For as much as we break down fantasy football running back rankings, every year there are always a few running backs who are selected either late in the draft or not at all, that end up bringing back far more value than there respective draft position. These types of players might not challenge for a top 10 or top 20 running back ranking, but they are the type of backs who can help push you to a fantasy championship as they round out your bench. The problem is identifying those backs and figuring when you should look to target them in your drafts. Our friends at Numberfire, have crunched the numbers and done a lot of the hard work for you.
The number one thing they talk about is figuring out a players opportunity and using that to figure out a players true value:
Last season, 35 backs carried the ball 150 or more times, but only two players (LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch) topped 300 rushing attempts. Compare that to 10 years ago, when 13 backs saw 300 or more carries, but only 31 saw 150 or more. The playing field at running back has shifted, and for fantasy purposes, it’s no longer good enough to simply cross off the starter on every running back depth chart as your draft unfolds.
We’re living in a fantasy football world where two Detroit Lions backs are going before any one back from the Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints. We’re drafting in a climate where a team’s best “third-down” back (Shane Vereen) is being taken ahead of the team’s first-choice ball-carrier (Stevan Ridley).
It really can’t be overstated how important opportunity can be for a running back (or any fantasy player) when trying to figure out rankings and where to draft particular players. Despite this there are always some running backs who slip through the cracks, despite the fact they have a pretty decent opportunity in front of them. Here are four running backs that NumberFire recommends you keep on your Fantasy Football Radar:
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers had the fifth-most run-heavy offense last season, calling 1.07 passing plays to every 1 rushing play. Compared to league average, this means the Panthers ran 60-80 more running plays over the course of the season. That won’t change, as the offense is built around the mobility of Cam Newton and the flexibility of having multiple capable backs to split the workload.
Williams is being taken in as running back 43, and last season, the 43rd-best running back (Shane Vereen) didn’t even play the whole year, and saw only 91 touches. Other backs in that scoring range include James Starks, Roy Helu, Daniel Thomas and Marcel Reece, who all saw only sporadic time on the field due to injury or competition from other players. Click here to read more