Dynasty Football Factory

Mid-Season Report: Rookie RB’s

The 2017 season has been the year of the rookie RB in not only the NFL but in fantasy football as well. Currently, there are eight healthy rookie RBs ranked in the Top 50 in PPR points at the position. With (as of this writing) Ezekiel Elliott slated to miss the next six games(or not), Anthony Zaragoza and I look at whether or not fantasy owners can lean on these greenhorn RBs the rest of the season. The remaining regular season and fantasy playoff schedules (as well as their opponent’s rank in fantasy points allowed to RBs) are listed to give owners a quick reference guide for trade negotiations and future roster management decisions.


Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs

Rushes: 146   Rush Yds: 763   Rush TDs: 4 Targets: 32   Recs: 28   Rec Yds: 307   Rec TDs: 2  

Regular Season Remaining Schedule

Week 9: @DAL (16)
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: @NYG (17) Week 12: BUF (27)
Week 13: @NYJ (9)

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule

Week 14: OAK (7)
Week 15: LAC (8)
Week 16: MIA (24)

 

Josh Brickner (@DFF_JoshB): Whether you drafted Hunt as a mid-late round sleeper before August 25th or in the early rounds post-Spencer Ware’s injury to be your starting RB, you are beyond thrilled to own the top-ranked rookie RB in PPR leagues. Andy Reid has not been shy about featuring the former Toledo Rocket as he is averaging 22 touches per game. With that heavy of a workload for a first-year RB, there are always concerns about Hunt hitting the dreaded “rookie wall.”

However, Reid has been smart in managing Hunt’s workload as he’s given Charcandrick West, C.J. Spiller, etc. a healthy share of the offensive snaps at RB (31%) to keep the Hunt fresh while still maintaining the rookie in the lead role (69% of offensive snaps at RB). Hunt reached 100 total yards from scrimmage in seven of his first eight NFL games and, given he stays healthy, should finish in the Top 5 of fantasy RBs come Week 17.

Anthony Zaragoza (@ZaragozaAnthony): Couldn’t agree more with Josh’s prediction that Hunt finishes in the top 5 in his respected position. The third round pick is not only leading the NFL in rushing yards but also has 28 catches, 307 yards, and two touchdowns this season. The Chiefs offense is rocking this year, and Hunt is a big reason why. The best part for Hunt owners, he has a great second half schedule.


Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

Rushes: 130   Rush Yds: 596   Rush TDs: 6 Targets: 20   Recs: 15   Rec Yds: 136   Rec TDs: 1  

Regular Season Remaining Schedule

Week 9: CIN (23)
Week 10: LAC(8)
Week 11: @CLE (25)
Week 12: @ARI (22)
Week 13: IND (3)

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule

Week 14: SEA (26)
Week 15: HOU (30)
Week 16 @SF (1)

 

@DFF_JoshB: The Jaguars were not lying during May’s NFL draft when they said they wanted a true workhorse running back as Fournette is averaging just over 24 touches per game. The former LSU Tiger has made the most of these opportunities as he’s currently the 7th ranked RB in PPR leagues. If there’s one thing that gives me pause on Fournette continuing his RB1 performance for the rest of the season, it’s his injury history. This is not just the hypothetical rookie wall as there’s a recent history of injuries. Not only did Fournette miss six games during his final year at LSU with an ankle sprain, but missed the Jaguars final three preseason games and Week 7 with a similar (but not related) ankle injury.

Fournette should continue to average almost 22 PPR points per game as long as he’s active. However, it would not surprise me to see Fournette miss a game or two down the stretch even as a precaution. When the Jags finally decide between Chris Ivory or T.J. Yeldon as Fournette’s true backup, all Fournette owners MUST pick up this handcuff immediately!

@ZaragozaAnthony: Leonard Fournette can win you a championship this season, but he can also lose you one as well. When Fournette’s healthy, he challenges Hunt for rookie of the year honors. But like mentioned before, the key word is healthy. The former LSU star is averaging almost 100 yards per game (99 p/g). Fournette is averaging 24 touches each week with a robust 4.6 yards per carry. The Jaguars will be in close games the rest of the way, so a big dose of Fournette will increase his chances of another injury. Have a backup plan ready.


Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

Rushes: 49   Rush Yds: 117   Rush TDs: 0 Targets: 66   Recs: 49   Rec Yds: 378   Rec TDs: 2

Regular Season Remaining Schedule

Week 9: ATL (10)
Week 10: MIA (24)
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: @NYJ (9)
Week 13: @NO (12)

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule

Week 14: MIN (31)
Week 15: GB (4)
Week 16: TB (11)

 

@DFF_JoshB: Imagine you could start Jarvis Landry in place of guys like Ameer Abdullah or Frank Gore in your RB2 slot. Owners of Christian McCaffrey have that luxury. CMC not only leads all RBs in targets and receptions by a wide margin (the next closest player is 13 targets away) but is third in the entire NFL in receptions. In fact, McCaffrey’s stats are not that far off from Landry’s (CMC: 49/378/1  Landry: 50/398/3). There are still those who don’t believe in CMC long term due to his lack of rushing yards.

If someone wants to sell me a RB who is averaging 13.5 PPR points and 8.3 targets per game, then I’m buying. Those numbers should only increase with the 11th-hour trade deadline dealing of Kelvin Benjamin and his six targets per game to Buffalo. CMC will continue being a rock solid PPR RB2 (he’s a low-end Flex in a standard) for the rest of the season.

@ZaragozaAnthony: I have to admit, I had my reservations about Christian McCaffrey during the fantasy draft. Spending a fourth or even a third-round pick on a running back who may not be the #1 guy on his team, was a hard pill to swallow. Boy was I wrong. CMC leads all running backs in receptions and has the same amount as first-round selection Mike Evans. As mentioned by Josh, those numbers should only increase with the trade of #1 WR Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills this week. On top of that, he has some nice matchups the next few weeks.


Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

Rushes: 42   Rush Yds: 243   Rush TDs: 2 Targets: 41   Recs: 32   Rec Yds: 257   Rec TDs: 1

Regular Season Remaining Schedule

Week 9: TB (11)              
Week 10: @BUF (27)
Week 11: WAS (15)
Week 12: @LAR (2)
Week 13: CAR (29)

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule

Week 14: @ATL (10)
Week 15: NYJ (9)
Week 16: ATL (10)

 

@DFF_JoshB: I can only hope everyone took my advice and bought low on Kamara post Week 1. If you did, then you have been rewarded with nearly 17 PPR points and 13.5 touches per game in Kamara’s last four games. Saints President Dennis Lauscha wasn’t lying when he said Kamara’s rookie emergence was a reason the team felt comfortable trading Adrian Peterson. The former Tennessee Volunteer is also getting consistent red zone touches as he’s averaged three per game over the last four weeks.

Unfortunately, that has only translated into one TD as Mark Ingram will continue to get the bulk of the goal line carries. Kamara will remain as a strong RB2 for the rest of the year, but with limited upside, thanks to sharing the backfield with Ingram who is averaging 24.5 touches per game in his last four games. If Ingram were to miss any time or find himself back in Sean Payton’s doghouse (Ingram did fumble twice in Week 8 leading to Kamara getting the “kill the clock” carries late) then Kamara could be Kareem Hunt good with an extra 8-10 touches per game.

@ZaragozaAnthony: Alvin Kamara has been as good as advertised this season. The Saints selected Kamara in the third round, with every intention to get the talented back work in Sean Payton’s highly productive offense. All he’s done is rank second in the receptions by a rookie RB, trailing only Christian McCaffrey. Kamara has a combined 500 yards and three touchdowns in seven games. His workload is dependent on teammate Mark Ingram, who is having a PPR RB1 type season, is standing in the way of making Kamara a fantasy stud. Even in his current situation, the former Tennessee star is a strong flex option and borderline RB2 the rest of the way.


Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears

Rushes: 54   Rush Yds: 228   Rush TDs: 1 Targets: 39   Recs: 28   Rec Yds: 239   Rec TDs: 1

Remaining Regular Season Schedule

Week 9: BYE 
Week 10: GB (4)
Week 11: DET (13)
Week 12: @PHI (28)
Week 13: SF (1)

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule

Week 14: @Cin (23)
Week 15: @DET(13)
Week 16: CLE (25)

 

@ZaragozaAnthony: After taking the league by storm the first three games of the season, 283 total yards of offense and 20 catches, Tarik Cohen has come back to reality and given way to teammate Jordan Howard. Outside of his 70-yard catch in week 7, the man they call the “Human Joystick” has struggled to regain his magic from earlier in the season. If you didn’t strike while the iron was hot and unloaded the former North Carolina A&T running back, then chances are you’ve started him a few times and been hugely disappointed.

@DFF_JoshB: 7, 3, 7… those are Tarik Cohen’s touches in three of his last four games. Anthony is correct, smart fantasy football owners saw Cohen’s first three games (particularly his stat-stuffing performance in Week 1) as the high water mark and sold high on Cohen for a nice bounty. There’s no doubting Cohen’s game-breaking athleticism. However, John Fox and the Bear’s coaching staff are hesitant to let Cohen reach his full potential. Last Sunday was the perfect example; the Bears were down eight late in the fourth quarter driving for the game-tying score… and Benny Cunningham caught a pass out of the backfield for one yard (facepalm).


Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

Rushes: 62   Rush Yds: 346  Rush TDs: 3 Targets: 10   Recs: 5   Rec Yds: 17   Rec TDs: 0

Remaining Regular Season Schedule

Week 9: DET (13)
Week 10: @CHI (19)
Week 11: BAL (6)
Week 12: @PIT (18)
Week 13: TB (11)

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule

Week 14: @CLE (25)
Week 15: @CAR (29)
Week 16: MIN (31)

 

@ZaragozaAnthony: Talk about a guy who’s taken his opportunity the last few weeks to the next level. Sitting behind Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams to start the season, Aaron Jones has filled in nicely for the Packers and looks like the team’s RB1. In the last four weeks, he’s rushed for 346 yards and three touchdowns. With Aaron Rodgers injured for the rest of the season and cold weather games in the future, the Packers will run the ball, and Jones looks like the beneficiary of this.

@DFF_JoshB:  The last two games, where both Montgomery and Jones were active, the former UTEP product has out-touched Montgomery 37-18 (including 20-5 in their most recent contest) and out-snapped him 87-27. Yes, Jones is locked in as Green Bay’s RB1 much to the delight of Packers’ fans, except those who spent a late third/early fourth round pick on Ty Montgomery. With the erratic QB play of Brett Hundley, Jones should continue to see a similar workload and put up RB2 numbers the remainder of the season. The only negative for Jones moving forward would be his brutal schedule for the fantasy playoffs.


Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Rushes: 85  Rush Yds: 253  Rush TDs: 1 Targets: 17   Recs: 17   Rec Yds: 189   Rec TDs: 0

Remaining Regular Season Schedule

Week 9: @JAX (14)
Week 10: @TEN (21)
Week 11: @DEN (32)
Week 12: Cle (25)
Week 13: Pit (18)

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule

Week 14: CHI (19)
Week 15: @MIN (31)
Week 16: DET (13)

 

@ZaragozaAnthony: Talk about a rollercoaster of a rookie season. Dubbed as the new man in town for the Cincinnati Bengals, Joe Mixon usage so far this season has been frustrating for fantasy owners. Mixon is third among rookie running backs in carries and third in receptions this season, but the second round pick is averaging a low 3.0 yards per carry. The talent and skill set is there for Mixon. For whatever reason though, the Bengals have gone away from him at odd times during a game. What makes matters worse is he daunting second-half schedule. Mixon will lineup against the top two rushing defenses in the NFL and plays the next three weeks on the road. Unless he catches five passes a game, tough starts are in the future for the former Oklahoma star.

@DFF_JoshB:  Yes, it has been one step forward and two steps back for Mixon so far this season. The former Sooner falls into the category of many other first-year RBs; an incredibly talented player whose fantasy ceiling will be limited early in his career due to rookie mistakes. Both traits were on display in Week 8. Mixon used his elite athleticism to break multiple tackles on a 67-yard screen pass to set up a TD. And he also failed to properly secure the football on another pass resulting in a critical fumble in Bengals’ territory.

Mixon is still the RB to own in this backfield as he’s taken nearly 53% of the offensive snaps the last five games (including a season-high 62.5% in Week 8).  Temper expectations for the remainder of the season for Mixon to a low-end RB2/Flex with big-play upside. Although, I wouldn’t bank on too many explosive plays against that brutal schedule.


Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts

Rushes: 43   Rush Yds: 183   Rush TDs: 2 Targets: 16   Recs: 10   Rec Yds: 110   Rec TDs: 1

Remaining Regular Season Schedule

Week 9: @HOU (30)
Week 10: PIT (18)
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: TEN (21)
Week 13: @JAX (14)

Fantasy Playoff Schedule

Week 14: @BUF (27)
Week 15: DEN (32)
Week 16: @BAL (6)

 

@ZaragozaAnthony: For owners that drafted Marlon Mack with the idea he would take over the starting running back position from veteran Frank Gore early in the season, those visions have not come to pass. The buzz around camp was Mack would take over and finally unseat the 34-year-old. Gore is leading the team with 110 carries and 404 yards. Nothing impressive but still killing any hope of Mack being a flex option the rest of the way. The former South Florida Bull has displayed his vast skillset a few times this season.

Namely his 91 yards rushing and a touchdown in week 5 and three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown last week against the Bengals. If Gore gets hurt or if the Colts decide to shut down him down late in the season, Mack has a nice matchup championship weekend in December for owners that have stuck it out.

@DFF_JoshB: Mack has disappointed his fantasy owners so far this season. On the season he’s been out-snapped by ageless wonder Frank Gore 247-130 through the first eight games. However, I’m buying/holding the former South Florida Bull wherever I can. He’s out-snapped Gore the past two games 71-58, and this is a trend that I expect to continue. Robert Turbin is lost for the season, and as the losses pile up for the Colts, they should look to the future and give Mack an RB1 workload to see how he responds. Right now, Mack is low-end flex play with upside. It would not surprise me to see Mack put up RB2 numbers as the season progresses IF he is given a bigger workload.     

Thank you for reading. Let us know your thoughts on this rookie class of running backs in the comments below. You can also find us on Twitter at @DFF_JoshB and @ZaragozaAnthony.

azaragoza

Married to my best friend | Father of 2 great kids | @FresnoStateLCOE Alum | Writer for @FPC_Raiders, @LeftCoastTSD & @DFF_Redraft #DFFArmy

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