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Rookie ADP Arbitrage - Running Back

Now that the 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone, it is the time of year where dynasty fantasy football prepare for their all-important rookie drafts. However, for beginning dynasty players or those entering a new league, a dynasty startup draft is how players get allocated to each owner. These drafts also occur at this time of year, and deciphering the value of certain players can be pretty tricky.

With a mix of new, unproven rookie players at each position joining veterans who vary in age and fantasy production, it is no easy task to decide which players to take during your drafts.

Year after year, young running backs are undervalued due to their unproven NFL skillset. However, with the way the league has transitioned in recent years, successful rookie running backs are becoming more and more dominant. Although they have a shorter shelf-life than other positions, young running backs are still the best bets to produce throughout their NFL careers. Using Fantasy Football Calculator's dynasty rankings, let's see if we can find some value plays that are rookies at the running back position.

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Rookie ADP Arbitrage - RB

Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks

Rashaad Penny was an unlikely first round selection in this year's NFL Draft, being picked 27th overall by the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks seem like a mediocre landing spot for running backs given the poor state of the offensive line and presence of veteran running backs who have the potential to steal touches from a rookie. These include second-year pro Chris Carson, pass-catchers C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic, and veteran runner Mike Davis. Although the Seahawks have a number of options at the position, none of them have been successful/injury-free at the NFL level. There is a reason why the team chose Penny in the first round - clearly, the team felt they needed a workhorse running back as their top need (and the Seahawks had a lot of needs to address). Penny brings a diverse skillset and was one of the most efficient backs in college football; however, he played for San Jose State and has been dinged for the lack of prestige of his opponents. Regardless, Penny is clearly talented enough to warrant high draft capital.

Although his ADP is expected to rise as the offseason continues, Penny still represents a value in dynasty startups. He is currently going in the mid-120s (right behind Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones); for a rookie running back who is expected to receive upwards of 250 touches in his first season, this is absurd. Penny is an absolute steal in dynasty startup drafts at this point, considering he is going right in front of wide receivers Marquise Goodwin and Randall Cobb. In rookie drafts, Penny is going behind fellow rookie running backs Saquon Barkley, Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, and Nick Chubb. Penny has arguably the clearest path to a workhorse role (except for Saquon Barkley), and although his team is not the best for running backs, Penny could change that impression with stellar play in his early NFL years. Therefore, Penny is a fantastic selection in the middle of the first round of rookie drafts.

Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos

The only running back taken in the third round, Royce Freeman enters one of the most favorable fantasy situations for rookie tailbacks. Coming into a backfield with bust Devontae Booker and De'Angelo Henderson, Freeman has the chance to immediately become a workhorse back, just like he was in college. Freeman is a machine who possesses a three-down skill set, making him a very valuable running back to target in dynasty drafts. He has the potential to be one of the top rookie running backs this year, given his situation and skillset.

In dynasty drafts, Freeman is currently going 139th overall, right around Steelers running back James Conner and wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Although these are both fine picks, Freeman is still being undervalued by the dynasty community (as per the latest rankings). This year's running back class has the potential to be special, and Freeman has the potential to headline the group as one of the most productive backs in the league. In rookie drafts, Freeman is going at the end of the 1st round, behind wide receivers with less potential for rookie relevancy (Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore, and Courtland Sutton). Although any one of these could blow up, the path to fantasy relevancy is much clearer for Freeman, making him a value pick if you are in the back end of the first round.

Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins

Most noted for a 2016 game where he scored eight touchdowns, Kalen Ballage is an intriguing college prospect who has the physical tools to succeed at the next level. Ballage was a 4th round pick in the draft and was selected by the Miami Dolphins. Although he is not being discussed as much as earlier running back picks, Ballage still has considerable potential to create fantasy points early on in his career. Coming into a backfield that has ancient Frank Gore and the electric Kenyan Drake, it is expected that Ballage will be the third running back on the depth chart to enter the season. However, Frank Gore cannot keep running forever and Drake does not seem to have completely earned the trust of the Dolphins brass thus far in his career. Although there is a world where Ballage has minimal value in his rookie year, he could also be a hidden asset that explodes onto the fantasy season as the lead back on the team. Ballage is not even in the top 200 picks in rookie drafts. He should be going higher than that but represents a terrific value as a late round flier. In rookie drafts, Ballage is going 19th overall, making him an intriguing option if you miss out on one of the top running backs early in your draft.


More 2018 Fantasy Football & ADP Analysis

Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.

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