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Two big running back developments went down already this week that will ripple through fantasy drafts. Let's look at each and break down the fantasy implications.
Travis Etienne Out for the Season (foot)
Travis Etienne's season-ending foot injury skyrockets James Robinson back into the third round, perhaps even the late second. Robinson should be going off the board around the same time as fellow second-year backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and J.K. Dobbins. He was strong in an offense that was among the league's worst last year, so the offensive woes in Jacksonville to date and seeming uncertainty about the quarterback (Trevor Lawrence is going to start, we're not sure what Urban Meyer is doing) shouldn't get you off of Robinson. Carlos Hyde becomes the clear injury upside backup, and Meyer knows his game well. Laviska Shenault Jr could get some run in the Percy Harvin/Curtis Samuel "H-back" role that Meyer loved to use in college, making him a more attractive pick at ADP. Robinson has been running the ones all of camp, so perhaps this doesn't change his value as much as we think it does, and it just closes the door on him as an extreme value, while those that were high on Etienne would say that it bailed out early drafters who overpaid for Robinson.
Sony Michel Traded to the Rams
Sony Michel played some of the best football of his career at the end of 2020, and according to camp reports, he picked up where he had left off. The Patriots' fourth-round pick Rhamondre Stevenson had been doing too many good things in the preseason for Bill Belichick to basically redshirt him as he typically does with rookie backs other than Michel, who was a first-round pick. Stevenson moves into the 1A role with Damien Harris. Whether this hurts Harris because Stevenson takes over goal-line work with his straight-ahead style or helps Harris because he'll get more work as the most experienced early-down back in New England is yet to be seen, but Harris is cheap enough to take the plunge either way, especially with Cam Newton's status as the starter a little shakier after he had to stay away from the team this week due to covid regulations that only apply to him because he is unvaccinated.
On the Rams side of things, Darrell Henderson was getting the bubble wrap treatment this summer and still hurt his thumb, which might have made Sean McVay anxious. Michel should at least take the edge off of Henderson's upside, if not force a committee. Adam Schefter opined that Michel could even get a shot to start. Henderson is not worth taking at ADP now, and the air has gone out of the Xavier Jones/Jake Funk injury upside balloon, but both Michel and Stevenson become late-round targets in deeper drafts.
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