Preseason Week 3 RBs Pt. 3 – Phong Ta

Night 3 of Preseason Week 3, and it is filled with a lot of muddled backfields. Time to dive in.

Kansas City Chiefs

We’ll just get the obvious out of the way now, Jamaal Charles is the only person worth drafting here, Standard or PPR format. Now the question is, where do you take him, and does his current ADP match?

So good news, Charles is still gonna be the guy according to Reid, and considering he’s the best parts of both West(receiver out of the backfield) and Ware(runner) all-in-one, it makes sense. He’s also overcome a previous ACL tear, so he knows what he needs to do to get back to where he needs to be.

Bad news, he hasn’t played a single snap this preseason. This could very well mean that he won’t be in quite game shape come Week 1. Aside from that he’s pushing 30, when most RBs tend to decline. Now if we were talking about a guy who didn’t quite depend on sharp cutting ability, quickness and speed as the main facets of his game, this wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal. But those are Charles’ strengths, which to a degree will likely be hindered because of the ACL injury. On top of that Ware and West have proven that they can indeed carry the load, and continue to do so this preseason, so Charles’ usage will likely shrink to accommodate them and make sure he stays healthy for a full 16 games.

Charles’ current ADP sits at 15th, or early Round 2. That is simply way too high to draft a soon to be 30 year old RB coming off a second ACL tear with not one, but two talented backups.

Don’t get me wrong, I think he can be a strong RB2, but with Ware and West in tow (plus Knile Davis who not too long ago was thought to be the heir apparent to Charles), his ceiling is pretty limited compared to other early round RBs, who have ceilings in the Top 5 range. Charles simply doesn’t have that this season. Look for him to pick up right where he left off, but with what should be just 225-250 total touches, it’s unlikely he returns to the Top 10 at his position. I think 1250 Total Yards and about 7 TDs feels like what you’re getting here, or in other words, around the RB15. Very solid production for your RB2, but those drafting him expecting him to produce like he did pre-injury are gonna be sorely disappointed.

Chicago Bears

Let no one tell you any different, it is Jeremy Langford and everyone else in this backfield. There’s a reason he’s gotten pretty much all of the 1st team snaps this preseason.

The Bears felt comfortable enough with him to replace long time starter Matt Forte, which is telling. He hasn’t looked great this preseason, but that’s more so on the O-Line than it is on him. It’s also not where he’s gonna make bank this season. That would be through the air, where he’s in line to take over Forte’s 58 targets from 2015 along with his own 42. Anything less than 100 targets for 70 catches, 700 Yards and 5 TDs would be a disappointment. And that’s on top of what should be around 275 carries for at worst 1100 Yards and 6 TDs.

The stars have aligned for Langford this year, and with an ADP of 48 overall, he can be your RB2 and potentially return you Top 10 numbers. Opportunity is the key in Fantasy. Even if a guy sucks, if he gets enough carries/targets, he will be viable in Fantasy. Just look at BJGE or Cedric Benson, who both had a career YPC south of 4.0. Langford will have plenty of opportunity to show his mettle, and is also just a much better player than either of those two.


Detroit Lions

This is admittedly a very tricky backfield to figure out. The Lions want Abdullah to realize his 3 down, workhorse potential, but injuries keep getting in the way. On top of that Riddick’s prowess as a receiver will prevent Abdullah from being a true featured back on all 3 downs, though it’s pretty clear that when healthy, Abdullah has 1st and 2nd to himself. This has pretty much been the case the entirety of the preseason.

I think Abdullah and Riddick are gonna do enough to matter in Fantasy even outside of PPR. The Lions are very much a pass-first offense, which lends itself more towards Riddick due to Abdullah’s durability concerns. It’s well within the realm of possibility that he catches 80 balls for the 2nd year in a row, which would make him an incredible bargain at the Top of Round 9 in PPR, and even more of a value as a mid Round 12 pick in Standard Leagues. Such a workload as a receiver on top of about 50 carries should allow him to stay very Fantasy relevant, and will let him be a low-end RB2 or Flex player for you this season.

Abdullah meanwhile should see more work as a runner with Joique Bell gone, but again, durability is a concern here. Still though, a potential workload in the 275 touch area between carries and catches would put him right around 1200 Yards and 7 TDs, which would be about a middle of the pack RB2. If you’re willing to gamble on his ability to stay healthy, his Round 7 price tag feels just right.


Baltimore Ravens

You know how I said the Lions backfield is a bit confusing? Yeah, the Ravens’ backfield makes trying to figure them out the equivalent of a 2nd grade spelling test. This is the very definition of why RBBC is the biggest headache Fantasy owners deal with. I think you’re better off avoiding these guys altogether, but for those who want to take a stab at it, I’ll do my best here.

Justin Forsett is healthy again, but he’s 31 and has multiple talented backups behind him. While he did average just over 18 touches per game in 2015, it’s entirely possible, and highly likely, the Ravens’ decide to reduce his workload to keep him healthy over the long haul. His beginning of Round 8 ADP is a couple rounds higher than I’m comfortable taking a guy in what will likely be a 3 or 4 way committee backfield for a relatively low-scoring offense(the Ravens have never finished higher than 8th in the Flacco era, and have finished outside the Top 20 in 2 of the last 3 years).

Javorius Allen looked okay as the starter last year once Forsett went down, but he’s looked downright dreadful this preseason. With Forsett back I just don’t see him getting enough touches to be worthy of Fantasy consideration this year, especially considering he’s been outplayed as a runner by Dixon and as a receiver by West. Speaking of…

Kenneth Dixon has looked very solid as a runner this preseason, but due to the competition for carries and his relatively lackluster receiving ability compared to the other RBs, I don’t expect him to be Fantasy relevant for 2015.

Terrance West is getting a lot of hype, but his preseason performances have been up and down. He has looked like the typical mixed bag he usually is as runner and a huge part of his overall yardage has come off of just a few chunk plays. He hasn’t been consistent at all. He’s off of my draft board entirely, but he’s been getting hyped up by everyone from coaches to fans to experts for a reason, so I do suggest keeping an eye on him on the Waiver Wire if he’s there in your league.


Philadelphia Eagles

Yet another muddled backfield situation, my advice is to just stay away.

Ryan Mathews will undoubtedly miss games at some point in the year. It isn’t even the regular season yet and he’s already missing time with an ankle injury. Let him be someone else’s headache.

Kenjon Barner has looked good this preseason, but he’ll be behind Mathews for carries and Sproles for receiving work, and could potentially fall even further because of Smallwood. I’ll pass.

Wendell Smallwood has gotten a lot of buzz this offseason and training camp, and looked good against the Colts in limited work. Sadly his time was cut short after taking a hard hit at the end of his 2nd carry, a 9 yard run. He has every chance to carve out a role in this offense considering the durability and age concerns the position has for the Eagles, but for now at least he’s Waiver Wire fodder.

Darren Sproles is where it gets interesting. After re-upping for another year in Philly, it seems Pederson and the coaching staff there have plans to utilize him more than he has been the past 2 seasons. He’s more a deep sleeper though, and likely carries little value outside of PPR Leagues as a Bye Week fill-in or potential Flex Player.


Indianapolis Colts

Let’s not overthink things here, the seemingly never aging Frank Gore is the guy here, and it isn’t even close. No one on that Colts’ roster can match his combination of running and receiving ability. He’ll likely see in the neighborhood of 250 carries and add another 30 catches. With Luck back in the fold his YPC should tick back up to around 4.2(let’s not get crazy here and predict 5 YPC, we’re still talking about the Colts’ O-Line). With little competition for goal line carries(Gore was the only Colts player to record a Rushing TD last season), Gore seems to be in line for a bounceback campaign.

1400 Total Yards and 8 TDs is well within reach for the grizzly veteran, and his lack of competition in the backfield gives him a safe floor as well. You can draft him at his current ADP of 65 overall, mid Round 6, with confidence.


New York Giants

For whatever reason a ton of confusing backfields got crammed onto the Saturday night schedule. Luckily for us, this one only seems confusing, but in reality is pretty clear cut.

You’ve probably heard the names Andre Williams, Paul Perkins and Orleans Darkwa. The media talks about em like they’ve all of a sudden got a real chance at the starting gig and some serious work on 1st and 2nd down. Don’t listen to them.

Rashad Jennings looked fantastic when he was finally given a true workhorse RB’s kind of load, putting up 432 Yards on 79 carries and 7 catches for 89 Yards over the final 4 games of 2015. He didn’t look good against the Jets but really the entirety of the Giants offense looked off again. But the talent on this team is too great to not turn back around, particularly with Eli and Odell Beckham to lead the charge. Make no mistake, this is Jennings backfield on 1st and 2nd, and it will be until somebody back there shows signs of life as a runner. He’ll likely finally be treated like the workhorse he can be, and that’ll pay dividends in Fantasy. He’s coming off of the board at 67th overall, or mid Round 6, and he’ll easily return you middle of the pack RB2 numbers.

As for 3rd down, that is all Shane Vereen. He has 3rd down and pass-catching from the backfield on lockdown and for good reason. He’ll likely continue to see a lot of use as a receiver as after OBJ and Shepard, no one has established himself as the surefire 3rd receiver, meaning he should see plenty of targets yet again(81 targets in 2015). His value only lies in PPR Leagues however as he’s averaged a mere 796 Total Yards and 4.5 TDs the past 2 seasons, but has also averaged 56 catches, which should be enough of a boost to make him a low-end Flex or solid Bye Week replacement for you in PPR.


New York Jets

I won’t lie, this backfield got way more confusing than I thought it’d be. When they first signed Matt Forte I was convinced he’d be the guy and get 80% of the backfield touches. That doesn’t seem to be the case, but he’s still in line for a very good workload.

The split between Forte and Bilal Powell seems like it’ll be closer to 60/40 split after seeing how they handled things against the Giants. That should be enough for both RBs to be Fantasy relevant this season.

Forte is still the lead guy and will likely get the majority of carries, but surprisingly it’s his work as a receiver that looks like it’ll get cut down with the Jets. Powell’s best trait is his pass-catching, not his running, so look for Forte to see more carries than we’re used to, but also fewer catches. Considering Gotham’s love of running the ball down the opponent’s throat, I’d expect Forte to see around 225 carries, or the majority of what Ivory left behind, and another 35 catches. Powell is looking at about 100 carries and another 50 catches.

Forte will likely turn those 260 touches into about 1350 Total Yards and 8 TDs, which would be enough to keep him in the upper tier of RB2s, while Powell should be right around 800 Yards and 5 TDs, which should give him use as a Bye Week fill-in depending on the matchup, or lower-end Flex in deeper leagues, particularly PPR.


Tennessee Titans

Great news here folks, the Titans are clearly in line to run it 500+ times this season. The question is how the carries get split between DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. This is really anyone’s guess as both have looked great this preseason, so for now let’s give a slight advantage to the veteran here in Murray in a 55/45 split. Still plenty for both to be able to turn into very viable Fantasy starters this fall.

Murray has looked rejuvenated now that he’s finally being used correctly as the North-South runner he is. He’s a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield, and in a run heavy offense it wouldn’t surprise me to see him log 275 carries and another 30 catches. Murray is in for a bounceback season and should return about mid to low-end RB1 numbers for you this season with around 1400 Total Yards and 8-10 TDs. His current ADP of 39th, early Round 4, is an absolute steal right now.

As for Derrick Henry, he should be in for a sizeable workload as well. He isn’t much of a receiver, but considering how much the Titans like to throw the ball to their RBs, I think he’ll still add 10-15 catches on top of what will be about 225 carries. Considering his talent and how things have looked so far this preseason, I’d expect him to turn that into a very solid rookie year of about 1050 Yards and 8 TDs. Coming off the board in mid Round 7 at 81st overall, he’s almost as good a value as his teammate Murray.


Oakland Raiders

How do I put this…. Latavius Murray is pretty average. Meanwhile rookie teammate DeAndre Washington has played much better as well this preseason. Through 2 preseason games the pair had looked about even, but it was against the Titans where Washington really stood out in comparison to Murray. He had 8 carries for 55 Yards and added 3 catches, 1 for a TD to Murray’s 2 carries for 0 Yards and 2 catches for 19 Yards.

A lot of people going into the season assumed that Murray would be the main guy on 1st and 2nd while Washington handled 3rd down and receiving work. After the 3rd week of preseason, it seems like the positions have completely reversed, with Washington in the lead for the bulk of touches, while relegating Murray to 3rd down duties.

I’d pass on Murray at his current ADP of 32nd overall, mid round 3, and instead go after Washington, who’s current ADP is 131st, right at the tail end of Round 11. Washington is shaping up to be the 3rd straight Raiders rookie who could become a Day 1 starter at an important position on offense, following in Carr and Cooper’s footsteps, to form a dangerous young offensive nucleus for Oakland.


Los Angeles Rams

Not much to see here folks, it’s the Todd Gurley show and everybody knows it.

He’s in line for 300+ carries along with another 30 catches. I’m not sure he’ll end being able to turn them into a huge amount as defenses will be able to key in on him due to the dearth of offensive talent the Rams have, but such a huge workload ensures he’ll be well in the mix for a Top 5 ranking this season, which is about as safe a floor as it gets in the NFL today.

You can draft Gurley early Round 1 with confidence.


Denver Broncos

While Devontae Booker seems to be the plan for the future of the RB position for the Broncos, CJ Anderson is the now. He’s very much outplayed Booker this preseason by a large margin, particularly against the Rams this week when he had 11 carries for 50 Yards to Booker’s 8 for 13.

As for those of you wondering about Hillman, the Broncos made their feelings on the matter clear with the huge difference in contracts he and CJ signed this offseason. CJ is the workhorse until he’s proven otherwise, or gets hurt(again).

I wouldn’t want to trust him as my RB1 considering his history of ding ups over the course of a season affecting his play greatly, but as RB2 in the middle of Round 3 his potential workload is hard to ignore, especially with the question marks at QB for the Broncos. I’d grab Booker as a handcuff just in case, one of the very few times I’d ever suggest a handcuff, just to be safe, but otherwise I like CJ this season to push for a Top 8 year, with a floor as a Top 15 RB.


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