Been a weird free agency for the running back position. It is a shadow of its former self in terms of reliance and teams seem now more willing to pick up players and have crowded backfields and committees.
The highest profile move, and potentially one of the most riskiest is the move of Jerick McKinnon to the 49ers. A 4 year, $30m deal dictates that McKinnon will be “the guy”. Not quite sure what he has done to deserve this chance but Kyle Shanahan is the master at getting the most out of his components and used Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman as a powerful combo. although I see McKinnon as the Tevin Coleman in that mould, I’m not sure Matt Breida is the Devonta Freeman. Carlos Hyde would have made a good tandem with McKinnon, but I’m not sure that the 49ers have ever liked him. He departs for Cleveland and it will be interesting to see how the Browns use him (for what it’s worth, i think this deal means that they do not draft Saquon Barkley) with Duke Johnson.
The next biggest move in my opinion in the free agency at the RB position is Dion Lewis moving from the Patriots to the Titans. the #FreeHenry movement will still be in force next season but i love this combo of the 2. As I said above, teams are adopting the usage of multiple RBs in a backfield and the Tennessee one is a decent standard setter. Lewis will be the main pass catcher due to Henry’s lack of catching skills where as Henry will be used pretty much like he was last season, not enough.
The Patriots reacted to Dion Lewis’s departure by re-signing Burkhead to a multi year deal and signing Jeremy Hill to a one year deal. It seems that the Patriots will go with Rex as their main back, with a touch of James White. This leaves the final spot to be battled out between Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill.
The biggest winner for fantasy is probably Dion Lewis, who will see a decent share of the Titans backfield as he can do the early down work as well as the pass catching. He will once again be a PPR force. I think Jerick McKinnon will be overdrafted so he isn’t someone who will be on my fantasy teams next year. that said, he will be a solid RB2 next season if the money paid to him is an indication or workload.
The biggest loser is Derrick Henry however, who seemed in line for a heft workload before the signing of Lewis, who will now be filling in his complimentary role, one that his ability surely deserves more. Dynasty Owners of Henry will be furious.
As for Carlos Hyde, presuming that the Browns do not draft Barkley, probably still has an RB3 type of year. He wont be needed for pass catching with Duke Johnson there, a run first type QB and plenty of mouths to feed. whilst he is an upgrade to Crowell (or is he?) for the Browns offence, for fantasy purposes, will be a plug a play depth at the position player.
In order of fantasy points:
Lewis (RB1/2), McKinnon(RB2), Hyde (RB2/3), Henry (RB3)
The only other fantasy relevant move at this moment is LaGarrette Blount. He moves to Detroit in what seems to be the end of Ameer Abdullah’s reign as the lead back. Detroit’s patience seems to have finally waded so they bring in Blount, the heavy rock pounder and look to pair him with the pass catcher in Theo Riddick. I like the move and it shows that Detroit are trying to be proactive in trying to force the issue and the run game going in to 2018.
Other moves in the offseason in Free Agency:
Frank Gore will have his swansong in Miami and will compliment Kenyan Drake.
Indianapolis signed Christine Michael (god knows why).
Jonathan Stewart signed a 1 year deal with the Giants so don’t expect anything there. Whilst over at the Jets, Isiah Crowell will join the crowd of Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire and the also recently signed Thomas Rawls. Yuk. Expect one of these to be cut.
Finally, and most laughably, Jon Gruden brings Doug Martin over from Tampa to add to his old squad in Oakland. Martin will be nothing more than a backup to Marshawn Lynch.
You are probably not going to be playing any of these guys for more than bye week plug ins, unless one of the other players in their backfield share gets injured. To pick an order is tough, but probably like Jonathan Stewart the most out of the whole host of flyers taken by these teams on the running backs in free agency. Piece of advice: let someone else draft them on their name in the later rounds whilst you pick up players like Alex Collins(Baltimore), Mike Davis (Seattle) or LeGarrette Blount (Detroit).