Seth and Kyle break down which running backs are the most undervalued this season.
While running back is perhaps the most important fantasy position, it has also become the most unpredictable. Finding a starting-caliber back late in drafts can be a huge boon to any fantasy team. This, of course, is no easy task, but SQ’s staff writers Kyle Trapp and Seth Greenberg talk about which running backs they think will significantly outplay their draft slot.
Kyle Trapp: An important aspect that I consider when analyzing fantasy running back options is competition for carries. A guy could have all the talent in the world, but if he’s splitting touches, his fantasy value is obviously capped. These days, it seems as if more and more teams are gravitating towards running back committees, a frustrating reality for fantasy owners. That’s why I have my eye on Paul Perkins as a great value pick for this upcoming season. Currently ESPN’s 30th ranked running back, Perkins looks to have an ideal role as a bellcow for what should be one of the league’s better offenses.
Seth Greenberg: While Perkins does seem to have an ideal role in an even more revamped Giants offense, two things to consider that could seriously limit Perkins’ upside is 1) their unflinching affinity to pass the ball any and every play, and 2) the Giants’ historical inability to produce a fantasy-relevant running back. The new reality to the NFL is that more and more offenses are becoming pass-heavy, and the Giants are not going against that grain. The Giants have seen just one running back eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a season since 2009 (Ahmad Bradshaw in ‘10). Some fantasy owners have no issue with this as long as their fantasy running back can put the ball in the end zone, but that too is something the New York backfield has struggled with, as no Giant has surpassed double-digit rushing touchdowns since Brandon Jacobs in ‘08. I can see why his current role as lead back gives hope for a breakout season, but I don’t see much value in a guy who cannot take the football to the house on 112 carries, as Perkins failed to do in his ‘16 rookie campaign.
KT: I get why the mediocrity of Giants’ running backs in the past is a concern for Perkins’ potential value, but it’s not like he’s some slouch when it comes to running the football. He averaged over four YPC last season, a solid output for a rookie, but more encouragingly, he improved as the season went on. He gained 4.8 YPC over his last three regular season games, including a 102-yard output in a vital Week 17 matchup against the Redskins. He’ll have every opportunity to continue that trend of success in 2017. Running back additions through free agency and the draft were unspectacular, as Shaun Draughn and Wayne Gallman are unlikely to take the world by storm. The coaching staff believes in Perkins as well, as McAdoo named him the undisputed starter early in the offseason. He put up an uninspiring performance in his first preseason game, but one shouldn’t read too much into that. I don’t expect the Giants’ running back to be a star, but I believe he’ll put up consistent RB2 numbers, making him a great value pick at his current projected draft slot.
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SG: I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Perkins put up solid numbers, but I still prefer options with a more proven track record of success. When I was looking for a good “value” pick, or someone who is considered to outperform his current draft stock, I noticed Spencer Ware sitting outside of the top 20 running backs and was in shock. Here is this player who was supposed to just come in and fill this gap between the Jamaal Charles-era in Kansas City, and instead finished at the 17th ranked fantasy RB while only playing in 12 full games. With Charles now gone and the starting role in Kansas City Ware’s to lose, the former sixth-round pick has carved out tremendous value as both a runner and pass-catcher in Kansas City’s West Coast offense. I am expecting top-15 production from Ware this season.
KT: See, Ware is a prime example of a guy who I’d like quite a bit if you could count on consistent carries from game to game. The Chiefs’ tailback has run the ball extremely well since joining the team in 2015. Unfortunately, there is just too much running back talent in Kansas City for my liking. Not only is there Charcandrick West, who handled a feature role quite well in 2015, but there’s also Kareem Hunt, a third-round pick this year out of Toledo. As a Ware owner, Hunt is the one I’d be most worried about. The team didn’t waste a third-round pick on the talented back for him to ride the pine, and he profiles as a true three-down back in the NFL. He’s been getting rave reviews in training camp, and he’s already started taking reps with the first team. Ware is still penciled in as the starter, and if he maintains that role, I think he can definitely outplay his preseason ranking. But the risk of him taking a backseat to another running back is enough to scare me away.
SG: There is risk involved with every fantasy pick, and virtually any back in the league can potentially lose their starting gig. I, for one, believe Ware will keep his, due to his talent as a runner. While he doesn’t have the ability to fly past the secondary, he is a big physical running back with the potential to garner a ton of goal line carries with Kansas City’s ability to drive down the field. Ware averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the past two seasons and finished just shy of a 1,000 rushing yard campaign last season. In addition to nearly 2.5 receptions per game, Ware could be a focal point to the Chief’s’ ability to keep defenses on their toes this season, which could translate to tremendous fantasy success for the fourth-year running back.
KT: I too believe Ware is a talented back who has mostly impressed throughout his career, but there is no denying he faded down the stretch last season. After rushing for 131 yards in a huge Week 6 win against the Raiders, Ware failed to top 77 yards in any game the rest of the season. In his last four regular season games (when fantasy playoffs occur), he averaged a meager 3.3 YPC and scored just one rushing touchdown. I believe the third-round selection of Hunt is a sign the Chiefs have doubts Ware can be a bellcow for a full season.
SG: Even with those concerns, I still believe Ware has much higher upside than Perkins. After all, we have seen the same storyline before coming out of Giants training camp. High praise comes down from Giants’ brass for their young/new running back, only for the praise to be deemed irrelevant as the season goes on due to an injury to the running back, or the New York offense’s general love affair with the passing game (see: David Wilson, or Andre Williams). Eli Manning regularly finishes in the top 10 for pass attempts and I don’t foresee that slowing down anytime soon.
KT: I think our main disagreement stems from what we find most important at the RB2 slot: opportunity or upside. I agree with you that Ware has more upside; if both backs have ideal seasons, Ware’s numbers would be better. I just think there is a better chance Perkins receives consistent touches from week to week, and that consistency is extremely valuable in fantasy.
SG: That may be so, but Ware could put up RB1 numbers at a borderline RB3 draft slot, and I think that potential makes him the best value pick for the running back position.
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