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Five tricky fantasy running back situations

A look at fantasy options in the toughest situations

August 06, 2019 - 4:25 am
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Louie DiBiase
Twitter: @DiBiaseLOE

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Each season many talented, highly coveted players in fantasy football find themselves stuck in unideal offensive situations. For one reason or another their respective team does not utilize the player to their fullest potential, leaving fantasy owners with a frustrating situation. It can often be a tie-breaking factor in deciding between two players of similar ability. 

The player is too talented to consistently keep on the bench, but the lack of touches, being utilized as a one-dimensional player, or other unappealing situations make it a week by week decision. 

Who are these players in 2019?

Five running backs will be tricky to evaluate during fantasy drafts. 

 

  • Kenyan Drake - Miami Dolphins

There might not be a more frustrating fantasy option than Kenyan Drake over the past two years. Former head coach Adam Gase never fully committed to Drake in 2018 as the lead running back.

Frank Gore had more carries than Drake 11 times last year. Rookie Kalen Ballage out-touched Drake twice after Week 10, while averaging just 3.31 YPC outside of a 75-yard run. 

While Gase is now in New York, new head coach Brian Flores comes from the New England Patriots where there hasn't been a "workhorse back" since Corey Dillon. Flores has also apparently favored Ballage early on in training camp as the starting running back. 

 

The sporadic usage has come despite Drake finishing top-10 in yards per-touch for both the 2017 and 2018 season. The Alabama product also finished fourth for the 2018 season in yards created per-carry. 

 

  • Aaron Jones - Green Bay Packers

Much like Drake, Packers running back Aaron Jones was passed over for a less-efficient running back repeatedly throughout his two-year career.

Jones has averaged an impressive 5.5 yards per-catch in both seasons with Green Bay, yet Jamaal Williams has totaled 60 more carries in 2017 and 2018. Williams has not been efficient with his increased workload, averaging 3.6 and 3.8 yards per-catch in his first two seasons. 

The Packers seemingly figured it out as the 2018 season went along with Jones leading over Williams in carries. However, he had just 12 more carries than his fellow 24-year-old running back. 

Green Bay also hired Matt LaFleur as their new head coach. LaFleur is coming over from the Tennesee Titans, where he served as the team's offensive coordinator. Tennesee's offense went back and forth with Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, so how he will spread the carries with the Packers is yet to be determined. 

 

  • Miles Sanders - Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are a tough backfield to figure out. Throughout the first three seasons under Doug Pederson, the offense has utilized a running back by committee approach. Was it out of necessity or preference? 

How Philadelphia uses their second round rookie running back Miles Sanders will give fantasy owners a better understanding for the future. The former Penn State standout has all the tools to eventually become the starting running back. 

But when is eventually? How much more work will the "starter" get with the Eagles compared to the other backs including Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles, and Corey Clement? 

Sanders is in an appealing offense for his strengths and fantasy. However, the unknown plan for usage in 2019 will make deciding when to draft him a tricky decision. 

 

  • Sony Michel - New England Patriots

The Patriots thought highly enough of Sony Michel to take him in the first round of the 2018 draft. For other teams, that value placed on a running back would likely mean the offense has big plans to utilize that player in a large, multi-dimensional role. 

That doesn't seem to be the case with Michel in New England. The presence of James White as the receiving back has almost turned Michel into a new version of LeGarrette Blount. White finished the 2018 season with 87 receptions and 94 carries in his own right. 

For leagues that use points per-reception, Michel is at a disadvantge. His rookie season was productive on the ground, rushing for 931 yards and six touchdowns. However, the former Georgia Bulldog had just seven receptions last year. 

 

  • Every 49ers running back

San Francisco's backfield could be the biggest headache for owners to evaluate during drafts this summer. The 49ers have three running backs with very similar abilities and production. Jerrick McKinnon, Matt Breida, and Tevin Coleman will all compete for touches in Kyle Shanahan's offense. 

McKinnon was given a four-year $36.9 million contract last year to be the lead running back. Breida was extremely efficient in place for the injured McKinnon last season. Coleman has been a key piece in Shanahan's offense before when the two were together in Atlanta. 

A reasonable scenario could play out where all three share touches throughout the season, making the decision on who to draft virtually impossible. 

 

With a majority of drafts fast approaching, the gang from Breakfast with the Bills - Fantasy Style would be happy to help with your fantasy questions! You can reach all of us on Twitter:

Derek Kramer: @DerekKramer49
Louie DiBiase: @DiBiaseLOE
Mike Jafari: @MJafariWGR
Joe DiBiase: @SneakyJoeWGR

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