2019 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

2019 Fantasy Football Running Back Preview: Running Scared

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Welcome Fantasy freaks and geeks as we continue our 2019 Fantasy Football coverage by previewing each position. Below I give you the 2019 Fantasy Football Running Back Preview.

I get to talk about my favorite and most concentrated position in Fantasy and that is the running back position. I always stock up on running backs. Always. My bench spots are stacked up with as many running backs as the league allows. The running backs could be high upside rookie backs or even handcuffs to my stud backs. Regardless of format, my eyes are on the prize of the running back position.

Additionally, running backs are traditionally the most sought after commodity in trades as well. Desperate teams will overpay for productive running backs so why not have all of them?

What is the best strategy regarding drafting running backs? Which rookie running backs should you target? Who are the biggest reaches this season? Find out the answers to those questions and a whole lot more in the 2019 Fantasy Football Running Back Preview: Running Scared

2019 Fantasy Football Running Back Preview

Get prepared for your draft by doing free five-minute mock drafts against industry experts with custom analysis for your team with the FantasyPros Draft Wizard.

The astute Fantasy owners are always prepping for their upcoming drafts. Fantasy owners continue to watch the player updates, team transactions, conduct mock drafts to practice strategies and learn trends, and of course, read the great content here on Fantasy Six Pack. During my prep, I came up with three questions that should be concerning Fantasy owners about the running back position. Let’s find out the answers to those questions and a whole lot more.

What should Fantasy owners do about Todd Gurley?

Are you going to be the Fantasy owner that takes the Todd Gurley gamble? The reports of arthritis in his surgically-repaired knee have even scared the Los Angeles Rams! The Rams matched the offer sheet from the Detroit Lions on running back Malcolm Brown and then traded up to draft Darrell Henderson, who averaged more than eight yards per carry in college, early in the third round of this year’s draft.

Gurley has led the league in touchdowns and has been fantasy’s number one overall player in each of the past two seasons. Gurley got hurt late last season and missed two games. The circus and covert operation surrounding Gurley and the Los Angeles Rams should be on the next prime-time special. Rams head coach Sean McVay continued to insist that nothing was wrong with his all-world running back. However, Gurley was non-existent and was overtaken by CJ Anderson throughout the playoffs and the Super Bowl.

Fantasy owners realize that we will never see the elite production from Gurley again. The arthritic condition will gradually become more severe and has likely ended his days as a bell cow running back. Gurley has gone from a 300-plus touch bell-cow back into a running back-by-committee by necessity.

Gurley’s ADP has begun to fall in DRAFT Best Ball Leagues and will continue to drop until the season starts. Gurley’s value has always been the number of touches that he receives, which also coincided with the significant goal-line work. It would be shocking if Gurley received more than half of the backfield touches this season. Gurley still has a first-round ADP which seems foolish. The best case scenario is that Gurley still might dominate carries at the goal-line. However, his injury concerns and lack of volume will relegate Gurley into producing like a third-rounder.

Which rookie running backs will make a Fantasy impact this season?

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears rushed the ball 468 times last season, which was good for sixth in the NFL. The Bears traded last season’s starter Jordan Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2019 NFL Draft. Howard had 270 touches last season and look for David Montgomery to receive the bulk of those available carries.

Montgomery rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his previous two seasons at Iowa State, and he should thrive in the Matt Nagy offense.

Josh Jacobs, Los Angeles Raiders

Josh Jacobs was the only running back to be drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Jacobs will take over the bell-cow role now that Marshawn Lynch has retired. During his three seasons with Alabama, he averaged 5.9 yards per carry and demonstrated effective pass-catching ability.

The revamped Raiders offensive line will look to get back to old smash-mouth football under head coach Jon Gruden. The presence of Antonio Brown will not allow teams to stack the box against Jacobs, allowing for a high ceiling for the Raiders new every-down back.

Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

Miles Sanders flourished in Penn State and came to the Philadelphia Eagles as a preseason candidate to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award because he should immediately be placed in passing situations and be a sneaky PPR selection.

He is the running back of the future in Philadelphia, likely to be part of a two-headed committee with newly acquired Jordan Howard this season. Pro Football Focus ranked Sanders as the third best option when it comes to rookies in fantasy football.

Don’t Forget about:  Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams; Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills; Damien Harris, New England Patriots.

Is Le’Veon Bell still worth a first-round selection in Fantasy drafts?

The Le’Veon Bell saga is finally over, and the question now is, will Bell return to the top of the running back elite in New York?

His talent has never been questioned, but Bell will be running behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Additionally, the Jets offense is lacking in offensive talent. Sam Darnold showed promise last season, but the remaining offensive talent is mediocre at best. While with the Steelers, Bell was surrounded by elite talent and that ability and opportunity made him a fantasy stud for years. Unfortunately, that will not be the case in New York. Every defense will focus their attention on Bell.

Another considerable factor in Bell’s fantasy success is new head coach Adam Gase. Gase has somehow been recognized as an offensive guru but couldn’t figure out how to use the Dolphins best weapon last season in running back Kenyon Drake. Gase likes to work with his quarterbacks and may go more out of his way than usual to make Sam Darnold his only priority.

Speaking of Gase, somehow he is in charge of the Jets personnel moves. I still can’t believe it myself; regardless he was very outspoken about the fact that he didn’t want the Jets to sign Bell . How will that play out during the course of a long NFL season? That relationship is already on shaky ground, and we have yet to see the first time that Gase doesn’t give Bell enough touches.

Bell will be productive in New York based on the projected volume that a running back of his talent should receive. However, the drama on this Jets team and Gase guiding an offense that is more about Gase than winning scares me from trusting even the talents of LeVeon Bell to overcome.

Draft Strategy

EVERY Fantasy owner wants to draft running backs early and often. Running back is the most critical position in Fantasy football. Ideally, owners want to get a stud RB early. Of course, every owner will not achieve that luxury.

There also might be a handful of other running backs that you would be content on having as your No.1 back, say Joe Mixon or Nick Chubb to name a few. There is always someone that goes to the extreme another side of the spectrum and goes with the zero-RB approach.



Whichever manner you want to construct your roster, your draft position will ultimately decide your strategy. Picking early in the draft, grab a stud running back in the first round, then discover who falls to your next pick.  Do you see a running back that you like at the end of the second round? In most mock drafts that I conducted, running backs were taken with the top 10 selections. Therefore, you are looking at an elite wide receiver such as Mike Evans or T.Y. Hilton as your next selection.

If you are picking late in the first round, you are unlikely to see a running back fall to you. However, you will get the privilege of selecting a top wide receiver such as DeAndre Hopkins or Julio Jones AND still get another stud wideout with your next selection! How does a Hopkins and Beckham start to look? Looks great, what about the running back position? Selecting two stud receivers early provides your team to draft running backs with upside in rounds 3-5, backs like Josh Jacobs, Aaron Jones, Marlon Mack, and Damien Williams.

NEVER EVER go into a Fantasy draft with only one strategy in mind. That will kill your season before it even starts. The running back position is somewhat top heavy in 2019. However, there are a handful of upside backs that I mentioned that could lead your team to the promise land!

Reaches

Sony Michel, New England Patriots

Sony Michel had a legendary postseason run last season helping the Patriots to win Super Bowl LIII. He ran for 336 yards and an NFL-record six touchdowns. Michel impressed in his rookie campaign, leading the Patriots in rushing attempts (209), rushing yards (931), and rushing touchdowns (six).

However, there are red flags for Michel as we head into the 2019 season. First and foremost, Michel suffers from a degenerative knee condition, which makes him a significant health risk. He was forced to miss spring workouts due to undergoing a knee scope.  However, all preliminary indications are that Michel is recovering quickly and should be ready for training camp.

Another obstacle in trusting the former Bulldog is lack of involvement in the Patriots passing game. He received just 11 targets, catching seven of those passes for 50 yards and zero touchdowns.  In eight of Michel’s 13 games last season, he finished with single-digit points.  If the Patriots don’t utilize a run-heavy plan, Michel becomes non-existent and provides zero for your Fantasy lineups.

The Patriots were concerned enough about Michel that they drafted running back Damien Harris in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Harris is a north-south runner who excels in short-yardage situations and could vulture goal-line opportunities. A healthy Rex Burkhead returns to fill in a variety of roles while receiving back James White will continue to excel in distinct passing situations.

The decrease in usage and being game script dependent along with his continuous health risks should plummet Michel’s fantasy value. Michel is currently the 39th overall pick and the 19th running back off the board, which places him in the group of Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones, and Mark Ingram. I would select each of those running backs before taking the plunge on Sony Michel.

James Connor, Pittsburgh Steelers

James Conner made the SteelerNation forget about LeVeon Bell last season. Connor rushed for 909 yards with 12 touchdowns and had 52 receptions for 467 yards and another score.

Conner is a proven runner, but he did miss three games last season. He was less productive in the second half of the season. In his first eight games, he rushed for 100-plus yards five times and scored multiple touchdowns in four of those games. However, he failed to surpass 65 rushing yards in his final five games.

He’s not the home run threat that Le’Veon Bell was, but Conner should assume control of the lead back this season, but I would not write off Jaylon Samuels or even rookie Benny Snell Jr.

Samuels didn’t disappoint in his rookie season. In his three starts in Conner’s absence, he rushed for 256 yards on the ground on 4.6 yards per carry. More importantly, Samuels was a valuable asset in the passing game. He caught 26 of 29 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns. The Steelers thought enough of Snell to select him in the fourth round and was a workhorse at Kentucky.

There will be more of a committee approach to the position in 2019 as Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin noted:

“James’ versatility and level of conditioning will be factors in that discussion,” Mike Tomlin said. “We’re open to it. All people are working hard, but there are some other viable men. It’s just not a two-man discussion at the running back position. I’ve been pleased with the progress of the larger body.”

James Conner is currently being drafted in the first round. However, look for the Steelers to utilize all three backs to lighten Conner’s load and his Fantasy value into the middle of the second round.

Steals

Tevin Coleman, San Francisco 49ers

Tevin Coleman signing with the San Francisco 49ers seemed a certainty this offseason.  There was an apparent connection between current San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan and the running back when they were together with the Atlanta Falcons. Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He guided Coleman and Devonta Freeman into a highly productive one-two punch in the Falcons backfield.

Coleman saw an increase in workload last season due to an injury to Freeman. He finished with a healthy 4.8 yards per carry, 800 rushing yards, and nine total touchdowns. He has demonstrated the ability to function as a formidable lead back for extended stretches while filling in for Devonta Freeman.

Coleman joins a running back group led by Matt Brieda, who led the team in touches and had over 1,000 scrimmage yards last season. Jerick McKinnon has a similar skill set to Coleman and was one of the Niners’ prized free-agent signings in 2018. However, McKinnon is coming off a torn ACL from last year and has to play a regular season down for the 49ers. He has remained absent from both organized team activities and mandatory minicamp in his return from the ACL injury.

Coleman is currently being drafted as the RB31, and there will be some reluctance to draft him earlier due to the potential crowded Niners backfield. However, Coleman will emerge from the crowd, and the familiarity in Shanahan’s offensive schemes will allow Coleman to shine into an RB2 role for your Fantasy lineup.


Want to see where these players rank at their position for this upcoming season? Take a look at the latest updated version of the Fantasy Six Pack’s staff 2019 Fantasy Football Rankings. 

2019 Fantasy Football Quarterback Preview

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2019 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview

2019 Fantasy Football Tight End Preview

About Dennis Sosic

Dennis Sosic is from Cleveland, Ohio and a HUGE sports fan including NFL (GO BROWNS!) and college football (GO BUCKEYES!) MLB (GO TRIBE), NBA (GO CAVS!) and MMA. He has been called a Sports Geek by friends and foes alike and that fits him perfectly. He has been competing in fantasy sports, mainly fantasy football and baseball for over 20 years. Please do all of us a favor and follow Dennis @ CALL_ME_SOS.

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