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Dynasty Running Backs - Buy-Lows for 2019


Running backs in dynasty football have seen a massive spike in value over the last couple of seasons. So much in fact that we've seen Todd Gurley locked in at the startup 1.01 spot in 2018 and now Saquon Barkley locked in at the 1.01 spot in 2019. You're talking about Barkley currently being the most valuable piece for a dynasty team, over guys like DeAndre Hopkins and Odell Beckham Jr. In the past, it's been wide receivers who have owned the 1.01 spot, but with the resurgence of the young running backs and the usage of satellite-backs in the NFL today, we've seen running backs taking the top spot of dynasty rankings and ADP.

This is the time of the year that can make or break your dynasty football teams. Buying into potential breakout candidates at the running back position is huge. Taking advantage of the price drop that a running back currently has can pay off in a big way when the regular season rolls around.

There's still time to buy some running backs before the 2019 NFL Free Agency opens up and the new NFL season kicks off on March 13th. The legal tampering period also begins on March 11th, and we saw this past off-season that teams definitely come to terms and basically make their agreements at that time. This list of players to buy low on includes some free agents as well as some players that I'm high on heading into the 2019 season, who have a price that's too good to pass up.

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Leonard Fournette, JAX - RB17

I like to start my buy-low recommendations with players that are ranked fairly high but are still far too cheap. First up is the Jacksonville Jaguars' third-year running back, Leonard Fournette. While many of your league-mates are out there buying low on TJ Yeldon, I'll be buying the guy that was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, fourth overall. The biggest reason that I'm still buying Fournette despite the flak that he's gotten recently is pure talent. Despite only playing in 21 games in his first two seasons in the NFL, I still fully believe that Fournette is 'their guy' and will have all the opportunity to own that backfield, see the bulk of the carries, and ultimately have a ton of upside.

One of the knocks on Fournette has been his injury history and the 'Ques' next to his name so often. He dealt with ankle issues throughout college and continues to have them in the NFL, and it is absolutely a red flag. Last year, we saw his drama with the coaches as well which was concerning. Despite the issues surrounding him, the biggest reason that I'm buying Fournette is his price. It wasn't long ago at all that we saw Fournette as the top rookie in the 2017 class and as someone who was viewed as a high-end dynasty running back.

At the current RB17 in dynasty rankings, I am buying Fournette at a discounted price. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him back in that top-10 range in running back rankings if he comes out and finishes as an RB1 or even a high-end RB2 in 2018. Throw in the talent and the opportunity to be a workhorse running back in the NFL, and it makes a lot of sense to buy him at his current price.

 

Tevin Coleman, FA - RB26

Next up on my list of running backs to buy is the former Indiana Hoosier and fifth-year running back, Tevin Coleman. After spending his first four NFL seasons in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman, Coleman hits free agency and is one of the bigger names at the running back position available. He's put up some nice numbers for someone who has spent his career in a committee with Freeman, who is just a couple years removed from being the top running back in fantasy football. Coleman has put up solid numbers throughout his entire career, despite having a fairly disappointing 2018 season.

Coleman had a huge opportunity ahead of him last year when Freeman was placed on IR early and the only other competition was rookie Ito Smith. He finished the season with 1,076 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns, and Smith was fairly productive as well. 2018 was the second season that Atlanta had Steve Sarkisian as their offensive coordinator after losing Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco. Shanahan was a big loss for that offense as a whole, more so in 2017 than 2018.

In 2018, we saw Matt Ryan take a step forward and Julio Jones as well from 2017. I'm certainly not blaming Sarkisian for the lack of production we saw from Coleman last year, but it certainly wasn't the Coleman we saw in his first few seasons in the NFL. As the current RB26 in dynasty rankings, Coleman is someone I'll be buying into despite many fantasy owners selling him after 2018 was fairly disappointing. There are several teams that Coleman could land with and see a massive spike in value, and I'm buying at his current price before he lands somewhere nice and his price jumps.

 

Duke Johnson, CLE - RB39

With all of the hype surrounding Nick Chubb and the newly signed Brown, Kareem Hunt, I'll be fading the noise and buying Duke Johnson. The signing of Hunt was extremely puzzling, but more than likely I'm expecting Cleveland to either trade him or Johnson. Chubb is far too cheap and showed a ton of promise for Cleveland to part ways with him. That leaves Johnson, who is currently the 11th-highest paid running back in the NFL, and Hunt, who signed a deal with the following terms:

"Per Spotrac, Hunt will receive a base salary of $645,000, which is less than the $679,000 he was due in 2019 as part of his initial rookie deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. He will pocket a $55,000 workout bonus".

"Hunt’s deal has zero guaranteed money and no signing bonus. His earnings beyond his base salary are entirely incentive-based, with a $25,000 roster bonus for every game he is active. He will not earn any of that if he is suspended by the NFL, which is expected. The most Hunt can earn in 2019 is $1.1 million".

Once again in 2018, the Browns found a way to under-utilize Johnson who has shown a ton of promise in the passing game and ultimately, nice value for fantasy football. After finishing as the RB11 in PPR scoring in 2017, we saw that if used correctly, he is more than capable of catching passes and being that dual-threat, satellite-back that is so valuable in today's NFL. 47 catches for 479 receiving yards is the least we've seen out of him in one NFL season, and whether he stays in Cleveland or gets traded, he's shown he is beyond capable of filling that pass-catching and third-down role in a backfield. Last year at this time, he was someone I was buying and it looks like I'll be buying in this off-season as well.

Jalen Richard, RFA - RB57

The last running back on this list is the cheapest one. Jalen Richard is currently the RB57 in our newest dynasty rankings and is hardly on the radar for many owners. Richard will enter his fourth season in 2019 after spending the first three seasons in Oakland in a split backfield every year. Whether it was Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, or Deandre Washington, there has always been someone he's splitting touches with. In three seasons, he's started in just two games, yet has been healthy for all 16 games in every season.

The main thing I like about Richard is his pass-catching upside as a satellite-back in the NFL. With 156 targets over that time, you're looking at 3.25 targets per game. He's caught 124 of those 156 targets, which is good for just under an 80% catch rate. The biggest reason I'm buying is that of those 156 targets, 81 of them came in 2018, and he caught 68 of them for 607 receiving yards. That was good for 866 yards from scrimmage in 2018, despite just 55 carries for 259 rushing yards.

This suggests a lack of volume and utilization, rather than production. As the 60th running back in dynasty rankings, the pass-catching upside is too good to ignore. Buy him now and hope that Oakland either re-signs him and lets Lynch or Martin go, or another NFL team signs him and finds a way to use him more than Oakland has. If he lands in the right spot, he'll see a major jump in value.

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