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More Proof Rookie RBs Are the Key to Fantasy Success: Draft Season Update – The Wrong Read, No. 47

We know rookie running backs drafted in the middle rounds consistently outperform their ADP-based expectations. But as ADP changes so do our favorite values. Who are the rookie RBs you should be targeting as we move into the busiest time for fantasy drafters?

One of the reasons Zero RB is a successful strategy even in years when the top wide receivers fail to live up to expectations is that it’s always possible to find league-winning RBs in the middle and later rounds. Indeed, looking at Shawn Siegele’s results from the past few seasons would make you think it’s easy. Rookie RBs in the middle rounds have proven to be particularly fruitful, with both Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara winning leagues for their owners last year. And many more rookie RBs provided week-winning performances over the course of the season.

As we saw in the original piece, Rounds 9-12 are where rookie RB value is at it’s peak.

When that article was written, only two rookie RBs were in roughly that range (rounds 8-13): Kerryon Johnson and Nyheim Hines. I mentioned at the time that it looked like Johnson would rise out of the range, and indeed he has. His ADP in MFL10s is currently in the sixth round, and in many drafts you will need to take him in the fifth if you really want him. On the other hand, following a couple poor preseason performances, Hines has fallen out of our target range.1

newplot (20)

With our original targets no longer meeting out criteria, it’s time to take another look at ADP to find players who do fall within out target range. The extreme fluidity of ADP in the month of August has opened up some compelling values that we could not have foreseen a few months ago.

Updated Rookie RB Targets

Two rookie RBs have seen their ADPs drop precipitously in the last month.

Ronald Jones

A month ago, Ronald Jones was a fifth-round pick, but after a disastrous preseason in which he shared the field with Ryan Fitzpatrick on only 10 of the starting QB’s 50 snaps, his ADP has dipped to the ninth round. Meanwhile teammate Peyton Barber has seen his ADP rise by almost 100 picks in August. Whereas less than a month ago Jones was being drafted at least 10 rounds before Barber, today Barber is being drafted earlier than Jones.

newplot (21)

It may turn out that Jones actually isn’t good. But as the youngest back in the class, a player who posted over 1,000 scrimmage yards as a true freshman at age 18, and the 2018 leader among RBs invited to the combine in Backfield Dominator Rating, I’m comfortable betting a ninth-round pick that Jones’ preseason is noise.

Nick Chubb

Nick Chubb was being drafted in the seventh round at the end of July. Now, at the end of August, his ADP is solidly in the ninth round. Carlos Hyde has put together an impressive preseason, and his ADP rise represents the equal and opposite reaction to Chubb’s fall.

newplot (22)

Although three-way competitions are not usually the optimal situations when looking for Zero RB candidates, the recent discount makes Chubb an attractive target.

Rookie RBs to Watch

Rashaad Penny and Sony Michel have both been dealing with injuries, giving their teammates opportunities to shine. Both have seen their ADPs fall over the last few weeks.

newplot (23)

Although neither are yet within our target range, both have fallen from fourth-round valuations to the 6/7 turn. Both are worth keeping an eye on, as continued slippage could make them even better bargains than they already appear to be.

  1. Which doesn’t mean I’m targeting him less — I’m certainly happy to get him at a depressed price.  (back)

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