The Early Impact of Fantasy Football Running Backs In 2018
If you drafted a running back early in your fantasy football draft, you’re in one of two camps: thrilled with your pick, or experiencing quite a bit of buyer’s regret.
For starters, many of the “blue chip” running backs are off to a slower start to the season. As we complete the first quarter of the NFL season, only two guys who were considered to be the premier running backs in fantasy football – Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott – are among the top 10 running backs in the NFL in rushing. Ironically, Elliott — who’s tied for the league lead — is tied with Matt Breida of the San Francisco 49ers, who many thought of as nothing more than a handcuff or timeshare player. Meanwhile, a bunch of other late-round selections, like James Conner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Adrian Peterson of the Washington Redskins, are among the top 10 in rushing right now as well.
Although, if you play in a league that rewards points for each catch (i.e. a PPR or half-PPR) league, then you’re probably feeling a good bit better about yourself for picking a running back earlier on. Guys like Alvin Kamara and Melvin Gordon aren’t among the top 13 in rushing yards, but they are among the top five running backs in scoring to date because of the statistical production they bring in via the passing game. Further, both Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley do find themselves among the top 10 in rushing, as well as the top players in fantasy scoring overall, because their teams have heavily involved them in the passing game also. Kamara, McCaffrey, and Barkley are all among the top 10 in receptions in the NFL, averaging at least seven catches per game.
Going back to the later-round picks, fantasy football general managers who were able to snag guys like James White, Chris Thompson, and Javorius Allen are probably thrilled with themselves, as they’re all among the top 20 running backs in fantasy scoring right now, almost entirely because of their receiving totals.
On the opposite end of thrilled, however, are the GM’s who used premium draft selections on guys like David Johnson, Devonta Freeman, Joe Mixon, Derrick Henry, and worst of all, Le’Veon Bell. Johnson and Bell were supposed to be superstar players and fantasy football team cornerstones. Instead, Bell’s prolonged holdout and Johnson being neglected by the Arizona Cardinals’ staff has effectively made people who drafted those guys feel like they’ve thrown away their picks. And while we’re on the topic of neglect, Henry remains the second-fiddle in Tennessee, as the Titans have given more carries to free agent acquisition Dion Lewis. Lewis was supposed to be the change-of-pace back to Henry, but so far, it looks to be the complete
Freeman and Mixon were both supposed to have integral roles within their respective offenses, but both of them have missed extensive time due to injuries. Freeman might be out for a prolonged period of time, and while Mixon is set to return much sooner, who knows how close he’ll be to full strength.