By Nick Guarisco
To get you ready for your fantasy football draft, DIG’s fantasy football expert Nick Guarisco will break down every position with the best fantasy football insight around. Strap on your helmets and pass the chicken wings – it’s game time!
In order to cover the vast field of fantasy football’s most important and scarce position as efficiently as possible, here is a short breakdown of how I view each team’s backfield situation:
ARI = Andre Ellington is a huge injury risk, as he’s not built to carry the full load as a starter. But in that role last season, he was RB9 before being placed on IR after 11 games. Thus, I expect Ellington to be a bargain at his fifth round ADP this season. I’m projecting he’ll assume the same role and play well as long as he’s healthy. He won’t score many TDs, but he can be explosive and a great asset in the passing game (bump up in PPR). I’m not worried about rookie backup David Johnson, yet.
ATL = RBBC (running back by committee). Avoid.
BAL = The only system the 30-year-old Justin Forsett has thrived in is Gary Kubiak’s, who is now in Denver. I’m passing on Forsett this season. A lot of experts are citing new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman’s tendency to flood his RBs with catches, and the fact Forsett was a top-10 RB last season. But I’m not entirely convinced he isn’t a one-year-wonder. Will Trestman view him the same as the old coaching staff? Will the bigger backup Talliaferro vulture goal line carries from the smallish Forsett? I’m not sure, so I’d rather not risk it with my third round pick.
BUF = Somehow going in the first round of drafts, I have a third round grade on LeSean McCoy. Sure, the former Philadelphia Eagle will get a ton of touches, but the Bills’ offensive line is atrocious. Last year we saw what happened when McCoy had to run behind a lesser O-line: injuries on the Eagles’ O-line had a direct, negative impact on his performance last season. Also, the Bills have no quarterback that can give McCoy red zone opportunities. And when he gets to the goal line, will he be pulled for a bigger, less hesitant back? There are too many red flags to justify his ADP.
CAR = Obvious injury risk, but Jonathan Stewart is not getting enough fantasy love. His strong finish in the Panthers’ final seven game including playoffs prorates to RB7. DeAngelo Williams being gone means this is Stewart’s backfield. Plays an easy schedule, too.
CHI = Matt Forte, one of the most consistent backs over the years, may finally take a tumble due to heavy mileage and a new coaching staff. John Fox has a tendency to split the workload, and Trestman is no longer there to force-feed him catches.
CIN = I’m operating under the mindset that Jeremy Hill is the starter here, and Gio Bernard is merely a third down/scat back. The former LSU stud finished strongly in 2014, leading the NFL in rushing and YPC in his final 9 games.
CLE = RBBC. Avoid.
DAL = Likely a RBBC, but too early to tell. Joe Randle is a good bet to lead this team in carries. Behind a dominant O-line, I like the idea of taking the boom-or-bust Randle as a flex play in the mid-rounds, but I’m not relying on him as an #2 RB nor am I reaching for him at this point.
DEN = No one can deny C.J. Anderson’s upside as the lead back in Gary Kubiak’s proven zone-blocking system. But I’m risk-averse in rounds 1-2. We need to see how the workload will be divided up. Montee Ball busted last season, but he’s no slouch and could thrive in new system. At the very least, handcuff Anderson with Ball.
DET = Joique Bell remains the between-the-tackles and goal line back, but he’s coming back from two offseason surgeries. He’ll split the load with sensational rookie Ameer Abdullah. Both are probably worth 5th round picks in what should be a good offense. Abullah could be a PPR monster.
GB = Eddie Lacy is a top-3 pick and a near lock for double digit TDs in Green Bay’s offense. Cuff him with James Starks!
HOU = RBBC. Avoid. But select Arian Foster if he passes round 6. He could return sooner than we think.
IND = Frank Gore is 32, but has massive upside as the Colts’ primary back. Gore’s one of those guys who could make or break drafts. I’m betting more for him than against, but I don’t blame you either way.
JAX = RBBC. Avoid. I’m thinking T.J. Yeldon splits touches with Denard Robinson.
KC = Charles is a good bet to improve on his RB8 rank last season. He’s in my top-3. ‘Cuff him with Kniles Davis!
MIA = I expect similar numbers for Lamar Miller. He’s a great #2 RB, but he’ll still share some of the workload.
MIN = RBBC. Avoid. Just kidding. Adrian Peterson is still pretty good at football. He’s a top-3 pick for me and arguably #1 (albeit a more dangerous bet with a higher ceiling). ‘Cuff him with Jerick McKinnon!
NE = RBBC. Avoid.
NO = Ingram was RB13 in games Pierre Thomas played, but RB6 without him. C.J. Spiller > PT Cruiser. Ingram is a solid #2 RB because he’ll cross the stripe 8+ times, but I wouldn’t expect a further breakout. Spiller could be a PPR star, but I’d steer clear in standard leagues.
NYG = RBBC. Avoid.
NYJ = Chris Ivory has mega sleeper appeal. He seems like the lead back in Chan Gailey’s historically potent offense. No problem taking him before his current 6th round ADP.
OAK = Latavius Murray is a nice boom-or-bust flex option, but the unproven athletic specimen is hard to trust as a #2 RB.
PHI = I’m not touching DeMarco Murray because I think Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles will get a lot more touches than people think.
PIT = I’m lower on Le’Veon Bell than most. He’s my RB5. Suspended two games. Shredded some bad defenses down the stretch and plays a much more difficult schedule and averaged 2.7 YPC in final three games. Like him more in PPR, though.
SD = Rookie Melvin Gordon will yield passing down work to Danny Woodhead. I’m not a fan of San Diego’s offensive line either.
SF = Not trusting Carlos Hyde. He’s a 2-down back on a losing team, and Reggie Bush may out-snap him as a result.
SEA = Lynch was less effective (RB6) without center Max Unger last season,
STL = RBBC. Avoid. Draft rookie Todd Gurley next year.
TB = After a strong offseason, Doug Martin is a nice mid-round flier in rounds 7-9. Charles Sims is simply a pass-catching back. Take advantage of the foolish owners who have been burned by Martin the last two seasons.
TEN = RBBC. Avoid.
WAS = Morris is being undersold. A top-15 RB in the last three years in a contract year with OL guru Bill Callahan and top rookie OG Brandon Scherff helping to pave the way. Was RB9 in games played with RG3 last season. Great #2 RB.
Fun Fact: Only three of the Top-10 RBs within the last two years (3/20) have played on teams with losing records. Use this as a tie-breaker when torn between two players.