As the season winds down it’s time to start looking to the offseason for those teams who will not make it to the playoffs this season. Towards that end, I’ve highlighted five “sell high” candidates at the Running Back position. Note: I’d only “sell” these players if I was paid a premium for them otherwise I’d hold onto them. None of the players listed below are one week wonders, they’re all valuable dynasty assets and I’d expect to be paid accordingly. Frankly, I’d be more than happy to hold onto any and all of the players listed below, but in order to “get”, sometimes you have to “give”.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys:
It may be blasphemous to think about selling Zeke, but I have my reasons for suggesting to do so. First, Zeke’s usage does cause me a bit of a concern. With 267 touches, including 243 rushing attempts through 12 weeks, 22.5 per game, Zeke is on pace for 356 regular season touches. If the Cowboys were to play two games in the playoffs, Zeke will be right at 400 touches. He’ll also have carried the ball right around 370 times (364.5 to be exact), assuming his current work rate continues.
Why is 370 an important threshold to examine? History has shown, except in the cases of Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton and Ladainian Tomlinson, that 370 carries in one season is a precursor to a reduction in fantasy production the following season. In fact, the history of the NFL is littered with Running Backs whose careers were never the same following a 370 carry season. The most recent example of this phenomom, DeMarco Murray saw a significant decrease in production in 2015 after logging 393 carries for the Dallas Cowboys in the 2014 season. Murray has since bounced back with a top 5 running back fantasy season this year, at the age of 28, so, in no way do I see Zeke’s workload causing any long term issues. Nevertheless, it’s called “selling high” for a reason. After the season Elliott has had I can’t imagine his worth ever being as high as it right now. Therefore, if you own a roster full of utter rubbish, trading Elliott for two top five 2017 rookie picks could help you jumpstart your rebuild.
RB DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans:
After Murray’s abysmal 2015 season with the Philadelphia Eagles I consistently wrote him off as being washed up and assumed he was finished as a viable starting fantasy Running Back. I could not have been more wrong in that assessment. Murray is the 4th leading scoring Running Back with 21.39 points per game this season. Watching him this season, he looks nothing at all like the Running Back I had to suffer through watching on a weekly basis last year. His cuts seem sharper, his vision and patience are on display, in short he looks exactly as he did in 2014 prior to joining the Eagles.
I suppose his 2015 season can be blamed on a combination of the 393 carries he logged in 2014, or on the fact that Chip Kelly is a horrible, terrible, trash head coach with no idea how to properly utilize the talents of his players. Regardless of what happened last season, Murray has shown through 12 weeks that he still a supremely talented and effective Running Back. So, with my new found respect for Murray duly noted I’m going to still tell you to sell. Nearing 29 years of of age and 1,600 career touches it’s fair to assume that Murray only has so much time left as an RB1. In fact, with Derrick Henry in tow and no dead cap space for cutting ties with Murray, I’d expect Murray to be looking for a new home after the 2017 season.
RB Devonta Freeman & RB Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons:
I am a huge fan of Devonta Freeman, less so of Tevin Coleman. My qualms with Coleman are two-fold. First of all, he cannot stay healthy. Yeah I know you hate when people start chirping about “injury-prone” players, sorry I don’t know what else to call player’s who consistently miss time due to injury. If you have any suggestions I’m all ears. Anyway, after missing 4 games last season Coleman has missed 3 games this season through 12 weeks. I don’t see Coleman as being a durable player and that will always limit his worth in my eyes. But good news, you don’t have to trade with me! Coleman is explosive and does not need much of a workload to make an impact. He’s scored 6 touchdowns in 7 games this season and is a threat to score anytime he gets the ball in the open field. If Coleman stays healthy the rest of this season and misses no more games I’d be looking to cash out for a 2017 1st round rookie pick.
My second major gripe with Tevin Coleman is that he steals touches from one, Devonta Freeman. As long as Coleman is in the same backfield it’s going to limit Freeman’s upside. Freeman has shown he can carry a full load and excel while doing so. Coleman is too much of a weapon not to languish on the bench. If I can get a mid rookie 1st rounder for Freeman there’s a really good chance I’d pull the trigger.
RB Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins:
Just a quick refresher on Jay Ajayi. Going into the 2015 draft Ajayi was thought to have 2nd round talent, but questions surrounding his knee caused him to fall to the Dolphins in the 5th round. As a rookie he underwhelmed, but seemed to have a clear path to a starting role in 2016 when the Dolphins let Lamar Miller walk in free agency. Ultimately, that path was muddled a bit by the Dolphins pursuit of any living person who ever played the Running Back position at one time or another in their life. As a result, Arian Foster eventually joined the team, played badly, was injured and retired. In the end, Ajayi finally got a full complement of carries in week 6 against the Steelers and exploded for over 200 rushing yards. Ajayi followed that effort up with another 200 yard rushing yards the following week and after the bye another 100 yard rushing effort against the Jets. However, since that game, though while still serviceable Ajayi has been pretty much kept in check. Ayayi’s knee continues to be an ongoing mystery with phrases such as; “bone on bone” and “microfracture surgery” being brought when discussions turn to his longevity. I may be a bit of a punk, but the uncertainty surrounding Ajayi’s knee makes me want to cash out while his value is still high.
Here’s hoping that everyone reading this has nothing but stacked rosters in all leagues they play in, but just in case I hope you can move some of the players listed above to help replenish your rosters production depth. As always, I appreciate the time you’ve spent reading something I’ve written and would love to hear any feedback you may have. Get at me anytime @DFF_Shane.