With Best ball drafts in full swing, these are some of the top storylines to monitor. Figuring out when to draft running backs in best ball drafts can be challenging so any edge you can get is key.
– One of the biggest offseason legal/suspension questions in the NFL is what will happen with Alvin Kamara. He was arrested after the Pro Bowl in conjunction to an assault in a Vegas hotel against a passerby who got in a verbal altercation with Kamara’s friend group. While there is a lot of unknown here, it’s pretty likely that the NFL hands out some sort of suspension. Given that this assault occurred while Kamara was in town representing the NFL, the league might take a hard line and push for a stiffer penalty. Most of the early speculation is that it will be a 6 game suspension, but we might not know for awhile.
Currently Kamara is RB10 in best ball going at ADP 19. While that is maybe fair in season long leagues, I don’t like him that high for Best ball. Guys like Leonard Fournette, Aaron Jones and Nick Chubb are going after him. Those are three guys with roles that have enough upside to be top half RB1’s similar to Kamara’s projection when on the field. Sure if there was no suspension Kamara should go ahead of them, but with a similar upside, and Kamara probably missing between 4-8 games, its tough to justify passing on them. In season long it could be worth the risk because you are playing for the playoffs (and in Best Ball tournaments some of the same logic applies), but when total points matter you are giving up a 2nd round pick knowingly for a large chunk of the season.
The biggest edge though smart Best Ball players can find though is boosting up Mark Ingram. Currently he’s RB 68 and going in the 230’s. That’s probably too low even without a suspension looming for Kamara. Ingram is pretty clearly the number 2 back for the Saints with only a couple UDFA/street free agents as competition. As a handcuff alone Ingram is worth a late round best ball pick, but with a potential suspension Ingram could definitely have a couple RB2/RB3 weeks during that time. The fact that you can get him at the very end of your drafts is something to jump on now. When the suspension news comes out, expect Ingram’s ADP to rise multiple rounds worth.
– Heading into the NFL draft the most open backfield was the Houston Texans, so any early round back was going to excite fantasy owners. Houston opted to wait for the 4th round before adding a back in Dameon Pierce. Pierce never fully won the Florida backfield, and now could start in a committee approach in Houston. Joining him in the committee are Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead. Mack is a former 1,000 yard back, that was passed on the Colts depth chart by Jonathan Taylor. Burkhead is not really a feature back, but figures to carve out some sort of role in this offense. This leaves Mack and Pierce as sharing the majority of both the carries and targets. If one can actually take a significant lead, then they could offer some nice fantasy upside.
Pierce is currently going RB 40 as he probably has the higher upside and could earn more of the role down the stretch. Though not a full starter in college, Pierce has the skills and traits to be a talented back in the NFL. With a fairly open role, it makes sense for him to win this job by the end of the season. At RB 40 range that is a value price for him, as every other back in this range is a clear handcuff/change of pace back. Pierce on the other hand might not start the season with the starting role, but he could end the season with that role even without an injury ahead of him. The same can’t be said for guys like Alexander Mattison, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Isaiah Spiller. Even if the role remains a timeshare Pierce can pay off value in this range.
Though it’s less intriguing Marlon Mack as RB 57 going at the very end of drafts is not a terrible investment. He is a former 1,000 yard back, and will now be 2 years removed from a major injury. Even if he does end up losing the starting role to Pierce, he could be an ok handcuff option, who is likely a starter early in the year.
– Antonio Gibson was one of 7 backs to crack 1,000 yards last season and finished 10th in PPR fantasy scoring. That made him a favorite offseason target in rankings and trades in dynasty, but a lot of that changed with the NFL Draft. Washington selected Brian Robinson in the late 3rd round, after already retaining satellite back J.D. McKissic as a free agent. Now Gibson is sharing both the rushing, and receiving roles in this offense and might even lose the primary goal line role to Robinson.
The concern in Washington is apparently Gibson’s fumbles a year ago, but it’s tough to deny how effective he’s been in two seasons as an offensive weapon. Will Robinson significantly impact Gibson’s role this season, and should McKissic still be valued in PPR formats? These are two pressing questions for fantasy players. But in Best Ball drafts some of the risk is mitigated.
Part of the issue with drafting players from a 3-headed backfield is knowing when to actually start/sit someone. In Best Ball that decision is made for you, and as long as you don’t overdraft a player in this situation you can still get paid off. Gibson has seen his stock fall to RB 22 and pick 44 ADP. If you are waiting on RB grabbing him in the 4th or 5th round is not a bad idea. Gibson still figures to have plenty of big weeks in what figures to be a run heavy offense. Also if either Robinson or McKissic ever get hurt, you are getting a player who has massive upside. Perhaps Robinson takes an even bigger role, but it seems unlikely Washington abandons one of their best weapons.
As for McKissic I do think his value as a late round target takes a slight hit, but in a deeper format like Draftkings that is 20 rounds and full PPR he’s worth a late look. The team did pry him away from the Bills in free agency so clearly they want to still use him. Also with Carson Wentz the passing game should take a step up this season. It’s likely this offense sustains more drives and scores more points so McKissic could still have a couple spike weeks in him.
– The Dolphins highly invested in their offense this offseason, to give new Head Coach Mike McDaniels the tools he needs to be successful. McDaniels comes from the Shanahan coaching tree which has always been supportive of fantasy running backs. With multiple new offensive linemen and adding a deep threat like Tyreek Hill, Dolphins backs should find a much easier time this season. The question is, who can we count on from a fantasy perspective.
Miami still has last year’s leading rusher, Myles Gaskin, on the roster, but they brought in a lot of new faces. Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel were all signed as free agents. Mostert has experience working with McDaniels in San Francisco and had some success there. Edmonds though stands as the back with the largest financial commitment. Overall it looks like a committee approach, but Edmonds is the best option in full PPR leagues.
Edmonds averaged 11.9 PPR points a year ago finishing as a top 30 back in average. He is currently going around pick 100, meaning he can be a nice mid-round target in best ball leagues. There is of course some injury concern with him, but he can offer spike week production and a pass catching floor in down weeks. Edmonds loses some value in half-point PPR as either Mostert or Michel figures to handle the TD work, but he’s still playable.
Three of the hottest RB names at this time a year ago were Cam Akers, J.K. Dobbins and Travis Etienne, but all three suffered a major injury before the year started. Akers was able to return for the playoffs, so there is at least some film to judge if he’s ready to breakout. Dobbins and Etienne are both more wild cards, though both are expected to be fully healthy for the season.
– Akers showed flashes during the Rams Super Bowl run, and should be the clear lead back. His explosiveness was well on display, giving the Rams a potential elite back if he can stay healthy. The Rams were bottom half of the league in rushing attempts last season, but that could change with a more dynamic back. Akers can be a weapon in the passing game as well and should get most of the goalline work. This is once again going to be among the top offenses in the league, giving Akers plenty of chances for yards and TDs. Currently he’s being drafted 31st overall and RB 16, making him a pretty good value. Akers has a real chance to be an RB1.
– Dobbins got injured in the preseason two weeks before the season was to start. He was poised for a breakout season after on 134 rushing attempts he had 805 yards and 9 TDs. Dobbins should be fully healthy and the Ravens feature back this season. Baltimore is one of the most run heavy offenses in the league. Lamar Jackson will take a good percentage of the carries, but Dobbins should be able to get in the low 200 range. He also figures to get plenty of goalline work. The one downside for Dobbins is the lack of passing game involvement Baltimore backs have. Dobbins is being taken around 45 overall and RB22, that is a good value for him if he stays healthy.
-Etienne was a 1st round NFL pick a year ago and was paired with his college QB. Unfortunately a camp Lisfranc injury ruined his rookie year, but his upside remains high. Early reports are that he should be fully healthy and with James Robinson dealing with his own injury, there isn’t much competition. Etienne should be the feature back in the offense offering big play ability and receiving upside. He’s currently going 47th overall and RB 23, which is probably a little rich. If he slides slightly to more of the mid-50’s pick range that is where I’d target him. While he could be a decent back, a lot will need to go right to ensure he pays off his draft position. I do think you can count on some spike weeks with his profile. So if he’s your 3rd back you are probably in good shape.