3 Guys Who Will Shine And 3 Guys Who Will Grind: Running Back Edition

 

By @JakeHinson11

Posted June 10, 2017

Think back to a specific moment that changed the way you behave. In what way has did it change how you act? Are you a better person because of it, or do you act in a different way? Either way, it doesn’t matter what the memory is, positive or negative. It sticks with you for a long time.

In 2009, I was three years into playing fantasy football, and boy, did I think I was a hot shot. After doing poorly my first two years, I had Miles Austin and Roddy White during their primes, not to mention owning LeSean McCoy and Mike Wallace for the good part of the year, despite them not breaking out until the very next year. I thought I was a prodigy. Like most fantasy players back in 2010, I was enamored with an explosive running back coming out of Clemson named C.J. Spiller. I loved him so much that I believed he was a steal in the 7th round of drafts that year, as I thought he could return 1st or 2nd round value.

At lunch one day, a league mate and a friend of mine were hyping up this guy that I had never heard of. So obviously I bet him that C.J. Spiller would out-produce this guy that my friend picked in the 12th round. Because that’s what really matters, right?

If you didn’t guess already, I lost this bet pretty badly.
C.J. Spiller rushed for 283 yards in his rookie season on 3.8 yards per carry and had 24 catches for 157 yards. He had one touchdown the entire year. The other player finished with over 1600 rushing yards, over 600 receiving yards, and 18 total touchdowns. I was utterly confused on how the 9th overall pick could only get 440 yards of total offense, while this guy who was undrafted took the NFL by storm.

Yes, you are reading an article by a man who believed C.J. Spiller would out-produce Arian Foster (please don’t go anywhere, I know what I’m talking about). So what did I learn from this? The first thing I learned was that my friends were not nice, as they laughed at me for making such a foolish bet. The second thing I learned is that there are always guys at the end of your drafts that will return value. These two lessons made me hunt for the next Arian Foster in the later rounds. It has ended up well for me, as I have gotten guys like Jordan Howard, Doug Martin, and Knowshon Moreno late in drafts.

I would like to make this a reoccurring thing, starting with running backs. There are three guys I predict that are going in the middle and later rounds that I think could be potential RB1’s if things work out. These will be the “shine” guys. Then there are some guys with ADP’s past the 9th round that it will be hard for them to become top-flight options, but they can turn into viable starters and can round out your starting lineup. These guys will be the “grind” guys.

Shine

Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots (ADP-6.12 Standard, 7.09 PPR)

18 times. That is the amount of times LeGarrette Blount plunged into the end zone last season. Now that he has signed in Philadelphia, New England needs a pure running back outside of James White, Dion Lewis, and Rex Burkhead. Mike Gillislee will fill that role well. At 5’11 and 220 lbs, Gillislee is an excellent runner, as he ran for 577 yards on only 101 carries. As LeSean McCoy owners also know, he has a knack for finding the end zone, scoring eight touchdowns. Pro Football Focus also graded the former Florida Gator highly as well, as he was graded as one of the most efficient running backs last year.

New England is famous for running two tight end sets frequently. Having both Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen leads me to believe they will play most of their offense with at least one tight end on the field. We’ve seen it in the past; Bill Belichick is not afraid to adjust his game plan to his strengths. With NFL defenses gearing up to defend the pass-happy NFL, New England might go against the grain and run the ball. Asking Tom Brady to throw the ball 600 times, no matter how good of shape he says he’s in, is unlikely. I predict they will have yet another balanced attack on offense, and that bodes well for the best runner in Mike Gillislee. While it is unlikely he gets 18 touchdowns, it isn’t out of the question for him to get at least 8 touchdowns next year simply because of the system he enters. Gillislee will perform well above his draft price right now.

 

Bilal Powell, New York Jets (ADP-6.09 Standard, 6.04 PPR)

Before you begin feeling sick about owning a New York Jet, hear me out. Powell is an excellent pass catcher who already has a high floor. That was his value while in a time share last year with Matt Forte, who looked slow running the football. Outside of an outlier game against Miami, his yards per carry was abysmal. But when Powell dominated the snap count from Week 14 on, he produced big time.

Bilal Powell Weeks 14-17
Week 14 (87% of snaps) 29 Carries, 145 Yards 5 Catches, 34 Yards 2 Touchdowns
Week 15 (84% of snaps) 16 Carries, 84 Yards 11 Catches, 78 Yards 0 Touchdowns
Week 16 (57% of snaps) 15 Carries, 60 Yards 2 Catches, 14 Yards 0 Touchdowns
Week 17 (69% of snaps) 22 Carries, 122 Yards 3 Catches, 15 Yards 1 Touchdown

While he won’t get 80% of snaps this year, even with a 31-year-old Matt Forte, those are fantastic numbers. He should be the focal point of this offense, as he’s shown he’s a capable running back, as well as a premier pass catcher. He will not be a huge touchdown guy, as I think he will get 8 total touchdowns, but he gives you a great floor due to yardage both on the ground and through the air. We also saw in Week 15 he is capable of catching passes in high numbers, so he gives you that bump in PPR as well. He could easily finish as a high end RB2 and possibly a RB1 if he exceeds my projection for touchdowns. Go grab him in drafts.

 

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (ADP-6.04 Standard, 7.02 PPR)

This is probably the only guy that needs something to happen in front of him in order for him to be a fantasy monster. I see Powell and Gillislee needing very little to happen in terms of the depth chart as compared to Derrick Henry, the second-year running back out of Alabama. Henry is still the “backup” to DeMarco Murray, who should still get the lion share of the workload. One thing I haven’t heard a lot about this offseason is the injury history of Murray. He has only missed one game in the last three years but was riddled with injuries in the past with Dallas. Last year, he was on a torrent pace, rushing for 100 yards in four games prior to Week 8 against Jacksonville. He injured his toe in that game, but still played well. However, from that point on, he rushed for 100 yards only once after that and got 100 total yards twice. That was when Derrick Henry began to get some snaps.

While Murray was dealing with the toe injury, Henry was a factor in the red zone. He scored 5 touchdowns from Week 8 to the end of the season, scoring none beforehand. He also missed two games during that span with a calf injury, which makes his touchdown performance that much more impactful. We saw the shift from DeMarco Murray dominating the backfield to Henry being more involved. I expect that to happen again this year.

Now Derrick Henry wouldn’t shine if he was in a committee. But on the chance that DeMarco goes down with an injury, Henry’s upside is immense. Mike Mularkey is a run-first coach who sets up the passing game that way. For Henry, 20 touches is probably the floor if he’s the only one in town. I am not a fan of how high a “backup” running back is going, but Derrick Henry is an RB1 if 29-year-old DeMarco Murray gets injured. I would take him as an RB3 with my running backs and receivers already solidified.

Grind

Terrance West, Baltimore Ravens (ADP-10.05 Standard, 11.07 PPR)

If you told me prior to the draft that could have a starting running back for four games guaranteed in the 10th or 11th round, I would not hesitate to draft him. Yet people are dismissing the opportunity that Terrance West has. Kenneth Dixon is suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season and the only other running back competing with West for carries is Danny Woodhead. I will admit that West has a stink about him because when watching his tape, he doesn’t stand out. Forget it. You can get a starting running back in the back half of your draft as your fourth running back. I also believe if West plays well enough and Baltimore wins three of those games, it will be hard for Kenneth Dixon to take the job away from him.

Terrance West has an excellent opportunity in front of them. For me, drafting West is such a solid move. The worst case scenario for him is selecting him in the 10th round, he busts for the first four games, and then you drop him because you spent no draft capital on him. The value you are getting for a starting running back in the NFL is absurd. The best case scenario is wonderful too, as he can become a mainstay in your lineup and you can trade guys you selected four to five rounds earlier, as you already have your RB2 for the season. Take West and reap the benefits.

 

Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers (ADP-12.09 Standard, 13.02 PPR)

 Quick! Name the Green Bay Packers starting running back. Ty Montgomery is correct, but how confident are the Packers are that he will be the starter for the entire season? They have come out and said he will have a key role in the offense, which I fully believe. He looked excellent at times last year, especially against Chicago. If that was the case, why did Green Bay draft 3 running backs? Certainly puzzling to me, especially since I believe Jamaal Williams was one of the best guys coming out of college.

While watching his film, Williams stood out. He was a punishing runner who was a quick decision maker and was one of the tougher guys to bring down in college football. In the following clip, he keeps his feet moving after contact and drives the pile forward. My favorite run of his is the very last one shown, as he explodes into the third level at the very end of the game, showing he has worn down the defense and still has the stamina to break runs late.


While Jamaal Williams won’t take a stranglehold on the position, I do believe he will be the dominant runner in the offense. Ty Montgomery was already injury prone as a receiver and I believe Green Bay would refrain from giving him 20+ carries per game in his first year as a full-time running back. Montgomery will be a great pass-catcher out of the backfield, especially with what Green Bay does on offense. But when it is time to run the ball, they will want to go to Jamaal Williams. I could see him finish the year splitting time with Montgomery and carve out a nice role, getting 15 carries a game in a high powered offense. Unlike Terrance West, he is more of a stash, but I could see production towards the end of the year for Jamaal Williams.

 

Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins (ADP-9.04 Standard, 9.02 PPR)

 Before the Joe Mixon hype, Samaje Perine was the man in Norman. With my dad being a huge Oklahoma fan, I have followed OU closely for the past couple years. While in Norman, Perine set the single-game rushing record with 427 yards and five touchdowns. He also put up 4122 rushing yards and 49 touchdowns in his three years for the Sooners. He’s one of the toughest runners I’ve ever seen at the college level and reminds me of Michael Turner back in the day. He’s a stocky runner who uses his lower body strength to drive defenders back and himself forward. He also utilizes a devastating stiff arm that allows separation between himself and the defender.

Is Perine the best rookie coming out? Not at all. He was probably the second best running back coming out of Oklahoma this year. But he entered one of the best situations. Rob Kelley was anointed the starting running back role when incumbent Matt Jones couldn’t learn how to carry the ball. He played excellent in the middle of the season once he got his feet under him, but tailed off down the stretch. It was evident that the Washington offense needed to add a piece in the run game. With Chris Thompson already the designated pass catcher, this battle is between Perine and Kelley. With an offense featuring Kirk Cousins, Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, and Josh Doctson, Samaje Perine fits in well as a physically imposing running back that forces extra defenders into the box. I project Perine to win this camp battle and provide a decent value in drafts. If he creeps into the 7th and 8th round towards draft season, I would be wary, but I am willing to choose him at his price right now and add him as a late round flier.

 

*ADP’s according to Fantasy Football Calculator as of June 9th, 2017

 

Works Cited

http://www.nfl.com/player/c.j.spiller/497204/gamelogs?season=2010

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/F/FostAr00.htm

http://www.nfl.com/player/mikegillislee/2539663/profile

Tweet from Pro Football Focus

http://www.nfl.com/player/bilalpowell/2495328/gamelogs

All Snap Count percentages from http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/snapcounts

http://www.nfl.com/player/demarcomurray/2495207/gamelogs

http://www.nfl.com/player/derrickhenry/2556075/gamelogs

Terrance West picture from https://twitter.com/PFF_Fantasy/status/860208359189995521

Tweet from @The_Green_Gold

http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/samaje-perine-1.html

Mike Gillislee, Derrick Henry, and Samaje Perine pictures from Google Images

 

 

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