Fantasy Football Strategy: Bargain Running Backs

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It’s the best time of the year for fantasy enthusiasts as we’re in the month of August! It’s the time of the year where you do research to draft and prove to your buddies who knows football more – for bragging rights, for the trophy, for a year of superior confidence. In order to achieve these goals, you must be able to identify the bargains of players. Players with hype or greatly anticipated potential make their ADP (Average Draft Position) higher than it should be, which causes other players to drop and therefore become bargains. There are also those players who have certain risks that scare fantasy owners away.

I’m here to inform you of who I believe could be steals for where you can draft them. I will be concentrating on my top 5 bargain RB’s for this article. These players I feel are being drafted lower than they should, or being drafted where you should feel confident in taking them with your arms held high in triumph. Sometimes missing on those top tier RB’s can leave you in panic mode. This position is where I feel it isn’t as deep as in past years which means finding those lower tier guys who could become a stud is very important. That said, you can never have too many RB’s on your fantasy roster. There always seems to be that high round bust or that come from no where RB who helps a team go deep into the playoffs. I’m going to identify who I believe has the best chance of being that surprised without having to reach. When referring to my draft round, I typically play in 12 team leagues. A player with a 46 ADP, I would consider as a 4th round pick rather than a 5th round pick being in a 10 team league.

Maurice Jones-Drew RB (JAX) – ADP 29.0

I know, I know – Jacksonville is projected to be a horrible offense, Blaine Gabbert is the starting QB and he’s coming off a major foot injury. Understand though, he’s never had the talent around him and always continued to be one of the most consistent fantasy players since he’s entered the league back in 2006. There have been no signs to point he’s starting to get tired legs or his age (still only 28) is starting to catch up to him. Since Maurice Jones-Drew took over the starting RB position in 2009, he’s averaged 4.5, 4.4, 4.7 and 4.8 yards per carry – getting right around 300 carries per year with the exception of last year when he injured his foot. He’s also come back from an injury before and ended up having the best year of his career, so I feel that he can come back from this injury. He’s also shown he has the heart to play hard, I don’t see him letting this foot injury getting the best of him.

He’s going to be the focal point of this offense once again. The only concern people could have would be the injury. If you read and believe all the reports coming out about how good he looks and seems to be healthy, he should be getting drafted before the 29th pick in standard drafts. This is more of just a gut feeling but I easily seem him inside the top 10 of fantasy RB’s and possibly flirting with the top 5. There are too many more riskier RB options than putting a 2nd or 3rd round pick on a guy who’s always got the job done. There’s no body behind him that has to chance to take over for him so look for his work horse style and get right around 300 carries and 45 catches again for MJD.

2013 Projections: 15 GP; 1,422 rushing yards; 379 receiving yards; 11 total TDs

Chris Ivory RB (NYJ) – ADP 62.7

Woah, do the Jets look absolutely horrible. It was just a couple years ago when they had one of the best defenses in the league with an offense who could put up a decent amount of points; along with multiple AFC Championship games. We turn the corner on the rebuilding stage of the New York Jets and now it’s Chris Ivory who’s going to be leading the backfield. In his limited playing time with the New Orleans Saints, he showed flashes of a hard nose runner who has some burst of speed. Coming from no where playing for Tiffin, a D3 college in Ohio, he has filled in here and there when an injury occurs. Averaging 5.1 yards a carry in his young 3 year career, he has the chance to do big things. Ivory is by far the best option this year for the Jets after making a trade to acquire him – there should be no running back by committee here. We haven’t seen a lot from Ivory but the sample size tells us he’s capable to produce on a high level. With that and the fact he should see 250-300 carries in an offense that will have a run first approach, he should easily be going higher than the 24th best RB. How many of the 62 active running backs with at least 200 rushes have a better average than Ivory? Three: Jamal Charles, CJ Spiller and Adrian Peterson.

2013 Projections: 16 GP; 1,302 rushing yards; 216 receiving yards; 9 total TDs

Lamar Miller RB (MIA) – ADP 64.9

Reggie Bush left the Miami Dolphins and went to the Detroit Lions. This left a starting RB role up for grabs and Miller is going to be the one to take it and run. Daniel Thomas has had his chances and each time has failed to show he can be the guy. The Dolphins drafted Miller in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL draft from the University of Miami. Lamar Miller didn’t see many carries early in his rookie year last year but once they saw what he could do, they gave him more carries. Miller was able to rack up 4.9 yard per carry while not seeing the field much. There isn’t a lot to go on at the moment but a guy that’s going to see the majority of the carries in an offense that will probably run more than pass, Miller is better than his current ADP and 25th RB taken. They grabbed Mike Wallace from free agency and I think that could stretch the field for longer runs. Another gut feeling, but they aren’t going to give the ball to anyone else. Lamar Miller may not be a cow-bell type running back for the Miami Dolphins this year, but expect to see 225, 250 carries for the former Hurricane.

2013 Projections: 16 GP; 1242 rushing yards; 278 receiving yards; 8 total TDs

Shane Vereen RB (NE) – ADP 89.4

Shane Vereen isn’t the most talented runner but he’s versatile. He more than likely isn’t going to overthrow Stevan Ridley, but he is going to get his carries. He also is going to fill the roll that Danny Woodhead was in last year. Shane Vereen is more talented than Woodhead so you should expect to at least see similar stats. Woodhead finished as the 27th best RB in standard leagues which is impressive considering the amount of time he saw the field and carries he received. I’m guessing Vereen gets 150-175 touches on the year and does well with them. New England is going to be in need of pass catchers this year and there’s even reports coming out of camp that Vereen has lined up out at Wide Receiver some. Vereen is going about where he should be being a RB3/Flex play but I see potential upside here to reach RB2 if he sees the field enough. Having a low floor for fantasy production should make you feel confident about drafting him.

2013 Projections: 16 GP; 427 rushing yards; 563 receiving yards; 8 total TDs

Mark Ingram RB (NO) – ADP 111.5

I understand the eyebrow raise in seeing Mark Ingram‘s name here after being such a disappointment thus far in his NFL career. He’s on this list because of his current ADP and running back rank. I don’t believe he becomes a RB1, or even a RB2 – but to be there for depth on bye weeks and flex play positions, he’s a steal. This guy has been getting wonderful reviews coming out of camp. Finally Ingram seems to be healthy enough to show what he can do. Ivory is gone, and Sean Payton has already come out and say he wants to run the ball more than in previous years. Ingram is going to split time with Pierre Thomas for carries but expect Ingram to be able to pound the ball a little more and in goal line situations. Being able to get the ball in goal line situation should elevate Ingram ahead of Thomas. I’m going out on a limb here and saying Ingram will play in at least 15 of the 16 games this year and be the Saints leading rusher in yards and TDs. With such a productive offense, you have to believe those numbers will be respectable. I’m not seeing the numbers to back up my feeling but we’ll see if I have to put my foot in my mouth in a few months.

2013 Projections: 15 GP; 873 rushing yards; 93 receiving yards; 10 total TDs

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Christopher Ziza

Chris is a die-hard Detroit sports fan and an extremely proud father of two beautiful, young ladies. Founder and Executive Director of FFLockerRoom Sports.

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