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Under-the-Radar Free Agent RB Signings - Risers and Fallers


Free agency is in full swing and there's been a lot of movement among the league's big names. Odell Beckham was traded. Antonio Brown was traded. Le'Veon Bell signed with the Jets.

But there's been a lot of movement around the league that hasn't involved those big name players. After some of the bigger names like Bell, Tevin Coleman, and Mark Ingram, a whole host of backs have switched teams, though the running back market seems to be running a little slower than the wide receiver market.

Below are my thoughts on under the radar running backs who've moved to new places (and one who didn't), with some thoughts on their fantasy value.

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Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram 2.0, basically. The Saints don't want to expose Alvin Kamara to every down work because a high volume of plays for Kamara is likely to have diminishing returns, so they've brought in Murray to play the role that Ingram played last season.

How well can he play that role? Here's a quick comparison of their numbers last year from Pro Football Reference:

The problem? While the numbers are close, Murray's were compiled in four more games. Ingram was a better runner last season, and Murray's move to New Orleans represents a downgrade for the Saints from a talent perspective.

Still, Murray's likely a decent enough approximation of Mark Ingram to maintain fantasy relevance next year, and anyone getting 150 carries in a high-powered offense has a chance to succeed.

Verdict: Murray is a riser relative to his own value last year, but don't just substitute him into your rankings in the spot you had Ingram.

 

Carlos Hyde, Kansas City Chiefs

With Damien Williams impressing at the end of last year, the Chiefs didn't need to bring in a new lead back in free agency, and in Carlos Hyde they get a player who can complement Williams without eating too much into his usage.

Hyde rushed for five touchdowns with Cleveland last year with all five coming on carries inside the 10-yard line, but he failed to find the end zone once he was traded to the Jaguars. Hyde's Jacksonville tenure was forgettable at best, so being in a new spot is good! He's likely to fill the role Spencer Ware held last year, with maybe some more red zone work mixed in. I'm not overly excited about that potential role, but it's a step up from what Hyde provided at the end of 2018.

Verdict: I mean, he's got to at least be a riser when compared to his time in Jacksonville, but he's not someone I'm going out of my way to target. Damien Williams should be the lead back.

 

Frank Gore, Buffalo Bills

Frank Gore continues to resist the linear advancement of time. Gore's signed with a Bills team that already had a pair of 30-year-old running backs, but with McCoy looking like he's taken a step back and Chris Ivory being Chris Ivory, Gore brings some positives to this team. For one, he can still run the ball effectively. While Gore's total rushing yards fell to 722 last year in Miami, the second-lowest mark of his career, he had his best yards per carry average since 2012.

Gore didn't find the end zone as a runner, though he did add a receiving touchdown, and his total carries aren't likely to increase with McCoy starting and Josh Allen's propensity for running the ball plenty himself, but he should be able to take on some of the load for Buffalo. I'd expect yardage somewhere in the 600s and maybe a couple of touchdowns. He's bound to be more useful in real life than he is in fantasy at this point, though.

Verdict: Faller. I love Frank Gore, but he won't see enough of a workload in Buffalo to justify me spending a fantasy pick on him.

 

Mike Davis, Chicago Bears

Tough to really know what to think of the Davis signing until we see if there's a corresponding move from the Bears to ship Jordan Howard out of Chicago. As it stands now, Howard takes the lead role, Tarik Cohen is the passing down back and also siphons off carries, and Davis is left with the Taquan Mizzel role? Except that while Davis is a capable receiver, he's done the bulk of his damage on the ground, so maybe we'd be looking at a three-headed backfield? I don't love Davis in that scenario, especially when Howard works much better as a goal-line option than Davis would.

If Howard moves on, though, we'd likely see Davis getting roughly half of the team's running back snaps and in that situation, I think his versatility gives him a little more upside than Howard in terms of receiving and total yardage, but with less touchdown upside.

Verdict: Check back later, because it all depends on Howard.

 

Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins

That Peterson didn't change teams is what's shocking to me. Washington gets back Derrius Guice, who missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL, and have Chris Thompson for passing downs, which means the role Peterson slots into is...what, exactly? Does Washington not have faith in Guice and wanted an insurance policy? Do they want Peterson to mentor Guice? Do they just think Peterson still has enough in him to be a lead back?

Last year, Peterson had his eighth 1,000-yard season, though his 4.2 yards per carry were the lowest mark he's had in one of those 1,000-yard seasons. His seven touchdowns were his most since 2015, but it was also the first time Peterson played at least 14 games and didn't finish with double-digit touchdowns. Despite strong numbers, Peterson has hit the downside of his career, and with more players sharing the workload this season, Peterson seems bound for fantasy disappointment.

Verdict: Faller. Peterson sees a smaller role this year in a more crowded backfield.

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