Fantasy football|Third round running backs

Making sense of the unpredictable third round in fantasy football.

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For most of this offseason I thought that my third-round pick was going to be a safe reliable player, but with the recent holdouts of Ezekiel Elliot and Melvin Gordon. The third round has become dare I say shaken up a bit. Essentially, every player that was projected to go in the third round has moved up two slots. Players like Adam Theilen and TY Hilton are perhaps second-rounders now. But if I had to guess I’d guess that it’s the running backs who will benefit the most from these holdouts. Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones and Damien Williams, in my opinion, will all fall in the second round now. 

As far as when to pick Ezekiel Elliot and Melvin Gordon this year. I would say to you that if you think they’re going to play then pick them. If you don’t think they’re going to play don’t pick them at all. It’s either one or the other, either they’re going to play, or they’re not going to play. There’s nothing I hate more than trying to figure out if someone is going to play or not. I’m not their agent so I have no idea if they’re going to play or not. That’s why I’m choosing, to focus on who’s available in the third round. 

The third round wave of running backs consists of Devante Freeman, Kerryon Johnson, Marlon Mack and Leonard Fournette.  

Of these four running backs, only two of them are complete backs in my opinion Freeman and Johnson. Mack and Fournette struggle catching the football. Mack caught only 17 passes last season, Founette had 22. Freeman might be my favourite out of the bunch he’s always had great hands throughout his career and has always produced when healthy. If you think back to this time a year ago Freeman was considered a safe pick and was going comfortably in the second round. Now he’s going at the tail end of the third round because of last years injury. Ask yourself this what player in the third round isn’t a risk to get injured? Kerryon Johnson was injured last year so was Leonard Fournette, Aaron Jones, Marlon Mack T.Y Hilton and Stephon Diggs. 

Unless a player is consistently injured every single year, you can’t just assume that they’re going to get injured the following year. I’m not a big fan of playing doctor in fantasy football, in fact, I find it a bit redundant and annoying when analysts spend so much time projecting whether someone will get hurt or not. Truthfully, we have no idea who’s going to get injured every year. However with all that being said AJ Green and Doug Baldwin are good examples of players that I would allow myself to cross off because there’s so much injury history for them that it’s undeniable. But say in Freeman’s case, it’s his first major injury.

Freemen to me is a lot like Dalvin Cook I keep asking myself what’s the difference between Dalvin Cook and Devonta Freemen? Both of them are considered risky picks right? So why is it that Dalvin is ranked 20 players ahead of Freeman? Is Dalvin Cook that much more electric then Freeman? Does he catch the ball better than him? Is he less injury-prone then him? 

There are two reasons why Freeman is being devalued. The first argument is that Falcon’s new play-caller Dirk Koetter’s offence is not friendly to fantasy running backs. That was certainly was true last season when Koetter was coaching the Bucs, however, that hasn’t always been the case. When he was In Jacksonville Maurice jones drew led the league in rushing in 2011 with 1606 yds! and in 2009 had an impressive 15 rushing touchdowns! Doug Martin benefited in 2014 under Dirk Koetter when he rushed for 1402 yards in 2014. That was by far Doug’s best season as a pro. It seems to me that Koetter offences are only NOT fantasy-friendly when his running backs are not up to par. He may not be able to turn Payton Barber into Walter Payton overnight, but he’s certainly not someone you should worry about when picking the talented Devonta Freeman. 

The second reason why people are down on Freeman this year is because of his injury-plagued year last year. However, people are acting like he’s 33 years old when in reality he’s only 27! Le’veon Bell is the same age hasn’t played football in a year and is widely considered a consensus first-round pick this year. Freeman comfortably has the starting job all to himself Itto Smith will provide relief at times, but by all accounts, I think we can all agree this is at least a 70% – 30% workload split if not more for Freeman. The Falcons possess one of the more dynamic offences in football this offseason they went out and drafted two offensive linemen both were selected in the first round G Chris Lindstrom (14th) and T Caleb McGary (31st). I understand that picking Freeman early in the third round may raise some eyebrows from your league mates, but in truth, it’s not that risky, we’ve seen Freeman in this Atlanta offence before be a top ten fantasy back.

I have Marlon Mack ranked right behind Freeman and slightly ahead of Kerryon Johnson. What I like about Mack is that I know what I’m getting from him. He’s rushing behind one of the best offensive lines in football, he’s the lead back on a great offence and most importantly he’s boring!! I like boring players because one they don’t get into trouble, two they don’t holdout and three they are almost always great teammates. Watch what happens when Mack scores a touchdown, he doesn’t dance or flex his muscles, instead he runs over to his teammates and high fives them. Whenever you see an NFL player score a touchdown and celebrate by high fiving with his teammates you know he’s a good guy and in my case a guy that I have to draft. 

Everything is looking good for Mack right now the coaching staff is singing his praises, GM Chris Ballard is complimenting him and his teammates are as well. These are the typical things you expect to hear from a boring player. When you pick boring players you never have to worry about them beating up their girlfriends or beating up their girlfriend’s sister or their Ex wife’s sister. You can relax and come to rely on their contributions each week. Mack’s upside is undoubtedly lower then all of the other running backs in round three, but he’s by far the safest RB.    

Slow and steady wins the race.

I’m a cautious fantasy player especially in the early rounds so I ask myself would I rather be locked into 16 weeks of the Colts offence or 16 weeks of the Lions offence?

Yes, Kerryon is probably a more talented back, but his situation is much dicier then Mack’s. I like Kerryon in the passing game this year now that Theo Riddick’s and his 74 targets are gone, but as far as the running game is concerned, I’m hesitant mainly because it’s the Lions and also because Matt Patricia likes to use multiple RB’s in the ground game. In a full PPR league, yes I would probably rate Johnson higher then Mack, but in standard scoring, I’m going with Mack. 

Leonard Fournette is another running back currently going in the third round. The thing with Fournette is that he’s hard to predict. Let’s forget about him being a total head case for now and focus on what he brings to an NFL team. For his career Fournette has averaged a mere 3.7 YPC, he’s better at catching the ball then I had thought with a career 78% catch percentage, he averages 19 carries per game. Now, This is why I say he’s hard to predict on one hand his attempts per game will likely decrease but at the same time, his YPC will probably go up. How many targets per game he receivers from Nick Foles this year is another mystery. One thing that I don’t think will decrease is his rushing touchdowns when the Jags get down near the goal line expect Fournette to still be the guy. You can expect anywhere from 7-12 rushing touchdowns from Fournette this season. Keep in mind the Jaguars offensive line suffered a ton of injuries last season 4 of their 5 starters got put on IR last season. Looking at this simply from a football point of view I believe Fournette has the highest ceiling out of all of the backs I’ve mentioned above. However, when it comes to taking risky players early in the draft I’m out. I won’t be drafting Fournette this year mainly because of my previously failed risky picks. 

I’m going with: 

1. Freeman

2. Mack

3. Kerryon

4. Fournette 

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