2016 Free Agent Running Backs[the_ad id=”58837″]When you get serious about fantasy football, you start to realize that there really is no offseason. As soon as the Super Bowl ends, it’s time to start looking ahead at incoming rookies, and analyzing the free agent market for veterans that will be on the move. With that free agency period looming, now is a great time to start getting familiar with what names are available, and what potential teams could be a good fit. We’ll start our look at the 2016 NFL free agent running back market with a breakdown of the best RB’s available.
Though the running back position has been marginalized by the current pass-heavy offenses favored by so many teams, the 2016 crop of runners hitting the market has some big-name talent at the top. Still, the days of running backs cashing in long term, lucrative contracts are over and we may see proven veterans settling for underwhelming deals in a soft market.[supsystic-tables id=’1′]
Doug Martin was terrific last year, finishing second in the league in rushing yards with 1402 and finishing No. 1 overall at Pro Football Focus as a runner (17.4) and leading all running backs with a 65.7 elusive rating. Martin has expressed a desire to re-sign with the Bucs, but will attract attention from many RB-needy teams. At 27, Martin is in his prime, and has shown the ability to be a talented, every-down back and with this being likely his last opportunity to secure a long term, big money deal, look for Doug Martin’s name to be attached to many teams’ wish lists. He is the top 2016 free agent RB on everyone’s board.
Despite receiving 20 carries exactly one time in 2015, Lamar Miller still managed to end the year as the fifth-highest scoring back in PPR leagues. Miller has all the tools to be a workhorse type of running back, including finishing as PFF’s No. 3 pass blocker among running backs. With Jay Ajayi waiting in the wings, there’s a good chance Miller will suit up elsewhere in 2016, and his all-around skill-set make him an intriguing, high-upside RB1 in the right situation.
Chris Ivory finally surpassed 200 carries and delivered his first 1000-yard season, in addition to a career-best 8 touchdowns. Even better, Ivory caught a surprising 30 balls (37 targets) for New York and finished the season as the No. 11 PPR back. Unfortunately, the expanded workload caught up to Ivory as the season wore on, and he failed to exceed more than 13 carries in 5 of New York’s final 7 contests. Ivory will draw interest from teams looking for a banger, but he’s probably best paired with a change-of-pace/third down specialist.
The Bears apparently told 30-year-old veteran Matt Forte that they would not attempt to re-sign him, meaning the long time Chicago standout will hit the open market for the first time in his career. Forte has been an excellent all-around player for Chicago, and excels as a dangerous pass catcher out of the backfield. Though he has the skills to be a bell cow back, Forte’s advanced age, 2577 career touches, and short-yardage struggles could mean he’s due to join a committee. Still, Forte hasn’t shown any obvious signs of a huge drop-off, and could remain a dangerous weapon for a play-caller that known how to utilize his assets. Wherever he signs in 2016, Forte is sure to draw considerable fantasy attention.
James Starks thoroughly outplayed Eddie Lacy in Green Bay last year and hits the open market hoping to land a starting gig, and sign a first-and likely final- lucrative contract. Though the timing of Starks’2015 campaign was great, he is hitting a free agency market that is flooded with 4 of the top 11 fantasy running backs from last season also available. At 29, but with relatively low career usage, Starks should draw interest from RB-needy teams, but is unlikely to receive a significant starting role.
Unlike Starks, Alfred Morris is sputtering to his first free agency opportunity after a career-worst 2015 season saw him finish as the RB52. After an amazing rookie campaign, Morris has seen his rushing yards, yards-per-carry, and fantasy scoring numbers decline in each of the last three years. Morris was a strong fit in Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme, but has struggled as the Redskins have moved on. At 27, Morris should command some attention on the market, but might be forced to look for teams that run a ZBS- and with Morris being a notoriously lousy receiver, he has little chance of winning a featured role, or reclaiming significant fantasy value.
Over the final five weeks of last season, Bilal Powell was the No. 9 scoring fantasy back. From Weeks 13-16, Powell hauled in a whopping 25 receptions and scored a couple of touchdowns to help win many fantasy playoff games. He’s limited as a runner, but an excellent pass catcher who should lock up a role as a change-of-pace option.
Chris Johnson was signed off the scrap heap and ended up having a solid season before breaking a leg and missing Arizona’s final five games. But with the emergence of stellar rookie David Johnson, Johnson is unlikely to return to the desert. CJ will turn 31 this in September, and with a lot of career mileage, he may have to wait for a training camp injury to receive much interest on the open market.
The best case scenario for LeGarrette Blount would be for the Patriots to re-sign him as a first and second-down banger. After quitting on the Steelers last year, and with a history of off-the-field concerns to go along with a declining yards-per-carry numbers, Blount could face some difficulties finding a role in 2016.
Ronnie Hillman failed to take advantage of the opportunities he had in Denver and will hit the market on a down note. Hillman struggled in the playoffs, and according to PFF grades, finished 60th out of 66 running backs with a -4.1 overall grade, including negative marks as a runner and pass blocker. It’ll be hard for Hillman to really put a dent in the 2016 running back free agency market.
[the_ad id=”58882″]When last seen, Reggie Bush was blowing out his knee on the sidelines in St Louis. His only season in San Francisco ended with a mere 12 touches in five games. Bush, who will be 31 in March, is an aging veteran whose best days are clearly behind him. He’s nothing more than a minimum salary, passing game specialist at this point.
Lance Dunbar offers very little as a runner and now must recover from a torn ACL. Dunbar had two notable 8+ catch games early on in 2015, but other than that has done little and enters his fifth pro season looking for his first career touchdown.
One of the feel good stories of 2015 was Tim Hightower’s reemergence after three full years away from football. Hightower was tremendous down the stretch for New Orleans, and should draw interest as depth. He may have earned himself a permanent spot on the Saints’ roster with his solid play down the stretch. With CJ Spiller expected to be released, Hightower makes sense as a cheap, veteran replacement.
Senior Writer Gridiron Experts. 2012 FantasyPros Most Accurate Fantasy Expert. Member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. 26-year fantasy football veteran. Featured on NFL.com, Fantasypros, Football Diehards annual magazine, local AM sports radio, podcasts everywhere and SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Once scored 4 touchdowns in a single game for Polk High School.