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Fantasy Football Part 1: To Reach or To Wait for Running Backs

By Lam Pham

If winning ones fantasy football league solely took drafting the next highest player on the rankings, each person would be walking in with nearly equal chances. An injection of unorthodoxy is important, nonetheless vital, to creating your championship fantasy football team. This is not saying you should not take the best available player all the time but that the home-run type of player may be a little down the list. Singles do not win fantasy football leagues, home-runs do–Odell Beckham Jrs and Jeremy Hills do. Here are the running backs I see that are worthy of the reach or better off waiting or better yet passing.

(ADP, average draft positions, was taken from Fantasy Pros, a compilation of all major commissioner sites’ rankings) (12 team leagues)

To Reach

CJ Anderson (Late 1st and early 2nd; Take Mid 1st)

You might be saying, that is barely a reach. In these early rounds, your first pick is your all-star, your Kobe Bryant/Kevin Durant. CJ is being looked over as he is being termed as a fluke or low talent-high opportunity guy. He is not a fluke, the guy dominated the second half of the fantasy season and who cares if he is not Adrian Peterson-esqe, the guy is playing with Peyton Manning and under coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak and Manning will lead to barely any stacked boxes as well as a plethora of carries and touches, even in the red zone (no more Julius Thomas a.k.a Mr. I Only catch touchdowns). He is a serious contender to finish as a top 3 RB this year.

Frank Gore (Late 3rd-Early 4th Round; Take Late Second)

Frankkk…When people say change of sceneries can be good, Frank Gore’s move from the 49ers to the Colts has made me believe that statement 100%. He leaves a non-existent passing game in Colin-Only-Runs-Kaepernick and eight man stacked boxes to the heavenly realms that is Andrew Luck’s offense. Andrew Luck made Ahmad Bradshaw into a top 10 RB for a stretch and Trent Richardson look serviceable. Imagine Frank Gore who has been slated to get near 200-250 carries and a plethora of goal line carries. He is an elite RB 2 with the capability to thrust into RB1 territory.

Jonathan Stewart (Early 5th Round; Take 3rd Round)

Finally the Carolina Panthers committee is gone with Stewart’s co-partner in the NFL’s most fantasy frustrating RB tandem–DeAngelo Williams–is now with the Steelers. When Williams was out for the last 4 weeks of the season, Stewart was left with the entire backfield and put up 53.4 fantasy points. Those are astounding numbers for a RB being selected with the likes Andre Ellington and Joseph Randle. If we stretch those numbers into a full season, J-Stewart finishes as the 7th best RB in fantasy. Big things are coming.

Disrespected List: Chris Ivory, Doug Martin, Isaiah Crowell (8th Round; Take 6th)

Each of these guys are on top of their depth charts, yet are being drafted with handcuffs, HANDCUFFS (2nd string players that may be good in event of an injury).

Do yourself a favor and grab a rare starting RB or two and watch your peers scratch their heads why they did not choose solid flex options with RB2 upside any given week. Keep an especially close eye on Ivory as new Jets head coach Todd Bowles has given hints of him being a three down back for them this year.

Value Handcuffs

Ryan Matthews

If anything were to happen to Demarco Murray, Matthews would vault into elite RB2, low RB1 territory. Murray has an injury riddled past, I’ll take my chances on a potential home-run pick.

Danny Woodhead

Despite the Chargers high aspirations for rookie Melvin Gordon, Woodhead is still their goal-line back as well as passing down back. Factor in the possibility of a slow learning curve or injury, Woodhead jumps from flex appeal to RB2.

Cameron Artis-Payne

Backup to J-Stewart, he has a similar running style to Alfred Morris and a poor man’s Eddie Lacy. If anything were to happen to J-Stewart, he would inherit that golden opportunity for 12-16 carries a game and goal line work.

To Wait

Alfred Morris (3rd Round; Take 5th Round)

Despite his three years of consistent production, his fourth proves to be a down year for this bowling ball. He is still capable of 1000 yards and 7-10 TDs, however, a dismal QB situation and a poor defense will more than likely place the Redskins behind in most games forcing them to pass. Morris is below-average pass catcher at best thus showing why he has one of the lowest receptions totals for starting running backs. Rookie Matt Jones also lurks to take carries and touches from Morris’s already depleting hands. He is a low tier RB2 at best being drafted as a solid one with RB1 upside.

Carlos Hyde (4th Round; Take 6th Round)

Hyde, oh Hyde. I can hear Frank Gore laughing on his couch right now. A high potential, young RB stuck in a poor situation. We have seen this too many times. Hyde is going to deal with stacked boxes as NFL defenses hold little respect for Kaepernick and his wide receivers corps. Hyde has flex appeal and possibly RB2 upside for some weeks but with Seattle, Arizona, and Rams tough run defenses, I advise you to look elsewhere.

Andre Ellington (4th Round; Take late 6th Round)

Last year was the year of Andre Ellington the Sleeper. Well that failed. We found out what happens when you try to make a non-between the tackle RB a workhorse, he gets injured and becomes barely efficient even ruining his receiving game. With David Johnson and Chris Johnson in town, expect Ellington to see most of his touches from receptions. He is a boom-or-bust player weekly, definitely not worth a pick that could get you a RB2 upside player.

Giovani Bernard (Late 6th Round; Take 9th Round)

If you are in a PPR league, I would take Gio probably in late 7th and early 8th territory. He is not going to repeat his rookie numbers or even get close. Jeremy Hill is the workhorse in this offense. When Bengals are behind, close, or ahead, the Bengals are going to feed Hill the ball. Best case scenario, Hill struggles with injuries or the Bengals are hysterically bad and Gio is in for passing situations. Don’t pay this expensive price tag for a high tier handcuff because an injury or mixup is still needed to justify the price.

Bishop Sankey (10th Round; Take only before K)

He failed to show that he was capable of carrying a workload with efficiency last year. Now, he may not even get the chance to run the ball as much with David Cobb impressing at training camp and seen to either jump Sankey or force a Running Back by Committee approach in Tennessee.