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Analyzing Value in the 2019 Rookie RB Class (Part 2)


This article will serve as a deep-dive into the current state of the 2019 rookie running back class and determine which players are potential “value” draft picks in accordance with their average draft position. It may seem like an obvious topic to research in fantasy football, but there are plenty of examples of first-year running backs blowing past their ADP en route to season-altering finishes.

Let's analyze the 2019 rookie running back class by considering college statistics, training camp chatter, preseason usage, and projected roles heading into the season. If recent history tells us anything, it’s that at least one of these backs is sure to emerge as a fantasy difference-maker this season.

All ADP data is from nfc.shgn.com, updated 8/27/19.  Also, check out 'Analyzing Value in the 2019 Rookie RB Class (Part 1)'

 

Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 79, RB32)

Darrell Henderson was drafted by the Rams in the third round, and the 5'9" back out of Memphis rocketed up fantasy draft boards after head coach Sean McVay suggested scaling back Todd Gurley's workload this season. Henderson had very impressive stats at Memphis, totaling 214 carries for 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2018 (he also added 19 receptions for 295 yards and three receiving touchdowns).

In addition to being a receiving threat, he possesses breakaway speed (4.49 40-yard dash) and is an open-field weapon. However, Henderson has had a shaky preseason with just 57 yards on 23 carries (2.5 YPC) and fellow backups Malcolm Brown and John Kelly remain in the mix for touches behind Todd Gurley.

This is truly a tricky situation, as we have to assume that the reports of Todd Gurley being healthy are true but we also have to consider the strong possibility of Gurley ceding more touches this season due to his concerning knee issues. Even in the event of Gurley missing time, there is no guarantee that the rookie will be immediately thrust into the lead-back role. His touches-per-game would increase, but the Rams would likely run a committee in that situation as Henderson doesn't fit the "three-down back" profile. He probably wouldn't need to be, though, as 10-12 touches per game in the Rams high-flying offense could pay some nice PPR dividends.

Recommendation

Henderson's ADP of 79 overall is still touch too high - he has an undetermined role with Gurley's situation and isn't even a lock to be the lead back in his absence. He is, however, a must-handcuff for Gurley owners and remains a high-upside sleeper if you can get him a round or so after his current asking price. He's also a clear target in dynasty formats.

 

Damien Harris, New England Patriots, (ADP: 120, RB43) 

Damien Harris took the reigns following Derrick Henry at Alabama, though he shared the backfield with fellow rookie Josh Jacobs (among others) and never exceeded 150 carries in a season. Harris rushed for over 3,000 yards and totaled 23 touchdowns during his four years with the Tide, finishing with an impressive 6.4 yards-per-carry mark.

He has some key traits to succeed in the NFL, with a north-south running style, great burst (77th percentile Burst Score), and the hands and pass-blocking chops to contribute in the passing game. The Patriots scooped up Harris in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, which signals that they have some high expectations for the young back.

Still, his outlook for the 2019 season is looking a bit dicey. Sony Michel and James White figure to handle the majority of the snaps/touches out of the backfield and Rex Burkhead remains in the rotation, meaning there won't be much opportunity available for Harris unless some injury-luck strikes. Harris is a running back to consider in deep leagues as a speculative RB4/5 pick and in dynasty drafts, but it will be very difficult for him to make a fantasy impact this season in standard re-draft leagues this season with limited snaps and touches.

Recommendation

Harris is an intriguing back that has a ton of dynasty league value, but his chances of overtaking Michel, White, and Burkhead in his rookie year are slim. Target Damien Harris a bit later than his ADP in re-draft leagues, as there are backs around 120 overall with much clearer pathways to a feature back role (Duke Johnson, Kalen Ballage, Peyton Barber) than the Pats' rookie.

 

Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills, (ADP: 139, RB50)

Singletary is just 5'7" and didn't test well at all at the combine, but he had a prolific career at Florida Atlantic with 714 carries for 4,287 yards and 66 rushing touchdowns (10th in NCAA history). The Bills selected him in the third round and are clearly looking at him as a key piece of their future plans at running back.

However, Singletary enters a murky situation in Buffalo where established starters LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore are expected to handle most of the workload. T.J. Yeldon is also expected to make the roster and serve as a passing-down back, whereas Singletary had just six receptions for 36 yards in his final year at FAU. It's hard to envision a scenario where Singletary walks into meaningful touches this season (barring a trade or surprise roster cut).

Recommendation:

Singletary makes a lot of sense as a target in dynasty formats as the near-future Bills' starter, but there's too much in front of him this season for him to make an impact. This 139 overall ADP seems too high - there are better values at this point in the draft.

We'll conclude this three-part series with Justice Hill, Alexander Mattison, Tony Pollard, and Darwin Thompson...stay tuned.

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