The Ravens running back situation may be the most unpredictable in the league. They have a lot of talent and depth, but no single player clearly stands out. This group consists of Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Terrance West, and Kenneth Dixon.
The name that pops out and boasts the highest SCOUT Fantasy ADP is Justin Forsett. He had that breakout year in 2014 and had become a household name in the Fantasy community. However, aside from that one season, his career suggests he’s nothing more than a 30-year-old journeyman running back that can serve as a decent pass-catcher. His career highs other than 2014 are 641 yards and four TDs. It’s tough to have much confidence in him, especially when you consider he’s the priciest in the group.
Allen emerged last season as the favorite to be the top Fantasy back in Baltimore last season. He a strong second half of the season and was clearly the best receiving back on the team. When the season concluded the then-rookie had caught 45 passes, scored three touchdowns and racked up 867 yards from scrimmage. He’s second among Ravens in our SCOUT Fantasy Rankings. Nevertheless, he’s viewed as more of a pass-catching, third-down back than a feature back.
Rookie Kenneth Dixon is a rookie that some believed would be drafted in Round 2 of this year’s NFL draft. With that said, he’s unproven and rookies are often overvalued because Fantasy owners are always looking for the next big thing. Dixon certainly has talent, but he’s a much better option in dynasty leagues than redrafts. Currently, he sits fourth on the team’s unofficial depth chart.
That brings us to Towson product, Terrance West. He’s the guy I’m targeting in Fantasy leagues this season. I was very high on him coming out of college, and he looked strong as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns posting over 750 total yards and four TDs before falling out of favor with coaches and clearly losing focus. His upside is immense and appears that he got his head right. West has had an electrifying training camp and looked to be in the running for the starting job. At the very least he looks like the favorite to win the goal-line back job.
I’m avoiding this backfield in most cases, although, I’m willing to take a flier on West at a low price. Allen also has some value late in PPR leagues. Dixon is a guy to look for dynasty drafts. Forsett tends to get drafted higher than I’m willing to take him, and I’m passing on him altogether.
New England Patriots
Dion Lewis getting hurt now was the best thing that could have happened for Fantasy owners. We warned you this would happen, and this was bound to happen at some point. At least now you can prepare and recover from his absence if you drafted him or drop him down your board if you haven’t drafted yet. With that said, for those of you that mistakenly thought you had the Patriots backfield figured out, it’s now more of a muddled mess than before.
With Lewis now out until at least midseason, the Pats are expected to retain James White, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount and Tyler Gaffney. With Bill Belichick at head coach, you never know exactly how he will deploy his backs from week to week let alone for a season, which is what makes this backfield so scary to put any stock in.
The immediate knee-jerk reaction to the Lewis injury was draft White. He’s still at the point where he's drastically overvalued because the news on Lewis just came down. That should balance back out soon. Currently, he looks like the favorite to take over Lewis’s job as the primary pass-catching back, and he’s reportedly had an amazing camp. Again, temper expectations and take all news out of New England with a grain of salt. Right now White should be the first Pats’ RB off the board, just don’t reach for him.
Bolden, Blount, and Gaffney were all competing for the final two roster spots before the Lewis injury. This is a muddled mess you are better off avoiding completely. Blount is the only one in the group that has proven he can be a strong Fantasy contributor. Nonetheless, he’s a guy that can rush for 150 yards and two TDs and then only see four carries over the next three weeks. This situation is too volatile for investment.
This is another messy situation. Ameer Abdullah is the standout high-risk, high-upside star power name. However, all of the glaring deficiencies scouts pointed out about him prior to being drafted were brought into the light quickly in the NFL. Abdullah is a scat back that’s poor between the tackles, can’t block and struggles to hold on to the ball. It’s not fair to write him off yet, and the potential is there, however, he has all the symptoms of a bust candidate.
In PPR leagues I don’t see how you pass on Theo Riddick as the top back in this backfield. The short passing game has become the majority of their rushing attack and Riddick clearly separated himself last season as the best pass-catching back on this team and one of the better pass-catchers in the league catching 80 passes. I like his value at his current ADP as the 35th back off the board going about five spots behind Abdullah.
After these two it’s hard to trust any Lions’ RB, although, one of them will likely emerge as the goal-line back at the least. Zach Zenner is the popular name as the favorite for the job. However, there are a ton of conflicting reports on him. One day he’s fighting for a roster spot the next he’s the favorite to be the top between the tackles runner. Still, he’s worth a look and could lead the team in carries. He’ll be competing with a group that consists of Stevan Ridley, George Winn, and seventh-round pick Dwayne Washington. None of which are currently worth drafting.
It looked like the Redskins had everything figured out with Matt Jones as the bell-cow ball carrier and Chris Thompson as the third-down pass-catcher. Unfortunately, Jones has two major issues. Those would be ball security problems, and a sprained AC joint in his shoulder is leaving him questionable for Week 1. There are a lot of questions surrounding this RB corps and which backs hold the most value.
Jones is the obvious choice, which is why he’s the 28th back coming off the board. His high ADP also makes him a massive risk. Chris Thompson is the 54th back coming off the board and flashed and abundance of promise and PPR value last season. If he can build off last season, Thompson could certainly hold more value than Jones.
There is another name in the mix, though. Seventh-round pick Keith Marshall is next in line and will be the starter if Jones is not healthy or falters this season. A ton of intelligent Fantasy minds believe in drafting Marshall late and bypassing Jones is the way to go. You can likely get Marshall near the bottom of the draft. If the rookie does end up the starter, he holds tremendous value. Also, Robert Kelley is a name that’s been popping up. The undrafted rookie has been getting first-team reps in practice with Jones sidelined.
Entering the season Frank Gore is undoubted RB1 in Indy. However, there couldn’t be more red flags surrounding Gore at this point. He’s a 33-year-old back with a whopping 3,236 career touches. It’s very rare a back is still going at this point let alone a starter. He’s been defying the odds and statistics for years now. At some point, he has to fall off, and all signs point to that drop off to come this season. It doesn’t help that the Colts seem to be incapable of establishing a rushing attack. They haven’t been inside the top 20 in rushing since 2007 when they ranked 18th in the league. That goes far beyond just the backs. You can equate that to the backs, the offensive line and coaching.
If Gore finally fails this season, the Fantasy experts have a keen eye on is Josh Ferguson. The undrafted rookie has been building hype all offseason and he’s been being scooped up in expert drafts late all summer. There is one issue. He’s been miserable this preseason. Ferguson has run the ball 13 times for nine yards. There are even some talks now that he’s on the roster bubble trying to hold off Jordan Todman.
The sleeper here may just be Robert Turbin. Turbin stepped into the RB2 role in the Colts second preseason game, and all signs point to him retaining that job. All of a sudden he’s come out of nowhere to find potential Fantasy relevancy.
This is a tough backfield to sort through, but one thing is almost for sure. No matter who is in this backfield, it’s not a great situation and is better off being avoided. Gore is the starter with Turbin as the No. 2. Ferguson is the Fantasy darling. Nevertheless, he’s one bad preseason game away from potentially being unemployed. Invest in this RB corps at your own risk.