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Under-the-Radar RB Signings: Fantasy Risers or Fallers?

There have been a lot of big-name signings so far in free agency, but what about some of the players who've flown below the radar? Guys who might not be stars, but could still be key contributors on their new teams and on your future fantasy teams.

Today, we'll be taking a look at some under-the-radar signings at running back.

Are these players going to be fantasy risers in 2021? Or will their new digs find them struggling to make an impact?

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!

 

Malcolm Brown - Miami Dolphins

Last year with the Rams was Malcolm Brown's highest-usage season in the NFL, as he had 101 carries and 23 receptions. His 124 touches were 52 more than his second-most touched(?) season.

But even with that, Brown only had 26.2 rushing yards per game, and two running backs on the team had more carries in Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr.

I'm tentatively higher on Brown in Miami because the competition for touches might not be as severe. Myles Gaskin seems set to be the starter in Miami, but behind him, there's not a clear-cut No. 2. Matt Breida is headed to Buffalo. Salvon Ahmed and Patrick Laird are football players who technically exist. But barring the team drafting a running back, Brown will probably be that No. 2.

So, a clearer role should make him a fantasy riser, theoretically. The problem is that a quick look at Malcolm Brown's efficiency numbers from PlayerProfiler is, uhh, not super encouraging:

We probably don't have time to dive into why these numbers aren't great, but they do suggest that Brown doesn't create many yards and doesn't really have big-play potential.

So, yeah...volume could help him have a decent season, but I don't see a ton of upside here.

Conclusion: Ri...ser?

 

Mark Ingram II - Houston Texans

It wouldn't take much for Mark Ingram to improve on what he did at the end of 2020, as he was a healthy scratch two of the last three weeks of the season, plus for both playoff games. His best game was Week 2 when he had nine carries for 55 yards and a touchdown. After that, he had over 40 yards just once.

So, just by virtue of maybe actually playing football in Houston, Ingram gets a slight boost.

But the potential for him to get a big boost was taken away when the team signed Phillip Lindsay, who should enter 2021 as the team's lead back, with either Ingram or David Johnson serving as the primary second-stringer. Ingram might get some decent short-yardage usage, but his upside will be limited.

We also don't know what the quarterback situation looks like in Houston, which adds some uncertainty into the mix. If Tyrod Taylor is the starter, will Houston end up running the ball more, adopting a Ravens-esque system that would help support the running backs in fantasy? But even then, would Ingram do much of anything?

Conclusion: A riser by default

 

Carlos Hyde - Jacksonville Jaguars

The running back market has not been fun this offseason. When Kenyan Drake to Vegas is the biggest name to change teams, well...yeah.

Anyway, Carlos Hyde signing in Jacksonville happened, and I guess we should touch on that move just a little bit.

So, Carlos Hyde joined a Jaguars team that relied a lot on rookie James Robinson last year, who had 95.62 percent of the running back carries for the Jags. But Jacksonville underwent a head coaching change, so we can't assume that Doug Marrone's running back usage carries over to Urban Meyer's running back usage.

What that should mean: Robinson falls off some as we see a more normal carry split with his backup -- presumably Carlos Hyde. But Robinson had an impressive rookie year, with PlayerProfiler showing him ranked sixth in yards created and fifth in evaded tackles.

Hyde, meanwhile, was 52nd in yards created and 36th in yards created per touch. He was 157th in expected points added and 45th in true yards per carry.

What I'm trying to say is that Hyde is going to get touches, but he isn't a huge threat to Robinson. Hyde had 356 yards and four touchdowns last season, plus added 16 catches for 93 yards. Maybe he gets around that in Jacksonville? Maybe? But Hyde also had the advantage in Seattle of having Chris Carson miss some time and also getting a lot of touches in a blowout win over the Jets.

At this point in his career, it doesn't feel like Hyde is much of a threat to Robinson. If everyone is healthy, I think he winds up with just four-to-six touches per game.

Conclusion: Faller

 

Jamaal Williams - Detroit Lions

The former Packer is now playing for cross-division rival Detroit, where he'll be backing up second-year back D'Andre Swift.

Considering how Swift came on over the final three games of the season, Williams feels mostly like insurance here. During those final three weeks, Swift saw 68.52 percent of the running back carries for the Lions, which is notable as he saw just 36.67 percent of the attempts over the first 13 games of the season.

In Green Bay, Williams had always been a threat to Aaron Jones' touches, as he's had 100 or more carries in each of his four seasons. But Williams also had averaged just 33.1 yards per his time with the Packers.

I'd say that Williams might be a slight riser over what he was in Green Bay due to the way Detroit should use the running game, especially with a switch from Matthew Stafford to Jared Goff at QB, which should lead to more run-game reliance? Except, a bad Lions team might also play from behind more, offering fewer chances for the team to give their No. 2 back rushing attempts.

Again, I don't know. Williams doesn't really offer enough upside to excite me in fantasy, even if he might be in a slightly better situation.

Conclusion: Maybe a slight riser but probably not.



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