With the 2019 NFL Draft come and gone, it’s time to re-evaluate and readjust our positions on some of our most-prized prospects by taking a look at three rookie RBs to target in dynasty drafts.
Make no mistake — this class has neither the ceiling nor the depth of the 2018 class, but at least they’ll be cheaper, and that’s just how we like our RBs.
That’s the theme here for me. With so much variance in the RB market, I don’t like spending much capital at the position. I personally won’t be spending a top-six pick on any back in this class, be it Josh Jacobs or Miles Sanders. So while those guys have a better chance at making a fantasy impact, they aren’t priority targets for me.
So here are three of the most cost-effective rookie RBs I am targeting in dynasty drafts.
The Baltimore Ravens selected the Oklahoma State product in the fourth round, 113th overall, providing us with plenty of promise in terms of profile and opportunity.
I’m looking for production, and if the prospect can pair it with some athleticism, great. Justice certainly has the former, knocking his sophomore season out of the park with 1,467 rushing yards, while accounting for 64 percent of his team’s rushing yards. John Lapinski points out that Hill’s career market rushing share is the fourth best in this class.
He also added 31 receptions that season (49 in his career), showing enough in that phase to give us confidence that he can at least be a serviceable receiver at the next level.
What about athleticism? While not exactly Saquon Barkley, he proved to be among the best RB athletes tested at the NFL Combine, including running the fastest 40-yard dash at 198 pounds.
Among RBs at the #NFLCombine:— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) March 1, 2019
✔ No. 1️⃣ 40 time (4.40)
✔ No. 1️⃣ vertical (40')
✔ No. 1️⃣ broad jump (10'10")
✔ Top-🔟 bench press reps (21)
We'd say that's a pretty good trip so far for @jhill21_. Watch the rest on @nflnetwork this weekend. pic.twitter.com/O5Tv0sQwfT
Add it all up, and the Box Score Scout spits out some encouraging comparables for Hill, including the productive and underappreciated Lamar Miller, who checks in as the second-best comp.
The Ravens signed RB Mark Ingram to a free-agent contract in the offseason, but his ability to produce outside of the RB-friendly confines of New Orleans is unproven. And besides, there is plenty of opportunity to go around — after Lamar Jackson took over in Week 10, Baltimore had the fifth-most rushing attempts and the second-most rushing yards.
Any RB drafted by Andy Reid was going to warrant consideration in this space, and it’s not hard to see what he likes in Thompson. With last year’s leading rusher Kareem Hunt jettisoned, Reid believes Utah State’s Darwin Thompson can be part of the solution, selecting him in the sixth round with the 214th overall pick.
As Devin McIntyre points out in his breakdown of Thompson, the 5-foot-8, 200-pound RB profiles similarly to other shorter, lightly drafted backs who’ve found success in the NFL — guys like Tarik Cohen, Phillip Lindsay, and Matt Breida.
After two years of crushing JUCO, Thompson posted his third-straight season of at least 1,000 rushing yards after moving to Utah State, despite splitting backfield snaps with Gerold Bright.
|Year||School||Ru Att||Ru Yards||Ru Avg||Ru TDs||Rec||Rec Yards||Rec Avg||Rec TDs|
Pro Football Focus graded him as college football’s most elusive runner.
Utah State running back @DTRAINN5 had an excellent season for the Aggies. Darwin earned an 88.1 rushing grade and didn't go down easy. He forced 42 missed tackles while rushing and 13 while receiving and his elusive rating of 195.0 ranked 1st among RBs with at least 56 attempts. pic.twitter.com/odkgSwTi3M— Cole Brown (@PFF_Cole) December 11, 2018
He didn’t get an invite to the combine, and while historically that’s a pretty big red flag, recent cases like Phillip Lindsay has shown us it’s not a death knell. He did turn heads at his Pro Day, though, showing off explosion and strength to pair with adequate speed.
Lindsay, however, profiled as a complete workhorse, scoring the highest Workhorse Score in the elite 2018 rookie class. Thompson doesn’t have the same receiving chops, and it hurts him in the BSS comps.
There are red flags here, but there’s also tons of upside in an offense that is among the perennial leaders in RB expected points. As long as he remains available in the back-end of rookie drafts, I’m buying.
I’m probably on an island here, but we’re getting a steep discount on a player that could have been a first-round rookie pick last year, had he declared for the draft as most expected.
Instead, Love went back to Stanford, and the worst-case scenario played out — he disappointed on the field before tearing an ACL in December in his last game. In better days, he ran for an incredible 8.05 YPC and an 80% adjusted market share of his team’s rushing yards.
The bottom fell truly out in his final year, although Jordan Hoover points out that there were likely other factors playing into his efficiency plunge.
And the fact that he tore his ACL so late in the season means that his impact in 2019 will be minimal, making this a developmental pick. But if Nick Chubb can rebound from a devastating knee injury which shredded his MCL, PCL, and LCL, why can’t Love bounceback from a comparatively straightforward ACL tear?
Love is already indicating that he may join his new team sometime this summer.
Bryce Love said teh goal is to be ready by mid training camp from the ACL he tore in his final game on Dec. 1.— Kareem Copeland (@kareemcopeland) April 27, 2019
Could Washington’s selection of Love be a sign of their concern regarding Derrius Guice’s recovery? There are whispers that his ACL rehab is coming along slowly. Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson is 34-years old. Love may look like an odd selection right now, but there are questions abound in this backfield, and he has the pedigree so take advantage if given the opportunity.
Plus, he’ll be basically free in rookie drafts.