Fantasy football rookie preview: Running backs

Fantasy football rookie preview: Running backs

Rookie Analysis

Fantasy football rookie preview: Running backs

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Now that we have had some time to digest the NFL draft and its aftermath, us fantasy footballers are excitedly waiting to add some of the rookies to our fake teams. Deciding which players have fantasy worth in 2019 comes down to assessing the likelihood of meaningful playing time. The following players are ranked in order of anticipated opportunity and corresponding value.

Rookie previews: QB | WR | TE

Running backs

(Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)

Josh Jacobs | Oakland Raiders | 5-10, 216 | Alabama

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Alabama
15
85
567
4
14
156
0
2017
Alabama
12
46
284
1
14
168
2
2018
Alabama
15
120
640
11
20
247
3

Never the full-time guy, or even the 2018 starter at Alabama, Jacobs went in Round 1 as one of Oakland’s three picks in the opening stanza. The retirement of Marshawn Lynch leaves Jacobs in the driver’s seat of his 2019 fantasy destiny. Oakland beefed up its offensive line and drastically upgraded the receiving corps to take pressure off of the rookie.

Can he hold up to the challenge of a substantial workload? How much will Doug Martin, Jalen Richard and/or DeAndre Washington be worked into the fold? Will Jon Gruden get too pass-happy with his new receiving corps? As you can see, several questions are present regarding Jacobs’ worth. In all likelihood, he’s the top fantasy back of 2019’s rookie class based on opportunity alone. He’s more versatile than the stats indicate, and Gruden always loves a workhorse. Jacobs is an RB2 in most fantasy settings.

David Montgomery | Chicago Bears | 5-11, 219 | Iowa State

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Iowa State
12
109
563
2
13
129
0
2017
Iowa State
13
258
1146
11
36
296
0
2018
Iowa State
12
257
1216
13
22
157
0

Mike Davis came over in the offseason with a fairly lucrative deal, considering how little he has accomplished in the NFL. Jordan Howard was shipped to Philly in the offseason, and Montgomery brings his versatile skills to the Windy City as the likely starting half of a pairing with Tarik Cohen.

Injuries have to be a concern for Cohen, and should he go down, Montgomery is a three-down back in an instant. The rookie will fit well into this system, and the only thing really holding him back from maximizing his touches is absorbing the nuances of the playbook. There is a lot to like about Montgomery’s situation as a low-tier RB2 in all typical fantasy formats.

(Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports)

Darrell Henderson | Los Angeles Rams | 5-9, 200 | Memphis

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Memphis
13
87
482
5
20
237
3
2017
Memphis
12
130
1154
9
24
226
2
2018
Memphis
13
214
1909
22
19
295
3

Henderson is a home run waiting to happen, and there will be opportunities for him to contribute, per general manager Les Snead. Furthermore, Todd Gurley’s knee could cost him time seemingly at any moment, and Henderson is more than just a handcuff to the star.

He has value for non-Gurley owners looking to make speculative buys of players in rewarding situations. Henderson has RB4 draft value in just about every format, regardless of whether Gurley is on your roster. That value could skyrocket into the low-end RB1 stock if Gurley misses extensive time. Henderson’s workload will be dependent on Gurley’s availability and the coaching staff’s desire to work the do-all veteran.

Justice Hill | Baltimore Ravens | 5-10, 185 | Oklahoma State

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Oklahoma State
13
206
1142
6
5
46
0
2017
Oklahoma State
13
268
1467
15
31
190
1
2018
Oklahoma State
10
158
930
9
13
68
0

Capable of doing damage on the ground and through the air, Hill makes for a dangerous change-of-pace to Mark Ingram and brings an explosive element to the backfield. There will be competition for touches, and Lamar Jackson is always a threat to steal fantasy points. Hill could be thrust into a prominent role if Ingram goes down or trips up off of the field again.

In the age of compartmentalized backfields, players with clearly defined roles are easier to play in some sense. When there isn’t a great deal of competition for pass-down touches for Hill, he becomes safer within in his narrow role. And it never hurts that he can go the distance on almost any touch. Think RB3 if he outright wins this role in camp, and if he doesn’t, it’s likely only a matter of time before his talent wins out, pushing Hill down to the RB4 territory.

Tony Pollard | Dallas Cowboys | 6-0, 208 | Memphis

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Memphis
13
31
159
1
29
298
2
2017
Memphis
13
30
230
2
36
536
4
2018
Memphis
14
78
552
6
39
458
3

Pollard isn’t an elite receiver but is more than capable of making noise. What stands out from his film and usage is his ability to generate yardage in the open field as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Ezekiel Elliott needs a breather now and again, and Jason Garrett’s desire to creatively get the most out of limited handles for his backups suggests Pollard will be a factor. While his draft-day value is its greatest in PPR (RB4), there’s no reason to ignore him in standard scoring.

(Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports)

Devin Singletary | Buffalo Bills | 5-9, 200 | FAU

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Florida Atlantic
12
152
1021
12
26
163
0
2017
Florida Atlantic
14
301
1920
32
19
198
1
2018
Florida Atlantic
12
261
1348
22
6
36
0

Crazy production in school … that’s what jumps off the screen. A jump-cut style with versatility in the passing game, despite what the stats show, Singletary plays quite a bit like LeSean McCoy, his new teammate. With McCoy entering his age-31 season, and Frank Gore being north of the century mark, it’s not a far mental leap to see Singletary touching the ball 150 times in 2019. He’ll need a helping hand, of course, so tab him as a sleeper and a handcuff to Shady for now.

Alexander Mattison | Minnesota Vikings | 5-11, 210 | Boise State

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Boise State
13
67
328
4
5
54
0
2017
Boise State
14
212
1086
12
28
284
1
2018
Boise State
13
302
1415
17
27
173
0

There’s a huge opportunity for Mattison with the loss of Latavius Murray in free agency. The Boise State rook has skills in the passing game, and he may be the primary backup to Dalvin Cook. Elevated injury concerns surrounding the third-year back make Mattison a priority rookie target as not just a handcuff but an RB4 with more potential in PPR. As long as Cook his healthy, it appears unlikely Mattison will have a major share of the touches.

Damien Harris | New England Patriots | 5-10, 214 | Alabama

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2015
Alabama
12
46
157
1
4
13
0
2016
Alabama
15
146
1037
2
14
99
2
2017
Alabama
14
135
1000
11
12
91
0
2018
Alabama
15
150
876
9
22
204
0

Harris’ downhill style gives New England another option for its rotation, and it could make Rex Burkhead a casualty to the numbers game. James White and Sony Michel are locked in as the top pair in this backfield. The evolution of this system will continue to rely on the ground game and short-area passing to keep Tom Brady on the field at 42 years old. Harris should be at least a marginal factor in this game plan. Finding consistency for fantasy utilization could be the troublesome consideration. Harris has DFS potential and could be the primary back if something happens to Michel. Treat the rookie as an RB4 with room for more.

Ryquell Armstead | Jacksonville Jaguars | 5-11, 215 | Temple

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2015
Temple
13
51
191
2
2
7
0
2016
Temple
13
156
919
14
5
41
0
2017
Temple
13
156
604
5
14
75
0
2018
Temple
10
210
1098
13
8
52
0

No one should be comfortable with drafting Leonard Fournette at this point. There are just too many red flags. Sure, everything could align and lead to a strong season, but it won’t come without considerable risk. Backing him up is veteran Alfred Blue, whose game is built around trying hard to overcome an inferior skill set. He has averaged north of 4.0 yards per carry just once in his five pro seasons. Armstead isn’t a special talent. In fact, one could argue he’s a lot like Blue in that regard. He is, at the very least, fresh legs and has no pro tape to work against him. There is a viable path for touches in a run-oriented system.

(Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports)

Miles Sanders | Philadelphia Eagles | 5-11, 215 | Penn State

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Penn State
13
25
184
1
2
24
1
2017
Penn State
12
31
191
2
6
30
0
2018
Penn State
13
220
1274
9
24
139
0

Sanders is quite talented and can do a little bit of everything. However, gamers are looking at a dicey situation for fantasy consistency. Jordan Howard was acquired via trade, which should give him a longer leash. Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams all flashed at times in 2018, although none of them are guaranteed a roster spot. Given the nature of how Doug Pederson utilizes running backs, it would be wise to keep expectations for Sanders in check.

Benny Snell | Pittsburgh Steelers | 5-11, 225 | Kentucky

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Kentucky
13
186
1091
13
2
39
0
2017
Kentucky
13
262
1333
19
10
72
0
2018
Kentucky
13
289
1449
16
17
105
0

Snell screams “Steelers running back” and could be a fantasy darling if something happens to James Conner. The one-time Le’Veon Bell backup was a fantasy stud while on the field last year, although injuries are a concern. Pittsburgh may not want to overuse Conner, either, which opens the door for Snell. It’s probably not enough to matter in fantasy, however. Don’t forget about Jaylen Samuels, either. Snell is merely a late-round handcuff.

Jordan Scarlett | Carolina Panthers | 5-10, 213 | Florida

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2015
Florida
9
34
181
1
1
1
0
2016
Florida
13
179
889
6
4
23
0
2018
Florida
13
131
776
5
10
84
0

Christian McCaffrey is a bona fide stud in fantasy, and he also is a man without a clear backup. Cameron Artis-Payne hasn’t proven capable of being a viable replacement in the event he’s called into sustained action. Scarlett isn’t special by any means, and he’ll be used mostly in obvious running situations. He’s in a decent situation because of the potential for touches, so keep him in mind late in drafts even if McCaffrey isn’t on your team.

Qadree Ollison | Atlanta Falcons | 6-1, 232 | Pittsburgh

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2015
Pittsburgh
13
212
1121
11
14
77
1
2016
Pittsburgh
13
33
127
2
2
38
0
2017
Pittsburgh
12
90
398
5
23
194
2
2018
Pittsburgh
14
194
1213
11
11
66
0

Ollison is a little better receiver than the stats show, and he has a nose for the end zone. Two productive seasons sandwiched a pair of years with limited handles. He brings size and fits a need for the Falcons. Devonta Freeman hasn’t remained healthy in the last few years, and Ito Smith was shaky in his rookie effort. No more Tevin Coleman means Ollison realistically is an injury away from being no less than half of a starting duo. Consider him a viable sleeper target, particularly in standard-scoring formats.

(Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports)

Myles Gaskin | Miami Dolphins | 5-9, 190 | Washington

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2015
Washington
13
227
1302
14
6
19
0
2016
Washington
14
237
1373
10
19
137
1
2017
Washington
13
222
1380
21
19
232
3
2018
Washington
12
259
1268
12
21
77
1

Despite being highly productive in school, Gaskin’s game doesn’t translate particularly well to the NFL’s speed. In the right situation, he could carve out a “try-hard role” for himself. His chances for an impact improve if Kalen Ballage struggles as as the power back of this offense. Keep an eye on the offseason roles and progression for each player. Gaskin’s ceiling is somewhere in the neighborhood of an occasional flex play if given a regular opportunity.

Darwin Thompson | Kansas City Chiefs | 5-8, 200 | Utah State

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2018
Utah State
13
153
1044
14
23
351
2

Thompson was immensely productive in his lone NCAA season and brings versatility to the KC offense. He could find a role with a strong offseason or an injury to Damien Williams (never been a full-time guy) or Carlos Hyde (lengthy injury history). Darrel Williams could stand in his way for meaningful work, however. Tuck away Thompson’s name in shallow leagues but add him late in deeper formats.

Trayveon Williams | Cincinnati Bengals | 5-9, 200 | Texas A&M

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Texas A&M
13
156
1057
8
19
91
0
2017
Texas A&M
12
173
798
8
20
192
0
2018
Texas A&M
13
271
1760
18
27
278
1

One of Cincy’s two sixth-round running backs, Williams was extremely productive in 2018 but also consistently capable in the prior years. There is upside here, specifically if something happens to either Joe Mixon or Gio Bernard, but Williams isn’t worthy of a draft choice in any typical format.

Bryce Love | Washington Redskins | 5-10, 196 | Stanford

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2015
Stanford
14
29
226
2
15
250
1
2016
Stanford
12
111
783
3
8
83
1
2017
Stanford
13
263
2118
19
6
33
0
2018
Stanford
10
166
739
6
20
99
0

Coming off of an ACL tear, he should be on track to play early in 2019. It may take until late in the year before Love is close to his 2017 self. He struggled with an ankle injury in 2018, and Washington has four theoretically capable running backs with his inclusion to the backfield — five if you haven’t given up on Samaje Perine yet. Don’t be shocked if 2019 is mostly a redshirt year for Love.

(Greg Bartram, USA TODAY Sports)

Mike Weber | Dallas Cowboys | 5-10, 212 | Ohio State

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Ohio State
13
182
1096
9
23
91
0
2017
Ohio State
12
101
626
10
10
94
0
2018
Ohio State
13
172
954
5
21
112
1

Weber is mostly just a dude and may not make it out of camp. Ezekiel Elliott’s massive workload opens the door for increased injury probability, so Weber could see time if something goes awry with Zeke. Tony Pollard’s versatility should hold off any summer charge from Weber.

Travis Homer | Seattle Seahawks | 5-11, 195 | Miami (Fla.)

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Miami (Fla.)
12
7
44
0
0
0
0
2017
Miami (Fla.)
13
163
966
8
18
219
1
2018
Miami (Fla.)
13
164
985
4
19
186
0

Without an injury to Rashaad Penny or Chris Carson, Homer is looking at an occasional role as a change-up back due to his varied style from the former two — assuming he can beat out C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic.

Rodney Anderson | Cincinnati Bengals | 6-1, 220 | Oklahoma

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2015
Oklahoma
2
1
5
0
0
0
0
2017
Oklahoma
14
188
1161
13
17
281
5
2018
Oklahoma
2
11
119
3
0
0
0

Behind Mixon and Bernard, Anderson will compete for a spot with fellow sixth-round rookie Trayveon Williams. The latter is an accomplished receiver, though Anderson isn’t a slouch in this area, either. Monitor the offseason progress, but he’s likely no more than a mental note in case something happens to Mixon.

Dexter Williams | Green Bay Packers | 5-11, 215 | Notre Dame

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2015
Notre Dame
7
21
81
1
0
0
0
2016
Notre Dame
12
39
200
3
4
16
0
2017
Notre Dame
10
39
360
4
2
13
1
2018
Notre Dame
9
158
995
12
16
133
1

Williams will vie for the No. 3 role behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Stash his name in case of an injury and leave him on the wire during your fantasy draft.

Kerrith Whyte Jr. | Chicago Bears | 5-10, 200 | FAU

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2016
Florida Atlantic
11
43
145
1
5
21
0
2017
Florida Atlantic
14
55
347
2
7
46
0
2018
Florida Atlantic
12
134
866
8
10
160
2

A seventh-rounder, Whyte brings 4.38 speed to the Bears and a versatile skill set. While he wasn’t used much as a receiver in college, his receiving ability during a workout for the Bears helped Whyte’s stock. His likely 2019 role, provided he makes the final roster, is as a special teamer.

Ty Johnson | Detroit Lions | 5-10, 208 | Maryland

Year
Team
GP
Att
Yards
TDs
Rec
Yards
TDs
2015
Maryland
12
35
250
3
2
30
0
2016
Maryland
13
110
1004
6
16
206
1
2017
Maryland
12
137
875
5
5
60
1
2018
Maryland
9
66
506
3
6
22
0

Johnson is likely training camp fodder or practice squad material, with Detroit having three capable backs firmly locked in ahead of him. There’s little reason to consider the rookie to be anything of interest in fantasy at this time.

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