Old Faces, New Places: 2017 RBs

by Phong Ta

As many of you likely know, there has been quite a bit of RB shuffling this offseason, meaning speculation is running rampant on the fantasy scene of how well or not well they’ll do. And I’m here to try to help you sort out the mess of it all. So here’s a way too early quick look at a few veteran runners that landed in new cities and how I think they’ll do this upcoming season.

Adrian Peterson

2016 stats: 3 games, 80 total yards (72 rush, 8 receiving), 3 catches, 0 TDs, 1 Fumble
Previous team: Minnesota Vikings
New team: New Orleans Saints

Obviously being in New Orleans now, where they very much like to spread the ball around both in the passing game and on the ground, it is highly unlikely that Peterson will come anywhere close to his production in years past, where he was practically a lock to finish as a Top 10 RB year in and year out barring injury.

That being said I still think he can have some fantasy success, more-so in standard leagues as Peterson has never been much of a pass catcher and the Saints now have Alvin Kamara to handle pass catching duties out of the backfield. However, keep in mind that Mark Ingram also has well known injury issues, so I can see a pretty even split between the two, which should allow Peterson to come in around the 175-200 carry mark, which could make him a low-end Flex play depending on how he plays. Consider him with your mid to late round picks as a flier with potential for high-end Flex numbers if everything breaks right for him(he plays, Ingram misses some times, Saints run the ball a bit more often in 2017).

Projected 2017 stats: 14 games, 800 total yards(725 rush, 75 receiving), 12 catches, 6 TDs, 2 Fumbles

Latavius Murray

2016 stats: 14 games, 1052 total yards(788 rush, 264 receiving), 33 catches, 12 TDs, 2 Fumbles
Previous team: Oakland Raiders
New team: Minnesota Vikings

There is little reason to assume that Murray will do better as a Viking than he did as a Raider. The Raiders had one of the top 3 O-Lines in the NFL last year and a really damn good passing attack led by MVP candidate Derek Carr to ward away stacked boxes.

Meanwhile the Vikings have well documented O-Line issues(and no I don’t consider replacing two mediocre starting tackles with two new mediocre tackles much of an improvement) which can spell doom for even the most talented of RBs and a somewhat underwhelming dink and dunk aerial attack led by Sam Bradford that won’t exactly ward away 7 or 8 man fronts.

Not to mention that they drafted Dalvin Cook, who while indeed a rookie that will likely need some seasoning, is simply a more talented RB than Murray is. Add all that together and I just don’t see Murray improving much, and if anything I think his stats will regress.

However, I will say this much for Murray. I think he’ll still remain a solid flex option and he’ll start out of the gate hot, as I expect Minnesota’s offense to be better overall than last year. But Cook will eventually eat into his carries and workload, so after that hot start, trade him while you can, preferably before October.

Projected 2017 stats: 15 games, 1050 total yards(900 rush, 150 receiving), 20 catches, 8 TDs, 2 Fumbles

Marshawn Lynch

2016 stats: N/A
2015 stats: 7 games, 497 total yards(417 rush, 80 receiving), 13 catches, 3 TDs, 0 Fumbles
Previous team: Seattle Seahawks(was retired for 2016)
New team: Oakland Raiders

I love this pairing to be quite frank. Lynch is rested and ready to go after enjoying a year off, and will have the benefit of running behind one of the best O-Lines in the league, something he did not have in his time as a Seahawk, and a prolific passing game to keep defenses honest.

Lynch’s hard nosed running style and incredible ability to break tackles and keep going after first contact is unmatched, which will allow him to take full advantage of Oakland’s run blocking. I really do think Lynch will have a mini career revival in 2017, and the Raiders will make sure to keep him fresh as they have two excellent satellite backs to help spell him. I think he’ll end up around the 240 carry mark for them.

Projected 2017 stats: 16 games, 1225 total yards(1075 rush, 150 receiving), 20 catches, 11 TDs, 4 Fumbles

Jamaal Charles

2016 stats: 3 games, 54 total yards(40 rush, 14 receiving), 2 receptions, 1 TD, 0 Fumbles
Previous team: Kansas City Chiefs
New team: Denver Broncos

I’m not really expecting a whole lot from Charles this season. The guy has had multiple knee surgeries and has a lot of competition for touches in Denver’s quietly deep backfield. I also expect Charles’ touches to be limited as well, due to his age and injury history.

Charles is still a supremely talented player and I can see him getting as many as 200 touches if all things break right for him, and that could certainly give him enough value to be a flex guy even in standard leagues, but I’m just having trouble putting my faith in him between those injuries and Denver’s O-Line. It doesn’t help that their best receivers, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, are more run after catch threats, meaning defenses can still crowd the line of scrimmage as well.

I do think Charles will catch a lot of balls for the Broncos though out of the backfield, probably about 40, so I’d give him a mid round draft grade in PPR leagues.

Projected 2017 stats: 750 total yards (425 rush, 325 receiving), 40 catches, 4 TDs, 2 Fumbles

Danny Woodhead

2016 stats: 2 games, 151 total yards(116 rush, 35 receiving), 6 catches, 1 TD, 0 Fumbles
Previous team: San Diego Chargers
New team: Baltimore Ravens

Woodhead could not have asked for a better place to land this offseason in terms of fantasy relevance. While his health is a question mark after missing 27 games the past 3 years, if he can stay healthy he’ll be a bargain for his owners.

The Ravens need a short yardage receiver to work the middle of the field for them, and no one is really expecting a major leap out of any of Baltimore’s current receivers and Aiken is gone as well. Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman will give Woodhead plenty of room to work on the inside as a receiver for the Ravens, and Woodhead is a sneakily good runner as well, boasting a career 4.3 YPC.

Add to that Baltimore’s new, somewhat odd penchant for short passes under OC Mornhinweg (Flacco is considered to be at his best throwing it deep and the Ravens have two speedy WRs), plus Kenneth Dixon’s 4 game suspension to start the year, and it’s a recipe for success for Woodhead in 2017 from a fantasy outlook, as long as he can stay healthy. He is going to be a mid round target for me I’ll be looking to snag in almost all drafts, especially in PPR leagues.

Projected 2017 stats: 1100 total yards(500 rush, 600 receiving), 75 catches, 7 TDs, 0 Fumbles

Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee(and all Patriots’ RBs)

I’m not even going to put their stats here because honestly, I’m just advising you all to stay away from the Patriots’ backfield this fantasy season. This offense morphs from week to week so it’s hard to pinpoint who will be used when, which is why I believe it’s better to just avoid them altogether if you can help it.

For example last season when the Patriots played the Broncos, who were not doing so hot against the run in 2016, everyone expected to see the Pats to try steamroll Denver’s D-Line with LeGarrette Blount. Instead we got a heavy dose of Dion Lewis between the tackles. Who here can honestly say they saw that one coming? Belitricks at its finest, I suppose.

But anyway, just avoid them all if you can. Dion Lewis and James White are worth mid to late round consideration in PPR Leagues as the Patriots love to utilize them in their short passing game, but otherwise let this headache of a backfield be someone else’s problem this upcoming season.


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