A good friend of mine won our league last year and although he wouldn’t shut up about it afterwards, he wouldn’t shut up during the season either. He went on a nice string of wins during a good portion of the season and he credited his wins (and ultimately his championship) to one word: opportunity. Sorry, the direct quote is, “OPPORTUNITY.”
Certainly fantasy football is a game of luck. Who can predict injuries mid-game? Who can predict what players will receive the majority of the workload? And who can predict who will be the starting quarterback week to week for Chicago? You never know.
In all honestly, my friend’s strategy is a good one. After the workhorses are all picked up, who do you turn to? You may have a top-tier quarterback and a future Hall-of-Fame running back, but after that, what else? You have to look for players who get used the most on teams that produce the most.
We will define opportunity (sorry again, “OPPORTUNITY”) as simply rushing attempts and receiving targets. Playing time doesn’t necessarily equate to opportunity. A running back on a pass-heavy offense could see a lot of playing time, but not a lot of touches.
Here, we will look at five teams that have interesting running back situations (wide receiver and tight end in the near future). I have left out quarterbacks because you don’t see a lot of quarterbacks switching out during the game (unless, again, you’re Chicago). Also, I left out New England, Baltimore and Cincinnati because with so many running back options each team has, it’s hard to land on only one. So without further ado, let’s begin.
Like I said, after the workhorses are picked up (Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell), you have to look at teams that don’t have a single running back hogging all of the production.
New Orleans Saints
With the addition of Adrian Peterson during the offseason, the Saints looked to provide Mark Ingram with a suitable backup to replace Tim Hightower, maybe even someone with whom to split time. And did they? Sure, as when Peterson is healthy he is a monster. He was the workhorse in Minnesota for almost 10 years. But two of the last three years he was out because of injury and suspension. And, he’s part of the 30-and-over club. Ingram, on the other hand, is still young. He had 205 rush attempts last year with 1,000-plus rushing yards and six touchdowns, to go with 58 receiving targets for 319 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Peterson has consistently put up 1,000-plus yards in several of his seasons in Minnesota (when he was healthy) with 327 rushing attempts in 2015. Yet, even with the addition of Peterson, Ingram looks in control of the starting spot down in New Orleans.
Take Mark Ingram.
Another team that padded its running back position over the offseason was Seattle. With Marshawn Lynch retiring in 2015 (and then un-retiring in 2017), the Seahawks needed someone to give Russell Wilson a break. Enter Thomas Rawls. Sure, he’s had his injuries as well, but he is young and quick, suitable for a fast team. In 2015, Rawls had 147 rushing attempts for 830 yards. In the games that he did play in 2016 (only nine), Rawls had 109 rushing attempts for 349 yards and 17 receiving targets. The addition of Eddie Lacy during the offseason may put pressure on Rawls to perform (according to coach Pete Carroll, Rawls will still be a prominent part of the rushing attack), but Rawls is certainly equipped to keep his touches and targets high. Lacy, on the other hand, is not fast (he was on a high-powered Green Bay offense) and has saw his rush attempts decline from 2013-15 when he was healthy (284, 246 and 187, respectively). Going to another high-powered offense with an even more active quarterback and a young (and now healthy) running back, Lacy will surely have his work cut out for him (with what work they give him).
Take Thomas Rawls.