because if Lewis, Gillislee or White goes down, Burkhead could be in for a big day. It’s the Patriots backfield, and if anybody claims to know what will happen with them in 2017, they’re lying.
Sticking with the Patriots, Mike Gillislee was signed away from the Bills this offseason and looks to assume the LeGarrette Blount’s role in the Patriots offense. But, what is that role really? Blount was extremely touchdown dependent in 2016, and was used as a battering ram in specific games. Gillislee is not the same player as Blount. He weighs in around 40 pounds less, has never had more than 101 carries in a season, and he has never performed in more than spot duty.
All that being said, while it is unlikely Gillislee will get the ball 300 times this year, he will most likely get the ball 10-12 times per game and receive the goal line carries. Gillislee may have more upside than Blount because of his high yards per attempt (5.6 ypc over 154 career carries) and is more likely to break a long one than LeGarrette. Gillislee is currently being drafted in the 5th round in standard leagues and 6th in PPR. I think this manifests the false hope that LeGarrette Blount’s stats will transfer directly over to him. I am not willing to pay this price for a Patriots running back, especially one who has such a limited body of work. I am going to sit back and let other owners draft Gillislee at his current ADP, and I will most likely draft guys like Brandon Marshall, Andrew Luck, Ameer Abdullah and Eddie Lacy instead. It all comes down to usage. Gillislee will have a few good games this year where he gets a decent number of carries due to the game plan. But you need to ask yourself if you’re willing to live with the weeks he doesn’t get many carries or try to predict when the Patriots are going to game plan through him.
LeGarrette Blount is now 30 years old and at 250 pounds, you need to question how much longer he can be effective. Blount played behind one of the best offensive lines in pro football in 2016 and still only averaged 3.9 yards per carry while rarely seeing an 8 man box due to Mr. Tom Brady under center. Blount was extremely touchdown dependent, racking up 18 of them, and is currently being drafted in the 5th round in PPR leagues and the 4th round in standard. At that price, Blount will surely need to be your RB2, possibly your RB1 if you wait on the position. Blount is sure to have some regression in the touchdown department and will be playing in a less potent offense. With his stature, Blount is the type of running back whose production is likely to fall off quickly, and I don’t want to have any ownership of that when it happens.
Danny Woodhead is now 32 years old. But throughout his career, he’s been spared of wear and tear since he was used primarily as a pass catching back. Woodhead has amassed only 770 career touches, 267 of which were receptions. Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta have departed Baltimore’s roster. Joe Flacco needs somebody to throw the ball to, and Terrance West hasn’t demonstrated elite pass catching ability. Kenneth Dixon has shown pass catching ability, but he is starting the season on a suspension. Woodhead is currently being drafted in the 6th round in PPR and the 8th in standard. He has an extremely low ceiling because of he will never be that traditional workhorse back, but if you are drafting him extremely late as a flex or RB2 because you chose to attack other positions in the draft, then you need to hope he gets 100 carries, about 60-70 catches and 1,000 total yards on the season which he did in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
The Big Rigg Wrap Up
At this time, Marshawn Lynch is the only running back with a new home in 2017 being drafted in the first two rounds. Lynch is heading into a situation where he is the only back on the roster with the body type to fill an every down and goal line role. When you couple Marshawn’s expected role with the offensive line in Oakland, things may set up for him to run for 1,000 yards and 10+ touchdowns. All of the other running backs on this list are being drafted as either RB2’s, a flex, or bench players based on their current ADP’s so their investment won’t be as valuable. That being said, we really need to pay attention to guys like Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson in the preseason, because if they show life, their ADP may rise on their way to a successful season similar to the one DeMarco Murray had in 2016.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join guest host Andrea LaMont, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday July 9th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #93 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Kyle Kilnker. Kyle is a staple member of majorleaguefantasysports.com, and also a MLFB Champion.
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