Each year we provide a 2018 Zero RB candidates countdown to help you find inexpensive RBs to destroy your league. Welcome to the final board.
As you get ready for your most important drafts over the next six days, the final Zero RB board is ready. In addition to a new Deep Watch List, I focus on the risers, fallers, and newcomers. All of the commentary should be new.1
For those who haven’t been with us to this point in the journey, I encourage you to peruse selections from previous years where we recommended Devonta Freeman, Melvin Gordon, Kareem Hunt, and Alvin Kamara.
In the Update, the new entries were in blue, the risers were in green, and the fallers were in red. That will be the case again. Players who are falling but still on the list are still targets, just at a later juncture in the draft than they were previously.
Deep Watch List
- Trenton Cannon – Cannon slotted in at No. 15 in the original list and still has the potential to carve out a big role on offense. He saw heavy usage in the final preseason game – which isn’t always a good sign – carrying 11 times with two targets. He also returned to kicks for 56 total yards. The Jets have no talent ahead of him, and Cannon could emerge as this year’s Matt Breida or Austin Ekeler.2
- Phillip Lindsay – Lindsay was the top RB sleeper from this year’s draft and had few college peers from a statistical perspective with 4,859 yards from scrimmage, 39 TDs, and 117 receptions. He annihilated the field in Backfield Dominator Rating. I profiled him before the preseason as one of 3 Hyper-Productive Rookies Who Happen to be Free, and he’s done nothing but impress since. A better fit with Royce Freeman than the veteran Devontae Booker, look for Lindsay to eventually earn the passing-down role.
- John Kelly – I don’t recommend drafting Kelly as you’ll likely drop him again for a free agent pickup after Week 1, but he’s someone to keep any eye on once the dust settles and your roster firms up. I discuss him more in Priority Handcuffs With RB1 Potential.
- Marcus Murphy – Murphy wasn’t prolific at Missouri before being selected by the Saints in the 2015 seventh-round, but he’s managed to stay in the league and have a strong preseason. After two years as a kick returner in New Orleans and brief stints with practice squads in Indianapolis and New York, he landed in Buffalo. Twenty-two preseason carries for 132 yards make him the dark horse to backup up LeSean McCoy, or at least earn passing-down work.
- Nyheim Hines – I’m still buying Hines – and this is a fantastic time to put out the feelers in dynasty – but right now he looks more like a runner to grab on waivers after Week 2.
No. 15 Chase Edmonds
One of the most prolific runners in FCS history, Edmonds looked like an NFL back in Pre-Week 3, rushing 11 times for 55 yards. He possesses a tiny bit of standalone value and would quickly be a force if anything happened to David Johnson. The only mild concern: T.J. Logan also looked good, scoring a 59-yard TD against the Cowboys. Logan missed his rookie year due to injury but possesses 4.37 speed.
Ivory remains a player I’m drafting, but he’s less of a priority as Marcus Murphy continues to impress.
No. 14 Javorius Allen
No. 13 Matt Breida
Our ADP sources are showing Breida just below Ekeler, but he’s been less expensive in my drafts, and I’m getting him every time as a result. I discussed the threat from Alfred Morris on the FFPC Main Event podcast with Peter and Patrick, which should be out soon.3
No. 12 Austin Ekeler
Ekeler was so good in Pre-Week 3 – 63 yards on nine touches – that some were asking if he might not be the best back on the team. I’ve written enough glowing reviews of Ekeler and Melvin Gordon that you can guess my approach. You need to have one of these two players on every team.
No. 11 Latavius Murray
No. 10 Nick Chubb and No. 9 Ronald Jones
Chubb was not on my early target lists due to his depth chart positioning and a tricky profile that may limit his high-value touches, but he’s ended up on my Main Event teams due to the crazy price.
In this week’s edition of the Wrong Read, Blair Andrews explains why these guys are now in the ADP sweet spot.
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.
Blair also suggests not overreacting to the small samples – especially when those small samples come in the preseason and with a lot of poor blocking.
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.
He also recommends Chubb and wasn’t the only one to do so. High stakes champion Monty Phan noted Chubb specifically as a target in looking at Who’s Hot and Who’s Not Heading Into the FFPC Main Event.
Hyde seems better suited for best ball, where you don’t have to guess which week he’ll be productive. Chubb, though, is intriguing in the double-digit rounds and could provide excellent value, particularly if you have the bench depth to stash him until bye weeks. (Duke Johnson’s eighth-round ADP has stayed consistent and he’s a fine pick there.)
Any time you have Blair and Monty targeting the same player, you have to think hard before passing in the double-digit rounds. I discuss why I’m moving in Chubb’s direction in last week’s Update.
No. 8 Giovani Bernard
I selected Bernard at 10.09 in the Washington Post Experts mock yesterday. He surprisingly dropped below players like Bilal Powell and Devontae Booker.
No. 7 Marlon Mack
Mack struggled as a rookie, but he was a better prospect than many realize. He gained over 1,200 yards from scrimmage every year at South Florida, caught 65 passes, and scored 33 times. That helps explain why the Colts didn’t prioritize a back early in the draft after losing Frank Gore.
Exposure to this offense is so inexpensive that you should attempt to take a Colts runner in every draft. I’ve preferred Hines to this point and will be diversifying going forward. Jordan Wilkins is probably the poor man’s Alfred Blue, but he’s going to get the chance to prove he’s a less expensive Peyton Barber or Chris Carson.
Mack hasn’t fallen very far due to the hamstring injury, but it’s kept him from rising as the lack of another quality option has become more glaring. In a race for Week 1, you’ll want to take Mack on squads where you don’t need a lot of contribution in the first couple of weeks.
White remains controversial among Zero RB drafters because he sits right there on the border between value and reach – his inexpensive and relatively safe points vie with the lack of upside that makes him less appealing to more high-risk drafters.
I’ve done several more big drafts since recommending him last week. I’m seeing him as early as Round 7, and he’s never a realistic option for my teams.
Monty also discusses the New England RBs in his Main Event prep:
ABORT! ABORT! Owning a Pats RB in head-to-head leagues is fraught with peril, and this year is no exception. . . Sony Michel is a rookie RB recovering from injury who missed almost all of training camp. I’m passing, unless he drops so far that his value is too good to ignore. It’s hard to trust any Pats RB, but Rex Burkhead shined late last year and seems a solid pick at his ADP. Single-digit rounds seem high for James White, but he could be a decent depth option in the 10th or later.
Colm Kelly and I also discussed White on the latest episode of Overtime and took opposing viewpoints.
No. 6 Duke Johnson
No. 5 Jamaal Williams
No. 4 Kerryon Johnson
Johnson only received four carries in Pre-Week 3 and came off the bench behind Ameer Abdullah and LeGarrette Blount. It’s possible Johnson isn’t the starter in Week 1, but he should earn the most touches and form a compelling 1-2 punch with Theo Riddick. It will be interesting to see what happens with Abdullah and Blount, as they have less clear roles on the team.
Interlude – Don’t Trust ADP or 4 Players for 2 Spots
I’ve seen this quartet go all over the place, and the difference between Round 4 and Round 6 can have a large impact on your draft. Lamar Miller’s ADP is rising again amid negative reports about D’Onta Foreman and with Bill O’Brien calling him a three-down back. This isn’t news exactly. Miller has been good for a long time, but he’s never quite reached elite status in Houston. It’s probably fluff, but it’s good to hear coaches predicting that for this season. John Lapinski recently explained why Miller was one of the best buys this offseason and explores his hidden value in what should be a high-powered offense. Miller is a third-round value who has lasted into Round 5 in several recent Main Events.
Chris Thompson makes the list every year, so we couldn’t do the countdown and ignore him entirely. Price and reports that he wouldn’t be 100 percent until November have made him less appealing than in recent seasons, but now Jay Gruden claims he looks fantastic and is ready to go. Skepticism is in order, but he’s still lasting into Round 9 with some frequency. Don’t be afraid to target him there.
Rex Burkhead and Tarik Cohen were on the original countdown and then removed from the update due to concerns about cost. Burkhead’s price has been influenced by reports about Sony Michel. With the rookie unlikely to be a factor early in the year and Burkhead occasionally available after the Kerryon Johnson/Tevin Coleman tandem, he’s a solid selection in that range. Cohen’s value is flailing after Matt Nagy’s claim that Jordan Howard will play on third downs. This also represents a buying opportunity with Cohen’s deployments under Nagy expected to be creative and high value.
No. 1 Tevin Coleman
Although many of the top runners have been largely absent in the preseason, no one has looked more impressive than Coleman during the practice games. He’s even been split out on occasion, offering a reminder of his plus receiving ability. Don’t be surprised if Coleman outscores Devonta Freeman this year even if both backs stay healthy.
Freeman is no longer in Zero RB range. I’m now seeing him go ahead of Kenyan Drake, Alex Collins, and Derrick Henry. He could have difficulty living up to that ADP in 2018, but you’ve already profited handsomely if you selected him as a Tier 2 rookie immediately after the NFL draft.
For more detailed information on the candidates not discussed in detail here, be sure to check out the original countdown articles. And good luck drafting this weekend!
Top 15 Zero RB Candidates for 2018: The Update – In-depth on Chase Edmonds, Chris Ivory, Giovani Bernard, James White
Zero RB Candidate Countdown: No. 15 to No. 11 – In-depth on Javorius Allen, Austin Ekeler, Matt Breida, Latavius Murray
Zero RB Candidate Countdown: No. 10 to No. 6 – In-depth on Chris Carson, Jamaal Williams, Duke Johnson, Rex Burkhead
Zero RB Candidate Countdown: No. 5 to No. 1 – In-depth on Tarik Cohen, Kerryon Johnson, Royce Freeman, Tevin Coleman
- Links to the more in-depth reports on players with an unchanged status will be easy to find at the end of the article. (back)
- Over the last three seasons, the Virginia State prospect rolled up over 4,000 yards rushing, 48 receptions, and 51 TDs. His pro day confirmed the NFL athleticism with a 4.4 forty and 38-inch vertical at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds. (back)
- Update: With Jerick McKinnon now out of for the season, reporters are suggestion Morris might have a much bigger role than originally thought, perhaps even sliding into the starting position for early-down work. (back)