Is There Any Fantasy Value Left At Running Back?

by Michael Drahota | Posted on Sunday, August 24th, 2014 | 0

The 2014 NFL regular season will kick off a week from this Thursday (September 4, 2014), meaning that fantasy drafts are now in full swing. Time is running out to formulate a winning draft strategy, so here is one that could make or break you this year.

With the NFL seemingly more and more of a passing league each year, running back is becoming a fading commodity on the virtual gridiron as true workhorse backs go the way of the dinosaur.

That makes it hard to find value at the position, and with running back injuries a maddening reality of the game, you have to be both intelligent and lucky with your rushing game.

Selecting one of the NFL’s best running backs requires the fortune of a high draft pick. It’s undoubtedly great to get Lesean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Eddie Lacy, or Matt Forte, but they disappear at the very start of the draft. If you find yourself picking after they do, you may want to focus on getting a high-level wideout or New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.

It’s becoming clear that you have to have a high-octane passing attack in today’s NFL, and fantasy is no different. If you choose to focus on your aerial attack earlier, here are four running backs that will give you good value for their respective draft positions:

Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

After exploding into the league with a monstrous rookie year in 2012, Martin had a throwaway sophomore campaign after a shoulder injury ended it early. He’s healthy and ready to benefit from new head coach Lovie Smith, who’s called Martin his “bell cow” back.

He looked impressive in the Bucs’ Week 3 preseason win over the Buffalo Bills, and with his backups dealing with a multitude of injuries, Martin should be in line for a ton of touches.

If he can stay healthy (and that’s always a big if at this position), he could flirt with legitimate RB1 value, making him a solid bargain at his current Average Draft Position (ADP) of 35 in Yahoo standard leagues.

The risk will always be there with Martin, but he can catch passes out of the backfield and waiting for him could give you the chance to select an elite receiver. He’s a solid value heading into the regular season.

Ryan Matthews, San Diego Chargers:

The mercurial Matthews enjoyed his finest season in 2013, rushing for 1,255 yards while exhibiting much of the promise that made him a first round pick back in 2010. The Chargers are committed to running the ball, and despite the presence of free agent signee Donald Brown and Danny Woodhead, Matthews is clearly the Bolts’ lead man.

He just needs to stay healthy and hold onto the ball, issues which he’s faced on many occasions in the past. But Matthews is a solid receiver out of the backfield, and he could potentially break out if his body holds up to the rigors of a 16-game NFL season.

Currently being drafted at a relatively low ADP of 40, Matthews is an excellent back to select if you want to take one of the top pass-catchers early. Just be sure to draft Brown as insurance if you do.

Toby Gerhardt, Jacksonville Jaguars:

After spending the first years of his career under Adrian Peterson’s shadow in Minnesota, Gerhardt has been given a chance to shine on his own in Jacksonville. His punishing running style will never be pretty, but he gets the job done.

With little competition for carries in the Jags’ backfield, Gerhardt should be one of the few remaining feature backs in the league. He’s not going to haul in too many long receptions, but he will undoubtedly get the goal line touches for Jacksonville.

The main concern is that the Jaguars may be playing from behind too much, forcing them to pass and taking Gerhardt’s skills out of the equation.

Still, the bruising back will get his carries, and he should turn in some decent (if not spectacular) production with some upside. At an ADP of 42, he’s worth drafting if he falls to the fourth or fifth round.

Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions:

Speedster Bush recorded a solid year in Detroit last year, rushing for over 1,000 yards for only the second time in his career. He’s also a fantastic receiver out of the backfield, making him a dual threat back who has the potential to take any play for a score.

Promising No. 2 back Joique Bell will continue to cut into Bush’s carries, but that could be a good thing. He’s always been injury prone, so he may benefit from a “quality over quantity” strategy.

Bush scored an 86-yard touchdown in the Lions’ Week 3 preseason win over Jacksonville on Friday night (August 22, 2014), signifying he has wheels to burn. And at an ADP of 62, Bush presents some insane value to draft as your second or third back. He may not be the only back in Detroit, but he’s still the best.

About the Author

Both an avid NFL fan and analyst, I’ve been following professional football since the late 1980s. I’m also an avid fantasy football player with several league victories under my belt. Check out my NFL articles on TSM for the latest NFL news, highlights, predictions, and more.

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