Were you one of the few who discovered the talent in Alfred Morris last season? I was! Not only that, I stole Trent Richardson in the ninth round last season. Now I’m here to help you. I will give you my interpretation of each rookie running back, where their fantasy value is, and where you should draft them.
MONTEE BALL, DENVER
Most likely Ball will be the first rookie running back selected, but this is a serious mistake. I’m not saying Ball isn’t worth the pick, but Le’Veon Bell is certainly a better option because Peyton Manning will likely take part in 60-70 percent of the offense. Not only that, but Ronnie Hillman will get some full series every game and could be the third down back every other series. This can limit Ball’s rushing attempts per game to a dismal 15. I expect his total rushing attempts this season to be near 220 with some upside as he will get some receptions, but not many because passing plays will be targeted for Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker.
Bottom Line: The Broncos offense is way too crowded for Ball to contribute a large amount of yardage or touchdowns. He is a RB3 with RB2 potential. Draft him no higher than the fourth round.
LE’VEON BELL, PITTSBURGH
The Michigan State standout is by far the biggest rookie running back steal this fantasy season. You might think because Ball was better is college, hence,he will be better than Bell in the NFL. You might be right, but this is not the NFL. It’s fantasy football! The Steelers offense is nowhere near as crowded as the Broncos, which should give Bell all the opportunities he wants. Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Jonathan Dwyer don’t even come close to Bell’s ability on the field. Bell is the clear every down back without an attempts limit. He may not average a higher yards per attempt then Ball, but his total number of attempts will make up for it. Also, with the departure of Mike Wallace, Bell becomes an equal opportunity red zone threat as Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
Bottom Line: Bell will get many red zone attempts and around 250 attempts this season. Featured every down back. A RB3 with RB1/RB2 potential. Draft him no higher than the fourth round.
EDDIE LACY, GREEN BAY
The man is simply a workhorse. He can easily be the league leader in rushing attempts if given the chance. With that said, he was drafted by Green Bay, the league’s most prolific passing offense. The Packers will likely continue their pass-first offense with or without Lacy. Plus, Green Bay also drafted Johnathan Franklin as insurance on Lacy because he is injury prone. Lacy will be limited by Aaron Rodgers’ constant need to throw the ball. He may also be forced to split carries with Franklin throughout the year until one of them proves they are a feature back. I don’t question Lacy’s ability to run the ball at all, but I don’t believe he will receive adequate attempts to feed a fantasy owners’ need for fantasy points.
Bottom Line: Lacy, if given opportunities, is the top rookie fantasy prospect, but I don’t see many opportunities coming to him in a pass-first Green Bay offense. I expect 210 rushing attempts with very few red zone attempts. Expect a running back by committee early on. A RB3 with RB2 potential. Draft him no higher than the fifth round.
Only those three rookie running backs should even be considered on draft day. All others can be taken post-draft. Remember that Trent Richardson only had a successful fantasy season because he was given a high amount of opportunities in the Cleveland offense. None of these rookies will be given the same amount of opportunities. Alfred Morris was a steal, but arguably was only successful because defenses were forced to commit a spy on Robert Griffin III, which often opened running lanes for Morris. None of these rookies have a highly dangerous running quarterback (Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers).
So do I think Ball, Bell or Lacy will make a fantasy impact similar to Richardson or Morris? It’s unlikely.