Fantasy Football Absurdity Check: Back End Backup Running Backs

It’s August, which means that it’s time to look closely at fantasy football drafts. Evan Hoovler has your auction strategy covered, but it’s time to figure out the time-honored tradition of snake drafts: exploiting ADP to your advantage. Below you will find the second of a four-part series. These “back end backup” players who could make a huge difference for your fantasy football leagues.  

For the purpose of this series, I defined a “back end backup” as a player whose positional ADP is outside 1.5 times that of the number of starters in a 1QB/2RB/3WR/1TE league. Assuming a 12-team league, that means that these players are outside the top-36 at running back. By ADP, these guys aren’t priority backups for most people. However, finding room for them on your roster could be the difference between winning and losing. Between hoisting the trophy at the end of the season or being the guy who has to accept a weird and disproportionate punishment in the hopes that Matthew Berry retweets your thirsty post about your fantasy football league.  

We already started with the quarterbacks, so it’s time for the running backs. You know, the guys who get slammed to the turf all game. All the good RBs usually go off at the top of the draft, so the depth dries up quickly. If you want to punt the position, here are four running backs going as low-end backups who will produce large fantasy football numbers this season. 

Average Draft Position (ADP) is from FantasyPros aggregate data, so if you quibble with these, don’t @ me, @ them. And by them, I mean the fantasy football community writ large, because they did this to you. 

Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints, RB37, 93 overall

Since Sean Payton joined the Saints, they’ve finished outside the top-three in fantasy football scoring from running backs just twice, and both times they were top-ten. There’s Alvin Kamara there to soak up the majority of the touches, but the Saints backfield has been a fantasy football goldmine over the last decade or so. Latavius Murray will be the newest beneficiary of that potent source of fantasy football points. While it’s undeniable that a lot of this has to do with having a top-flight RB1 for many of these seasons.

However, with Alvin Kamara in tow, the second running back (Mark Ingram) still averaged 13.1 carries and 3.5 targets per game. Let’s 1:1 those over to Latavius Murray. Now, let’s assume Murray doesn’t do anything more than he’s done with his opportunities in his career. Those targets and carries would have netted Murray enough points in 2018 to be the #18 running back in standard scoring, #16 in half-PPR, and #14 in PPR.

Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills, RB53, 156 overall

This one is a steady drumbeat of reports outside of Buffalo for the rookie running back. There are rumblings that Shady McCoy (who Devin Singletary drew comparisons to) isn’t a lock to make the roster. The buzz out of Buffalo’s camp is not good for T.J. Yeldon. Frank Gore (much love to Frank Gore) is a million years old. There is one running back getting the good buzz out of camp, however. That back, if you aren’t paying attention, is Devin Singletary. Singletary presents one of the biggest ROI opportunities on draft day. He’s a definite draft-and-stash, but he should cut through the guys ahead of him on the depth chart like a hot knife through butter. Once he sits atop the depth chart, he’ll have plenty of opportunities: only three teams ran the ball at a higher rate than Buffalo’s 48% last season.

Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings, RB56, 168 overall

The simple reason why Mattison presents a massive value is that incumbent Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has missed 50% of his games through his first two years in the NFL. That’s how Latavius Murray stayed relevant in Minnesota the last couple of years, despite being Cook’s de facto backup. Murray started 16 games over the last to years, and he averaged 15.9 carries in those starts, notching at least 20 carries 25% of the time. He struggled, but still managed over 1,000 yards in his sixteen games. With a third-round pedigree, Mattison was one of the best running backs in the 2019 draft, and he has an extremely high chance of starting a handful of games and getting the opportunity to produce in those games.

Darwin Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs, RB63, 207 overall

I am not a Damien Williams fan. Okay, OKAY! CALM DOWN! I hear you! The guy with a career-high of 50 carries in a season and who averaged fewer than 15 carries per game in college is going to be the bell cow! Sure! Why not? JUST STOP YELLING AT ME! Please! Now that we have that out of the way, Darwin Thompson is going to get a chance to produce this season, because Damien Williams has a 71-game sample size of being not good, and a 3-game sample size of being good.

Could Damien Williams be good in 2019? Sure! But he’s currently a second-round pick on fantasyfootballcalculator.com, and that simply cannot stand. If/when Damien Williams finds his way to the bench, then it’ll likely be a rotation of Carlos Hyde and Darwin Thompson. Thompson is a little spark plug of a back who excels in the passing game and may even have value as a change-of-pace back while the Chiefs run out the thread on the Damien Williams Experiment.

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