So here we are. The last stop on our landscape tour before we hit draft night (although we may make an additional stop for one last preview, who knows). The Running back market has been slow and a lot of players who only a few short years ago were elite and would have been highly sort after in fantasy, are now struggling to even get a contract! How time flies eh. There’s no shortage of landing spots either, but the nature of the position is that it’s got high wear and a short period of high production. Anyway, all the best class of 2021 (who’d become a running back in this age, you don’t even get paid fairly for the battering you get!)
Running back is a minefield when it comes to fantasy and it only ever seems to get worse. We’ve had the Raiders turning 2 viable starters into a committee where it’s hard to determine the shares; the Patriots continue to persist with 3 or 4 RBs and complete unpredictability and the Texans pick up players as though it’s a 24 team league waiver wire and they need one to hit.
RBs will still dominate the opening two rounds. McCaffrey, Cook, Kamara, Barkley, Taylor, Henry, Jones, Zeke, Chubb and Ekeler would be my top 10 (not in order) right now but the likes of Gibson, Mixon, Sanders, Montgomery, Edmonds, Akers, Carson, Robinson, CEH, Gordon and Dobbins are all viable options early on.
The vacancies in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Miami and on the Jets could also play a huge part. Travis Etienne, Najee Harris and Javonte Williams could all find themselves in starting roles from day 1 and it’s possible any of the rookies could get game time.
The free agents remaining also show the harsh reality of being a running back in the NFL. James Conner and Todd Gurley used to be sought after players but their availability due to injuries means that most teams see them as damaged goods and unreliable so they may well end up as injury replacement signings through the season. Duke Johnson can still be a good 3rd down back if given a better situation while everyone else listed in the Free Agent Column would be seen as a “last resort”.
Perine, Gaskin, Davis and Snell could end up as starters, but I suspect if the Steelers don’t get a starting RB in the draft they might sign Conner to whatever minimum deal they can and hope that their coaching and co-ordinator were the issue.
A few key questions still remain. Will Chase Edmonds get a bell cow type role with the Cardinals? How will some of the split backfields shape up? Who will roll with draft picks and who will be going with what they have? Who will get injured and ruin your season this year?
There could still be impactful moves before the draft but I suspect the result of the draft will determine whether teams need to make a move or not. It’s arguable that after the top 24 RBs listed earlier, there’s maybe 6 more relevant slots (once you include the resolutions for the starter roles in red) but after RB30 the board gets ugly. In 10 team leagues if you don’t have 3 solid RBs out of those 30 you may well be behind the 8-ball early unless you have the injury gods on your side. While premium rail travel is somewhat in decline, the RB premium is very much still a thing.