I take the Hugh Hefner approach to Running Back in fantasy football. I’m always looking for newer younger models. Running Backs have the shortest career span of any other player. There’s a few impact players out of this draft class and a few late round gems. Training camps are a few months away, but here’s how I view the rookie running backs of 2018.
Giants RB Saquon Barkley
The number 2 overall pick in the draft should be a first round pick in all fantasy formats. Barkley is a 3-down back in an offense with premier complimentary weapons in the receiving corps. Taking Barkley is a no-brainer. Could have a Kamara type impact to Giants offense.
Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny
Kind of a surprise with the 27th overall pick in the draft. Fixing the running game has been one of the top priorities in Seattle this offseason. Brian Schottenheimer and Mike Solari were brought in to replace Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable as OC and O-line coach. Solari has a long history of working as an O-line coach around the NFL. Previously worked as Seahawks O-line coach in 2008 and 2009. Moved on to San Francisco to work under Jim Harbaugh. Is tasked with fixing the squeaky wheel that has been Seattle’s offensive line. San Diego State product slides into a featured role with the Seahawks. C.J. Prosise hasn’t been available. Chris Carson looked like a late round gem last season, then got hurt. Mike Davis didn’t do much with a bell cow workload. J.D. Mikissic is more of a gadget player. Seattle signed D.J. Fluker in March and added C/G Ethan Pocic with the 58th pick. Fluker’s move from Right tackle to Right Guard and Pocic move to Left Guard are developments I will track in training camp. The reality here is Seattle has 3 first round picks and 2 second round picks along the offensive line. “Rushless in Seattle” shouldn’t see a sequel in 2018. I’m bullish on Penny stock in all formats.
Patriots RB Sony Michel
Drafted with the 31st pick overall. There were concerns about his medicals as the draft approached. If the medicals are good enough for the Patriots, they’re good enough for me. I anticipate Michel playing the Dion Lewis role in the backfield. There’s enough production in the Patriots backfield to make Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White fantasy relevant. Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill are short yardage plodders that may have to win a roster spot. I would feel comfortable drafting Michel as a late RB2/RB3. I believe Michel’s skills will carve out a significant role.
Browns RB Nick Chubb
35th overall pick. Didn’t play on passing downs at Georgia, but broke tackles and pushed piles ahead. Chubb will lose work in the passing game to Duke Johnson, while Carlos Hyde was signed early in free agency. Hyde could provide an obstacle for Chubb getting a lion’s share of the workload. Chubb is a draft for me in the dynasty format. Seasonal drafts I may pass due to concerns over usage.
Bucs RB Ronald Jones
38th overall pick goes to a fast track situation for playing time. Jones has speed to burn, but work to do adjusting to the NFL game. Speed backs sometimes try to outrun defenders as in college, instead of putting a foot in ground and pushing upfield. Jones doesn’t seem to set up blocks well and will need to work on pass protection. Peyton Barber, Charles Sims, and Jacquizz Rodgers don’t pose much of a threat. I’ll take Jones as an RB4 in seasonal drafts, and higher in dynasty formats.
Lions RB Kerryon Johnson
43rd overall pick. Detroit gave up the 51st and 115th picks in the draft to go up and get this Auburn product. The Ameer Abdullah era should be over. Legarrette Blount was signed to contribute in short-yardage and goal-line, while Theo Riddick will be involved in the passing attack. Johnson should be able to carve out a significant role right away. Detroit added C Frank Ragnow with the 20th overall pick and FB Nick Bawden with the 237th overall pick. Johnson will be the Lions first 100 yard rusher since Reggie Bush. If drafting today I would take Johnson over Chubb in a seasonal league.
Redskins RB Derrius Guice
Surprisingly selected 59th overall by Washington. I was surprised to see a few of the backs listed above drafted before Guice. Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine won’t take away much of a workload from Guice, but Chris Thompson will take most of the passing game work. Was Thompson’s increased role last season due to ineffectiveness from Kelley and Perine? Or is Thompson just that good in the passing game? Guice will start off seeing a 2-down role and eventually more. Based off league format I’d feel comfortable drafting Guice as an RB2 in seasonal leagues.
Broncos RB Royce Freeman
71st overall by the Broncos and my favorite player on this list. Freeman isn’t nearly as talented as other backs on the list. However his skill set meshes with the system Denver runs. Freeman is an RB2 that I will target in each of my drafts this season. If Devontae Booker were that great, Freeman wouldn’t have been drafted. De’Angelo Henderson and David Williams shouldn’t pose much of threat to Freeman’s workload.
Colts RB Nyheim Hines
104th overall pick is known for his abilities in the passing game. Should carve out a role in Colts offense right away. Lottery ticket in 16-man leagues (yes I’ve played in those) for his pass catching ability.
Bengals RB Mark Walton
112th overall pick from the U. Looked much better at Miami than at the combine. Walton is a back fantasy owners should know of in case of injury to Mixon or Bernard.
Falcons RB Ito Smith
126th overall pick should provide depth for Atlanta behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Dynasty players may want to draft Smith if Coleman is allowed to leave in free agency.
Dolphins RB Kalen Ballage
131st overall pick can be viewed as a handcuff for Kenyan Drake. Ballage has a lot of work to do in terms of pass protection and more importantly ball security. I see Frank Gore as a 3rd down back and mentor for the team at this stage of his hall of fame career.
Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds
134th overall pick will likely serve as a change of pace back behind David Johnson. 16-man league players may want to take a flier on Edmonds for his PPR value. Seasonal owners should be familiar with Edmonds in case Johnson gets hurt again.
Colts RB Jordan Wilkins
169th overall pick in the draft will look to carve out a role at the expense of Marlon Mack, Robert Turbin and Nyheim Hines. I kept waiting for Mack to take over the backfield last season and it never happened. Evaluating Mack is tough with how inept the Colts offense was last season. Mack also played with a torn labrum in his shoulder. Wilkins is an interesting name to track this summer and a possible late round lottery ticket.
Trackable players in case of injury.
176th RB John Kelly Rams
201st RB Boston Scott Saints (Ingram out 4 games with suspension)
204th RB Trenton Scott Jets
226th RB David Williams Broncos
236th RB Bo Scarbrough Cowboys
251st RB Justin Jackson Chargers