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Boom or Bust Running Backs for 2016

Running backs are probably the most desired position to have on your fantasy football team. It is the back-bone and foundation that your team sits on. However, in most recent years of fantasy football, it has been hard to find running backs that will receive a lot of touches, be productive, and don't have to share the ball in a committee.

Listed below are three running backs projected to be picked in the first three rounds of the 2016 draft.  Sometimes these high-projected running backs are worth even higher than what they are listed as, and sometimes they aren't even close.

Editor's Note: Purchase a full season NFL Premium Pass (including Draft Kit + DFS Premium), and also get MLB Premium + DFS for free through October. Premium DFS lineup picks, expert lineups, tools and more - seven days a week. You can see screenshots of our NFL Premium and MLB Premium and DFS tools. What are you waiting for?

 

Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins 

Lamar Miller of the Houston Texans finds himself ranked in the middle of the second round in most fantasy football draft rankings. Formerly of the Miami Dolphins, Miller showed spurts of greatness last year which made a lot of us think of his number one running back (RB1) potential, but also showed a down side which was brought on by poor management and coaching decisions.

Don’t let last year’s up and down numbers fool you into believing that Miller is not the number one back you thought he was. Last year the Dolphins were a team in disarray. After starting off 1-3 in 2015 the Dolphins quickly fired head coach Joe Philbin and replaced him with interim Coach Dan Campbell. In the first four games of the year, Miller only averaged just over 9 rushing attempts per game. When Campbell took over, Miller received the touches he deserved and scored seven total touchdowns in the next five games (5 rushing, 2 receiving). However, Campbell again fell victim to not giving Lamar the ball soon thereafter.

The moral of the story is when coaches are smart enough to give Miller his touches he can be one of the most dynamic fantasy football running backs, period. This season, Miller signed with the Houston Texans and is their feature running back with no close second place suitor. Look for steady head coach Bill O’Brien to use Lamar often, especially as a short yardage pass crutch out of the backfield for young Quarterback Brock Osweiler.

Even with last year’s debacle of coaching miscues, Miller still managed to muster up 872 yards rushing with 8 touchdowns, and 47 receptions for 2 touchdowns. This duel threat play-making running back will soar well above these previous numbers. If all goes well, look for Miller to eclipse 1200 yards rushing, 10 rushing touchdowns and 50-60 receptions. Those of you in PPR leagues should be salivating over the chance to draft him in the late first/early second round without question.

Verdict: Boom

 

Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons

Last year in 2015, Devonta Freeman was the draft pick of the year in most leagues. Ranked in the 9th round, Freeman owners cashed in on huge numbers and was fantasy football’s number one ranked player for the first eight weeks. However, a huge drop off in production took place after that. Let’s take a closer look at these staggering numbers:

First 8 games: 4.66 yards per carry, 709 rush yards, 9 rushing touchdowns, 4 games of 100+ yards rushing.

Last 8 games: 3.07 yards per carry, 347 rush yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, ZERO games of 100+ yards rushing.

From the first half of the 2015 season to the last half, Devonta’s rushing production plummeted considerably, and he did not break 100 yards rushing once. His receiving stats also dropped off, but marginally.

This year in 2016, Freeman is ranked as a late first round pick. The second half of last year’s season would certainly scare me away enough to not even come close to drafting Devonta at that ranking. To throw in some extra incentive not to draft him there, look for second year running back Tevin Coleman to ramp up his rushes per game and potentially steal some rushing attempts. After all, in 2015 Freeman didn’t get his phenomenal numbers going until after Coleman got injured early into his second game against the New York Giants. Before his injury in 2015, Coleman rushed for 80 yards in his first NFL game as the Falcons leading rusher and looked poised to be the Falcons leading man out of the backfield.

In Summary, a disastrous second half of 2015, and a healthy Tevin Coleman in 2016 will lead to very disappointed Freeman owners expecting number one running back (RB1) production.

Verdict: Bust

 

Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks 

When Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch got injured last year, the fantasy football world was introduced to the rookie running back out of Central Michigan no one ever heard of named Thomas Rawls. Rawls, looked shifty, elusive, and was putting up some beastly numbers himself in succession to the potential future hall of famer in Lynch. However, a fractured ankle ended his 2015 season in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens. Rawls is still recovering from his injury and his status for Week 1 in 2016 is still in question.

Rawls certainly looks like a solid option as a starting running back, when healthy. However, his injury plays a part in what his production for 2016 might be. The Seattle Seahawks organization feels the same way. So much so, that they drafted not one running back in 2016, but three.

2016 Seahawks draft picks:

Round 3 -  RB C.J. Prosise from Notre Dame.

Round 5 -  RB Alex Collins from Arkansas.

Round 7 – RB Zac brooks from Clemson.

Out of the three running backs selected, Prosise looks to grab a lot of on-field duties and according to head coach Pete Carroll, “He’s a break away, big speed, big time running back, as well as pass catcher…we have a very special role we want to put him in.”

Rawls currently ranks as a  3rd round pick in most fantasy football formats. Due to his current injury and potential upcoming dynamic rookies, look for Rawls’ production to not add up to RB2 standards you will be looking for.

Verdict: Bust




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