News & Analysis

Dynasty dart throws: Running backs

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 12: Kenneth Dixon #30 of the Baltimore Ravens scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 12, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

One of the most appealing parts of playing in dynasty leagues is rebuilding a team from the bottom up. Taking a basement-dwelling roster and transforming it into a perennial powerhouse is one of the most rewarding accomplishments you can get out of dynasty leagues. Rostering the right type of players is a near-necessity if wanting to pull this move off successfully. Your end-of-bench players, or your “dart throws,” should be players that are poised to gain value in the near future. Deciding whether to let them keep gaining value or flipping them for future assets is your decision, but these “dynasty darts” should present some upside in the near future.

We started earlier this week with the quarterback position and will now take a look at running backs who are worthy of rostering at the end of your bench. The running back position could be in for a major overhaul following the 2018 NFL Draft. This incoming rookie class has some incredible talent and is quite deep, which will inevitably shake up roster depth charts. I’ll try to steer you toward the more insulated running backs who might not lose as much value with the impending roster additions bound to come. I’ll start with the player that’s likely available in the fewest leagues, then move down to the deeper dart throws.

Kenneth Dixon, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Injuries have kept Dixon from seeing significant playing time in his short career, but when he has seen playing time, he’s been quite productive. Prior to missing all of 2017 with a torn meniscus, Dixon finished his rookie season in 2016 on a tear. He played just 18 total snaps Weeks 1-7 before the team’s bye week. He went on to finish the season leading the league in touches per missed tackle, forcing one once every 3.4 touches and ended up ranking 22nd in PPR fantasy points per opportunity (0.48) – the same rate as Le’Veon Bell that season. The Ravens tandem of Alex Collins and Javorius Allen presented middling receiving skills at best, leaving a golden opportunity for Dixon to carve out a role as the team’s receiving back (and perhaps more). It’s difficult to envision the Ravens investing heavily in the running back position. If they return with last year’s committee, Dixon could easily be contending for the top spot with Collins come August. Dixon was a far superior athlete and more productive collegiate back coming out, despite the two of them coming in at nearly identical sizes. Likely forgotten by many, Dixon’s a player I’m trying to acquire everywhere for either an early third-round pick or as part of a throw-in on another deal.

Spencer Ware, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Another running back coming off injury, Ware has proven to be a viable fantasy asset whenever he’s on the field. Ware missed all of 2017 with a torn PCL and LCL in his right knee, but he showed in 2016 that he’s a force to be reckoned with on the field. In 2016, Ware finished as the fantasy RB17, ranked 16th in yards after contact per attempt (2.81), and ranked 15th in our elusive rating. Rookie phenom Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing last season, averaging over 20-plus touches per game and finishing as the RB4. If Hunt were to miss any time due to injury, Ware could slide back into that starter’s role where he’s shown to have success. It’s wheels up for this entire Kansas City offense, and that includes Hunt’s projected backup in Ware.

Peyton Barber, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ignored by most last year, Barber was a sneaky stash for following the release of Jeremy McNichols. Barber saw his playing time increase as the season wore on, culminating in him seeing three games with at least 50 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. In those weeks, Barber finished as the fantasy RB11, RB34, and RB14. Barber went undrafted in the 2016 draft, but has carved out a role as the presumed starter, according to head coach Dirk Koetter. Things could change quickly with the draft around the corner, but it’s noteworthy that the team let Charles Sims and Doug Martin both walk and didn’t bring in anyone of note in free agency. Barber’s likely an afterthought in most leagues, and I’d be trying to acquire for a mid-third-round pick.

Corey Grant, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Winning over the hearts of many in preseason DFS, Grant was a revelation in the preseason this year. He sported an astronomical 5.18 yards after contact per attempt and forced six missed tackles on just 22 attempts. Unfortunately for Grant, his preseason success hasn’t carried over into many opportunities during the regular season. Over the past two years, Grant has been phenomenal whenever he’s touched the ball, averaging a whopping 6.6 yards per carry. but he only has 62 total carries to his name. Grant is an athletic measurement freak, posting a 96th-percentile SPARQ score with 4.33 speed to his name. There’s a reason the Jaguars placed a second-round tender on this guy. Grant is purely a dynasty stash at this point with the Jaguars vehemently trying to keep him under wraps. Grant has already shown a propensity to dominate in the league and has top-notch athleticism to back it up. It’s just a matter of time until we see that translate to the fantasy box scores.

Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers

Chasing another preseason darling, “Must Start” Mostert has been a preseason DFS favorite of many over the past few years. Mostert has bounced around several clubs now after being undrafted in 2015, but his ability to make plays (particularly in the preseason) has kept him in the league. Mostert is currently the RB4 on the 49ers squad, buried on the depth chart behind Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, and Joe Williams. Coming off an MCL sprain, Mostert has an uphill climb to remain with the 49ers, where he made more of a name for himself on special teams coverage rather than taking snaps from the backfield last year. That being said, I think we’d be remiss if we were to overlook Mostert’s combination of preseason success and incredible athleticism. He’s shown he can be a versatile rusher and receiver out of the backfield when given an opportunity. He finished the 2017 preseason top-12 in yards after contact per attempt (3.68) and top-three in yards per route run (7.43). His pro day timed speed of 4.32 is shown anytime he’s able to get the ball out in the open field. Unfortunately for Mostert, the depth chart ahead of him presents some difficult road blocks to playing time. He’s much more of a taxi squad player in deep leagues, but he’s someone I’d rather have on my taxi squad rather than my opponent’s.

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