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Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs You Must Have In 2024

With the 2024 NFL Draft now behind us, fantasy football season has officially arrived. Between now and September 7th, millions of fantasy football drafts will occur. From dynasty rookie drafts up through traditional redrafts, values will shake up as news comes in about players and their standing on their teams.

On paper, the 2024 rookie running back draft class was fairly weak. Second-round pick Jonathon Brooks and third-round pick Trey Benson are viewed as top rookie prospects, but nobody else is carrying much value. That can and will change.

Get ahead of your league mates by targeting these three rookies in all formats as the 2024 season approaches, and consider stashing three more deep dives in dynasty leagues.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

Kimani Vidal, Los Angeles Chargers

Typically, a sixth-round rookie won't catch the attention of fantasy football enthusiasts. That is not the case with Kimani Vidal, who was hand-selected by the new Chargers’ regime that happens to have a sick obsession with running the football.

Standing at 5-foot-8, 213 pounds, the sixth-round rookie was uber-productive during his collegiate career at Troy. He put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, rushing for 1,661 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. Vidal also showed off receiving utility, grabbing 92 receptions for 700 yards and a score during his career.

Vidal’s combination of production, athleticism, lack of significant draft capital, and landing spot reminds me all too much of Isiah Pacheco as a rookie, who I was clamoring for anyone who would listen to reach on. He is currently my RB3 in the class behind only Brooks and Benson, and he has the potential to end this season as the clear-cut RB1 in the class. His only competition in the backfield is career committee back Gus Edwards and the injury-prone J.K. Dobbins, who has played just seven games over the past two seasons. You can grab him very late in most formats right now, but that could change if offseason hype starts to pick up. The time to acquire him is now.

 

Ray Davis, Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills grabbed Kentucky running back Ray Davis in the fourth round to pair with James Cook for a solid one-two punch. While Davis is actually older than Cook, he profiles as more of a three-down back than the latter.

He was uber-productive in his senior season at Kentucky, as he rushed for 1,129 yards and 14 touchdowns while catching 33 passes for 323 yards and seven touchdowns. Standing 5-foot-8 and 211 pounds, Davis is a legitimate candidate to take over early down work from Cook.

It was well documented that Buffalo needed help in the backfield, and Davis has the opportunity to take on an expanded Latavius Murray type of role. He will be fantasy-relevant and is currently very cheap even though he has flex appeal with a healthy Cook.

 

Audric Estime, Denver Broncos

Denver currently has a cluster of running backs. After returning last year’s trio of Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, and Jaleel McLaughlin, they drafted Audric Estime in the fifth round and added highly-regarded UDFA Blake Watson (who we will get to in a minute).

Someone won’t make this roster - and it won’t be Estime. The power back offers early-down thumping that no other back on the roster brings to the table. Standing 5-foot-11, 221 pounds, Estime was drafted with the idea of being an early down grinder Denver lacked a season ago.

Estime is a violent runner and brings a new level of physicality to the room at just 20 years old. Sean Payton hopes to have his new version of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in Williams and Estime. Expect the rookie to immediately have a role with the potential to blossom into a high-volume carrier, which is absolutely worth a late-round draft pick in fantasy.

 

Bonus Deep-Dives

These next three guys aren’t even locks to make their rosters at this point in the offseason, but each rookie below offers upside and is worth stashing on dynasty rosters as a last-round rookie pick or as a UDFA pickup.

 

Jawhar Jordan, Houston Texans

The Houston Texans grabbed Louisville’s Jawhar Jordan at the end of the sixth round. Jordan’s size (5-foot-9, 193 pounds) along with lack of elite speed (4.56 40-yard dash) caused him to fall, but the Texans saw what I saw in his game and elected to give him a shot.

Sharing a backfield with combine superstar Isaac Guerendo, Jordan ran for 1,128 yards and 13 touchdowns while catching 21 passes for 246 yards and another score. He runs tough for his size and has elite vision and footwork. Working behind a good NFL offensive line, all you need at the running back position is quick decisions and a bit of athleticism. Jordan checks both boxes. 

With Joe Mixon set for a workhorse role, Jordan appears primed to compete with 2022 star Dameon Pierce for the RB2 role. It’s a winnable job, and if he wins it -- he is just one Mixon injury away from being the RB1 in one of the NFL’s best offenses.

 

Cody Schrader, San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco has to cut down at running back at some point before the season, and since he was undrafted, it could be an uphill battle for Cody Schrader to make the roster. Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell are locked into the RB1 and RB2 roles, with fourth-rounder Isaac Guerendo, Jordan Mason, and Patrick Taylor also on the roster.

Despite the crowded room, there is a lot to like about Schrader’s game and reason to believe he will make the team. Schrader is no stranger when it comes to earning a spot. He started his career at D-II Truman State before transferring to Missouri as a walk-on after a 2,074-yard season.

He became Missouri’s starting running back instantly and became a captain in 2023. Schrader led the SEC in rushing with 1,627 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. His grittiness, zone reads, and pass-blocking chops will allow him a fair shot at making the roster. With Mitchell missing more games than playing over the last two seasons, the RB2 job behind McCaffrey is oftentimes up for grabs. Take a bet on Schrader, who continues to win with his timeless underdog mentality.

 

Blake Watson, Denver Broncos

Blake Watson was one of my favorite late-round running back prospects, and I was shocked to see him go undrafted. He is a very capable pass catcher who racked up 928 receiving yards in his college career coupled with 3,301 career rushing yards. 

It won’t be easy to make Denver’s roster over the likes of Jaleel McLaughlin or Samaje Perine, but if anybody can do it -- it’s Watson. The incoming rookie was impressive in the East-West Shrine game, totaling 111 yards, but he was snubbed of a combine invite. He was one of the most disrespected prospects throughout the process all the way up through draft night, and it will surely put a chip on his shoulder as he fights to keep his NFL dreams alive. Take a swing on Watson -- Denver is sure to see that he has the talent to play the pass-catching back role in the NFL.



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