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Dynasty Breakouts for 2019 – Running Back


Fantasy football players should never give up on running backs, especially if those backs did not amount to much during their rookie campaigns the year prior.

2018 was the coming out party for three running backs --- Pittsburgh’s James Conner, Seattle’s Chris Carson and Indianapolis’ Marlon Mack. All three were drafted in 2017 but did not register many tremors on fantasy scales. Then this past season all three finished in the top 16 in rushing, ran for over 900 yards and scored at least nine touchdowns. Some young running backs are just late-bloomers, while others just need to be given the opportunity to shine.

Running backs are more important than ever in dynasty fantasy football leagues. Since the NFL relies on passing more than running and backfield committees more than one-man workhorses, finding a young back who you can tie to your team for several seasons is crucial to becoming a perennial contender in your league. Here is a look at my dynasty breakouts at the running back position for 2019!

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Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks

2018 Stats:  419 rushing yards, 75 receiving yards, 2 TD

 Penny averaged 4.9 yards per carry during his rookie season, but he was stuck in third place in a three-headed rushing rotation with the aforementioned Carson and Mike Davis for most of the year. When he was able to get some carries he showed why Seattle selected him in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. Penny’s best outing came against the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams when he took a dozen carries and turned them into 108 yards and a touchdown.

Penny has one less runner blocking his touch total now that Davis has signed with the Chicago Bears. Carson should still be the top tailback on the depth chart after bulldozing his way to 1,151 yards last year, but his punishing between-the-tackles style could cause him to get injured and open a lane for Penny to become No. 1 in the backfield. With Seattle boasting one of the best offensive lines in the business, Penny looks like an odds-on favorite to take his game and fantasy value to the next level in 2019.

 

Ito Smith, Atlanta Falcons

2018 Stats:  315 rushing yards, 152 receiving yards, 4 TD

 The former fourth-rounder from the 2018 draft did not look like a game-breaking back when he found field time last year. He averaged a paltry 3.5 yards per carry and a meager 5.6 yards per reception. His longest play from scrimmage only spanned 20 yards. Yet even though the stats on Smith’s football card were not impressive, he could be in line to do some serious fantasy damage in 2019.

Fantasy owners know that Devonta Freeman is coming off an injury-ruined season where he was only able to suit up for two contests and was one of the most disappointing players in fantasy football. With Tevin Coleman taking his talents to San Francisco, Smith is the de facto No. 2 back until further notice and will play a significantly larger role in Atlanta’s high-powered offense this upcoming season. Even if Freeman stays healthy Smith could be in line for 700 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards and a half-dozen touchdowns playing the Coleman role in 2019, and fantasy owners can bank on more from Smith if Freeman’s body betrays him again.

 

Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams

2018 Stats:  212 rushing yards, 52 receiving yards, 1 TD

 Being Todd Gurley’s backup makes you about as valuable as a fifth-string fullback in fantasy football, and that has been the case with Brown since he was drafted in 2015. Brown only has 146 total touches since entering the league the same season Gurley did and has been a fantasy zero while Gurley has been a fantasy hero. There is some light at the end of the fantasy football tunnel for Brown and his dynasty owners, though, and it not that Brown should be really fresh considering his light workload the last few years.

Los Angeles matched the offseason offer sheet Brown signed with the Detroit Lions, so the Rams know he has talent and could be an important factor in the offense in 2019. Gurley has an arthritic knee that hampered him during the tail end of the regular season and limited him to being C.J. Anderson’s understudy in the playoffs. Right now it is a guessing game on how Gurley is going to be entering the 2019 campaign. He could be the Gurley of 2017 who was fantasy football’s MVP, or he could be the gimpy Gurley we saw in the Super Bowl who had no spring in his step and was good for three yards and then falling down.

Brown will be one of the first handcuff running backs taken in fantasy drafts this August and could become a top-10 fantasy RB if Gurley’s knee acts up. The Rams have an above-average offensive line and a young offensive mastermind (Sean McVay) orchestrating what could/should be the highest-scoring offense in the NFL next season. If Gurley breaks down, Brown will break out!

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