The months leading up to the fantasy football season are exciting. Analysts and players alike are busy pouring over as much fantasy content as possible, with the hope that the nugget of wisdom will be found.
For running back enthusiasts, the beginning of the fantasy season draws much hype surrounding the perceived value of the position, from the “must owns” to the “sleepers” and everyone in between. While the position, in general, can be handled as replacement level, four of the top ten overall scorers in fantasy in 2017 were running backs.
This season there is more than enough value at the running back position. Between the incoming ‘Hurricane Barkley’ as well as many other favorable positions many others find themselves in, the position is stock full of exceptional value. Here are three running back “risers” to keep your eye on as the season inches ever closer.
Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts
Nyheim Hines has become one of the most discussed rookies in this class, and for a good reason. First, Hines posted a very respectable college career, despite the majority of it not as a starter. Second, Hines’ landing spot in Indianapolis could not have been better for the young back.
Hines played his college football at North Carolina State. As a freshman, Hines had initially been a wide receiver. Once the team figured him more skilled as a runner, Hines transitioned to running back. In 2016, Hines received his opportunity. While unfortunately not producing much value on the ground, Hines hauled in a respectable 43 catches for 525 yards.
The following season, his junior year and final season at North Carolina State, Hines absolutely shined. Registering nearly 200 carries (197), Hines rushed for 1,113 yards and 12 touchdowns. On top of the crazy production, Hines also hauled in 26 receptions for 152 yards. At the end of his career, Hines posted 1,400 yards rushing, as well as 89 receptions for 933 yards and a touchdown. Not too shabby for a wide receiver turned running back.
Hines brings a strong enough burst, as well as exceptional speed to the Colts backfield. He was considered as a “do it all Swiss army knife” while at North Carolina State. His 4.38 40-yard dash indeed provides ample opportunity for the Colts to get creative in how they wish to line Hines up.
Hines finds himself in one of the more favorable positions heading into the 2018 season. The Colts as a team finished in the bottom five in yards per carry. The team finished in the bottom ten in yards per game, averaging 103.8 yards per game. The positive about the Colts is that they did not shy away from running the ball.
Three of the team’s losses last season were by three points or less, while four more of their losses finished as a touchdown or less. Only four times last season the Colts found themselves in a genuinely negative game script, giving hope to another season of abundant opportunities for this backfield, especially Hines.
The door is wide open for Hines to take advantage. Backup running back Robert Turbin was suspended for violation of the league’s policy about performance-enhancing substances. He will miss the first four games. The perceived starting running back, Marlon Mack, recently had shoulder surgery. While he is expected back for camp, the role is open for Hines to jump in and snag it. Hines carries an ADP which seems to bounce between the 12th and 13th rounds, making him a “riser.”
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
Gio Bernard is an exciting case for fantasy football and finds himself as the second back on this list. Bernard returns to the Bengals as the primary pass-catching specialist in their offense. The backfield in itself is talented, as it includes sophomore Joe Mixon to complement Bernard.
The team’s backfield should be a two-headed monster of Mixon and Bernard, all things considered. Despite the selection of Mark Walton in this years draft, it remains to be seen how involved he will actually find himself. The departure of Jeremy Hill should prove beneficial as well to Bernard’s overall value.
Bernard saw 61 targets last season out of the backfield, good for No.15 overall among qualified running backs. In two of his final four games, Bernard saw yardage totals of 130 and 168 yards, respectively. He finds himself up against the 19th easiest schedule for fantasy running backs, and after the impressive showings, late last season should continue to see a substantial portion of the work.
The exciting thing for fantasy football enthusiasts is that Bernard is exceptionally cheap. He currently has an ADP of 13.07 according to Fantasy Football Calculator and finds himself as the No.47 running back according to Fantasy Pros. ‘Gio’ is also a single injury to Joe Mixon away from taking complete, every down work in that backfield. Needless to say, Giovani Bernard may not be the sexiest pick this season, however, he could prove to be a great value by the time the season rolls around.
Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals
Chase Edmonds is seen as a total dart throw, and rightfully so.
If we jump in our fantasy football time machines and travel back to a better, more exciting time, we will all remember a kid from the University of Northern Iowa, who the Cardinals selected in the third round. That kid’s name is David Johnson. Looking ahead to this draft, the Cardinals made Edmonds a mid-round selection as well.
It felt way back when that the hype surrounding David Johnson did not exist. Regarding overall ADP for his rookie class, he came in at 149.7, behind the likes of Dorial Green-Beckham, Kevin White, and, God help us, David Cobb. I remember that season selecting Johnson with my second-to-last overall pick on a complete whim. Edmonds may also find himself as a late-round addition to many fantasy teams.
Edmonds played his college football at Fordham. While there, Edmonds enjoyed great success in both the run game and pass game. He accumulated 5,862 yards on the ground with 67 touchdowns and a 6.2 yards per carry in effectively three and a half seasons. Edmonds also recorded 86 receptions and an additional 7 touchdowns.
Understandably, Edmonds comes in as the No.76 running back overall. The landing spot, all things considered, could not have been better as phenom David Johnson played in a single half of football last season. Edmonds is merely one more injury to David Johnson away from becoming the starter.
Edmonds is on the smaller side at 5’9″. However, it should not deter him from being a productive back in the NFL. He possesses great patience as a runner and can utilize leverage and speed to propel him into the secondary. Keep your eyes on Edmonds as the season gets closer, as a running back “riser” who could be a sleeper to make noise.
Two of the three players on this list are rookies. However, with their respective landing spots, the prospect of finding a late-round steal is an exciting one. It is one reason why many of us play the game of fantasy football, to find the secret league winner.
Many could argue that there are safer options available, but we are not in the business of being safe. To take chances is the best part of fantasy football. Doing so can lead to striking lightning in a bottle. As we are just a month football, keep your eyes on the three names. You could find gold when you least expect it.