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I didn't pick these three running backs for this feature just because they are top-10 fantasy producers with the skills to sustain this production throughout the year. All three are playing behind healthy offensive lines that have executed well against quality defenses. And all three teams have a good scheme for their ground game.
The line play and schemes of these three teams should have you shopping for the players on their running back depth charts. If you have room to add 1-2 of these backs and wait, that's great.
If you can only add one option, do it at least until you have to drop the player because you have a more pressing need. In that case, add him or another option back when you do have the luxury.
At the very worst, be vigilant about monitoring the health of the three backs and offensive lines that I'm profiling today. One player can make a huge difference for your squad down the stretch. As long as the Dolphins', Cardinals', and Commanders' lines remain healthy, you have a shot to capitalize on a productive player few in your league will see coming.
Let's begin with Miami, the most exciting offense in the NFL, thanks to an unheard-of quartet of speedsters — Achane, Raheem Mostert, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle — often seeing the field at the same time and overwhelming the competition. Even Robbie Chosen, who is back on the Dolphins' practice squad this week, is considered a speedster many teams would covet, and he's a distant fifth compared to the starters who stretch opposing defenses vertically and horizontally.
The Dolphins Are Creating Punt Return Lanes for Achane and Mostert
I shared this schematic scenario for Cordarrelle Patterson's career year in Atlanta two years ago. An unsuccessful starter at wide receiver, Patterson became a journeyman gadget option on offense coveted most for his elite return ability.
After seeing Bill Belichick generate isolated success with Patterson, Arthur Smith built on what Belichick was doing by featuring Patterson on gap plays. The prominent feature of gap-style blocking is a blocker who leads the way into a crease that the rest of his teammates work to open. Most gap plays are designed to open one hole, and the runner's job is to find his way to it and through it.
Zone plays, in contrast, give the runner multiple options, and it's the runner's job to diagnose the defense and make a decision on where to go based on how they manipulate the defense behind the line of scrimmage.
Zone plays depend more on the back to do a lot of work behind the line. Gap plays depend more on the linemen to set up the crease. This is a little more simplistic of an explanation than the reality, but you get the basic idea.
Patterson ran a lot of gap plays to the edge that, when executed well, the wide rushing lanes simulated the lanes Patterson would see on punt returns. With Patterson's size, speed, and open-field vision and movement, he had a career year.
Travel 660 miles south of Atlanta, and you'll find that Miami has not only figured out how to create punt return lanes for its running backs on the perimeter but also how to do it with inside runs.
As you just watched, the Dolphins' combination of world-class speed and scheme has forced opposing defenses to overreact in every direction. Miami's film shows that they are self-scouting and implementing plays that provide a counter punch to the perimeter run game.
While Achane's gaudy start is mostly due to his speed and a scheme that leverages the speed of Hill, Mostert, and Waddle to open obscene creases no NFL running back sees as often, don't think that Achane is a one-dimensional fad that will fade from fantasy relevance once opponents figure out how to better defend the Dolphins.
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