Rookie RBs That Could Blow Up In 2014

by Michael Drahota | Posted on Monday, August 18th, 2014 | 0

Drafting rookies can be a perilous practice in fantasy football, as it obviously takes a good amount of practice and game experience to adjust to the speed and skill of the National Football League (NFL).

However, if there is one position where rookies can almost seamlessly transition to the professional level, it’s running back (RB). Top-level collegiate RBs burst into the NFL with a vengeance, and many of them even put forth some of their best work in their inaugural season before the wear and tear of the notoriously short-lived position ravages their body.

2014 will be no different, and with several rookie running backs set to potentially make instant contributions for their teams, there’s no doubt that some of them are worth considering in your draft. While these players carry a sizeable amount of risk, they also have huge upside if certain factors fall into place.

Here are four young backs who could make a big fantasy impact in 2014:


Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons: With aging veteran rusher Steven Jackson nearing the twilight of his career and backup Jacquizz Rodgers underwhelming in limited action, the Falcons took a chance on Florida State product Freeman in May’s draft. It appears to have been a good choice early on, as Jackson has already missed time with a hamstring injury. Freeman impressed in his preseason debut, carrying the ball 10 times for 57 yards and adding one reception for 57 yards. He followed that with six carries for 29 yards and one reception for 11 yards in the Falcons’ 32-7 blowout loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday (August 16, 2014).

Although Freeman is listed as the team’s No. 3 running back on the depth chart, that’s most likely just to motivate the talented rookie to improve. Falcons’ offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter recently came out and said Freeman needs to work on his pass protection, basically publicly motivating him to get better.

If and when he does just that, expect him to rise to the top of the Falcons’ RB stable, making him a late-round pick that could deliver huge value if given a chance to shine. His bargain potential at an average draft position (ADP) of 124 in Yahoo standard leagues is undeniable.


Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers: Hyde, a second round pick out of Ohio State, has looked solid if not spectacular in his two preseason appearances thus far. He had 39 yards on five carries against the Ravens in his debut, and followed that with 11 yards on four carries with one reception for nine in the Niners’ 34-0 blowout loss to the Denver Broncos’ yesterday (Sun., August 17, 2014).

Hyde has earned the praise of the San Francisco coaching staff for his willingness to learn, evident by some strong blitz pickups from the shotgun formation. Ageless wonder Frank Gore still sits atop the 49ers’ depth chart, but if the 31-year-old finally breaks down, Hyde could easily turn into a legitimate RB 1 given how much the 49ers run the ball. He brings an anemic ADP of 116, so draft him as a late flier who could potentially blow up.

Tennessee Titans Rookie Minicamp

Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans: Sankey has been talked about as the heir apparent to former Titans star Chris Johnson’s workload, but there are still several roadblocks to bypass before that dream scenario unfolds.

The Washington product impressed in his preseason debut, running for 75 yards and a touchdown on 13 total touches. He turned six carries into 31 yards on Friday night (August 15, 2014), but also lost a fumble in the fourth quarter and didn’t return.

Today, Rotoworld reported that Sankey is drawing the ire of coaches for his lack of ability to hold onto the ball, but the staff is apparently working with him to adjust to the intricacies of NFL play. He’s been running with the third string offense thus far, and still sits behind Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster on the Titans’ RB depth chart.

But if he can corral his fumbling issues and pass protection issues (which will only come with more and more reps in practice), Sankey could turn into the Titans’ starter in 2014. He’s worth a mid-to-late round pick, but his current ADP of 73 in Yahoo is a bit high. Don’t overpay for him just yet.


Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams: Even with second-year back Zac Stacy coming off of an incredibly productive 2013 season, the Rams surprised by taking Auburn star Mason in the third round of the draft. Stacy is a powerful runner, but he also averaged only 3.9 yards per carry last year and has a history of injuries.

The bulldozing Mason will be a perfect backup to Stacy, and he could explode into something much more if given a chance to take on a featured role. Like most rookie running backs, Mason has struggled with pass protection early on, so his development into a legitimate fantasy starter is going to take some time.

However, if Stacy gets hurt, which is a very distinct possibility, the Rams will have no choice but to thrust their talented rookie into the starting spot. If that happens, Mason could quickly turn into a star for run-centered St. Louis. Pick him up late as an end-of-year breakout candidate with a chance to do much more.

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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