Early 2018 RSO Contracts: RBs

Updated: July 21st 2018

Our early RSO auction value examination moves to the running back group.  No other position offers the immense value upside possible with running backs or the basement-level downside associated with uncertainty in many backfields.  The investments an RSO owner makes at the position will go a long way in determining the success of their team.  The reader may find links to previous articles in the series below in preparation for upcoming auctions.

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: QBs

Average RSO Running Back Contracts

Potential Workhorses (RB1-10)

The expectations for Barkley are unbelievably high (probably too high) and it is shown in his contracts.  We must keep in mind the very small sample of rookies in RSO auctions, and one auction really distorted his price upward but even without that auction, Barkley still ranks as one of the highest paid players in RSO auctions.  Gurley, Bell, Johnson, and Elliott all bestow 2,000+ yard and 350+ touch upside for lucky owners.  Gurley likely sees some regression after one of the biggest fantasy seasons in recent memory.  Bell might start slow if he shows up late again due to his ongoing contract negotiation with Pittsburgh and has longer term question marks after this season.  Johnson carries increased downside with a bad offensive line and new quarterback at the helm in Arizona.  Elliott does not have the same type of upside as the other three in this group for PPR leagues.

Second year players fill six of the next seven highest contracts.  Kamara does not fit cleanly in this group of players but should see a slight increase in workload following Mark Ingram’s suspension.  His volume ceiling remains closer to 250 compared to the 350+ the top backs absorb which, combined with likely touchdown and efficiency regression in 2018, keeps him out of the top tier backs.  Hunt led the league in rushing last year, the second year in a row a rookie (Elliott in 2016) has pulled off the feat.  He remains a key piece for the Chiefs but the offense is riskier with second year Patrick Mahomes taking over at quarterback for the first season as NFL starter.  Cook returns from an ACL-tear after playing only four games last year.  Jerick McKinnon moving to San Francisco vacates a big chunk of receiving work in the backfield which is good news for Cook when he is healthy.  Fournette is the focus of the Jacksonville offense and the Jaguars added top free agent lineman Andrew Norwell to the mix this offseason.  He struggled with lower body injuries the last two seasons.  Gordon‘s 16-game average over the last two seasons is 297 carries, 1,650 total yards, 54 receptions, and 13 touchdowns.  His offensive line run blocking is near the bottom but could improve with some positive injury luck though the perpetually unlucky Chargers have already lost Hunter Henry for the year.

Committees, Rookies, and Bad Situations (RB11-26)

McCaffrey’s workload was very similar to Kamara’s last year and was near the top of backs with a 70% snap rate.  He gets a big PPR boost.  Mixon possesses one of the best all-around skill-sets of any young back.  The offensive line is a mess despite key offseason additions and underrated Gio Bernard will take significant work, particularly in the receiving game.  Freeman ranked no lower than 14th in PPR PPG the last three years though dropping significantly each year.  Fellow back Tevin Coleman’s significant presence limits Freeman’s touches.  No legitimate early down competition exists for Howard in Chicago.  New head coach Matt Nagy will employ a more pass-heavy scheme which favors fellow back Tarik Cohen as Howard is one of the worst pass catching backs in the league.  McCoy should rank as one of the top volume backs in 2018 with significant receiving work.  The Bills offensive situation is among the worst in the league after losing three quality offensive linemen, a complete unknown at QB, and limited receiving weapons.  The current allegations against McCoy make him a massive risk.  McKinnon lands in a great scheme which fits his skill-set superbly.  He may not receive the huge volume in San Francisco of other running back touch leaders.

This is the point where RSO owners start paying for the non-Barkley rookies.  Guice, Penny, Chubb, Jones, and Michel find themselves among the next nine highest contracts.  Guice should dominate rushing down work behind a good offensive in what should be a balanced offense for Washington.  Receiving specialist Chris Thompson limits his receiving game work.  Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said the team envisions Penny, a great size/speed specimen, as a “three-down back” after taking him in the first round of the NFL draft.  Penny was horrific as a pass protector in college and plays behind a very questionably Seahawk offensive line.  Chubb, a strong stout north south runner, will battle Carlos Hyde for work in Cleveland.  Like Guice, Chubb’s role will be limited with pass-catching specialist Duke Johnson on hand if he takes the early down spot.  The explosive Jones benefits from very limited competition in the Tampa Bay backfield.  His relatively slight stature may result in limited touches on a weekly basis.  Michel has a great all around skill-set for a great New England offense.  His role is uncertain in a deep, diverse running back group and he must clean up his fumbling issues from college.

The Titans’ new staff handpicked Dion Lewis who probably fits the new offense better than Henry.  Henry will have a significant role but is more game script dependent than Lewis.  Ingram’s upside is RB1 production once back from suspension.  The downside is a trip to Sean Payton’s doghouse and complete fantasy irrelevancy (See Willie Snead last year) with his suspension replacements showing well.  He is a risky buy.  Not a lot of talent exists behind Ajayi in Philadelphia with Corey Clement and a 35 year old Darren Sproles returning from an ACL tear as the top competition for touches, plus averaged 5.8 YPC behind a great OL there.  The Eagles have shown a penchant for using deep committees under head coach Doug Pederson no matter the personnel.  Opportunity exists for Drake who displayed true excellence following Jay Ajayi’s trade and heads a depth chart with only 35 year old Frank Gore and 4th round rookie Kalen Ballage.  Drake is a very lean back with extensive injury history and only held consistent fantasy relevance after Ajayi moved and fellow back Damien Williams was injured.  Miller logged one of the highest snap percentages in the league (69%) among running backs in 2017 and should see increased touchdown opportunities with better QB play.  Houston’s awful running scheme and league-worst offensive line, which did not add significant pieces in the offseason, caps efficiency and yardage total.

Question Marks (RB27+)

Collins came out of nowhere becoming one of the better rushers last year for Baltimore. Overall usage may be limited by more complete backs on roster, Allen and Dixon.  Freeman should dominate touches in Denver with a solid all-around skill-set.  The Broncos have a strange fascination with Devontae Booker in a questionable offense with new quarterback.  Johnson’s role in Detroit’s committee ranks among the most difficult to forecast.   Riddick projects as the better pass-catcher with Blount taking a lot of short yardage work.  The Indianapolis backfield’s fantasy value largely depends on the health of Andrew Luck.  New head coach Frank Reich likely uses a committee approach consisting of rookies Hynes and Wilkins with second year pro Mack.   No Green Bay running back ranks higher than 37th in average salary for a high scoring Rodgers-led attack.  That situation will change with word of Jones’ suspension as Williams will look to cement his place at the top of the depth chart.  Crowell walks in with the upper-hand for a low-upside early down job on a poor New York team with bad offensive line.  All kinds of questions exist for the new Jon Gruden Raiders.  That uncertainty extends to the Oakland ground game where RSO owners are not buying into any of the current backs.  32 year old Lynch leads a group which added Doug Martin to the mix this offseason.

Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.


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