Here at Fantasy Sports Locker Room we love the sports, both real and fake. So we decided to put together a little league where the top options at each position were unavailable. So, only Running Backs outside our consensus Top 30 were eligible to be drafted, which is the focus today. Stay tuned for a full summary on our ‘value draft’ coming this weekend.
Just note that with updates our rankings are constantly changing slightly.
So within our friendly competition, I decided that perhaps we should look the latest news and ADP trends surrounding these running backs and see if any of them should really be rising up the rankings, falling down, or are approaching bust or sleeper territory.
Running Backs Outside Our Top 30: Andre Brown, Eddie Lacy and Mark Ingram
Alright, Brown is a staff favorite, Lacy is climbing our boards, and Mark Ingram is sort of just there – attached to a high-powered offense, but without a clear role. Wait… that is the case with all 3 of them currently.
So, Andre Brown went and fumbled in his first preseason game, which is a shame because he isn’t as talented as David Wilson, but don’t fret, he is going to get the chances to punch home TDs and his fair share of carries.
Eddie Lacy is standing out in Pack Camp and expected to be the back to own for Green Bay. He has since moved into our top 30 Rankings and could continue to climb.
Then there is Mark Ingram – the former man at ‘Bama long before Eddie Lacy – who might finally get a chance in New Orleans. He started their first preseason game and Pierre Thomas is now nursing a leg injury, and has dropped on the depth chart.
There hasn’t been a lot of fluctuation here: Brown hasn’t swayed, while Ingram and Lacy have each seen a slight jump of late. There is nothing overly significant, except that Lacy is likely underrated by us as a staff and has the best shot at a top 20 fake season of the three.
All three backs should be targeted too – their price tag is reasonable, they all play on powerful offensive teams, and will be seeing the majority of goal line touches.
Running Backs Outside Our Top 30: Ronnie Hillman, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jonathan Stewart
I personally went a little gushy for Hillman after it was first reported that he was atop the Broncos RB Depth Chart. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a safe and reliable option, despite his lack of explosiveness, and Jonathan Stewart is a perennial injury risk.
It is fantastic news that Hillman might be the Week 1 starter for Denver, but it is likely unwise to draft him as such. Montee Ball is knocking on the door and Knowshon Moreno was no slouch when given the opportunity last season.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn’t going anywhere in the Bengals running game. He may lose carries and opportunities, but he is a superior inside runner and short yardage option to Giovani Bernard and will likely also see the bulk of the goal line chances.
Jonathan Stewart is hurt again and even when he was healthy last season, he wasn’t that good. Currently there is optimism that he’ll be ready for Week 1, but that isn’t enough for him to warrant any significant attention on draft day.
BeJarvus Green-Ellis is maintaining similar value and his slight slip is directly correlated with the Gio Bernard hype-train, but remember that The Law Firm holds value regardless of the rookie. With Stewart’s injury his value is plummeting, and you should contribute to that by not drafting him.
Ronnie Hillman’s ADP ascend is in accordance with his placement atop the Broncos Depth Chart. He’ll maintain value all season, but he might not be the Broncos best back and see the carries to justify a pick any higher than he is currently going. If he starts hot you may have a steal, but don’t count on that.
Running Backs Outside Our Top 30: Vick Ballard, Bernard Pierce, Pierre Thomas
Vick Ballard looked set to take a major step forward in his sophomore season until Ahmed Bradshaw arrived in Indy, whereas fellow sophomore Bernard Piece’s stock is rising in a new offense and Pierre Thomas just always produces fantasy points.
Ballard was well inside the Top 30 before Bradshaw was signed, but Ahmed’s arrival changed that. However, the former Giant cannot stay healthy so there is still some room for Ballard on fake teams, in addition to the fact that he’s never carried the full load.
Bernard Pierce started showing off all his flash-and-dash, tackle breaking ability, and explosiveness after Jim Caldwell took over the offense in Baltimore, but he still has Ray Rice in front of him. Cap his touches at 15 per week on the high side.
Finally, there is Pierre Thomas, annually underrated, yet always productive. He has modestly posted a top 35 fake season every year he has been healthy, which includes 3 top 30 finishes.
Both Ballard and Pierce have flip-flopped and bounced up and down a bit, but have essentially maintained their value as currently they’re backups. Thomas, however, has seen a consistent rise up the draft boards despite the fact that he is currently dealing with an injury.
Pierre Thomas is currently on all kinds of sleeper lists because he always finds ways to produce fake points and you don’t find that late in drafts. Pierce is a trendy and smart mid-round pick, especially in PPR formats and with Bradshaw’s injury history investing in Ballard isn’t a bad idea either.
Running Backs Outside Our Top 30: Isaiah Pead, Daryl Richardson, DeAngelo Williams
The Rams backfield situation has been under heavy debate since Steven Jackson signed in Atlanta this offseason. While Richardson outperformed Pead last season many scouts would argue Pead is the superior talent. Then there is the rookie Zac Stacy, who was a force in the SEC, and then Pead is suspended for Week 1. Did I miss anything?
DeAngelo Williams on the other hand is quite a talent (or was at one time at least) and with Jonathan Stewart’s wacky ankles has found himself atop the Black Cats’ RB Depth Chart. I’ve discussed my thoughts on him at length over at The Fake Football.
Overall, you’ve got potential lead backs who are facing competition, and with realistically little upside… unless you think the Rams are suddenly going to turn into a powerhouse offense.
DeAngelo Williams is on the rise, but to paraphrase my piece from The Fake Football, don’t draft him at a higher price tag than this. He had one big week in 2012 that bolstered his stat line and he isn’t in line to get many chances to score touchdowns.
Isaiah Pead is out Week 1 and fumbled in his first preseason game, which further puts him behind Daryl Richardson, who suddenly becomes an interesting draft target. If he is in fact the starter and produces, Jeff Fisher might lean on him for the entire season. Anytime you can grab a lead back in the middle rounds you should.
DeAngelo Williams’ ADP is on the rise because he is potentially the lead back in Carolina, but Richardson is the guy to target.
Running Backs Outside Our Top 30: Bryce Brown, Ben Tate, Danny Woodhead
This is an interesting trio. Danny Woodhead is fresh off a top 30 RB season with the Pats, Bryce Brown burst on the scene like no other in 2012 and Ben Tate is the poster boy for the Handcuff Club.
Brown might get enough opportunities in Chip Kelly’s uptempo offense to be a #3 RB even behind LeSean McCoy. He is talented enough to take the lead role in most backfields, so if McCoy ever went down, Brown is a surefire weekly fantasy starter.
Danny Woodhead is reportedly ready to go in the Chargers second preseason game after missing 9 days of practice with an undisclosed injury. He was valuable as a Patriot, but you should be skeptical about similar success in San Diego. He is a PPR target first and foremost.
Ben Tate, like Brown, has the talent to be a bell cow back, but his situation is even better as he is attached to an excellent run-first offense. Unfortunately the Philosopher Arian Foster stands in his way, but Foster is currently nursing injuries so Tate may get some chances early. Furthermore, there is a lot of concern surrounding Foster’s usage the past few seasons.
There really isn’t a lot to take away from this – just know that Tate and Brown should both be owned. If Foster or McCoy were to get injured both would stand to be potential top fantasy backs week-in-week-out, and Brown might even be a potential weekly play in deeper formats as it stands.
Danny Woodhead is not a target for me personally, I attribute much of his 2012 success to the role he played in an elite offense. He might catch another 40 passes but he isn’t likely to score 7 combined TDs again, which is how he propelled himself into a top 30 RB season.
Running Backs Outside Our Top 30: Who to Own
The guys with the most upside have to be Eddie Lacy, Daryl Richardson, Andre Brown, Ben Tate and Bryce Brown. Lacy has already moved up our ranks, the two Browns stand to be involved enough in their offenses to produce fantasy points and have major upside if they ever landed themselves in high carry situations.
Daryl Richardson is the early favorite to be the lead back in St. Louis and Rams’ Coach Jeff Fisher likes to go with a primary back. There is a lot of potential value there and Richardson showed signs in his rookie season. He is an ideal target right now and you can expect his ADP to continue to rise.
Ben Tate could be the Week 1 starter for the high-powered run machine that is the Houston Texans. Although Arian Foster’s injury doesn’t sound serious any potential setbacks or complications could allow Tate to be a bell-cow back on a good team. He’d instantly become a weekly fantasy starter and potential weekly top ten option – don’t let Ben Tate slip.
Running Backs Outside Our Top 30: Who to Avoid
I am down on DeAngelo Williams, there is limited upside and his TD potential is beyond limited. Furthermore, I was all over Ronnie Hillman, but with his rising ADP, I think you can get better value and production from Daryl Richardson, who finds himself in a similar situation. Isaiah Pead can be ignored too in most formats – at least until he shows something.
Finally, Jonathan Stewart would appear to be a prime target to start considering with his plummeting ADP, but like Williams, the Red Zone TD opportunities won’t be there and he hasn’t been good since 2009. As mentioned with Danny Woodhead unless you’re in a PPR format I’d also look at other options as the Chargers are a far cry from the offense he excelled in last season.