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Preseason games have now begun, which has launched a surge in activity for redraft leagues that will accelerate until the Falcons and Eagles kickoff in Week 1. Whether you are preparing for upcoming drafts, or have already been building your rosters, one of your ongoing priorities is to identify players that supply excellent value once you have reached the middle and late rounds. This is largely predicated on your personal assessment of these players, combined with the location of their ADPs.

Pinpointing value at the running back position is particularly essential as you stockpile backups to your rosters after investing early round capital on the top tiered rushers that are destined to commandeer extensive workloads. Fantasy Football Calculator’s current ADPs reveal that 23 backs are being drafted before Round 5 in PPR leagues, while 36 are being selected before Round 8. By the time that drafts have reached Round 14, owners have secured nearly 60 runners, amid an ongoing effort to find backs that provide the best value.

This breakdown will direct the spotlight on a group of backs that will be available after your drafts have progressed beyond the first three rounds. It is designed to help you identify which runners are being undervalued, yet are capable of bolstering your point production at this critical position.  You will also be supplied with multiple options for the late rounds of your drafts that could become valuable resources during the season.

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RB Draft Targets for PPR Leagues

Duke Johnson (ADP 94 - 8.06)

If your initial thought upon seeing Duke Johnson's name is that he will be operating in one of the league's most congested backfields, then you are correct. However, the potential for discouraging or inconsistent touch totals is more relevant if you are considering Carlos Hyde or Nick Chubb for inclusion on your rosters. It is my belief that Johnson’s ADP is actually the most egregious at this position, which is why this breakdown will begin by reexamining how productive he has been.

Johnson finished at RB11 in PPR leagues one year ago, after collecting the fourth highest number of targets among all backs (93). This propelled him to the fourth most receptions at his position (74) while also placing him third beyond only Alvin Kamara and Todd Gurley in receiving yardage (693). Johnson also led Cleveland in all three categories by a considerable margin, although that career-best output was only marginally above the averages that he has assembled during his three-year career (80 targets/63 receptions/580 yards). His 188 catches are also the most at his position since Johnson’s 2015 rookie season.

    Running Back  2017  2016  2015       Total       Receptions
1. Duke Johnson   74   53   61          188
2. Theo Riddick   53   53   80          186
3. Le'Veon Bell   85   75   24          184
4. Devonta Freeman     36   54   73          163
5. James White   56   60   40          156

Johnson also procured the 14th highest snap among backs in 2017 (565/53%), and it is unlikely that his role will be altered by the tandem of Hyde and Chubb. Hyde is the probable early down option when the season begins, while Chubb should eventually overtake him in that capacity. But regardless of how specific usage fluctuates for Hyde and Chubb, Johnson should retain the fundamental role of pass catching back throughout the year. Johnson has also averaged 86 rushing attempts during his three seasons (82/73/104), and will still be deployed on the ground while performing in Cleveland's revamped offensive approach.

The Browns further solidified Johnson’s status as an integral component within their attack by signing him to a $15.6 extension through 2021 - $7.7 of which is guaranteed. His current eighth-round ADP amazingly has him being selected after 37 other backs, which simply should not be occurring. However, that presents an excellent opportunity for you to secure him at his favorable value.

Lamar Miller (ADP 44 - 4.07)

It may be difficult for you to get excited about Miller, who averaged 3.7 YPC last season while finishing at a respectable but uninspiring 16th in rushing (888 yards) and fantasy points.  But considering the existing landscape which only contains a select group of backs that will operate without any discernible competition for touches, anyone who has been hesitant to select him should reconsider the virtual certainty of his weekly workload. Particularly in comparison to a cluster of runners that are being drafted him before him, yet appear destined to split touches (Kenyan Drake/Jay Ajayi/Derrick Henry). LeSean McCoy is also being selected one round earlier amid the risk of suspension, while Alex Collinslimited opportunities as a receiver make him a better option in standard leagues.

Miller’s desirable snap count (757/69%) was exceeded by just three other backs in 2017, and his situation has become even more enticing. D’Onta Foreman was on the active/PUP list during training camp, and his recovery from a torn Achilles has placed him on course to miss Houston’s first six contests. He could easily be performing at less than 100% effectiveness once he does reemerge, while Miller would continue garnering significant workloads. With only Alfred Blue adjacent on the Texans’ depth chart, Miller should operate without a genuine threat for touches, and will surpass the 274 that he received last year. While owners might not experience an endless series of exhilarating performances, Miller will deliver consistent RB2 output. Which provides value at his present ADP (44).

Latavius Murray (ADP 139 - 12.02)

The 6’3”, 230-pound Murray is a former 1,000-yard rusher (2015-1,066) who has occasionally been undervalued during his career. He has generated 20 rushing touchdowns during the past two seasons, which placed him fifth (2016) and sixth (2017) in that category. Murray also tied for sixth with seven runs of 20+ yards, while ranking within the top 10 in percentage of rushing attempts inside the opponents’ 20, 10 and 5 yards lines. He also overcame an unimpressive start in Weeks 4-6 (27 YPG) to average 74.5 YPG from Weeks 7-17, after a torn ACL concluded Dalvin Cook’s promising season.

The significance of his 2017 output is somewhat diminished by the return of Cook, which will alter the workload distribution within Minnesota’s backfield. Even though Mike Zimmer has suggested that there is competition for the Vikings’ RB1 responsibilities, Murray will begin the year as Minnesota's RB2, while Cook garners the majority of touches.

However, there are multiple scenarios that could occur which would elevate Murray's production beyond the modest expectations that currently exist with his 12th round ADP. First, Murray could secure a role as the team's short-yardage specialist, who would also receive coveted red zone carries. His value would be enhanced even further in PPR leagues if Cook encounters another health issue, which would instantly elevate Murray into a massive role.

It is also conceivable that Cook will be taken out of contests for preservation purposes whenever developing game scripts will allow it. Owners would benefit substantially from any of these scenarios if they were to occur simply by assuming a minimal investment in Murray during their drafts. This enables him to provide far greater upside than other backs with similar ADPs can offer.

James White (ADP 154 - 13.04)

The usual trepidation that arises when owners are contemplating the possibility of adding a New England back to their rosters was somewhat tempered this offseason by the appeal of securing the Patriots first round pick Sony Michel, or the multi-layered potential of Rex Burkhead. But after your draft has advanced beyond Round 10, White surfaces as a viable option. Not only is he a legitimate candidate to accumulate additional touches if Michel's knee issue lingers, but there is minimal risk in deploying a pick on the versatile 26-year old at that point of your draft process.

Even as Dion Lewis generated career-best output (896 yards/6 touchdowns) while playing 9+ games for the first time since 2011, White blended his effectiveness as a receiver with his dependability in pass protection, toward making consistent contributions to the Patriots' attack throughout the season. White’s snap count (384/33.6%) almost matched the number of plays that were allotted to Lewis (404/35.4%), which enabled him to accrue respectable numbers. His 56 receptions placed him 10th among all backs, while he garnered the ninth most targets (72), and sixth highest number of red zone targets (12).

White’s recent track record as a proficient receiving weapon is on display inside the table that was included to underscore Johnson’s pass-catching acumen. This is not a suggestion that White will confiscate RB1 responsibilities, but he could be the recipient of an extensive role if any number of factors arise during the year. 54 backs are being chosen before White, whose current ADP 154 places him in the 13th round. This makes him a feasible target who could supply valuable point production during the season.

Jordan Wilkins (ADP 155 - 13.06)

While some within the fantasy community have been proponents of Wilkins throughout the summer, the fifth-round pick is still being selected three rounds later than fellow newcomer Nyheim Hines. But a burgeoning list of favorable developments has converged for this 6’1”, 215-pound rookie, which could facilitate a surge in his value at the most opportune time.

He is joining an Indianapolis offense that should be primed to rebound significantly with the reappearance of Andrew Luck after 585 days away from the field. The Colts also do not currently have a definitive feature back, but whoever ascends into the RB1 role will be operating behind an improved offensive line. The most likely candidate for garnering the largest percentage of touches (Marlon Mack) is now contending with a hamstring issue. Meanwhile, the 6'1", 215- pound Wilkins has also performed effectively in training camp and has a chance to earn a consistent workload.

The explosive Hines is capable of serving as a dynamic home run hitter, which should enable him to maintain a presence within the attack. While that makes him an intriguing best ball target, his strengths do not necessarily equate to the desirable attributes of an every-down back. However, Wilkins does have the potential of functioning in that capacity after generating 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns during his final collegiate season, while also collecting 26 receptions for 241 yards and another score.

While the convergence of positive factors may not result in immediate RB1 responsibilities for Wilkins, he has the versatility to commandeer a reasonable number of touches, and the opportunity to seize a sizable workload is unquestioned. That should encourage owners to grab him at his present Round 13 ADP.

 

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