Three backfields of interest for Fantasy owners were in the news this week as organized team activities (OTAs) got started, and we're talking about Detroit, Tampa Bay and Denver. Hopefully it's good news for Ameer Abdullah, Doug Martin and C.J. Anderson.
For the Lions, the team's official website reported that Abdullah is expected "to play a featured role" this year. Even though he's coming off foot surgery from last season, Detroit did nothing in free agency or the NFL Draft to enhance its backfield, which means Abdullah and Theo Riddick are expected to share the majority of touches.
Abdullah should be the lead rusher, and he was primed for a big role last year before hurting his foot in Week 2, which ended his season. He was averaging 5.6 yards per carry and caught five passes for 57 yards before getting hurt, and last year was the first time in college or the NFL that he missed a game due to injury.
With the upgrades the Lions made to their offensive line -- adding right tackle Rick Wagner and right guard T.J. Lang as free agents -- this could be an underrated rushing attack with Abdullah at the helm. He's worth looking at with a pick in Round 5 as a solid No. 2 Fantasy running back in all leagues.
In Tampa Bay, Martin was the No. 1 running back for the Buccaneers at the start of OTAs on Tuesday. He was followed by Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims in the running back drills, but it's clear Tampa Bay remains committed to Martin despite his four-game suspension from last year for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Martin will miss the first three games of this season, and Rodgers and Sims should share the workload while he's out. But the hope is Martin can regain his 2015 form when he was the No. 3 Fantasy running back in standard leagues, and he appears motivated after dealing with injuries and going to a rehabilitation facility last year while missing eight games.
Martin is worth a mid-round pick in all leagues, and it's easy to handcuff him with Rodgers, who should be the starter to open the year. It's a good backfield to buy stock in because the Buccaneers offense should be explosive in 2017.
On paper, the Broncos backfield might be one to avoid this year after the team signed Jamaal Charles in free agency to go with Anderson and Devontae Booker, as well as rookie De'Angelo Henderson. New coach Vance Joseph even said, "You need two or three guys that can carry the load. It is no longer a one-guy position."
But I'm not shying away from Anderson based on Joseph's quote, and there's another report from Denver that Charles, who has battled knee injuries for the past two years and is 30, is "50-50" to make the final roster. You should avoid Charles in the majority of leagues even if he makes the team.
Anderson, however, is worth drafting in Round 5, and the addition of Charles has lowered his price on Draft Day. When healthy, Anderson has proven to be a solid Fantasy running back, and the Broncos also improved their offensive line with the additions of free agents Ron Leary and Menelik Watson and rookie first-round pick Garett Bolles. Anderson could end up as a steal this year.
We'll have more time to break down these backfields, especially once training camp starts, but for now you should be optimistic about Abdullah, Martin and Anderson. These are three running backs who have burned us before, but they seem to be trending in the right direction for this season.
For this week, we're going to cover the following topics:
- Is Jordan Howard this year's Todd Gurley?
- Can you still trust Andrew Luck?
- Expectations for Lamar Miller
- Terrelle Pryor vs. Jamison Crowder in PPR
- Waiting on tight ends
- WR value at the end of Round 2
- Is it worth moving up in Round 1?
- Mike Gillislee's Fantasy value
From Twitter ...
It's a fair comparison given the circumstances because Howard this year, like Gurley last year, has little talent around him, especially at quarterback (Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky) and receiver (Kevin White and Cameron Meredith). That should allow teams to focus on stopping the run. But the Bears offensive line this year is definitely better than the Rams offensive line in 2016, and that's a big factor for Howard.
I also think the quarterback and skill players, while limited, favor Howard. But if you fear Howard turning into another Gurley with a sophomore slump, you should pass on him toward the end of Round 1 or beginning of Round 2. He'll be in the mix with LeSean McCoy, Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman, DeMarco Murray and Jay Ajayi, and all of those other running backs have similar upside -- and just as much downside -- as Howard this year.
I'm not sure it's fair to call Luck injury prone.
Yes, he suffered the lacerated kidney in 2015, as well as a shoulder injury, but he played with his injured shoulder all of last season before having surgery in January. Now, he did miss one game in 2016 with a concussion, but the last two times that he's played at least 15 games (2014 and 2016), he was at least the No. 4 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues. He should continue to be a consistently dominant Fantasy quarterback this year, and I have no problem waiting for him if people draft Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and possibly Drew Brees first.
Luck could easily be the No. 1 quarterback this season.
I'm not giving up on Miller yet just because the Texans spent a third-round pick on D'Onta Foreman, who reported to rookie minicamp out of shape. Foreman will take some touches away from Miller, but he should still improve on last year's down performance, which was 268 carries for 1,073 yards and five touchdowns and 31 catches for 188 yards and a touchdown in 14 games.
I'm confident Miller can get to 1,500 total yards and eight touchdowns, and he's worth drafting as a low-end No. 1 running back in Round 3. With improved quarterback play in Houston, the entire offense, including Miller, should play well in 2017.
I do like Pryor over Crowder, but it's closer than the rankings might indicate.
I have Pryor ranked as the No. 17 receiver in PPR, with Crowder at No. 28, but the smart move might be to wait on Crowder in Round 6 instead of reaching for Pryor in Round 3 or 4. Last year, Pryor finished about 22 Fantasy points better than Crowder in PPR, and both should get a boost in production this season with the Redskins. For Pryor, he gets a quarterback upgrade with Kirk Cousins after leaving the Browns, and Crowder should see more targets with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon gone.
Both have the chance to be great, but the value for Crowder might be worth the wait.
That's certainly a way to go if you don't draft Rob Gronkowski, but in a 10-team league you should be able to find a starting-caliber tight end and not just a streaming option. You're not going to get Travis Kelce, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen or Jordan Reed, but you should be able to get one of Kyle Rudolph, Delanie Walker, Zach Ertz, Tyler Eifert, Hunter Henry or Jack Doyle with a late-round pick. The last two are the most likely candidates, and you can even include Martellus Bennett or O.J. Howard if you want. And if the guy you end up with fails, you can easily start streaming since you're comfortable with that strategy.
From Facebook ...
I love this question, and it really made me think about the options in the second and third rounds at receiver. The example would be Le'Veon Bell and Doug Baldwin vs. Antonio Brown and Murray. When you put it in that context, the Brown-Murray side might be better to start your draft. That said, I'm not passing on Bell, David Johnsonor Ezekiel Elliott because they are ahead of Melvin Gordon and Howard. And you might get a DeAndre Hopkins bounce-back performance or a third-year breakout from Amari Cooper in the second round.
It's easier to chase receiver then find a stud running back with the upside of the top-three guys in Bell, Johnson and Elliott, and I want that on my team whenever I can get it.
You definitely have the ammunition to move up in the draft, but don't be the Chicago Bears and give up too much to move up one spot. If your offer is the No. 4 overall pick and your second-round selection, you should get back, at the very least, a Round 3 pick in return as well. Most likely, I'd play it out and take Brown at No. 4 or one of the top running backs if they land in your lap. And if you draft Brown, you can still get someone like Gordon, Howard, McCoy or Freeman at No. 8 and then another running back in that same group at No. 10, although I'd lean toward a second receiver in PPR.
You don't need to panic and make a trade because you're in great shape with all of these picks.
I'd take Gillislee over Blount and Hill, and I'm excited for Gillislee with his move to New England. He was the No. 27 running back in standard leagues last season as the backup to McCoy in Buffalo, but now he should be the best running back for the Patriots, although it's a crowded backfield with Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead. Still, Gillislee has the best chance to step into Blount's role from last year.
Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 18 along with 299 carries for 1,161 yards. Gillislee won't produce at that level, but 800 rushing yards and eight touchdowns is possible if he stays healthy, which makes him worth drafting as a No. 2 running back in Round 6 or 7.
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