I feel like that draft went a little sideways right from the opening bell. From Baker Mayfield going #1 overall to Josh Rosen falling to #10 and Derrius Guice all the way to #59. I’ll overlook the obvious fantasy values like Saquan Barkley and dig a little deeper into guys who fell to great spots for production and lastly look at a few who ended up in Fantasy Hard Knocks.
Let’s look at the running backs who could make an impact this year.
Rashaad Penny – RB – Seattle
RIP Chris Carson. I loved Carson last year until his injury ruined his 2017 potential. And while the Seahawks are in rebuild/transition mode small shares of Chris Carson in late rounds was looking to be a potential reward in 2018. With Carson, Prosise, and McKissic, not to mention Davis, there was always going to be a great chance of a time split in Seattle.
In steps Rashaad Penny. Penny was a fantastic runner in college, leading the nation is rushing last season. From a receiving standpoint on paper it appears to be lack-luster, never reaching 20 catches in any season. However, from a fantasy point of view, that appears to be largely in part to the system at San Diego State, as 19 receptions was the second highest reception total on the team.
Penny is also extremely durable, having not missed a game in the last 3 seasons. Meanwhile everyone else in Seattle should be wrapped in bubble wrap. Penny has a great chance to supplant Carson as the starter. Russell Wilson threw 102 targets to running backs last year. If Penny is able to supplant Carson and become a 3 down back he absolutely has the chance to see 40-50 targets, increasing his fantasy value, especially in PPR leagues.
So what’s the drawback? Well, an early look at the schedule has the Seahawks going against some pretty tough defenses, potentially 7-8 negative matchups on the schedule, with 2 in the fantasy playoffs. This year they see the Broncos, Bears, Rams(2x), Chargers, Vikings, and Chiefs. With an offensive line that didn’t see much improvement on paper we should temper expectations on Penny’s potential production. I anticipate he’ll get drafted in the 4th or 5th round in redraft leagues and around $8-$12 in auction format. As of now I’m planning to err on the low side of things and take him 5th round or later and under the $8 mark.
Nick Chubb – RB – Browns
With Isaiah Crowell in New York for 2018, Nick Chubb will look to take over his role in this Browns offense which suddenly looks rejuvenated. Isaiah’s been pretty consistent in his rushing role over the last three years. With the addition of Jarvis Landry, a full offseason of Josh Gordon, and upgrades at quarterback with Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield I fully expected his numbers to increase this year, even with the retirement of Joe Thomas.
Chubb should be an excellent compliment to Duke Johnson and immediately slide into Crowell’s role. He is nearly a mirror image of Crowell at 5’10” and 225lbs and averaged a gaudy 6.3 YPC at Georgia. He’s never been much in the way of a receiver role and I wouldn’t expect that to evolve at the pro level with Duke Johnson still around.
With the receiving corp keeping the defense honest, I can see Chubb eclipsing Crowell’s stat line from last year, somewhere around 980 yards and 4 touchdowns. He’ll be a solid RB2 or RB3 in standard leagues and an RB3 or RB4 in PPR leagues where he won’t add much value on the receiving end. He’ll get 5 or 6 tough defensive matchups with two in the fantasy playoffs(Panthers and Broncos), reducing his value slightly.
Derrius Guice – RB – Redskins
Questions arose during the draft about Guice and his potential immaturity among other things causing him to fall all the way to pick #59 which could be an absolute steal. Similar to Chubb, Guice is compact at 5’11” 218lbs and averaged 6.5 YPC in college. Again, he wasn’t much in the receiving role and won’t supplant Chris Thompson in that role in Washington.
So who will he supplant? He should easily pass Samaje Perine who was abysmal last year with a 3.4 YPC average and was largely ineffective in the backfield. In fact, he only say the bulk of the carries out of necessity once Chris Thompson went down in week 9. Look for Guice to command that 1st and 2nd down back role in Washington right out of preseason.
Royce Freeman – RB – Broncos
Freeman is another compact guy but with good hands, catching 79 passes in his college career. He moves in to an interesting spot in Denver. The Broncos have a solid OL and a wide open backfield.
CJ Anderson is still looking for a home, Jamaal Charles is now 31, and Devontae Booker has underwhelmed in his time in Denver so far. I believe Booker will get his opportunity to earn the starting job, especially given his pass blocking skills and years in the offense. If his rushing does not improve however the Broncos will have no choice but to go to Freeman. If Freeman can then prove he’s up for the task of protecting Case Keenum he could relegate Booker back to the bench where he finished 2017.
I view Freeman as a nice keeper prospect who should go relatively cheap and possibly undrafted depending how the preseason unfolds. If you are in a redraft league and he goes undrafted, keep him on your short list for your waiver watchers.
In our next article we’ll take a look at pass catchers who could make an impact this year