Mind the Gap: 3 Small-Gap Backfields to Mine for Fantasy Value
Image Credit: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: A.J. Dillon.

Last time, we looked at three big-gap backfields with buying opportunities. We know from Jack Miller’s research on the win and hit rates for big or small-gap backs, and from similar research by Charlie Kleinheksel before that, that the ADP gap between a team’s RB1 and their RB2 has significant implications for how we should expect them to perform. In those previous articles and in this one, B1 and B2 running backs refer to a team’s RB1 and RB2 in backfields where there is an ADP gap of 98.5 or more. Those in backfields with a smaller gap between the RB1 and RB2 are referred to as S1 and S2, respectively.

Historically, B1 and S2 backs have produced the best win rates, but at very different costs. B2 backs have produced average win rates, while S1 backs have historically been the worst performers. Today we’ll focus on small gap RBs who might provide an edge in our fantasy drafts. Although it’s early, we’ll use the FFPC Redraft ADP and identify small-gap running backs. 

With a narrower ADP gap, the market seems torn on talent or opportunity. Since we only have one pick in each round, let’s briefly look at the small-gap backs for these three teams to lay out the pros and cons. 

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Jones (19 ADP – RB10)

With Davante Adams gone, how will the Packers’ offense shake out? Aaron Jones has seen a heavier workload without Adams in the past. 

small-gap

Importantly, in the eight games Adams missed (with the reminder that it’s a small sample) Jones earned more receiving opportunities. The Packers did add second-round pick Christian Watson and Sammy Watkins in the offseason. But with the clear talent drop-off at receiver, Jones could garner another season with a healthy 13% target share (No. 8) and 6.3 reEP (No. 11), like he did in 2021. 

Jones remains one of the most efficient backs in the league, evidenced by the sixth-most FPOE/G (3.0) since 2017 behind Austin Ekeler and Derrick Henry. He possesses the juicy upside, though the team context could drop without Adams with the Range of Outcomes tool projecting the 18th-highest high and medium projection among RBs. 

A.J. Dillon (65.9 ADP – RB25)

At 247 pounds, A.J. Dillon boasted the athleticism we look for in running backs, evidenced by the 96th-percentile Speed Score, 92nd-percentile Freak Score, and 98th-percentile Explosion Score. Dillon looked every bit as dangerous as Derrick Henry coming out of college. 

Dillon showed the RB1 upside with three games as an RB1, averaging 23 PPR/G. Among backs with 100 carries, Dillon ranked 12th in YAC (2.8), 16th in broken tackle rate (9.1%), and 30th in evasion rate (13%). 

small-gap

Dillon nearly matched Jones in the advanced metrics, though he lacked the receiving opportunity with just a 7% target share. He only had two games with an RB1 receiving EP/G, aligning with the only two contests with five targets or more (Weeks 11 and 12). Dillon hinted at some receiving upside, and he warrants a pick where he slips past ADP. Don’t get overweight on exposure to the Packers’ backfield, but you’ll want a piece of it. 

Summing Up the Packers’ Small-Gap Running Back Dilemma

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