Fantasy Football: Running backs with undeserved ADPs

2TCFT82 Las Vegas Raiders running back Zamir White (35) warms up before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Las Vegas Raiders running back Zamir White: White is an imperfect fit for Las Vegas’ expected 2024 rushing scheme. 

Cincinnati Bengals running back Zack Moss: Moss’ talent profile suggests he is best suited to a rotational rushing role.

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Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

Fantasy managers must meticulously examine an NFL running back’s season-long prospect to accurately assess the player’s deserved fantasy football average draft position (ADP). Relevant variables include talent, in-house competition, scheme and schedule. The article below identifies three NFL running backs whose current ADP in both half-points-per-reception (half-PPR) and PPR scoring formats are undeserved. 

RB Zamir White, Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders presumed starting running back Zamir White uses his above-average size (6-foot, 215 pounds) and speed (4.40-second 40-yard-dash) to fall forward through contact yet consistently struggles to process complex rushing concepts, chaotically changing his attack point en route to mixed results. This issue coupled with in-house competition and a brutal first-half-season schedule makes his 7.06, RB23 half-PPR and 8.03, RB23 ADPs undeserved. Should White produce even moderate efficiency early on, he would be an acceptable in-season trade target. White’s 71.8 PFF offense grade ranks 31st among 64 NFL running backs with at least 200 offensive snaps

White runs well when limited to two-hole decisions, producing like a mid-tier starter on gap runs and a mild-to-moderate starter on inside zone runs. He is out of his depth on outside zone runs, a feature of head coach Antonio Pierce’s 2023 interim head coach stint. New offensive coordinator and offensive line coach James Cregg both rely on zone rushing concepts and Cregg’s recent two-year run with the San Francisco 49ers’ high-volume outside zone scheme looms large.

Las Vegas ownership promoted Pierce to the interim role in Week 9, Getsy held Chicago the Chicago Bears offensive coordinator role from 2022-to-2023 and Cregg served as LSU’s offensive line coach and run game coordinator from 2018-to-2020 before assuming the San Francisco 49ers assistant offensive line coaching role from 2022-to-2023.

Pierce and Getsy’s zone rushing rates among 32 NFL teams and Cregg’s zone rushing rates among both 32 NFL teams and 70 Power Five teams:
NFL & Power Five Zone Rushing Inside Zone Rate Outside Zone Rate
Antonio Pierce/Las Vegas Raiders  16.9% (No. 21) 32.5% (No. 10)
Luke Getsy/Chicago Bears 31.2% (No. 4) 21.2% (No. 22)
James Cregg/San Francisco 49ers 14.9% (No. 27) 40.4% (No. 2)
James Cregg/LSU  43.1% (No. 36) 13.9% (No. 46)

During Pierce’s interim run, Las Vegas’ offensive line tied for third on inside zone runs (74.9 PFF run-blocking grade) among NFL offensive lines, while ranking 21st on outside zone runs (60.9 PFF run-blocking grade) and second on gap runs (76.5 PFF run-blocking grade). White’s rushing efficiency is somewhat tethered to his blockers’ successes, as shown below.

White’s inside zone rushing, outside zone rushing and gap rushing data among 58, 70 and 77 NFL running backs with at least 15 rushing attempts in each respective category:
Zamir White Rushing Inside Zone Rushing Outside Zone Rushing Gap Rushing
PFF Rushing Grade 66.4 (No. 34) 57.9 (No. 60) 79.3 (No. 18)
Rush Att. 16 (T-No. 52) 32 (No. 45) 46 (T-No. 44)
Attack-Point Change 25 (T-No. 55) 21.9% (No. 63) 26.1% (No. 75)
Stuff Rate 6.3% (No. 3) 28.1% (No. 62) 13.0% (No. 20)
MTF/Rush Att. 0.06 (T-No. 50) 0.06 (T-No. 64) 0.22 (T-No. 22)
YAC/Rush Att. 3.5 (No. 6) 2.3 (No. 57) 3.8 (No. 8)
Yards/Rush Att. 6.0 (No. 4) 2.7 (No. 64) 5.0 (No. 9)
Explosive Run-Play Rate 12.5% (No. 11) 3.1% (No. 64) 10.9% (No. 31)

He also converted just 14.3% of his green zone rushing attempts, ranking bottom 10 among 53 NFL running backs with at least seven such attempts

White’s eagerness to switch attack points reflects his lack of experience and discipline, which could jeopardize his standing with an old-school coach like Pierce, who seeks play-to-play reliability. Across all three categories, presumed No. 2 running back Alexander Mattison averaged between 3.6-and-4.2 yards per rushing attempt and 2.7-to-2.8 yards after contact per rushing attempt. On inside and outside zone rushing attempts, respectively, he averaged 0.25 and 0.26 missed tackles forced. Mattison lacks excitement but delivers consistent results. 

Sixth-round rookie running back Dylan Laube should immediately encroach on White’s target share, lowering White’s weekly fantasy-scoring ceiling. Laube’s 90.5 PFF receiving grade ranks third among 25 college running backs with at least 40 targets. His 88 targets led the position by 25. 

The AFC West faces the AFC North and NFC South this season, as Las Vegas is set to face all four AFC North opponents in Weeks 1-9. Among all eight NFL divisions, the AFC North ranks fourth in run stops (952), third in tackles for loss or no gain (310) and positively-graded run-play rate (63.9%), and second in negatively-graded run-play rate (57.6%). 

White remaining Weeks 1-9 opponents include the Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers and Panthers’ respective 54.5% and 57.7% positively-graded run-play rates rank fourth and third among NFL defensive lines and the Rams prepared for interior defender Aaron Donald’s (71.7 PFF run-defense grade) retirement by building a high-quality, three-player-deep rotation to replace him. The Chiefs’ 3.98-yard average depth of target ranks 14th and their 57.5% negative-graded run-play rate ranks 12th. 

White’s flaws and situational factors are too significant for him to be drafted as a weekly RB2 in half-PPR and PPR formats. 

RB Zack Moss, Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals free agent signee running back Zack Moss enters the 2024 fantasy football season with undeserved ADPs in the late-seventh-round (7.11, RB25) and mid-eighth-round (8.06, RB25), serving as the premier RB3 in both half-PPR and PPR formats, respectively. Fantasy managers appear overconfident in his two-year, $7.4 million contract and mild 2023 breakout campaign. The contract contains no guaranteed money in 2025 and he failed to produce 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his fourth-straight season. Incumbent third-year running back Chase Brown offers Cincinnati coaches a comparable rushing profile and a far superior passing-game profile. Among 92 NFL running backs with at least 90 offensive snaps, Moss’ 66.9 PFF offense grade ties for 55th. Brown’s 63.9 PFF offense grade ranks 64th.

Cincinnati’s coaching staff featured former starting running back Joe Mixon as a high-volume rusher and part-time receiver while regularly rotating in a pass-catching specialist. Mixon’s 71.6 PFF offense grade ranks 41st among qualifying NFL running backs. Moss does not possess the requisite dual-threat profile to handle Mixon’s former role, likely leading to a near-equally split rushing workload between him and Brown. 

Moss and Brown’s rushing data among 78 NFL running backs with at least 40 rushing attempts:
NFL RB Rushing Zack Moss Chase Brown
PFF Rushing Grade 72.8 (No. 46) 59.0 (No. 74)
Yards/Rush Att. 4.3 (No. 31) 4.1 (No. 43)
MTF/Rush Att. 0.2 (T-No. 26) 0.18 (T-No. 39)
YAC/Rush Att. 2.8 (No. 50) 3.3 (T-No. 16)
Explosive Run-Play Rate 10.3% (No. 32) 11.4% (t-No. 19)

Moss converted 20.0% of his 40 red zone rushing attempts for first downs and/or touchdowns, tying for 27th among 32 NFL running backs with at least 25 such attempts. His 65.9 PFF red zone rushing grade ties for 19th. Brown failed to convert all seven of his red zone rushing opportunities though his offensive line shoulders some of the blame; he averaged -2.0 yards before contact on the attempts, well short of Moss’ 0.5. Brown admirably earned a 69.2 PFF red zone rushing grade for his efforts.

Moss’ pass-catching metrics reflect his long-time NFL backup role while Brown demonstrates near-elite efficiency in all categories.

Moss and Brown’s receiving data among 68 NFL running backs with at least 15 targets:
NFL RB Receiving Zack Moss Chase Brown
PFF Receiving Grade 43.9 (No. 66) 81.1 (No. 4)
Target Rate 15.0% (No. 56) 42.9% (No. 1)
Yards/Route Run 0.82 (T-No. 49) 4.46 (No. 1)
Catch Rate 77.1% (No. 47) 93.3% (T-No. 3)
aDot 0.3 (No. 26) -2.9 (No. 67)
YAC/Rec. 7.0 (No. 45) 13.7 (No. 1)
Yards/Rec 7.1 (No. 30) 11.1 (No. 2)
MTF/Rec. 0.22 (T-No. 36) 0.5 (T-No. 4)
Explosive Pass-Play Rate 18.5% (T-No. 11) 21.4% (T-No. 5)

Moss’ 60.4 PFF pass-blocking grade towers over Browns’ 26.7 PFF pass-blocking grade but Brown’s third-ranked 65.3 PFF pass-blocking grade, ranked among 31 Power Five running backs with at least 450 offensive snaps in 2022, is not a mirage. Brown earned a 69.2 PFF pass-blocking grade or better in four-of-six games where he recorded a pass-protection snap. He was beaten by a defender twice all year.

Moss’ contract and veteran savvy will yield a fantasy-relevant role but his current ADP is undeserved given Moss’ own shortcomings and Brown’s intriguing 2023 rookie season.

RB D’Andre Swift, Chicago Bears

Former free agent running back D’Andre Swift signed an ostensibly starter-level contract with the Chicago Bears this offseason but his in-house competition, plus a bevy of superior high-volume players available at equivalent or later ADPs make Swift’s half-PPR 7.02, RB21 and PPR 8.03, RB22 draft costs entirely undeserved. 

As detailed in “Ambiguous Backfields to Target in 2024,” Swift’s backfield mate Khalil Herbert bested him in four-of-four rushing metrics. Swift also performed less explosively than the 6-foot, 225-pound 2023 rookie Roschon Johnson. Both Herbert and Johnson out-performed Swift in six-of-seven receiving metrics as well. 

Swift profiles as the team’s second-best running back in scoring position and least efficient pass protector. 

At least five high-volume running backs with superior 2024 prospects and talent profiles are available via equal or lesser ADPs.

Swift’s ADP and PFF offense grade to NFL running backs who are available in his ADP range:
NFL RB ADP ADP: Half-PPR – PPR PFF Offense Grade
RB D’Andre Swift, Chicago Bears 7.02 – 8.03 66.9
RB David Montgomery, Detroit Lions 7.03 – 7.06 79.6
RB James Conner, Arizona Cardinals 7.10 – 8.10 89.2
RB Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh Steelers 8.04 – 8.05 78.5
RB Jonathon Brooks, Carolina Panthers 8.05 – 8.07 91.5
RB Raheem Mostert, Miami Dolphins 8.09 – 9.01 85.2

As detailed in Best Values in Rounds 4-10 on Underdog Fantasy, 3 Must-Draft Rookie Running Backs and Committee Backfields to Target in 2024, respectively, Warren, Brooks and Mostert possess extreme fantasy-scoring ability. Both Montgomery’s 44 green zone rushing attempts and Conner’s 0.29 missed tackles forced per rushing attempt rank No. 1 among all NFL running backs and 33 NFL running backs with at least 175 rushing attempts, respectively.

Swift’s ADP is undeservedly high entering the 2024 fantasy football season. 


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