The Phinest Of The Late(r)-Round: Running Backs

Tell me you’ve heard this one before. “In fantasy, the running back position is one of the shallowest positions to draft from.” If you have, that means you’re ahead of the curve as it is indeed one of the more shallower positions to draft from. If you’re new to fantasy and you’re reading this for the first time, I’m glad I caught you in time. Redraft fantasy season is fast approaching and this is where the vast majority of fantasy managers start to get busy as their respective leagues’ “draft day” approaches. However, just because it’s one of the shallower draft positions, doesn’t mean there still aren’t options to pick from as you head into the later rounds of your fantasy draft.

My reasoning for saying that the running back position is shallower than most (outside of the Tight End position) is because after the first two or three rounds, running backs with the largest share of work are gone. After those rounds, you tend to land guys with higher upside in “running back by committee” squads (ewww) and it’ll continue to trend downward from there. If you are into digging for gold, I have a few guys that you should be looking to add, even after the first couple of rounds that will be in position to help your fantasy teams.

Leonard Fournette – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I know everyone is getting sweaty with this one as the Bucs added former Bengals running back Giovanni Bernard this offseason but I don’t believe that’s going to be a huge impact on Fournette’s upside. I mean, they were just calling this guy “Playoff Lenny” before free agency set in. Now folks are switching it up? Fournette had to deal with the craziness of the offseason as well as being released from the Jaguars early in the season while trying to get ahold of the Bucs playbook on the fly. Towards the end of the season and the playoffs, Fournette was able to show what he could do.

Fournette does have to do be a better rusher because averaging 3.8 yards per carry won’t cut it. What gives Fournette and edge is his pass catching ability. Fournette posted a 76.6% catch rate on 47 targets last season but his performance took a leap into the playoffs with Ronald Jones dealing with injuries. In the post season, Fournette’s yards per carry (4.7), yards per catch (8.2), and catch rate (85.7) all took jumps. To me Fournette is the guys to grab out of that backfield.

ADP – 7.06

Zach Moss – Buffalo Bills

Let’s cut to the chase on this one. Moss IS the better back in Buffalo between him and Singletary. Even though both running backs split the majority of the work, Moss was the better option in the red zone. Moss beat out Singletary in carries inside the red zone 29 to 22 and scored five times to Singletary’s single touchdown. Moss’s total fantasy production beat out Singletary in the red zone 37.5 to 13.7. Moss does have to improve on his production in the red zone and be more effective in the passing game. While both running backs had similar rushing production(4.4 ypc for Moss, 4.3 ypc for Singletary), it was Singletary that saw the lionshare of the passing down work, out targeting Moss 52 to 18.

If Moss can improve and be more reliable to target in the Buffalo Bills resurgent passing attack, Moss will be one of the better fantasy options that you can get later on in your drafts worth targeting.

ADP – 8.04

Xavier Jones – Los Angeles Rams

Darrell Henderson is the name that most have been talking about after news broke that Cam Akers would be lost for the season after tearing his Achilles right before the start of training camp. Henderson’s average draft position is going to continue to trend upwards the closer we get to Redraft season. But with Head Coach Sean McVay possibly flirting with the idea of another running back by committee approach after losing his prime starter, it may be time to look along the depth chart to see who else is worth grabbing.

Enter Xavier Jones. Jones will have the chance to backup Henderson this season after sliding up the depth chart. In his senior year at SMU, Jones rushed for over 1,200 yards and 23 touchdowns and with the Rams reportedly wanting to keep Henderson fresh throughout the season. We know that Henderson has had issues staying healthy before so if he should miss time or his snaps shared, Jones looks to be the cheaper option that’ll be available later on in your fantasy drafts.

ADP – 12.04

Michael Carter – New York Jets

Michael Carter has been making plenty of noise during training camp so far. While is likely that the Jets employ some version of a running back by committee with the Jets backfield, Carter should be able to carve out a sizable role. We’ve seen enough of the “Tevin Coleman experiment”, which hasn’t provided much for fantasy managers over the last couple of years. The Jets invested a fourth round pick to bring in Carter to compete for a role on the offense and with his dual threat ability already looking like a step above the other Jets running backs in training camp.

In his final year in North Carolina, Carter rushed for a college career high 8 yard per carry totaling 1,245 yards rushing. Not only that but through the air, Carter averaged 10.7 y/r for another 267 yards. Carter worth a roll of the dice as you get deeper into the draft.

ADP – 6.09

Jamaal Williams – Detroit Lions

There’s been so much hype surrounding second year running back D’Andre Swift and rightfully so. Swift showed he could be a dynamic piece to the Lions lackluster offense and lethal in the passing game. But then the Lions went out and signed Jamaal Williams and the noise out of the Lions camp started to change a bit. Williams is no slouch when it comes to being a solid piece in a backfield. When he was with the Greenbay Packers, Williams averaged 4+ yards per carry in his last two seasons and was pretty good in the Packers passing attack, averaging 7.6 yards per reception just last season.

With the sound of a “1-2 punch” taking root in Detroit between Swift and Williams, Williams should be a later round target as the Lions likely won’t be leading much in games this season, allowing usage for both backs to take place.

ADP – 9.12

Trey Sermon – San Francisco 49ers

Trey Sermon is a prospect that I like coming into the later rounds of the draft. Sermon averaged 7+ yards per carry in his last two seasons at both Oklahoma and Ohio State and sits directly behind starting running back Raheem Mostert. Likely the heir-apparent as Mostert is a free agent at the end of the season, Sermon is already in line to get a larger role than originally anticipated. Fellow 49ers running back Jeff Wilson will miss time behind an injury that will force him to miss the start of the regular season and JaMychal Hasty is looking to make the roster altogether as the 49ers added both Sermon and Elijah Mitchell from the 2021 NFL Draft.

Sermon also has a chance to emerge as the lead back should anything happen to Mostert, who’s a growing list of injuries that may cause some fantasy owners to think twice about drafting him this season. Sermon is going in the 7th round and with the 49ers being one of the better rushing teams in the league (2nd in rushing yards in 2019), Sermon is another running back to target in the late rounds.

ADP – 7.01

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