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Late-Round Running Backs Who Will Outperform Their ADP


No matter what the masses say about the running game, it will always be an attractive part of football. The explosive, raw bursts that tailbacks showcase each time they're handed the ball by their quarterback has no equal in football. Some times the runs can end at the line of scrimmage, but if the rusher beats it then you can surely get ready for some exciting play to happen.

In fantasy football, running backs are as important as anyone. Just last season, 275 players all around the league scored more than 50 PPR points. Of those, 77 were running backs (28%) and the group was the second-highest in scoring on average only behind quarterbacks (147.3 points vs 220). Truly elite running backs, though, don't grow on trees. Yes, they say RB-production is easily replaceable. Yes, we know the recent stories of James Conner and Phillip Lindsay. But those are just exceptions that confirm the rule.

With only four can't-miss running backs (Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, and Ezekiel Elliott) available early, and the rest of the position's players carrying flaws at either ability, situation, or both aspects, it is primal to hit on late-round RB draftees to win your league.

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Late Round RBs Who Will Outperform Their ADP

Today I'm here to defy the odds and give you a few names of running backs being drafted way too late for the production they can potentially give you. All of those will undoubtedly, surely, and definitely give you a ROI better than anyone at the position drafted earlier. I'm only considering RB with ADP values out of what would be the 10th round of a 12-team league (ADP over 120). Bear with me; these guys will win you the league.

 

Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins

ADP 140.4 - RB38

There is a little bit of risk in drafting Ballage given his situation in Miami, but the upside and potential ROI at his current ADP is massive. The Dolphins have Kenyan Drake as their RB1 followed by Ballage, but as part of their rebuilding efforts Miami could move or even cut Drake at some point. If that happens, you better draft or pick Ballage up as soon as you can. If it doesn't, consider Ballage also a good bet based on his ability without forgetting the transactions Miami could potentially complete during the season.

Last year, Frank Gore was the main running back in Miami with 156 carries. All of those touches are in the table now after his departure. The news from the Dolphins camp this summer say that Ballage will start the season leading the backfield due to Drake's foot injury. There is nothing set in stone, but what is now just a "bandaid" to cover for Drake's absence could turn into a season-long move if Ballage can perform at a certain level, even more if Drake is not part of the Dolphins long-term future.

In 12 games as a rookie last season, Ballage logged 36 runs for 191 yards (5.3 per attempt) and scored a touchdown. In the passing game, Ballage was targeted 11 times and caught nine of those passes for 56 yards. He averaged 6.2 Y/R and a good 8.4 yards after catch thanks to his speed and elusiveness. With Gore out of town, expect a bump in Ballage's volume and keep in mind that he could turn into Miami's RB1 if things click for him during the first few weeks or the Dolphins decide to move on from Drake.

 

Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins

ADP 130.4 - RB48

Even if we consider Adrian Peterson the backup of Derrius Guice in Washington, the upside of drafting the veteran is one of the highest given his low ADP. It is not clear though that Guice will feature as the starting running back of the Redskins during the first few weeks of the season. Guice has been out of preseason games due to injury. He has yet to build his fitness and game-readiness, which could take weeks. Pencil Peterson in as the leading rusher for Washington for at least the first few games of the season.

Yes, you read it right. We're talking about a proved, productive veteran leading the rushing unit of his team getting drafted outside the 10th round. Peterson said in June that he's aiming at 2,000 rushing yards this season, and while that is a little bit of a stretch, I think 1,250+ are definitely at reach. At 33 years of age, Peterson came back to his old self last year in Washington. He didn't miss a game, racked up 251 attempts for 1,042 yards (his best mark since 2015) and seven touchdowns, and also had 20 receptions for 208 yards and one TD.

Most of Peterson's outcome this season will come down to Guice's health, of course. While Peterson handled all he could last season as the one and only RB fieldable in Washington, Guice is back and will take the spotlight from Peterson as soon as he gets into rhythm. The risk Guice carries, though, can't be higher. With an offense as depleted of talent as Washington's is, if Peterson finds his way to the field he will undoubtedly outperform his ADP.

 

Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders

ADP 206.2 - RB62

In an offense as bad as Oakland's last season, Jalen Richard still found his way to impress. In three years as a pro, he has yet to miss a game, has always been used as a backup running back, and has made a name for himself on the receiving-side of the game. This season, once again, he will probably the second-fiddle role again. Josh Jacobs, the Raiders rookie running back, looks like the RB1 of the team.

With Jon Gruden at the helm, though, don't rule out a turn of events in which Jalen Richard ends gaining playing time over the season if Jacobs upsets the old-school coach. Richard's track record merits some attention at the very least. Last year, in a limited role running behind lead-back Doug Martin, Richard still accumulated 55 rushes and 68 catches for 866 yards from scrimmage. He tied Jared Cook as the leading receiver of the Raiders.

The arrival of Jacobs, a good receiver himself in college, will probably take some targets from Richard, but he could still see 50+ targets and get 500 yards if he keeps his efficiency numbers up. The excitement of picking a rookie over a boring veteran can be in play with Oakland's backfield. Richard's upside might be lower than that of Jacobs, but his ADP is ridiculously low for what he has in store. Richard was the seventh RB with most receptions and sixth-best in receiving yards. He ranked second among RB with 7.0 yards per touch and also posted a second-best big run rate. Not many rookie running backs become league-changers from day one. If Jacobs flops even the slightest, watch out for Richard to eat a good chunk of Jacobs' touches and easily produce over his ADP.

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