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Three Late Round Running Backs Who Will Outperform Their ADP

For most of our fantasy-playing lives, running backs have dominated the first round in drafts. In recent years, that trend has been shifting more and more to wide receivers with fewer running backs meeting the “bellcow” moniker. After last year’s mess where several of the top running backs didn’t even come close to producing at what it cost to draft them, we’re seeing several of them falling down draft boards. Some people employ the zero-RB strategy, meaning they don’t attempt to touch the position until many rounds in.

If you’re one of those people who aren’t investing heavy in the position, this article is for you - we’re going to take a look at three running backs who will outperform their ADP. For purposes of this article, “late” rounds consist of the final four rounds of a 12-team, 16-round draft (meaning an ADP of 144 and higher here on Rotoballer).

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Running Back Fliers For The Later Rounds

Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears; ADP: 146.3

Jordan Howard may not have a starting role in Chicago, but the fifth-round rookie out of Indiana also doesn’t have a ton standing in his way either. Jeremy Langford is firmly entrenched as the starter for now, but the other running backs on the team aren’t eye-popping (Jacquizz Rodgers and Ka’Deem Carey). Langford himself is no slam dunk – the sophomore is coming off a rookie season where he averaged a meek 3.6 yards per carry (fourth-worst among all qualifying RB’s). Additionally, although Langford’s receiving statistics look good, his eight drops were the most by any player at his position. Simply put, Langford has done nothing to justify holding onto the starting job for very long if he doesn’t produce early.

Howard has looked pretty good in preseason action, collecting 58 yards on 16 carries. (4.83 yards per carry) as the clear second string back. Langford did look good on Thursday against the Patriots, collecting 55 yards on eight carries with a touchdown. However, on Saturday Langford was seen with a walking boot on his left foot at practice.

As of now, the severity (or lack thereof) of the injury is unknown. Even if Langford’s injury doesn’t keep him out long, Howard is still undervalued with his 146.3 ADP. Langford still has a lot to prove and has not looked good at the NFL level – if such underperformance continues early in the season, the dysfunctional Bears offense has nothing to lose by letting Howard literally take the ball and run with it.


Tim Hightower, New Orleans Saints; ADP: 176.5

Tim Hightower may not be a sexy name, but many owners might remember him as a fantasy legend who unexpectedly led them to a championship last season after Mark Ingram went down. Signed by the Saints not long before Ingram was placed on injured reserve with a torn left rotator cuff, Hightower carried the rock 84 times for 327 yards and four touchdowns from Week 13 – Week 16. He also added 129 receiving yards on 12 catches.

Last season’s performance is great, but what about 2016? Competing with Hightower for the backup RB role is C.J. Spiller, who….well, nevermind. If you played fantasy football last season and don’t remember how bad Spiller was, this article probably won’t help you much anyway (hint: he was BAD). As far as Ingram is concerned, last year was the first time he truly looked to be breaking out as an upper echelon running back. Prior to 2015, he had never been productive and healthy for a full season; last year he finally looked great but of course suffered the shoulder injury.

We’ve already seen what Hightower can do in the Drew Brees-led Saints offense without Ingram on the field, but we also know the Saints offense spreads the ball around and makes a lot of players look good. Thus, Hightower will likely be productive regardless of Ingram’s status. With that in mind, and Ingram’s grand total of zero seasons where he’s been healthy and productive, Hightower looks like a safe bet to outproduce his 176.5 ADP.


Christine Michael (Seattle Seahawks): ADP 207.7

Christine Michael on a list of late-round running backs who will outperform their ADP? Raise your hand if you’ve never seen that before (literally no one is raising their hand right now). It seems like we’ve been hearing about Michael as a late-round steal for just about forever, and that clearly hasn’t panned out yet. What makes 2016 any different?

Thomas Rawls hasn’t been able to play at all in preseason thus far as he continues to recover from last year’s fractured ankle. In his absence, Michael has been absolutely dominant to the tune of 17 carries for 99 yards (an insane 5.82 yards per carry). All news coming out of Seattle indicate that whether or not Rawls is healthy, Michael will have a solid role (Pete Carroll last week stated the Seahawks’ backfield will be a “1-2 punch”).

Reports on any given day lately seem to have quotes from Seattle coaches commenting on Michael’s weight loss, maturity, and newfound dedication to his draft that he previously lacked for. This narrative has been backed up by Michael’s on-field performance this summer. It’s becoming clearer by the day that the annual Christine Michael hype train carries more weight than ever before. At this point, outperforming his current 207.7 ADP seems like a lock rather than a mere projection.


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