CFF Dynasty Summer Series: Running Backs

I’ve put together a list of possible dynasty running back additions that will help teams that are building for the 2019 season and beyond. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive or in order of preference, instead, highlight a mix of players with various price tags and range of outcomes. This is part two of four in this summer series.

Dynasty Running Back Targets:

Shamari Brooks, True Sophomore, Tulsa

Brooks burst onto the scene in 2017 as a true freshman. He finished the season with 119-687-10 and that’s without playing a single game in the month of November. From Tulsa World, “I didn’t know I was going to be playing at all,” Brooks said. “I just kind of went day by day and if the coaches wanted me to play, I’d hop in and do it for the team.” Coming off a standout career at Union High School, Brooks was ready to contribute. He was MVP of the Class 6AI state championship game as a senior, rushing for 232 yards and three touchdowns. “I don’t know whether we’re going to redshirt him or pull the shirt off of him, but the one thing I will say is he’s exactly what we thought he was,” coach Philip Montgomery said in August. “He may be the steal of that class — the Oklahoma player of the year, a kid who maybe doesn’t hit it on the height measurement, but he’s got every other asset and he’s tough as nails.”’

Tulsa’s backs traditionally carry immense CFF value and Brooks should be no different. In fact, this offense can support two mega-producers. In 2016, James Flanders had 258-1629-18 (!) on the ground and D’Angelo Brewer added 264-1435-7. At Tulsa, the past three seasons have featured at least one running back that has eclipsed 200 carries. It’s highly unlikely that Brooks would be available in any dynasty or keeper formats but he could potentially be acquired from an owner that prefers backs from bigger schools that are regularly televised. Brooks isn’t a likely candidate to leave early for the NFL so he is likely to produce every year through 2020. If you can manage to corner the market and land his running mate, sophomore Corey Taylor II, you will be insured and in great shape at running back for the next three seasons.

Shakif Seymour, Redshirt Sophomore, Toledo

If you want an in-depth look at Shakif Seymour, you can find that hereSeymour had a productive season as a redshirt freshman in 2017. His 116-702-12 rushing came throughout the season in a pattern that would be more conducive to success in a best-ball-format than standard redraft. Toledo’s lead back had 188, 303, and 262 touches over the past three seasons so there is clearly value in rostering their top dog. Kareem Hunt caught 41 balls in 2016 which is a major additional benefit that comes with their backs. Seymour will be well-known in deeper leagues with astute owners but there is a chance that he isn’t well-known in some of your leagues. I believe a huge 2018 is in store for the big back and now is the time to buy. I foresee an NFL future for Seymour but I think we are likely to see him play out his eligibility at Toledo, meaning he should be a top option at the position in 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Kylin Hill, True Sophomore, Mississippi State

Lost in the bright lights of the amazing 2017 performances from the true freshman running back class, Hill is quietly positioned to be one of the most valuable backs in the 2019 and (possibly) 2020 seasons. Hill has an NFL skillset so it’s worth considering that he could blow up in 2019 and elect to enter the draft. With the hiring of Joe Moorhead, each back that is at Mississippi State will immediately be sized up in comparison with his former running back, Saquon Barkley. Prior to Penn State, Moorhead orchestrated the Fordham Offense that saw Chase Edmonds rack up 294-1838-23, 251-1648-20, and 257-1799-19. He also caught 75 balls in those 37 games. At Penn State, Barkley ran for 272-1496-18 and 217-1271-18 and caught 82 passes in those 27 games. Hill, too, has the skill set to be a major weapon in the passing game. He is an even more tenacious, rugged runner that is already more adept than his predecessors, Edmonds and Barkley, at running between the tackles. In 2017, Hill had 78-393-2 and he will be in-line for an increased workload in 2018. Aeris Williams has one more year of eligibility before he will enter the NFL Draft, but the path for Hill is wide open after that. I believe this summer is the best time to either draft or acquire Hill through trade. Whether it’s Williams, Hill, or both that explode in 2018, his value is destined for a rapid ascent.

AJ Rose, Redshirt Sophomore, Kentucky

Full disclosure: I drafted two running backs on nearly every single roster of mine in the summer of 2017 – David Montgomery and AJ Rose. Montgomery was a home run but Rose was a ground out. The good news is that he and I both get another at bat.  I elected to drop Rose in all of my leagues for priority waiver wire adds throughout the season but have since been able to re-acquire him off waivers and draft him in start ups. Benny Snell is the household name in college football but not many know his heir apparent. Snell will be a true junior in 2018 but he is likely to get a good grade from the NFL advisory board so there is a high probability that the Wildcats will need to replace his production in 2019. Rose has very good size and he also has a gear that Snell doesn’t possess. He struggled to learn the playbook once he arrived as a freshman and he has played sparingly. The 2018 spring game provided Rose the opportunity to reintroduce himself to Kentucky fans. He looked like a future NFL running back himself. Since Eddie Gran has been at Kentucky, he has fully committed to the ground game. Snell and Boom Williams combined for 357-2261-20 in 2016. Their carries were split evenly, but in 2017, Snell racked up 262-1333-19 on the ground. That type of volume is heavenly for a CFF running back. Assuming Snell departs after this season, Rose will immediately step into a situation which would position him for a Top 25 RB finish in 2019. Considering he isn’t rostered in most leagues, there are few backs in college that provide the potential upside that he does for such a low-cost.

Rashaad Boddie, Redshirt Sophomore, Colorado State

Colorado State has been home to some valuable running backs over the past several seasons. Mike Bobo was the Offensive Coordinator at UGA before heading out west to coach the Rams. He coordinated offenses that produced huge seasons from Knowshon Moreno, Washaun Ealey, Todd Gurley, and Nick Chubb. Since then, Izzy Matthews and Dalyn Dawkins have been productive at CSU. Dawkins was the heart and soul of the offense and he graduated in 2017. Matthews will be a senior this season so the door will be open for a back to assume a lot of vacated production in 2019. Boddie is a big, power back that is made in the mold of Matthews. Izzy had 132-613-8 in 2017 and he was used heavily when they entered enemy territory and neared the goal line. Boddie finished his redshirt freshman season in 2017 with 44-254-4 on the ground. He had 13-84-2 against Boise State which was his banner game. He is in line for a big 2018 and a potentially massive 2019. Mike Bobo has remarked that the rushing attack will be the focal point of the offense in 2018. As a result, Boddie will likely get much more expensive in several months, so now is a good time to buy. It’s unclear exactly how the rotation will look this year, but I believe he will see increases in his workload over the next three seasons.

CJ Verdell, Redshirt Freshman, Oregon

For the past several years, trying to peg who the next productive Oregon back would be was fairly simple. It still may be in 2018 with Tony Brooks-James being the likely candidate but beyond that, there is a greater level of uncertainty. Brooks-James and Griffin will exhaust their eligibility in 2018 and that is where I see CJ Verdell filling in. Verdell was one of the stars of the spring for the Ducks and could contribute significantly as early as this season. Oregon elected to go with a youth movement on the offensive line for the past couple of years. As a result, they are nearly all juniors and this group could be outstanding in 2019, as seniors. There has been some coaching turnover in Eugene but based on Cristobal’s roots as an offensive line coach and his time he spent at Alabama, I believe the emphasis of the offense will remain on the ground game that has been so generous to this program over the past decade. True Sophomore, Darrian Felix, got the nod ahead of Verdell in 2017 and that was allegedly a health related choice as Verdell had an ankle injury that slowed him. Verdell is only 5’9” and 202 pounds, but he is the back that is in-line for touches when they are near the goal line. Oregon running backs don’t stay under the radar for long, and I believe this summer presents a favorable buy window, but it likely won’t last long.

Tyler King, Redshirt Sophomore, Marshall

Few hires have excited me more than Marshall landing Offensive Coordinator, Tim Cramsey. He was the offensive coordinator at Sam Houston State in 2017. While the offense he runs can be described as an air raid, this particular iteration places a higher emphasis on running the football than Mike Leach’s or Kliff Kingsbury’s versions. His lead back had 186-1121-14 and added 26 receptions in fourteen games throughout the 2017 season. Fifteen touches per game isn’t something that I would traditionally get excited about, but the TD volume is something that seems to follow backs in this offense. The lead back has scored double digit rushing touchdowns in each of the past three seasons at Sam Houston State, which is the scheme that Cramsey will bring with him. Prior to Sam Houston State, Cramsey engineered a Montana State offense that rushed for 216 yards per game and he cut his teeth under Chip Kelly at New Hampshire. King was a excellent for Marshall last season as he ran for 158-820-7 as a freshman. He split time with an upperclassmen, missed two games, and was used sparingly in three others. He’s a very dynamic athlete that I think will really benefit from playing in a true spread offense and at a high tempo. He’s likely to split carries again with Keion Davis, but he is in-line for workhorse touches in 2019 and 2020.

Brittain Brown, Redshirt Sophomore, Duke

Brittain Brown quietly had a very impressive 2017 as a redshirt freshman. He split time with Shaun Wilson but still managed 130-702-7 in his committee role. As the lead back, Wilson had 162-818-6 rushing and added 36 receptions for 264 yards and four scores. David Cutcliffe rarely has a running back that eclipses 200 touches, but their usage in the passing game makes them much more valuable in full PPR formats. Brown is the most physically gifted back that Coach Cut has enjoyed while at Duke. His price tag should remain pretty reasonable and I think he presents a valuable option as backup running back in 2018 redraft as well as dynasty formats. Brown is likely to play through 2020 and he is talented enough to forecast solid job security. I wouldn’t necessarily want to depend on him as my every week starter but he is a high floor player and that can vary in value, depending on roster construct.

Alex Fontenot, Redshirt Freshman, Colorado

As it currently stands, there are few positions more valuable in CFF than Colorado’s running back. 2018 will help us gauge whether or not Phillip Lindsay was an outlier, both in his versatility and durability, or if we can expect 300 touches from their RB1 for the foreseeable future. Virginia Tech transfer, Travon McMillian, is the projected starter for the 2018 season. However, his eligibility will expire following the 2018 season. That will likely leave a massive vacation of production for the second consecutive season. Fontenot was the recipient of a redshirt in 2017 as a freshman. Since then, he was presented with the Fred Casotti Award as the team’s most improved offensive back following the 2018 spring camp. His head coach had this to say about him, “Alex is 205 pounds & getting bigger. He is powerful and fast. I don’t know who we’ve had since I’ve been here that is like him. When he got here he was about 185. He has worked hard in the weight room.”

I believe he is a more talented back than Travon McMillian. That doesn’t mean he will usurp his role in 2018, but I do think that he can set the table for potentially massive 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Max Borghi, True Freshman, Washington State

No, I am not his sports agent. Yes, I would consider the position should he call me in a few years. I seemingly write or talk about him every chance that I get because I’m very excited about his potential in Pullman. What would Christian McCaffrey have done in Mike Leach’s air raid offense? If you can get creative and envision that, then I believe you can have a baseline for what I think Borghi can do for the Cougars. The true freshman enrolled early this spring and he turned the heads of his coaches and teammates every day. Boobie Williams had 92-395-1 rushing in 2017 but did a ton of damage as a receiver, as he hauled in 71 of his 80 targets for 482 yards and three scores. He will be a redshirt junior in 2018 and he will share the back field with Borghi. I’m unsure how the touches will be split but I do believe that both backs can have CFF relevance in full PPR formats. In 2016, Washington State had three backs that combined for 125 catches and combined for 280 carries, 1,634 rushing yards, and scored on the ground 22 times. If Williams and Borghi can split that amongst the two of them, then we are going to be looking at one of the most productive RB duos in college football.

Nic Smith, Redshirt Sophomore, North Texas

Jeff Wilson was a CFF monster. In 2016, he ran for 169-936-14 and added 29-247-1 through the air. In 2017, he ran for 188-1215-16 and added 24-168-0 through the air. Nic Smith spelled him last season and added 138-684-6 rushing. He added 18-140-2 as a receiver. This North Texas offense is only getting stronger and Smith is in-line to be their RB1. Deandre Torrey had a good spring after a productive season at JUCO. While it’s possible that Torrey forces his way into the rotation, this is still Smith’s backfield to command, until proven otherwise. Smith will be a redshirt sophomore this season and the likely RB1 in a potent air raid offense that has proven they will prioritize feedings their backs touches. Based upon what we saw Wilson do in this offense and how Smith is being drafted, an argument could be made that Smith is one of the most overlooked backs in both redraft and dynasty formats. Similar to my thoughts on Shamari Brooks, take a look at who owns him in your dynasty leagues and see if you can swap a higher profile veteran power five back that is being talked about by NFL Draft analysts. There’s not much sex appeal in rostering Smith, but he provides a very sumptuous ceiling.

Mulbah Car, True Junior, Houston

Lane Kiffin and Kendall Briles teamed up last season at Florida Atlantic and took a blossoming talent in Motor Singletary and helped elevate him to CFF royalty. Motor finished the season as the overall CFF RB1 with an absurd 301-1920-32 rushing and 19-198-1 as a receiver. Briles elected to leave Boca Raton and join Major Applewhite’s staff at Houston. According to the Houston Chronicle, “In each of the seven seasons, Briles’ spread offenses featured a 1,000-yard running back. Terrance Ganaway had 1,547 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2011. Lache Seastrunk had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2012-13. Same for Shock Linwood in 2014-15. It was Terence Williams’ turn in 2016. And last season, FAU’s Devin Singletary finished fourth nationally with 1,920 yards and a whopping 32 rushing touchdowns. During that span, Briles’ offenses averaged 40 rushing touchdowns per season.” Late in the 2017 season, Applewhite moved phenom athlete, D’Eriq King, from receiver to quarterback. In his first start, he and Mulbah Car combined for 38-220-3 on the ground in their dramatic come-from-behind-win. Car was a backup for much of the 2017 season and finished the year with 80-368-3 rushing and 6-31-0 through the air. Houston will enter the 2018 season with the most dynamic rushing duo in the league with King and Car. I am alone on an island in believing that Car will be the bell cow at RB for Houston in 2018. The job was 100% his after a very impressive spring camp but then things got interesting. Houston added Baylor grad transfer, Terence Williams, who was one of the 1,000 yard rushers for Briles in 2016. I can see why it’s easy for people to assume he will be their RB1, due to his experience with Briles, however, as someone who evaluates talent and not just opportunity, it’s clear to me that Car is the more talented and should have two years to pair with King in a potentially record-breaking rushing offense. If I’m wrong about Car winning the job in 2018, roster him and have a top 25 RB for the 2019 season as Williams will exhaust his eligibility in 2018. More on Car here.

Trey Ragas, Redshirt Sophomore, ULL

Trey Ragas had an outstanding 2017 season as a redshirt freshman. I think that playing at ULL has helped him to remain a hidden gem in CFF. From The Advocate, “Ragas’ running style does resemble the Bus, or maybe Bo Jackson, whom Ragas says inspires him. Though he isn’t old enough to remember Jackson playing at Auburn or in the NFL, Ragas says he was drawn to Jackson after watching “You Don’t Know Bo,” an ESPN documentary. “He had this freak strength, and I’m a strong person myself,” said Ragas, a New Orleans native and Archbishop Shaw graduate. “So I always felt like I can’t let a DB or cornerback tackle me by themselves. I feel I’m too big, too strong.” Using a combination of the power he possesses on his 230-pound frame, a low center of gravity and enough quickness to make the first tackler miss, Ragas has punished defenders. He takes pride in that, understanding the effect his beautifully violent running style can have. “The fact that I play offense and hit people like I play defense,” Ragas said grinning, “defensive players know they have to tackle me the whole game.” Ragas is reportedly trying to get down to 215 pounds this season and be a bit lighter on his feet. ULL hired former Alabama staffer and Arizona State OC, Billy Napier, as their head coach. He brought on Rob Sale to coordinate the offense. We don’t have a very large sample size to use as a forecast for what this offense could look like in 2018, but I’m fairly confident it will run through Ragas. There is a bunch of talent at wide receiver and they will likely have a young, exciting dual-threat QB, Levi Lewis, running the show. Ragas finished 2017 with 142-813-9 rushing and 9-32-0 as a pass catcher. He is likely to split carries with Elijah Mitchell but Ragas is the power back in this group and is the likely candidate for both feature back and goal line work. There will likely be three productive seasons ahead for Ragas. There is uncertainty surrounding the complexion of the offense but if we use former Arizona State RB, Demario Richard, as our template, his 198-1027-12 in 2017 provides an attractive benchmark for the coming years.

B.J. Daniels, True Sophomore, UTSA

UTSA hired former every team in FBS’ Offensive Coordinator, Al Borges. Borges’ offenses have included Cadillac Williams’ 239-1165-12, Ben Tate’s 202-903-8, Ronnie Hillman’s 262-1532-17, Ftiz Toussaint’s 187-1041-9 & 185-648-13, and Tyler Ervin’s 294-1601-13. To be fair, there are some duds in there as well where his backs do very little, and those years often coincide with him finding a new job the following year. UTSA should have one of the best defenses in the group of five in 2018 and I think it’s likely the game scripts favor a lot of running. Jalen Rhodes returns in 2018 and he was the feature back for UTSA in 2017 as he finished with 134-659-5 on the ground. He will be a senior in 2018 and will be presumed to be the feature back. However, this spring there was a wrench thrown in that plan as B.J. Daniels made his presence felt in a big way. From Express News, “In 2017, veterans Tyrell Clay and Jalen Rhodes overshadowed Daniels, who carried the ball 13 times in his first season. With Clay gone and Rhodes injury-prone, Daniels should receive a healthy workload this season. A starting role could be within reach for Daniels. Wilson named the running back UTSA’s Most Valuable Offensive Player this spring. “I can’t wait to get a bigger role in the offense,” Daniels said. The sophomore led the Roadrunners in rushing Saturday with 78 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Rhodes was a limited participant. Daniels’ lone touchdown was a microcosm of his intangibles — there aren’t many weaknesses to his game. “I feel like he displays it all,” Campbell Jr. said. “He can pass-block, run-block if he needs to, catch the ball out of the backfield, run somebody over and as you guys saw, jump over somebody.” There is a high likelihood that Daniels will be the starting back for this offense in 2019 and 2020. Based on the talent he has displayed, I’ll say that he finishes 2018 as their RB1 as well. Dating back to last summer, he is the dynamic back that has been breaking off 70, 80, 90 yards runs in practice. I believe this is the year the sophomore puts it all together and will be a valuable dynasty asset for the next three seasons.

Marcus Williams, Redshirt Sophomore, Appalachian State

App State regularly features a very productive CFF RB. Since making the move from the FCS to FBS in 2014, here are the numbers their RB1 has produced: 255-1415-19, 243-1423-9, 237-1402-10, and 183-1037-12. Jalin Moore represents the two most recent numbers on that list. He is likely to represent the third in 2018. We can assume there will be a massive void to fill in 2019 so it’s important to identify their succession plan. There are unlikely to be any dynasty leagues where Marcus Williams isn’t rostered, but I bet if you own Alabama RBs Damien Harris or Najee Harris, either one of those guys could net you Williams in a trade. Williams was injured for much of 2017 but he filled in for Moore last season against UMass and Georgia Southern and racked up 25-125-0 and 28-130-0 in those contests. Williams is another injury away in 2018 from being a Top 20 CFF RB on a weekly basis. That alone makes him worth a look in various league formats and when you couple that with his likely starting role in 2019 and 2020, he’s a high value target. The succession plan at App State has been very clear over the past four years so I don’t think there is a very high likelihood that the backfield won’t be Williams’ for two of the next three seasons. There are some programs where you just do whatever you can to roster their backs and App State is one such program. I sense an emerging theme.

Toren Young, Redshirt Sophomore, Iowa

(Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V) There are some programs where you just do whatever you can to roster their backs and Iowa is one such program. Iowa is truly a sports bettor’s and CFF player’s dream. There are few surprises with them. The names on the jerseys change but the results remain the same. The game scripts remain the same. Kirk Ferentz remains the same. Over the past five seasons, we’ve seen Iowa backs post: 226-974-8, 213-812-16, 183-984-12, 213-1058-10, 252-1109-10. Toren Young finished 2017 with 45-193-2 which was good for third on the team in attempts and yardage. His main competition for touches in 2018 will come from Ivory Kelly-Martin. IKM was explosive last season in a small sample as he finished with 20-184-3. There is room for both players to play significant roles but determining which player is in-line for 200+ touches is the million-dollar-question. In 2016, two backs cracked 1,000 rushing yards and each scored ten times on the ground. Akrum Wadley was made in the mold of a scat back last season and dominated touches, but that is somewhat rare for the Hawkeyes’ RB1. Their rugged style is more conducive to a power back like Young who is listed at 5’11” and 221 pounds. Ivory Kelly-Martin is 21 pounds lighter than Young and he can be a nice compliment as a pass catcher and dynamic option out of the backfield. As seniors in high school, Young shouldered a brutish 333 carries and Kelly-Martin managed 159. Both players will have three years of eligibility remaining. There is some uncertainty surrounding how the touches will be distributed but I believe that there is a buy-now-window on Young for the next month in both redraft and dynasty formats.

Jeremy Larkin, Redshirt Sophomore, Northwestern

(Ctrl +C, Ctrl + V, again!) There are some programs where you just do whatever you can to roster their backs and Northwestern is one such program. How’s this for a career for Justin Jackson: 245-1187-10, 312-1428-5, 298-1524-15, 287-1311-11 rushing and that’s without mentioning his 21, 22, 35, and 44 receptions each season! At many other schools, that player’s replacement would be one of the most coveted players in both redraft and dynasty. For some reason, Larkin feels like he’s being overlooked. That’s coming off a season where he had 84-503-5 as a redshirt freshman. He hasn’t proven that he can be the durable, versatile weapon that Jackson was, but even if he’s not, that type of volume doesn’t grow on CFF trees. The four-star-recruit racked up 5,349 rushing yards, 6,399 total offensive yards, 8,326 all-purpose yards and 95 total touchdowns over his final three seasons in high school. He handled 200+ touches as a senior, and that was before spending several years in a collegiate strength and conditioning program. With Larkin, it’s all about opportunity and there is no doubt that he will have an abundance of it over the next three seasons.

Spencer Brown, True Sophomore, UAB

The Moose won’t be available in an any dynasty leagues, but he’s another candidate for a potential trade this summer. He may be tougher to wrangle away than some of the names that I’ve previously mentioned, due to the fact that he has already proven he can be a valuable CFF asset. In 2017, Brown had 250-1329-10 rushing as a true freshman. He’s built like a tank and I believe he can shoulder an even larger workload in 2018 and beyond. When I did my first pass of redraft rankings this year, I was very cautious on my ranking of Brown. They are changing offensive coordinators and there continues to be an influx of talented runners. I thought there was a chance that he may not get 250+ touches again. I’ve since reached another conclusion. Bryan Vincent didn’t have a bell cow at South Alabama in 2015-2016, where he was the offensive coordinator. As such, he used a more committee approach and molded his offensive system to fit what former head coach Joey Jones wanted to do. If you go back and look at Vincent’s 2014 season, which was the last time he had a future NFL running back on his team, Jordan Howard had 306-1587-14 rushing. In the short term, UAB returns four offensive linemen that started last year and a fifth that played in twelve games. Brown is poised for another monster season, and likely two more following that in 2019 and 2020.

Abdul Adams, Redshirt Junior, Syracuse

Syracuse managed to land a couple of transfers prior to the 2018 season that I believe will be cornerstones of their offense in 2019 and 2020. Abdul Adams is one of those players. He started his career at Oklahoma and was very productive when he was given an opportunity. In 2016, he had 53-283-0 rushing and 3-25-0 through the air. He followed up his freshman campaign with 59-542-1 rushing and 5-80-1 receiving. He’s dealt with some injuries but according to his family’s side of the story, he was also told by the staff that he was going to heavily factor into the offense in 2017. That never materialized and now the Washington D.C. native will sit out the 2018 season at Syracuse. The timing works very well as Dontae Strickland will exhaust his eligibility after this season and the RB1 role will be up for grabs. Dino Babers has been at Syracuse for two seasons and his running backs haven’t been CFF relevant. That actually creates an opportunity for their back of the future. If you go back and look at Babers’ best offenses, they’ve all had a running back who was fantasy relevant. In two seasons at Eastern Illinois, his backs rushed for 217-1563-15 (14 games), 217-1003-10 (12 games), 232-1153-12 (12 games). The backs are used in the passing game as well as those three caught between 18-31 balls in those seasons. Jump ahead to two seasons at Bowling Green and his lead backs rushed for 223-1324-15 (14 games) and 180-985-12 (12 games). Relative to his current price tag, if Adams managed any of those outputs, then he would have to be considered a screaming value. His skill set makes him an ideal fit for a dome team that plays in a spread, with pace.

Mike Epstein, True Sophomore, Illinois

White Mike burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2017. In 4.5 games, he ran for 57-346-3 and caught 4-59-1. On the surface, those numbers are forgettable. However, if you just run those numbers out, his year could have looked like 150-789-9 rushing and 12-177-3 receiving. Those numbers would have put him in the upper echelon of true freshman running backs in 2017. It’s also worth noting that the Illinois offense was a total train wreck that cycled through quarterbacks like Lance Armstrong through the Alps. Illinois elected to hire an offensive coordinator that doesn’t subscribe to stone-age football philosophies. Rod Smith joins the staff after being the co-offensive coordinator at Arizona for the past several seasons. He will spread the field, utilize tempo, and aspire to have a quarterback that must be accounted for as a runner on every snap. As such, I believe there will be value with Epstein and his skill set. He is a very dynamic athlete that thrives in space. Under Smith, Ka’Deem Carey had 303-1923-23 (13 games) and then followed up with 349-1885-19. Nick Wilson was next up and posted 236-1375-16 and then 133-725-8 (9 games). Things fell off in 2016, for a number of reasons, and a WR led the non-qb rushers with 74-461-6. JJ Taylor had 146-847-5 in 2017 and has a comparable skill set to Epstein. The good news is that Khalil Tate isn’t on Illinois’ roster so that could mean that the backs do more scoring. The potential range of outcomes are vast, but I’m willing to gamble on the combination of talent and past production of backs in this scheme. White Mike is a great depth-flex-option in redraft, best ball, and dynasty formats.


Senior Director of College Fantasy Football. College football, all year.

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