Preseason is a time for hope to flow and players on roster bubbles to either show what they got, or blow it entirely. Preseason Week 3 however, is when the entrenched starters finally get some actually significant snaps. You don’t want to look too deeply into it, but if there’s one thing you can gleam from it for certain, it’s how well RBs are doing. Is he cutting well? Running with power? Is he hitting the holes as soon as he sees them or dancing around the line of scrimmage? All important questions to ask as you judge who you want to pickup in Fantasy this season. So let’s take a looksee at how different backfields are shaking up this season.
Neither Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman looked particularly impressive this past Thursday night. Luckily, that was more a product of a bad night for the O-Line. Unluckily, the Falcons’ O-Line hasn’t looked all that impressive at any point preseason. My initial impression going into training camp was that Coleman would steal 1st and 2nd down, as well as goal line carries from Freeman. While it seems the Falcons are indeed determined to have Coleman carry the ball on 1st and 2nd alongside Freeman, the good news for Freeman fans is that he has not done much of anything with them. Mind you it’s a pretty small sample size, but in 10 carries through 3 weeks of preseason action, Coleman has racked up all of 31 Yards. Freeman by comparison has 59 Yards on 14 carries, and also been the RB getting the carries near the goal line.
Freeman is definitely the RB to own in Atlanta right now, and he’s simply been flat out better than Coleman when it comes to both the eye test and the numbers. Freeman looks good this season to have a solid encore performance. I’d expect him to end up as a fringe RB1 this season, and should finish in the RB10-RB14 area. Coleman meanwhile, is looking more and more like waiver wire fodder each passing week, or for those of you who still do that sort of thing, a Handcuff for Freeman.
Earlier this year I predicted that Foster would be working behind Ajayi. Pretty clearly, I was wrong. And I will gladly eat that humble pie as Foster has been one of my favorite players since helping me to multiple Fantasy Championships back in 2010. As a runner, it’s pretty clear that Foster has lost a step. No real shocker considering the laundry list of injuries he’s suffered throughout his career. As a receiver, it’s pretty clear he’s miles ahead of Ajayi, who was boasted as a solid all-around RB coming out of college.
Unfortunately for Ajayi, Foster, despite having lost a step as a runner, is better than him not only as a receiver coming out of the backfield, but as a between-the-tackles runner, and basically at everything a RB is expected to be doing for his team. Foster didn’t look exceptional last night, but it’s clear he has juice left in the tank, particularly as a receiver. If the Miami O-Line could actually open any holes, a bad sign that they could not against the Atlanta D-Line, Foster, if healthy, could be in for yet another Top 10 season, even though it seems likely he and Ajayi will at least be splitting carries in an attempt to preserve the former’s health. Alas, this is not the case.
Still though, Foster’s late Round 5 ADP of 58th overall on Fantasy Football Calculator in Standard Leagues feels fair for a runner who seems to be in line for 225-250 touches. Jay Ajayi does still carry value though, especially due to Foster’s durability concerns, but his touches should be closer to the 175 area unless Foster gets hurt. His current ADP of late Round 8, or 96th overall, is still solid value. Taking a look at other RBs who go in Rounds 8 and 9, there’s Yeldon, Crowell, Sims, Coleman and Woodhead. Everybody there is heading for RBBC, but out of all of them, Ajayi is the most likely to take over his backfield as the year goes on due to Foster’s age and durability concern.
It’s pretty simple here folks. The Christine Michael hype train is gaining more and more steam. Prosise seems pretty locked in as the 3rd down RB, but Michael has never been a particularly talented receiver anyway, so that shouldn’t hurt his value this season. Yes, Thomas Rawls could indeed come in and force a RBBC, but would you prefer Rawls, coming off of a broken ankle and quite possibly not being in game shape after having had not a single snap this preseason, and on top of that having to pay a Round 3 price tag for him.
Would you prefer Christine Michael, who has been a freight train this preseason, and will only cost you a late Round 9 pick? I’m pretty sure I know who I’m taking a chance on this season between the two.
You know how I talked about the Christine Michael hype train? Well if he’s a train, Ezekiel Elliott is a Hype Space Rocket. I didn’t really need any convincing beyond the most complete RB prospect of the last half-decade getting to play behind the best Offensive Line in the NFL, but if you did(and shame on you if you did), he showed you WHY the Cowboys took him at 4th Overall.
Elliott did literally everything you could ever want out of a RB. He ran with power, he saw holes and hit them hard and fast, he ran with speed and quickness on a run play to the outside. And most importantly, he did not shy away from contact from Kam Chancellor of all players. Heck, he even looked very good in pass protection, an area rookie RBs usually struggle in, ensuring there is ZERO reason to take him off the field be it 1st, 2nd or 3rd down.
I get it. We’ve had a few swings and misses with rookie RBs of late, but we’ve also had plenty of success stories as well. The guy has everything going for him from his talent to running behind the best O-Line in the league to a passing game that will prevent defenses from loading up the box like they would against a Peterson or Gurley. If the general consensus Top 3 RBs (Peterson, Johnson, Gurley) are off the board, but Elliott is, you can damn well be sure I’m taking him. And yes, I’d even seriously consider him at #1 Overall, he’s just in that good of a position, and also, just that good.
On a side note for Cowboys’ RBs, keep an eye on Alfred Morris. He’s looked very good so far this preseason after a down year in Washington. While I don’t think he carries enough stand alone value to warrant a draft pick, he seems like the for sure backup to Elliott, so if Elliott does go down, Morris is the guy to put in a waiver wire claim for, not McFadden.