Fantasy Football Running Back Vultures to Target Late In Your Drafts
By: Nate Georgy @KingN8G
There are many things in the fantasy football world that can annoy owners that make you want to throw a remote through the TV. Whether that be your QB passing all the way down the field only to hand it off at the one-yard line for a TD. Or your WR being wide open for a long play and being missed. Or your starter being pulled off the field during a blowout win.
However, there is nothing worse in fantasy football than when your running back is relieved for a drive or two and the backup comes in and vultures carries away, or even worse, your RB does all the work only to be relieved at the one-yard line for the backup to punch in the score. Most of the time this means nothing other than your RB needing a breather, but sometimes it can lead to a shift in game plan for this team. This draft season we can use this to our advantage and find talented RBs in the late rounds who have a chance at vulturing carries away, and maybe even stealing the show as the lead RB deep into the season. The theme with these RBs is youth.
Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks – The Seattle Seahawks are one of the most run heavy teams in the league and project to be once again this season. Leading the rushing attack is Chris Carson, a very surprising breakout last season. Behind him is second year RB Rashaad Penny who was selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Penny was supposed to be the starter coming into last season but he showed up to camp overweight and they decided to ease him into touches. Carson took full advantage of this situation and became the starter early. Seattle runs the ball so often that it is tough to use one RB exclusively, yes they led the way with Carson, but Penny and Mike Davis still got a healthy workload. No Davis this season means more carries for Penny in this run heavy offense.
Carson comes with an expensive price tag as an early fourth round selection, and while he will lead the team in carries, Penny will vulture him at many points and frustrate Carson owners. The running style of Carson is also one that can help Penny, he has a relentless style and refuses to go down, fighting for every yard and lowering his shoulder to finish runs. While this is a good trait, it can result in many injuries which would give Penny a large up-tick in carries. Penny has standalone value along with breakout value, which makes him a great draft pick.
Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos – Last season in Denver we had one of the most frustrating and amazing situations at RB. Royce Freeman was supposed to be the starter coming into the year, after spending a third round pick and clearing the way for him, he ended up being a high draft pick in fantasy as well. However, when the season came along undrafted rookie RB Phillip Lindsay came in and stole the show, and ended up vulturing carries away from Freeman and frustrating Freeman fantasy owners. This did not have anything to do with Freeman, it had more to do with Lindsay’s spectacular play.
This season we have the opposite, Lindsay will have the team lead in touches to start the season, and Freeman is expected to not only vulture him, but get a fairly large workload himself on a team that plans to run the ball at a high rate. Lindsay had a very unsustainable 6.1 YPC through the first 12 games, over his next three games that number came crashing down to 2.6 before injuring his wrist. If Lindsay doesn’t come out the gate on fire like he did last season, then Freeman could vulture carries and TDs from Lindsay.
Justice Hill, Baltimore Ravens – It is no secret that the Ravens also plan on being one of the most run-heavy teams in 2019. The rushing attack will be led by newly acquired Mark Ingram, and undrafted Gus Edwards. However, there is reason for optimism for rookie RB Justice Hill, here’s why:
First off, we have never seen Mark Ingram outside of a Sean Payton offense, and he is also 29 years old now. This isn’t to say avoid Mark Ingram or to say he is a bad player, in fact, Ingram seems to be a value this season, but he is no sure thing. Second year RB Gus Edwards also appears to be ahead of Hill on the depth chart, and despite his impressive 5.2 YPC last season, there’s a reason Baltimore went and signed Ingram, then drafted Hill. Edwards is a one trick pony with no receiving ability and was not a highly coveted draft prospect.
Justice Hill is not some can’t miss prospect who is guaranteed to steal the job. But like many of the RBs on this list, he’s young and a rookie, which delivers the unknown factor, the sexiest factor in Fantasy Football. Hill has shown off a lot of great runs in the preseason thus far, showing his elusiveness and quick cuts and change of direction he brings to the table. There is no denying that Hill has a good chance to get regular work in this offense, and with Ingram being in his latter years, and Edwards lack of receiving ability, there is a possibility that Hill could take the reigns as the starter by the end of the season. At worst he can be a change of pace pass catching back to help teams in PPR leagues.
Darwin Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs – Anytime you can get a piece of a RB in an Andy Reid led offense you take it, especially with MVP Patrick Mahomes leading the show. Last season we saw both Kareem Hunt and Damien Williams produce RB1 numbers as the lead RBs in the offense and there is no reason why this season will be any different for whichever RB can stay on the field.
Unless you have been living under a rock this draft season you have seen the hesitancy from fantasy owners everywhere on drafting Chiefs projected lead RB, Damien Williams. Despite averaging 24.7 PPR through his six games as a starter and 4.9 YPC, there are question marks to drafting Williams. Throughout his career Williams has been a backup after being an undrafted rookie in 2014, which gives people reason to question his talent and if he was just a direct product of the system. Reid is also not making it easy on fantasy owners, saying back in July that Williams was the full-time starter, then recently saying that they plan on using a committee approach.
Behind Williams we have Carlos Hyde who is on his 4th team in 3 seasons and is no guarantee to make the roster. Also Darrell Williams an undrafted second-year player who struggled to see the field last season and was unimpressive in his limited appearances.
Currently up next on the depth chart is 6th round rookie Darwin Thompson from Utah State. Normally a 6th round rookie should be no reason for any hype, but this preseason he has shown up big with some impressive plays in both the running and receiving game. The comparison for Thompson has been Bears RB Tarik Cohen, who would be a great fit for a high flying Chiefs offense. Thompson is a perfect late round RB to take with the uncertainty ahead of him on the depth chart and with his unique skill set. Expect to see Thompson sprinkled in this season, and if he continues to make big plays for the offense, he could start to see more regular action, especially if the backs ahead of him struggle.
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills – In Buffalo this season we have one of the most interesting running back situations. Leading the way is 31 year old LeSean McCoy and his backup is 36 year old, Frank Gore. Just stating the ages of both of these RBs should be enough reason to be excited about 3rd round rookie Devin Singletary.
Florida Atlantic product, Singletary should be the pass catching running back for a team that will have a lot of negative game scripts. McCoy and Gore come with injury risk given their ages, so if either one misses time Singletary will step right into a healthy workload on the ground. McCoy also has the possibility of being traded according to many, which would open up a lot of room for Singletary to compete for carries on the ground.
In any case, Singletary will most definitely steal touches from both of these backs all season long, and should be a late round target in redraft leagues given his tremendous upside if all goes well.
About the Author- Nate Georgy is a die hard NFL and Patriots fan from the New England area. He has been watching football and playing fantasy since he was 12 years old. Nate loves the analytical side of Fantasy Football and loves evaluating and breaking down player film/talent. You can follow him on Twitter @KingN8G
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