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Dynasty Stock Watch for 2019 - Running Back Fallers


In the first part of this column, I took a look at some of the running backs whose stock is rising in dynasty leagues ahead of the 2019 season. Today, it's time to look at the opposite side of things.

Fantasy football rankings are a zero-sum game. For a player to break into the top-10 at their position, someone has to drop out. For a rookie to come in and carry a major workload, some player has to lose touches.

Let's take a look at the running back dynasty fallers for 2019.

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Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

Arthritis in the knee is not a good thing for a high-volume NFL running back to have, and that issue is going to limit Gurley's workload moving forward. The Rams know this, which is why they drafted one of the top running back prospects this year in Memphis' Darrell Henderson. Gurley's still one of the league's most talented backs, but his per-game opportunities are going to drop and his career length is likely to be shorter than we were expecting, which has him tumbling down the dynasty rankings.

 

Jordan Howard, Philadelphia Eagles

Jordan Howard feels so much like a throwback to a different NFL, one where a downfield power rusher who could hit his holes but was never going to be that effective when going east-west and was never going to be a huge factor in the receiving game aside from the occasional dump-off could be the lead back on a team.

That throwback worked for a little bit in Chicago, but Howard saw his yards per carry drop from 5.2 to 4.1 to 3.7 over the course of his Bears career. He was targeted less each year too as it became clear he wasn't going to be able to contribute much in that phase of the game, and the Bears shipped him off to Philadelphia this offseason, where he enters the league's most confusing timeshare.

The Eagles drafted Miles Sanders, and then they have a seemingly never-ending stream of guys who had decent sized roles at points last season: Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams. Now, all three of those guys might not even make the final roster, but they all had at least 68 carries and multiple touchdowns last season, so it'll be an adventure to figure out which one ends up as part of what's expected to be a three-headed running back committee. Heck, could it turn into a four-headed one? Could Jordan's one-dimensional skill set leave him as the odd man out in Philadelphia? We're definitely staring at a situation where anything could happen, and that's not a good one to be in if you're invested in Howard.

 

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

The writing was on the wall for Carson the moment the Seahawks drafted Rashaad Penny, but Carson still managed to lead Seattle in carries, yards, and touchdowns last season.

However, Carson also saw his snap share hover somewhere in the 50% region in each of the final six games of the year. Penny saw his hit double-digits over this time frame before a knee injury cost him some games and led the team to use him on just 6.3 percent of offensive snaps in the team's final game.

Penny is clearly trending up at this point, and what was firmly Carson's backfield now looks like at least a committee between the two. Because youth is becoming increasingly important at the running back position, Penny is the back to own in dynasty moving forward. Expect diminishing returns from Carson moving forward unless he ends up on a new team in a clearer role at some point.

 

Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers

Well, that Jerick McKinnon hype train got derailed last season by an ACL injury. Then hopes that he'd step right back into the forefront of the 49ers backfield got derailed by productive 2018 seasons by Matt Breida (who, just based on how crowded this backfield is, also belongs on this list) and Jeff Wilson. Throw in the offseason signing of former Falcons running back Tevin Coleman, who is expected to be San Francisco's lead back, and things are really messy.

Let's talk about Coleman, who I left off the rising portion of this list because of the uncertainty of this backfield, but who I feel really good about. Last year, Coleman was seventh among backs in breakaway runs and breakaway run rate. He was 12th in yards created per carry. Coleman finally gets his chance to be a lead back, and his explosiveness in that role is a big part of why I'm down on McKinnon. Coleman's just -- and I know this is a very unscientific proclamation -- a better running back.

And if Coleman is the lead back, what's McKinnon's role? He's not the kind of bruiser who would work well as a guy to spell Coleman in the red zone, so he's essentially just going to be...a guy who resembles Coleman and comes in at times? His workload isn't going to be high enough in that situation to justify him being more than an occasional flex option in fantasy.

 

T.J. Yeldon, Buffalo Bills

I'm a huge Yeldon fan, but winding up with the Bills was one of the worst outcomes I could have imagined for him this offseason. Instead of Yeldon making this list as a riser as he could have in some situations, he's quickly found himself staring irrelevancy in the face. If Yeldon can't make an impact in Buffalo, I'm not sure another team gives him a chance.

Last year, Yeldon was 10th among running backs in targets and 11th in receiving yards, but he was far less effective when asked to be a pure runner, finishing 44th in true yards per carry. In Buffalo, he'll have to compete with LeSean McCoy, who at this point seems like he's earned a spot as a tenured Professor of Somehow Being A Lead Back at the University of the Bills, and rookie Devin Singletary.

And then there's quarterback Josh Allen, who started 11 games as a rookie and had 89 carries while leading the team in rushing yards. Allen's propensity for pulling the ball down and running -- not to mention all the designed run plays for him -- will cut into what Buffalo's running backs can do. There's also the factor of Allen's arm and if he can get the ball to a receiving back like Yeldon consistently, which -- well, Allen was 35th in true completion percentage, 47th in red zone completion percentage, 35th in accuracy rating... basically, Josh Allen was a very good runner last year and a very bad passer, so Yeldon's facing that issue too. RIP, all my hopes that T.J. Yeldon was going to be a good player to own going forward.

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