Today I’m using a wisdom of the crowd approach to look for running backs who are cheap but whose dynasty value is likely to appreciate.I grabbed our Running Back Dynasty Rankings and then looked at each team’s depth chart. A player’s dynasty ranking condenses in a single number the analysis of multiple experts and includes a synthesis of the player’s talent, draft capital, age, contract status, quarterback, team offense, etc. Therefore, a team with no highly-ranked RBs should represent an easier breakout opportunity1 for an off-the-radar player.
I like to screen for vulnerable depth charts like this because it illuminates opportunities for big swings in dynasty value. Some of these names may surprise you.
Dynasty Running Back Depth Chart Rankings
I used this data to create the following graph.
The number of ranked RBs per team is on the x-axis, and the team’s average RB dynasty ranking is on the y-axis. You can use the table tools to sort and filter and do your own analysis.2 Here’s how I’m looking at it. Green dots represent the most vulnerable depth charts; the number of ranked RBs and their average ranking is shown in the data labels.
Buffalo Bills – 1 RB Ranked; Average Rank 14
LeSean McCoy is the only game in town according to our rankers. But there are many reasons to expect someone else to have value in the near future. Soon to be 30, the final year of his deal (2019) has a whopping $9 million cap hit, so expect another RB in town next season. Even for 2018, someone else will get some work. McCoy was top-six in the percentage of team rushing attempts last year, but that still left 96 attempts and 33 targets for other Bills backs. Should a single backup earn that workload to himself, that would be worth an almost-useful eight opportunities per game. But if McCoy misses time, another RB would find himself with a huge workload.
Chris Ivory is free. And while he’s not great, he’s maybe not horrible.
One year of success rate and efficiency per opportunity numbers don’t tell us everything, but they do suggest he wasn’t far off from some more highly-regarded players. And insofar as year-to-year efficiency is volatile, he could be due for some positive regression. Ultimately though, this is strictly a potential opportunity play; if McCoy misses time, Ivory should benefit. In shallow dynasty leagues, it’s tough to roster him, but I think he should be held in deeper leagues.
Tamp Bay Buccaneers – 2 RBs Ranked; 48.5 Average Rank
Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber are both ranked, however, Jones is our RB25, while Barber doesn’t show up until RB72. Jones should be expected to get a substantial and reliable workload. But there’s plenty left for Barber, especially since there are no other ranked competitors in the Buccaneers backfield.
Strictly as a runner, Barber’s 2017 compares favorably to some much more valuable RBs. Of course, most of the other RBs here make their living in the passing game. Barber hasn’t been heavily involved there, which is a definite concern, however, Barber looks good enough on the ground to stay involved. Receiving back Charles Sims is in danger of not making the roster and even if Tampa brings in another third-down back, it’s Barber, not the third-down back, who likely sees the biggest increase in usage if Jones stumbles.
Hop in the RotoViz time machine and see why Jon Moore liked Barber back in 2016.
New York Jets – 3 RBs Ranked; 69 Average Rank
He’s no longer a popular dynasty asset, but really, what’s changed about Isaiah Crowell?
Well, he’s gotten more involved in the passing game (receiving expected points) each season of his career. You guys, that’s a good thing. Let’s compare to his primary backfield competition.
Crowell is four years younger than Powell, who is in the final year of his contract. The Jets would save $4M if they cut Powell. I don’t think they will, but Crowell is the recently-signed free agent, while Powell sure looks like the on-the-way-out vet. In this series, I’ve usually advocated the cheaper backs on each team, but in this case, Crowell’s cost (ranked as RB45) is low enough to target him ahead of Powell, whose value suddenly seems precarious.
Although he’s not a great prospect, Elijah McGuire is your practically-free lottery ticket. Just like he was last year. With only two other competitors — neither a dominant player — McGuire has two pathways to relevance.
Oakland Raiders – 3 RBs Ranked; 69.3 Average Rank
Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, and Jalen Richard are all ranked between 64th and 74th, so there’s not much value difference here. Personally, Lynch is the one I’m avoiding. He’s the oldest and has already retired once. So I agree with Jeremy Marin that you should draft Martin instead of Lynch. I’m not sure if Lynch or Martin will have the better season. But if they each had a good 2018, Martin would be much more likely to have a better 2019.