Saturday - Mar 23, 2019

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The Fire Sale: Early Running Back Value

I hope everyone is having a good summer. A good summer for me is when it ends. It won’t be long now. Preseason football will be here before we know it. Once I see a football, summer is over. I don’t care what the calendar says.

If you’re going to pick up a fantasy magazine this year to read on the hopper, grab the USA Today Fantasy Football magazine. I wrote the analysis for all 125 running backs and there’s no better place to read my stuff than in the bathroom.

Just to give you a teaser; I said John Kuhn has no fantasy value. I know some people say every player has value in certain leagues but you tell me the league you’re in and I’ll give you a better option than Kuhn. I don’t care how big your league is, I’ll find a better option than a guy who has 51 touches and two scores over the last two seasons. That’s my guarantee to you.

I’ll stick with the running back theme in this edition of The Fire Sale. In my last article I looked at receivers who were undervalued. This time I have five undervalued running backs based on their current Average Draft Position (ADP).

However, before we get started, here are a few things that really bother me on Twitter:

– I’ve noticed that most of the time people have the same reaction to things and they feel the need to post it over and over again. Is LeBron James good? I don’t know if he’s good. Is he good? I couldn’t tell by all the posts on my timeline during the NBA Finals.

Do you think we need a million posts a night from everyone telling us James is good or is that common knowledge by now. Like the sky is blue? Seriously, dynamite drop-in everyone.

Someone I follow re-tweeted this during Game 3 about him: “This performance. Wow.” Great post. What did we do 15 years ago without ridiculous Twitter posts like that during sporting events?

– Another thing that drives me nuts is those who continue to do the one word followed by a period. You know, like Best. Game. Ever. Listen, I’m going to give you some free advice if you’re still doing that after 10 years: It’s. Really. Stupid.

– The thing I hate most on Twitter is when people write “Shameless Self-Promotion” and then put a link to an article they wrote. Wait, isn’t it your Twitter account? Why wouldn’t you promote your own work? So we’re supposed to believe you created a Twitter account to promote the writing of others but not your own? What a bunch of egotistical nonsense. The people who do the shameless self-promotion shtick are phonies. I don’t like phonies.

Shameless Self-Promotion: If you want to follow a real egotistical phony on Twitter, my ramblings can be read @ThePigskinGuy. It’s. Great. Stuff.

Now on with The Fire Sale

Andre Ellington, Arizona (ADP: 4.7) – One year after being overvalued, Ellington is now undervalued.

I got burnt on Ellington big-time last season. I drafted him in all my leagues but fantasy owners need to have short memories. Let’s not forget, Ellington was playing hurt all of 2014. He injured his foot just before the season opener and never really had the same explosiveness after that.

Ellington’s late fourth-round ADP is a combination of last year’s disappointment and Arizona drafting David Johnson. Smart fantasy owners know neither will impact Ellington this year and will jump all over him.

I view the drafting of Johnson as actually helping Ellington. Johnson isn’t going to steal Ellington’s job. He’s going to come in and get a few carries a game. That’s fine with me because Ellington is more productive on a per touch basis rather than a 300-carry back. Ellington doesn’t need 25 carries a game because he’s so explosive when healthy he maximizes his 18-20 touches.

I also don’t view Johnson as an every down NFL running back. He’s not a big, inside runner, so there isn’t a scenario where he takes a lot of playing time away from Ellington.

This is a classic overreaction from owners. The reality is Ellington played injured last year and the team drafted Johnson because it had no depth at the running back position. I mean, do you want to see more of Marion Grice or Kerwynn Williams? Let’s keep things in perspective.

If you can get Ellington as an RB2 or even an RB3 in the fourth round, you’ll be in great shape. He’s going to have a big bounce-back season.

Joseph Randle, Dallas (ADP: 5.1) – This is highway robbery. When people look at Dallas’ backfield, what are they seeing? I’m seeing one starter and a bunch of other guys.

I know it’s cool to say, “Watch out for this guy” every time Dallas signs a running back because the team has a great offensive line. I understand it makes people sound smart by spewing that nonsense but it’s simply not true. There’s only one starting running back in Dallas and it’s Randle.

No one was higher on Ryan Williams than I was coming out of college. I almost had the guy in the Hall of Fame before he was drafted but it’s over. I don’t care if Williams is running behind Anthony Munoz and Tony Boselli; he’s suffered too many injuries in his career to ever be a factor in the NFL.

That leaves Lance Dunbar and Darren McFadden as the other two candidates. Dunbar is a good player but he’s better suited as a backup/change-of-pace back. Dunbar is more of a later in the year waiver wire target if Dallas suffers injuries at running back. He’s not a serious threat to Randle’s weekly workload early in the season.

Then there’s McFadden. He’s been terrible over the last three seasons, missing 10 games, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and scoring a total of 10 touchdowns. McFadden did catch 96 passes over that span, so he’s more likely to contribute in the passing game, if anything.

Is Randle going to be DeMarco Murray? No way. But he’s clearly the best option in Dallas. Last year, Randle averaged 6.7 yards on 51 carries. That was the highest average of any running back with at least 10 carries.

McFadden and Dunbar will each have a role but Randle is the guy who will see most of the carries. As the season goes on, Randle’s touches could also increase if he’s effective early in the year.

You’ll read a lot of stuff about a committee in Dallas but I’m not buying it. Randle won’t touch the ball over 400 times but I’m all over him with a fifth round ADP. That’s gold.

About Thomas Casale

Thomas began playing fantasy football back when owners had to mail in their starting lineups and work out trades over the phone. He started writing The Fire Sale in 1998. Since then his articles have appeared on numerous web sites sites including Fantasy Sharks, USA Today and SI.com.