Wednesday - Apr 24, 2019

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DRAFT FOCUS: 4th-Year Players

Running Backs

Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Todd Gurley had a season for the ages in 2017. He finished as the best fantasy running back in just about every scoring system out there. His usage in the receiving game is something that was not expected but was a pleasant surprise. Gurley averaged 4.2 receptions, 52.5 receiving yards per game in 15 games last season and led all running backs with 6 receiving touchdowns. I think it’s reasonable to expect some regression in this area in 2018 to the tune of around 3 receptions, 35 receiving yards a game. However, without a legitimate threat behind him on the depth chart, Gurley will once again receive the bulk of the carries this season. As with every other player in this article, he is entering his prime right now and I’m expecting another Top-5 running back finish from Gurley in 2018. He’s one of the safest fantasy options out there and will be the backbone of many fantasy teams this season.

David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals 

David Johnson’s 2016 season was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. He was a dominant, brute force that wreaked havoc on opposing defenses and led many fantasy teams to championships that year. Fast forward to the present and it’s looking like Johnson will be a 1st round pick in all formats and that is right where he should be going. Johnson’s wrist injury that cost him the entire 2017 season should not deter you from wanting to draft DJ this season. It’s not like he tore his ACL or tore his Achilles and I’m not going to label Johnson as injury prone from a wrist injury. Bottom line, Johnson is a stud. Period. Personally, there’s no other running back I’d rather have on my team than him. That includes the aforementioned Todd Gurley as well as Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott. That may be bold, but I feel DJ has the most upside of any of the running backs.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers 

Melvin Gordon has cemented himself as one of the premier fantasy running backs in the NFL. While his numbers don’t jump off the page compared to Gurley’s numbers last season and Johnson’s in 2016, Gordon has produced consistent fantasy numbers and has steadily improved on his receiving numbers in each of the last two seasons. Gordon has had at least 975 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns, 40 receptions, 400 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. I don’t see any reason why that won’t continue in 2018. The Chargers are a potent offensive team that will rely on Gordon to be the bell-cow running back once again this season. He is the unquestioned goal line back, so the opportunity for 8+ rushing touchdowns is well in sight. Once the top 4 fantasy running back’s (Gurley, DJ, Bell, Elliott) are off the board, Gordon should be in the same conversation as Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt and Saquon Barkley. His reliability and defined role are what I covet on my fantasy team.

Jay Ajayi, RB, Philadelphia Eagles 

After Jay Ajayi’s breakout 2016 season with the Miami Dolphins, the bulk of the fantasy community was buying Ajayi’s success and targeting him in 2017 drafts. While he wasn’t a complete bust last season, he didn’t exactly light the world on fire. It’s not easy switching teams midway through the season, but Ajayi performed well in limited action for his new team, the Philadelphia Eagles, in the final 7 games of the 2017 season. While his 5.8 YPC mark in those 7 games is not sustainable, I can absolutely see Ajayi putting up high end RB2 numbers in 2018, but not much more than that. Personally, I’m more of a believer in Ajayi than most, but I admit my expectations are tempered a bit. Time will tell if Ajayi can evolve into the RB1 most of us envisioned he could be a few seasons ago.

Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns 

Duke Johnson had a career year in 2017. He had career highs in rushing touchdowns (4), receptions (74), receiving yards (693), receiving touchdowns (3) and finished as the 11th best PPR fantasy running back last season. I’m in the camp that believes one of the most important statistics that nobody talks about is games played. Duke has played in all 16 games in each of his first 3 seasons. He is the quintessential PPR running back. Personally, I’m not worried about the moves the Cleveland Browns made this offseason. Yes, Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb will be apart of the game plan, but Duke Johnson’s role in the offense is not going to change. While it may be tough to duplicate his 2017 numbers, I still think Duke can finish between RB15-25 in 2018.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons 

Entering his 4th season, Tevin Coleman has a defined role in the Atlanta Falcons offense. He is the complimentary back to Devonta Freeman, although if you ask me, it seems much more like an RBBC than a back-up type of role for Coleman. Anyway, last season Coleman set career highs in rushing attempts (156) and rushing yards (628). Coleman is going to be a highly sought after free agent come next spring and I’m in the camp that believes it is inevitable Coleman will be playing on a different team in 2019 and have his shot at being an every down running back. Everything I’ve seen from Coleman leads me to believe he’ll have success in that type of role. Why? In his career, Coleman has had 6 games in which he’s had at least 15 carries. In those 6 games, he had 111 combined rushing attempts for 461 total rushing yards, averaging 4.1 YPC in those 6 games. Look, I know it’s a very small sample size. Bottom line is I’m a believer in Coleman’s abilities and think he is a solid RB3/RB4 to have on your team this season. If I were in a dynasty league, I’d be doing whatever I can to acquire Coleman in a trade before it’s too late and his value skyrockets.

See Page 2 for Wide Receivers

About Evan Reardon

An avid Boston sports fan, Evan has been a Patriots and NFL fan since the 1990's. Fantasy football runs in his family. He grew up in the 90's watching his father and uncles play in a 6-team, Touchdown-only league. He has been playing fantasy football since the early 2000's and has been writing fantasy sports content since 2014.