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NFL Running Back Depth Charts Analysis: AFC West and AFC North

Josh Jacobs - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Today we're looking at the fantasy football running back depth charts for the AFC West and AFC North. The regular season is right around the corner and each team's depth chart is mostly complete! Before diving into the fantasy season, RotoBaller has you covered with some last-minute running back depth chart recaps for each team, including some useful bits of analysis for players you want to keep on your radar.

Please note that the charts below are based on individual team depth charts and come from RotoWire's projected starting units. The DCs project the real-life pecking order expected to be used by head coaches at the respective franchises, not where RotoWire projects those players to finish in fantasy leagues.

Here are the current preseason depth charts at running back for teams in the AFC West and AFC North divisions.

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!

 

Fantasy Football Depth Chart Takeaways: AFC West

 

Don't forget about the Raiders rushers: Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

Welcome to the official division of crazy overpayments and massively overvalued rushers! Yay! Austin Ekeler? You can draft him for the sweet price of just the fifth-overall pick! Javonte Williams? Come get him for only a 15th-overall pick! And get an RB7 and an RB18 in exchange for that! How does that sound for a scam, sir!? Jesus Christ.

If you're one of those drafting an RB7 at the price of an RB3 (Akers), or an RB18 at the price of an RB9, I'm sorry for you and your future fantasy football endeavors. Meanwhile, I'll be getting tons and tons of value by getting my couple of bargains in Las Vegas and Kansas City.

Starting with the better option, Jacobs is a bona fide steal these days. He's getting drafted barely inside the top-50 draft picks (ADP of 48th-overall, RB23) while he projects for a top-85 finish (or RB19, if you prefer). Jacobs has very capable teammates around him that won't hesitate in removing him from the RB1 role (Kenyan Drake, rookie Zamir White) but he's still the go-to rusher of the Raiders and projects to 198 PPR points next season as PFF sees him.

Compare that to Javonte's projection of 205 and the ridiculous 35-pick difference in ADP in favor of Jacobs... and Williams looks like a fantasy-upside murderer while Jacobs projects to be a legit league-winning asset.

 

Alternative value-play: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs

Your other hated-without-a-reason rusher in the AFC West, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Of course, as a first-round draftee, the expectations were always high for CEH and he fulfilled them with a top-25 season in 2020. Then he went down to a top-45 RB finish last year--playing 10 games, mind you!--and all hell broke loose with critics saying that he's a flop, that he's a lie, that he's not worth an NFL RB1 role, and some other silly takes. All wrong is what I say.

CEH was on pace to reach 200 PPR points last year, is a pass-catching machine (playing under QB Patrick Mahomes, just in case), and rushes the ball with gusto. He's projected for an RB21 finish (top-94th overall) while getting off draft boards as the 26th rusher. Don't be that guy. Draft CEH earlier if you don't want to miss on cheap greatness.

Fantasy Football Depth Chart Takeaways: AFC North

 

It is not a dream: Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns

You won't find me discussing a large group of players and picking a secondary option often, but Hunt is good enough to be one of those chosen ones. Yes, Chubb projects to more fantasy points (213) than Hunt (160) next season, but Chubb also has an ADP of RB13 with a projected finish of RB16 while Hunt sits at an ADP of RB32 (!) while projecting to an RB30 finish. See the difference?

Of course, drafting a no. 2 option is not going to give you a top-12 rusher out of nowhere, but there are tons of value hiding in Hunt if he gets the tiniest of boosts this season (be it Chubb missing a few games, or just the confirmed absence of Deshaun Watson rushing the rock himself, for example).

Even on a secondary role, Hunt projects to a higher target share than Chubb and specializes on the pass-side of the game (42 targets projected by PFF compared to Chubb's 27). Hunt is the most-valuable fantasy asset (given his current ADP and his projection; in other words, he has the highest ROI) in the division projected to more than 78 PPR points while Joe Mixon has the lowest ROI of all players in the AFC North by a mile (ADP of 11th-overall or RB7 but a projection for a top-56th OVR finish or RB12).

 

Alternative value-play: Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens

I could have picked J.K. Dobbins here, but I ultimately chose to side with Gus the Bus. See, Dobbins is the better player (we have to assume) while obviously the more expensive (RB22 off the board). Edwards has an ADP of 170th overall compared to his teammate's 47th. The projections are also similarly separated, with Dobbins projected for an RB23 season compared to Edwards' RB55.

Can we trust the numbers as they come? Hard to think so given these two career paths. Dobbins missed 2021 entirely after playing 15 games in 2020. Same thing for Edwards only with 16 games in 2020 (of which only six were labeled "starts").

There is a big chance Edwards ends with Dobbins' projection if injuries hit the latter and the former dodge them. Of course, taking any of these two is taking on huge risks, but for the potential ROI and massive questions both carry, Edwards should be the one to favor late in drafts.



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