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Finding value at the running back position in salary cap drafts is one of the harder things to do. Managers are generally more interested in spending for the top running backs, and the scarcity makes it even harder. It is smart to temper expectations a little bit when finding deals at the position. Finding a bargain is harder, so getting a few-dollar discount here and there may be all that's available. The best way to isolate targets is to find players who lack preseason buzz, players who missed time last year from injury (but are healthy now), or players who face cloudy situations that could clear up in their favor. Here are some running backs that fit the bill.
Despite being an elite producer for most of his career, the opinion of fantasy drafters to this point in the summer is lukewarm. Yes, he's going as the sixth running back off the board, but Cook clearly has the chops to push into the top three at the position. He gets a new offensive system in Minnesota that should feature more 3-wide receiver sets and open up lighter boxes. On top of that, Cook had the third most rushing attempts in the red zone and was tied for the seventh most carries inside the five-yard line. But he converted those touches at one of the league's lowest rates, so his final stat line was lacking a bit. The final piece of the puzzle is that some people in draft rooms will be concerned about Cook's pending legal situation and hesitate to commit to him. Use this as an advantage.
Despite what appears to be a bolstered offensive line and a career 2021 season, drafters still won't commit to Mixon in serpentine drafts before the end of the first or early second round. This should signal to salary cap drafters that a running back with Top 6 potential can be had for a reasonable price (reasonable by running back standards). Mixon is a great candidate to nominate early in the draft when other running backs ahead of him are still available. He is undervalued in comparison to other running backs in that range.
Chasing Workhorse Running Backs
The Dallas running back finds himself in a unique position this draft season. He's falling further down draft boards than he ever has in his career. But, for one more season, the Cowboys are committed to handing Elliott the ball. Rumors of his demise for Tony Pollard have been exaggerated, and despite Pollard seeing the field plenty and Elliott suffering from a PCL injury, the Dallas starter still managed a PPR RB6 finish on the season. He's a bit of a compiler at this stage in his career, but double-digit touchdowns are still a real possibility. He'll continue seeing high-leverage touches in the passing game and the red zone. He's a perfect salary cap draft target for builds with less emphasis on the running back spot.
Like Elliott, Chubb finds himself slipping further down draft boards than he's been since his rookie season. He's now draftable as a high-end RB2 instead of a low-end RB1, where he's resided for the last couple of seasons. The only thing that has changed is that fantasy managers are realizing that any real chance at much passing game usage isn't going to happen, and last year he got banged up and missed some time. But he's still one of the best runners in the league, and his price has never been lower. That's a salary cap drafters' signal to pounce.
Fantasy managers still aren't sure what to think about Hall and the situation in New York. Some are still drafting Michael Carter as a back with standalone value, and Hall languishes near the bottom of RB2 territory in serpentine formats. But the Jets didn't trade up for Hall and make him the first running back off the board in the NFL draft for him to sit behind Carter. Hall will have a chance to earn a workhorse role in this offense and is the odds-on favorite to finish as fantasy football's top-producing rookie running back. There is plenty of room for him to return value on his current ADP, which means salary cap drafters may be able to get a volume producer with Top 12 potential for low RB2 money.
Flawed Prospects but Worthy Candidates
Once it gets past the RB2 tiers, some guys have a legitimate shot to take the lion's share of their teams' backfield touches. There is a glut of guys who can still produce but have a major flaw of some kind – either they don't catch passes, they are in a true timeshare, or they won't get goal-line touches. Here are a few options with plenty of punch but some admitted weaknesses.
Hunt found himself on this list last year as well. He struggled with an injury-marred season, but the real story is what he did before getting hurt. Many will be surprised that he was the PPR RB9 when he was hurt during the team's Week 6 game. He was doing all the same things he's always done in that offense – catching passes, mopping up with carries in the fourth quarter, and getting goal line carries. Hunt will sometimes be frustrating, but the general sentiment about Hunt is so low that he should be cheap in salary cap drafts. He makes a fine RB2 or a fantastic flex option for a low price.
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