Fantasy Football: Committee backfields to target in 2024

2T10PDR Washington Commanders' Brian Robinson Jr. in action during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Washington Commanders: Washington’s deep backfield should play efficiently in 2024. 

Miami Dolphins: Miami’s backfield features three players with week-winning upside.

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Elite touch volume is available to few running backs in the modern NFL, so fantasy managers must correctly identify efficient committee running backs who can produce regardless of their teammate’s results. The article below details three NFL backfields that feature two or more draftable players. Their generally affordable half-points-per-reception (half-PPR) and PPR average draft positions (ADPs) make for easy pickings in the mid-to-late rounds.

Washington Commanders

The Washington Commanders enter 2024 three deep at running back, featuring a pair of dual-threat stars with third-year player Brian Robinson and free agent signee Austin Ekeler backed up by the punishing Chris Rodriguez Jr. Fantasy managers should diversify portfolios by conveniently drafting all three players at their affordable ADP. Among 92 NFL running backs with at least 90 offensive snaps, Robinson’s 75.3 PFF offense grade ranks 29th, Ekeler’s 60.2 PFF offense grade ranks 76th and Rodriguez’s 76.0 PFF offense grade ranks 27th. 

Robinson should get the first crack at the starting role after breaking out as a true dual-threat in his age-24 season last year. Robinson’s 2.9 yards after contact per rushing attempt ranks 13th among 34 NFL running backs with at least 175 rushing attempts, and both his 0.21 missed tackles forced and 25.8% first-down and/or touchdown conversion rate rank top eight. He crucially developed into an elite pass catcher as well. Among 33 NFL running backs with at least 40 targets, Robinson’s 18.3% target rate ranks 19th and he ranks top four across the board in catch rate (90.0%), yards per route run (YPRR, 1.68), yards per reception (10.2) and yards after the catch per reception (11.4), leading the pack in the latter two categories. Robinson is available via a 9.12, RB34 half-PPR ADP and a 10.05, RB34 PPR ADP.

Ekeler was hampered all year by an unhealing Week 1 high-ankle sprain but played through the pain en route to a career-high 10.4 yards after the catch per reception average. He will meaningfully contribute in his seventh NFL season, particularly in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues. Ekeler may also have access to return game points as well. He was seen returning kicks during Washington’s minicamp, a plus given the NFL’s new returner-friendly kickoff rules. Ekeler is available via an 8.11, RB31 ADP and an 11.05, RB38 PPR ADP.

The 6-foot, 224-pound Rodriguez produced a promising 2023 rookie campaign, ranking in the top 10 among 69 NFL running backs with at least 50 rushing attempts in yards per rushing attempt (4.8), missed tackles forced per rushing attempt (0.24), yards after contact per rushing attempt (3.6) and first-down and/or touchdown conversion rate (27.5%). Rodriguez played sparingly in pass protection but notably ranks fifth among 90 NFL running backs with at least seven such snaps, earning an 82.7 PFF pass-blocking grade. Rodriguez can be drafted as the squad’s final player in both scoring formats.

All three are available via convenient ADPs and should diversely be drafted in the coming months.

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins second-year running back De’Von Achance’s elite efficiency vaults him to the position’s top-10 by ADP but backfield mates Raheem Mostert and Jaylen Wright offer supreme value at unreasonably low ADP costs. All three players should be targeted in drafts but the latter two players should easily surpass their ADP value. The team’s expected improved run-blocking benefits all involved. Among 51 NFL running backs and 81 Power Five running backs with at least 300 offensive snaps, respectively, Achane’s 92.1 PFF offense grade ranks No. 1, Mostert’s 85.2 PFF offense grade ranks fifth and Wright’s 91.0 PFF offense grade ranks fifth in the latter category.

Head coach Mike McDaniel regularly rotates his speedy backs to keep them fresh, creating an ideal offensive environment for multiple players to contribute as weekly high-upside fantasy assets. Miami is one of just two NFL teams to feature four running backs who logged at least 135 offensive snaps.

Miami’s offensive data among NFL teams:
NFL Team Offense Miami Dolphins Offense
PFF OL Run-Blocking Grade 64.0 (No. 17)
Success Rate 46.7% (No. 6)
EPA per Play 0.058 (No. 6)
Run-Play Rate 40.4% (No. 10)
Regular Season Run Plays 455 (No. 15)
Red Zone Run-Play Rate 52.5% (No. 9)
Red Zone Rushing 1st-Down and/or TD Conversion Rate 34.3% (No. 3)

Achane’s 7.5 yards per rushing attempt rank No. 1 among 50 NFL running backs with at least 100 rushing attempts by a 2.3-yard margin while his 3.9 yards after contact per rushing attempt led by 1.0. His 0.28 missed tackles forced per rushing attempt is tailed closely by Mostert’s 0.25, comprising two of the top seven spots. Mostert continues the top-seven trade with a 4.8 yards per rushing attempt and 3.4 yards after contact per rushing attempt en route to his top-three positional finishes in both half-PPR and PPR scoring formats, evidently now an afterthought among drafters. Achane remains available as a fringe top-24 player despite his top-10 positional ADP while Mostert is astonishingly available in the mid-eighth-to-early-ninth rounds in both formats as an RB3. 

Achane’s open-field dynamism translates easily to the passing game. Among 38 NFL running backs with at least 35 targets, he ties for fourth in yards after contact per rushing attempt (9.4). 

As detailed in “3 Must-Draft Rookie Running Backs,” Wright’s “8.0 yards per zone-scheme rushing attempt led all Power Five running backs with at least 50 such attempts by a 0.9-yard margin.” He is a perfect fit for McDaniel’s zone-based scheme yet is available as a fringe top-150 player as an RB4 in both formats.

Miami bolstered their interior blocking by signing former Tennessee Titans bulldozing center Aaron Brewer, whose 78.7 PFF run-blocking grade ranks sixth among 32 NFL centers with at least 600 offensive snaps. Miami’s 2023 starting center Liam Eichenberg’s 49.1 PFF run-blocking grade ranks second-worst. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren should only improve on their borderline RB2/3 finishes in half-PPR and PPR formats with new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith installing his run-heavy attack this offseason. The two players’ borderline RB2/3 ADPs helpfully allow fantasy managers to invest in them at their 2024 floors. Should one miss time, the remaining player would push for elite RB1 status. Harris’ 76.2 PFF offense grade ranks 16th among 33 NFL running backs with at least 475 offensive snaps and Warren’s 78.5 PFF offense grade ranks 10th. 

Smith’s 2023 Atlanta Falcons offense totaled the third-most regular season run plays (522) while averaging the second-highest run play rate (43.9%) among NFL teams in Weeks 1-through-Super Bowl LVIII. Both Atlanta and Pittsburgh were two of just four NFL teams to give multiple running back 149-plus regular season rushing attempts; this should hold true again in 2024. 

As detailed in “Best Values in Rounds 4-10 on Underdog Fantasy,” Warren was the most efficient dual-threat running back in 2023, and Pittsburgh’s upgraded offensive line bodes positively for his chances at a repeat. 

Should Warren justifiably leap-frog Harris for the starting role, Harris can still deliver high-upside fantasy football results. Harris’ athletic profile leaves much to be desired but his mastery of football fundamentals is undeniable. Among 37 NFL running backs with at least 150 rushing attempts, his 0.2 missed tackles forced per rushing attempt tie for 15th and his 3.0 yards after contact per rushing attempt rank 11th and among 29 NFL running backs with at least 15 green zone rushing attempts, Harris’ 36.0% first-down and/or touchdown conversion rate ranks 11th. Harris’ tackle-breaking ability translates to the passing game, tying for ninth with 0.32 missed tackles forced per reception among 38 NFL running backs with at least 35 targets despite catching passes at the 11th-deepest average depth of target (0.5), reflecting his ability to run routes downfield.

Both players should beat their current ADPs.


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