In the third edition of our ADP series we will be focusing on the running back position. In the past I discussed overall ADP’s, and then began to breakdown the quarterback position. With the season coming up I will move on to the running back position before advancing to wide receiver and tight end. Here are three running backs I believe are overvalued and three I believe are undervalued based on their current ADP (reminder I already touched on Eddie Lacy here). All of the ADP information is based on 12 team PPR leagues, info is gathered from fantasyfootballcalculator.com.
Overrated RBs (Based on ADP)
If you were able to scoop up Forsett off the waiver wire last year, he probably helped you make the playoffs in your league, and he could have even won you a championship. Forsett went undrafted in fantasy leagues last year as he began the season buried on the depth chart behind Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, and possibly even Lorenzo Taliaferro. However, the situation cleared up for him to get a chance to play and he excelled, finishing as the RB8. That’s a spectacular return on investment for a waiver wire pickup in the middle of the season, and that good feeling he left in his owners is leading people to overdraft him today. Now he is currently being drafted as the RB11, and 2.09 overall. Pretty hefty price for a RB who will be 30 this year and had done nothing of note in his NFL career prior to last season. It is easy to get excited after what he did last season, but let’s remember he’s been a career backup. To me, this is the RB equivalent of Josh McCown from when he was with the Bears, a career backup journeyman who finally got a chance and excelled for a short period of time, and then got overpaid and over-drafted in fantasy. Forsett was playing for his 4th team in the last 4 seasons last year, and had never been a featured back in any given season. I don’t think 3 different teams could have passed up on a special talent, so we’re likely dealing with a mediocre talent here. The fact that he proved himself last year probably means more to fantasy owners than it does NFL personnel, and I would be wary of assuming he is a workhorse this season under a new regime that drafted their own guy, Javorius “Buck” Allen. There are a lot of question marks here for a late 2nd round fantasy pick, and a couple guys going later than him that I would target instead are Alshon Jeffery and Lamar Miller.
I understand the allure of the Cowboys offensive line, and it’s tempting to chase what Randle did last season on limited touches (343 yards and 3 TDs on 51 carries, 6.7 yards per carry), but we are talking about a 6 foot, sub 200 pound small frame RB here. Joe is currently being drafted at 3.10, ahead of proven guys like Mark Ingram, Alfred Morris, and Jonathan Stewart, along with other more talented RBs in CJ Spiller, Latavius Murray, and Ameer Abdullah. Investing in the Cowboys OL doesn’t need to be so expensive, you can wait and draft Darren McFadden at 9.05, or take a chance on Lance Dunbar at 14.01. All signs point to a running back by committee in Dallas, and if that happens McFadden will likely see goal-line work, with Dunbar or McFadden seeing passing down work, leaving Randle at best as a 1st and 2nd down back between the 20’s. I don’t think the opportunity is there, and 3.10 is far too rich to take a chance on a small RB who has never seen a feature role. He could certainly succeed and have a breakout season, but I’m not willing to bet on it. At his asking price of 3.10 I would let somebody else take that chance, and kudos to them if it pays off.
LeSean McCoy has had a very nice career, and was an unquestioned first round fantasy pick for most of it. He is currently coming off a down year, and is being drafted at 2.04. The carries will be there in Buffalo, but without a QB I don’t think McCoy sees a lot of room to navigate. McCoy being the focus of the defense will not bode well for him, as last season he finished 5th lowest amongst all RBs in percentage of carries with 3+ yards after contact (18.8%). He also finished 6th highest in percentage of carries in which he gained 0 yards after contact (29%) via Pro Football Focus. Throughout his career he has been a running back that has relied on huge holes and using his speed to burst through them for long gains, in Buffalo the holes shouldn’t be there as frequently and he will need to try to transform into a better all around running back that can run through contact. I’m not relying on this transition going very smoothly, and I’m spending my early 2nd round pick on DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Hill, or AJ Green, who all have a lower ADP.
Underrated RBs (Based on ADP)
Chris Ivory is coming off a season where he was awkwardly in a timeshare with Chris Johnson, in a disastrous offense, and still finished as the RB19 on the season on only 198 carries (4.14 yards per carry, 6 TDs). Ivory is currently being drafted as the RB35, and 7.12 overall. Johnson is gone, but other RBs were added, and I think the fantasy community believes this to be a rather murky situation. The names added, however, are nothing special: Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley. These two, along with other backup Bilal Powell, shouldn’t pose much of a threat. The early reports make it sounds like the job is Ivory’s to lose, although it is still early. Ivory has a career 4.7 yards per carry and looks primed to exceed expectations if given a lead role. The Jets have brought in a new OC in Chan Gailey, who should improve the outlook, and they added Brandon Marshall and will be getting a healthy Eric Decker after he was in and out of the lineup all season last year with hamstring problems. These additions will improve the situation in the run game where Ivory already succeeded when given the ball last year, so he should be a good bet to improve on his RB19 finish from last year. At a price of RB35 it would be silly to not pay up, especially if you attack other positions early in your draft and need solid, consistent production late at RB.
It is always hard to project rookie RBs, but Abdullah is stumbling into a very good opportunity in Detroit, and Joique Bell‘s waning health is only helping. Assuming Bell ends up being healthy enough to start the season, Bell will probably get his fair share of the carries, but in this offense there is always enough room for 2 fantasy relevant RBs. Abdullah would get more of the passing down work (where Reggie Bush finished as the RB10 overall in 2013), and as he is the greater talent, should eventually win over some early down work as well. Abdullah is currently being drafted at 5.09 as the RB25, but should see top 20 RB numbers this year. He had over 3800 total yards and 33 TDs his last two seasons in college, and reports are he’s already impossible to tackle in practice. If he runs away with the lead back job you could get top 12 RB return on your 5th round pick, not bad.
I am going all in on rookie RBs this season, and Coleman is currently a big value being drafted at 7.07. Early reports are that Devonta Freeman will get the first shot at the starting gig in Atlanta, but he proved to be wildly inefficient last year. An interesting metric used by numberFire is NEP, or net expected points, which shows the number of points a player adds or takes away from their team based on expectations. Devonta Freeman had a rushing NEP of -18.80, which ranked last amongst players with 50 or more carries. If you want to read the full article on that, it’s here. Freeman looked lost at times last season, and ended up with 3.8 yards per carry in a tumultuous season for Atlanta, and with a new coaching staff in town the newly drafted Coleman could get a long look as the starting RB. Basically what I’m saying is that Freeman has already been given his chance in the NFL, and has failed miserably. I believe Coleman will win this job early and convincingly, and you will be getting a full-time player with your 7th round fantasy selection.