Fantasy Football mocks and NFFC Drafts are well underway. Injuries, position battles, and other news can affect the ADP landscape as we inch closer to the NFL season. If you’ve been active in mock drafts you have noticed that the RBs, after the initial bell-cows and sure things, are all in the same tier with little to differentiate them besides individual opinions and speculation.
Once the “Big 3” and other RB1s are off the board, it becomes a free-for-all. Who you choose can depend on what type of scoring format you play in, plus the team they’re on and volume they’ll receive. There are negative factors anchoring many RB2s, part of the reason why four rookies are being drafted as such. Would you rather go with the veteran who has a track record or the unknown, high-upside rookies? Well, let’s break it down to help those of you who are having trouble deciding between the rookie RBs, and the veterans who are lingering around them in drafts.
1- Dalvin Cook (MINN): Some experts have Fournette, Mixon, and McCaffrey ahead of Cook, and there’s a case to be made for all of them. Fournette and McCaffrey were taken before Cook in the NFL draft this year, but we’re talking about Fantasy Football. So, why Cook? Mainly because of the situation he finds himself in. With Latavius Murray on the PUP list to begin training camp, the door is wide open for Cook to capitalize on a significant role right away. The Vikings have a sub-par offensive line and they’re far from an explosive offense in general, but Cook is very talented and will see great volume.
The Vikings have a top-tier defense and a game manager at quarterback, a perfect build for a run-heavy offensive strategy and game script. In PPR formats, Cook is my number one rookie off the board over Fournette because of his pass-catching ability and his current ADP value. There’s no way I’m taking Fournette in the second round over more proven running backs and wide receivers. Cook is falling as far as the sixth round in some mock drafts, a tremendous value pick compared to Fournette in that round.
2- Joe Mixon (CIN): In standard leagues, Mixon and Fournette would be well ahead of McCaffrey since Jonathan Stewart will vulture TDs for the Panthers. I’d pick Mixon over Fournette as well because of Mixon’s ability to catch passes. Mixon is a dynamic player with immense talent. He’s an ideal candidate to become an all-purpose RB in the NFL, especially with Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard having their own issues.
The Bengals are better and more balanced offensively than the Jaguars and Panthers. Dalton is an above average QB, A.J. Green is a menace, and there are plenty of other weapons around him, so defenses can’t key solely on Mixon. You can’t say the same for Fournette. But the Bengals’ offensive line has fallen apart in recent years, so there are no guarantees for significant production here either. The Jaguars and Panthers offenses leave much to be desired as well, so that’s sort of a wash. It’s his initial role and versatility that makes me want Mixon over the next rookie.
3- Christian McCaffrey (CAR): In standard formats, Fournette is above McCaffrey for reasons mentioned earlier. But in PPR leagues it’s difficult for me to pass on McCaffrey, especially considering current ADPs. Unlike Fournette, McCaffrey’s being taken in the third to fifth round range, a spot in which I’m a lot more comfortable drafting a rookie. Plus, McCaffrey could give you solid Flex play or possibly even RB2 production in PPR leagues, and maybe even take over as the lead back for the Panthers along the way.
Simply put, the payoff would be much greater if you take McCaffrey in the fourth round as your RB2 compared to Fournette as your RB1 in the second round. He takes a hit because of Jonathan Stewart’s role as the goal line RB. Then again, we’re talking about a versatile player who can create big plays on his own, and he will be a main target through the air for Cam Newton. There’s not much competition besides Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen in this passing game.
4- Leonard Fournette (JAX): I understand that Fournette was the fourth pick off the board in this year’s NFL Draft, but I like my running backs to catch passes, especially in PPR formats. Fournette’s been working on that part of his game, but I won’t bank on it until I see it. It’s his value in Fantasy Football drafts that bothers me here. He’s going way too early in my opinion. His current FantasyPros ADP is 23rd overall in PPR formats.
The Jaguars had a poor offensive line for several seasons now. Blake Bortles runs an inefficient offense that will revolve around Fournette and Allen Robinson, so defenses will concentrate on taking both out of the game. Game script will play a role here as well. We’re still waiting for this talented, young Jaguars defense to emerge but until then, the Jaguars will likely be trailing in many games this year. If that’s the case, Fournette will be hard-pressed to produce on a consistent basis, T.J. Yeldon will most likely see a lot of work in the passing game, especially late in games when the Jaguars are trailing. If Fournette can grow enough as a pass catcher and see every-down work, that’s when I’ll be ready to jump on board. For now, he’s too expensive on draft day to be taken as my RB1; there’s too much risk and not enough reward here.
Other Rookie RBs With Fantasy Relevance
Jamaal Williams (GB)- Williams is a talented must-have handcuff for Ty Montgomery. There’s a good chance he will supplant Montgomery for the starting role at some point during the season. At the very least, he’ll be worked into games and possibly split carries with Montgomery. He’s being drafted in the mid-to-late rounds as a great value pick.
Kareem Hunt (KC)- Comparisons are being made to Frank Gore, a solid all-purpose RB who can get the job done in more ways than one. I think in the best-case scenario he’ll be splitting carries with Spencer Ware and possibly receiving more volume on a per game basis once the season rolls along. He is a promising mid-to-late round draft pick in Fantasy.
Samaje Perine (Wsh)- Not as talented as Hunt and Williams, but possibly the best value pick of all the rookies. Perine is a top candidate to take over as the starter early on, possibly even Week 1. Rob Kelley is probably the worst starting RB in the NFL right now, which leaves Perine with a fantastic opportunity.
Joe Williams (SF)- Williams was hand-picked by Kyle Shanahan in the NFL Draft. He’s a one-dimensional RB because he’s not a pass catcher. He’s a late-round flier in Fantasy drafts, and someone to keep an eye on in training camp.
D’Onta Foreman (Hou)- Recently involved in some off-field issues, Foreman will be very hit or miss in 2017. He’s a big, bruiser type RB who can complement Lamar Miller nicely, but chances are he’s nothing more than a promising handcuff.
Wayne Gallman (NYG)- Not many experts are talking about Gallman this year because no one wants any part of the Giants backfield in general. He’s mostly going undrafted, but he’s worth monitoring if Paul Perkins can’t get anything going early on. There’s a good possibility he ends up being part of a committee with Perkins, maybe even the goal-line rusher, which would give him some value in deeper leagues.
Alvin Kamara (NO)- Kamara will play a similar role to Travaris Cadet before him. He’s a great pass-catcher but nothing more, and with the plethora of weapons on this Saints roster, Kamara will likely be nothing more than a bench RB in the deepest of PPR leagues.