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Is there a rookie running back with not-so-great talent but in a good situation? The good situation could be anything from a great coaching staff to having a fairly open path to significant playing time to having excellent surrounding talent.
I can't say Ryquell Armstead isn't talented, but he's not one of the five best backs in this class. Yet, he lands in a situation in Jacksonville that is predicated on a power running game. Leonard Fournette is on thin ice and Armstead could turn into a feature back on a run-heavy team in short order.
Immediately, Devin Singletary comes to mind. The situation is fantastic. The Bills are a team that prefers to run the ball, especially since they have a quarterback who is still developing. Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy only have limited time left in the league and could be great mentors for Singletary. The problem is, running backs need a requisite amount of speed and burst to play in the NFL. When both watching film and considering metric testing results, it becomes apparent Singletary doesn’t possess those two traits. It’s unfortunate because he has many other good-to-great traits like vision and footwork. It just won’t be enough for him to matter.
Singletary would apply here in dynasty with LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore free agents next year and the team having a minimal 2020 investment in T.J. Yeldon. Singletary's acceleration and burst aren't exceptional in NFL terms, but if Buffalo's offense and line gel this year under Brian Daboll and Bobby Johnson, there will be value to be had at running back there next year, although don't discount Yeldon, who is turning 26 this year and a useful back in the passing game.
I see Damien Harris and Benny Snell as pedestrian talents in NFL terms, but both landed in plug and play offenses for running back fantasy value.
I'm with Sig on Benny Snell. He offers zilch in the speed, burst, and lateral quickness departments, which screams heavy-footed plodder at the NFL level. But if DeAngelo Williams, James Conner, and Jaylen Samuels have taught us anything in recent years, it's that whoever carries the ball for the Steelers is plug-and-play for fantasy purposes. I'd still give Samuels the decisive edge to inherit feature-back duties if Conner were to get hurt again, but Snell was a day-two pick who could factor in on base-downs.
Four stick out to me in Darwin Thompson, Ryquell Armstead, Dexter Williams, and Jordan Scarlett. Look who they have to beat out for the number two roles respectively: Carlos Hyde, Alfred Blue, Jamaal Williams, and Cameron Artis-Payne. Now they may not be even good enough to do that, but the opportunity is there. If we look at the number one backs in all these places as well, it becomes even more interesting. Damien Williams was not wanted by Miami a year ago and Andy Reid turns him into a star. The same thing could happen with Darwin Thompson. As mentioned, Leonard Fournette has a questionable appetite for playing in the NFL and is an incident away from looking for something else to do. Aaron Jones is not the most inspiring of lead backs and - with a new coach - is no guarantee to be the number one back. Scarlett does have Christian McCaffrey ahead of him but not much else.
I wish I liked Devin Singletary’s talent a little bit more than I do because he fell into a sneaky good situation in Buffalo and is available much later in rookie drafts than the two other backs also drafted in the early-3rd round (David Montgomery and Darrell Henderson). On paper, the Bills backfield is crowded. LeSean McCoy is back for another year and both Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon were added in free agency. However, there continue to be rumors McCoy might be cut despite some denials from the team. As he enters his 11th NFL season, it is fair to assume McCoy doesn’t have much left in the tank. The same can be said for Gore, who is entering his 15th season. Yeldon is younger but didn’t generate much interest in free agency and had to settle for a deal with just $500,000 guaranteed. Of this group, Singletary is the only one who is likely to be around in the medium term.
In addition to the potentially favorable depth chart, Buffalo has ranked in the Top 10 in rushing yards the last two seasons and invested heavily in improving the offensive line over the offseason. There is fantasy potential here if Singletary proves talented enough to seize the opportunity and run with it.
Jordan Scarlett (Carolina), Ryquell Armstead (Jacksonville), Elijah Holyfield (Carolina), and Dexter Williams (Green Bay) all fit the profile of having more situational potential to stick as the RB3 (or even RB2) on an NFL depth chart in 2019 than their overt talent as more than a baseline back in the NFL hierarchy long term.