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After releasing articles on the strategy of late-round quarterbacks and tight ends earlier this week, the "upside" series continues with running backs. However, this article is not intended to follow the same format. If the optimal strategy is to draft quarterbacks and tight ends late due to the factors discussed in those articles, fantasy GMs would be filling their rosters with running backs and wide receivers in the early rounds.
This article will still focus on late-round running backs, but these players will be backups on our fantasy team, unlike the quarterbacks and tight ends. And they'll likely be backups on their NFL teams as well -- at least on draft day.
Because we've spent at least seven rounds filling our roster with backs and receivers, we have a true RB1 and at least two additional starter-quality running backs. Therefore, the goal with a late-round running back isn't to find a middling starter. It's to find a player who can provide us with RB1 production if his situation falls the right way.
Having multiple RB1s on a fantasy team is a massive edge for a fantasy GM. This article aims to provide a second (or third) RB1 to compliment the backs selected at the top of the draft.
The Recipe for RB1 Production
- Three-down talent: being on the field leads to fantasy points, as does catching passes. Running backs that don't play on third down have a more difficult path to RB1 status.
- Goal-line opportunity: touchdowns are worth six times as much as 10 rushing yards. Math is easy!
- Limited depth chart competition: again, the best fantasy assets are the ones on the field the most.
Throughout the offseason, we have released some collaborative posts on the site. One of those was asking the staff which deep sleeper running backs they like the most. Another was asking the staff about value plays at the position. The players listed below come from those articles and Chad Parsons' piece titled "21 League-Winning Players."
Note: This table assumes that the starter in front of these players is no longer in the picture. For example, in a world where Elliott exists, saying that Pollard has no depth chart competition is obviously incorrect. But if Elliott were out of the picture, Pollard would be the clear number one in Dallas.
Comments on each player:
- Hunt: RB1 pedigree and already 1B to an injury-prone 1A. Chubb is also near the end of his contract.
- Fournette: Fournette would dominate backfield touches without Jones. Played great in the postseason.
- Pollard: The RB1 in a high-octane offense checks all the boxes. Rest of the depth chart continues to be barren.
- Dillon: Green Bay is very high on him. And Dillon is the clear RB2/RB1B with Williams gone to Detroit.
- Murray: A perennial lock for a spot in this column. Murray is a three-down workhorse when called upon.
The order in which these players are listed can be debated, but the list generally flows from most RB1 upside to least. And here are some highlights from the backup running backs article linked above discussing some of these players:
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