Potential late-round PPR Running Back Gems
It’s June, you guys. While 2020 is treating us like the Hulk treated Loki in The Avengers, it’s about halfway through. June is when the fantasy football season starts cranking into gear. And for the love of all that is good and holy, I – for one – am more than ready for it. Today, we’ll look at a few late-round running backs who are candidates to surprise some people in a point-per-reception format – or even half-PPR.
PPR average draft positions (ADPs) were gleaned from Fantasy Football Calculator as of June 8. Since the positional ADP doesn’t go past 60 on FFC, I simply wrote “free” for the RBs whose ADP was past 60. And we don’t want to delve so deep as to stir any ancient flames now, do we? (Lord of the Rings joke for the uninitiated) So if you’re focusing on wide receivers early in your draft(s) or just need a promising back to fill out your roster, consider the following, and scroll to the bottom for more names to ruminate. Don’t forget, you can play fantasy football all season long with FanDuel.
The term “handcuff” has become somewhat outdated in the world of committees in which we live. Pollard, however, is a legitimate handcuff to Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke was on the gridiron for 83.3% of offensive snaps a year ago – second-highest behind Christian McCaffrey (93.4%). When do the Cowboys begin to worry about Zeke’s workload? He’s still ripe at 24 years old but has registered close to 1,400 touches in 56 career outings.
On the rare occasion that Pollard did find the field, he showed flashes of brilliance. He’s simply fun to watch. Look back at Weeks 3 and 13, for example. Despite his limited playing time, Pollard hauled in 15 passes. He’s no stranger to the passing game, catching over 100 balls in his three collegiate campaigns with Memphis. Those 15 receptions present a promising extrapolation if he were to take on a more considerable load. If I’m able to grab Elliott with a top-three pick then in all likelihood I’ll be using one of my later-round picks on his handcuff.
Gibson has – at an expeditious pace – become one of the players – not just rookies – I’m most excited about heading into fantasy drafts. I’ve already talked about him on FantasyPros, so I’ll be repeating much of what I said there. Admittedly, depth is working against Gibson in the form of Derrius Guice, Adrian Peterson, Bryce Love, Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic. That’s a stacked group, but no one really stands out.
Guice carries an injury history almost as well as he carries a football – if not better – and he’s coming off Injured Reserve. I can’t trust him. Peterson is 35 years old and the others aren’t as talented or versatile as Gibson. To boot, Gibson was Washington’s second pick of the draft (a third-rounder); he’s not merely a late-round afterthought who will be fighting for a roster spot.
The argument against Gibson is he really only played one season of Division I football. He did, of course, transfer to Memphis from a junior college. Nonetheless, the size and talent are there. The man ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and averaged 19.3 yards per catch and 11.2 yards per carry last year. He’s a dynamic player. It would behoove the Redskins to find ways to get him the ball.
Even if Guice plays the full season, Gibson can succeed. There’s a chance we’re ultimately looking at the start of the next Alfred Morris/Chris Thompson duo in the District of Columbia – or at least the next Chris Thompson. Ironically, this won’t be the last time Thompson is mentioned in this writing.
For starters, I am not trusting Bill O’Brien to finally utilize Duke the way he should be utilized. We thought that’s what we were getting last year before Carlos Hyde took over. Nonetheless, I can’t quit the former Cleveland Brown, especially considering how sluggish his counterpart – David Johnson – looked with the Cardinals after returning from injury.
The void created by DeAndre Hopkins is sizable and can’t be filled by Randall Cobb alone. The stark reality, though, is that it’s probably going to take a David Johnson ailment for Duke to see a proper allotment of snaps. There is hope in the fact that Tim Kelly is calling plays, but let’s not hold our breath.
Duke was on the field for nearly half of Houston’s offensive snaps in 2019, resulting in a career-high 410 rushing yards and a PPR RB30 finish. If that percentage remains around 50% then I like Duke’s chances of not just returning value, but exceeding it – even if David Johnson maintains a clean bill of health.
It’s to be determined if head coach Frank Reich’s recent comments about Hines being a “role-playing starter” come to fruition or simply morph into coach speak. Reich has already lauded Hines for his football smarts, though, and we know Philip Rivers loves having a smaller, shiftier running back at his disposal. Reich added that he wouldn’t be surprised if there were games in which Hines caught 10 passes. We’ll see, Frank.
It’s difficult to lay out a significant role for the third-year back with Jonathan Taylor and Marlon Mack serving as the Colts one-two punch, but Hines can be that uppercut – if you will – after the one-two combo. Danny Woodhead and Austin Ekeler excelled in the role in which Hines finds himself with Rivers behind center. Rivers will be throwing behind the best offensive line he’s ever played with; if he throws close to 600 passes like he did last year, we might be looking at a PPR RB2 in Hines.
I understand that Thompson is approaching “over the hill” status in running back years and can’t stay on the field – he’s missed 17 games the past three years, but not all hope is lost.
For one, he’s reunited with his former head coach – Jay Gruden – who is now his offensive coordinator in Jacksonville. Thompson averaged 4.6 targets per game the last five seasons under Gruden. Two, the state of the Jaguars team likely means they’ll frequently be playing from behind, which will ostensibly result in more snaps for Thompson. Finally – it’s unlikely – but there remains a chance that Leonard Fournette will be traded, screw up or get hurt.
As it stands, Thompson represents one of my favorite late-round PPR picks this year as he looks to rebound and make people remember he was the PPR RB27 in just 10 games three seasons ago.
From the outside looking in it seems that it will take a – dare I say it – Derrick Henry injury *gasp* for Evans to make a meaningful fantasy impact. Even so, Evans figures to take over the duties vacated by Dion Lewis, and Lewis was used sparingly – or at least given the ball sparingly (79 touches in 16 games). Evans isn’t Lewis, though. I posit that the Titans didn’t use their third-round pick on the dynamic Evans just to see him touch the pigskin 79 times. The man gained over 1,600 total yards and scored 23 TIMES for the Mountaineers in 2019 and blazed a 4.1-second 40-yard dash.
Lest we forget, this is Henry’s backfield, but do the Titans really want to feed him the rock over 300 times again? Including the playoffs and his receptions, Henry tallied north of 400 touches. Look for him to collect a few more breathers in 2020 with Evans subbing in. I like what Evans brings to the table as a complement to Henry. If Mike Vrabel and second-year offensive coordinator Arthur Smith use Evans the way Lewis was used in 2018, Evans will be a huge PPR steal.
Look, I like Kenyan Drake as much as the next guy and view him as a Top 10 PPR running back, but Benjamin presents a sneaky late-round dart throw even behind Chase Edmonds. We could probably include Edmonds on this list as well.
For now, we’ll focus on the Arizona State alum. Some – including me – were taken aback to see Benjamin drop all the way to the seventh round of this year’s draft. That just means we’ll have the bonus of seeing him play with a chip on his shoulder.
Benjamin has already shown he has the ability to succeed in a pass-catching role – he caught 77 passes in his last two seasons with the Sun Devils, 42 as a junior last year. Might as well take a chance on a guy you can draft for free who proved himself on one of the most elite college teams in the country and will be playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Others to consider: Jerick McKinnon – 49ers, Rex Burkhead – Patriots, Giovani Bernard – Bengals, Dare Ogunbowale – Buccaneers, Lynn Bowden Jr. – Raiders, Boston Scott – Eagles, Ty Montgomery – Saints, Justice Hill – Ravens
Zach hails from the bustling metropolis of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Three things Zach enjoys are football, food and water. Three things Zach doesn’t enjoy are kale, mushrooms and the company of those who enjoy either (except hobbits). Zach is a life-long Broncos fan and has been playing fantasy football longer than he hasn’t. He had top-five finishes in FantasyPros’ 2016 NFL DFAC competition and the 2016 SFB480.