There’s nothing like depending on a player on a bad team. Nothing like depending on a running back who doesn’t play in passing situations when their shitty team is down by two touchdowns at halftime. But garbage time and playing catch-up on offense is a good thing for players who are on the field for those situations. If a team’s defense is bad, there’s more opportunity for those players to rack up points as well. A few guidelines for fantasy players on bad teams:
- Try to get a RB who can play in positive and negative game scripts. If the RB will stay on the field on third down and in passing situations, they can get tons of dumpoffs while playing catch-up.
- If a team’s offense isn’t that good, it’s not ideal, but sometimes that offense is revolved around a great player. If that player gets tons of opportunity, they can put up adequate numbers, but their ceiling is obviously limited.
- If a team’s defense is good, that could bode well for a RB so that the team still calls run plays in a close game on early downs.
Here are some players who might fall into these categories. If I didn’t list an obvious player on a bad team, I probably won’t draft them.
Jordan Howard was 2nd in the league in rushing yards last year as a rookie, and didn’t even start a game until Week 4. Here’s a guy who can play all three downs, and will be the focal point of the Bears on offense. Out of all of the great options at running back, we’re worried about his offense. As long as Howard gets third down work and stays on the field in passing situations, he should get tons of work. He purposefully lost some weight this offseason, and is working hard and eating right to set an example for his teammates (paraphrased his words). The Bears did bring in some passing down specialists like Benny Cunningham and rookie Tarik Cohen, so there can be some work taken from him, but he seems determined to not let that happen. Not only did he lose some weight, but he even corrected his vision (not a joke) so he stops dropping passes. He’s being drafted at the beginning of the 2nd round, sitting appropriately. He’s behind other RBs who will have similar workloads but are on better teams.
Fournette was drafted fourth overall by the Jaguars, which off the bat means commitment. You don’t draft a RB in this day and age that early without being fully committed. Most teams find their RB later in the drafts, but there are certain players once every couple of years that stand out so much that they are taken super early. The Jaguars believe in Fournette, and he will get a huge workload. The question is, how good is the Jaguars offense going to be? Will they look more like the 2015 Jaguars, who had a decent offense when you look at the numbers, or the 2016 Jaguars, whose offense was terrible?
The good news is that Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon were pretty horrific on early downs and all of that work will go to Fournette. TJ Yeldon figures to be the passing down back, but there were reports that he could be a surprise cut. If that happens, Fournette might play third downs as well. He’s not the best pass blocker, but does have decent hands. Once the ball is in his hands, he can explode, so the team might view that as a decent tradeoff. If Fournette can produce in the running game, this offense gets way better. Part of the Jaguars offensive woes have a lot to with teams not having to worry about the running game. They will have to focus more on Fournette, which will make this offensive a bit more balanced. Fournette’s currently being drafted in the middle of the 2nd round in front of Lamar Miller and Isaiah Crowell. I would personally draft Crowell over Fournette. I would draft him over the rest of these guys who are going after him like Ware, Hyde, Peterson, McCaffrey, and Lacy.
Todd Gurley had 278 carries last year, fourth in the league. He averaged 3.2 yards per carry, and that’s historically bad. If you told me a RB would have 278 carries, sign me up. Gurley was one of the first picks taken in last year’s fantasy draft because of how he looked in 2015. He’s obviously very talented, but as obviously, didn’t get it done last year. The good news is, Jeff Fisher is gone. There was another RB who had a historically bad season in terms of yards per carry with a huge workload, and that was Eddie George in 2001. His coach that year was Jeff Fisher. I’ll take that workload, but in the second round there are a few receivers I like more so I can avoid the risk. However, if you didn’t get a RB in the first round, you want to draft a RB with a serious workload, and Gurley could be your guy who takes a huge jump from last year into a scheme that works for him.
The Rams defense is also decent. This can keep Gurley involved throughout the game on early downs and he should get some third down work, but not all. Lance Dunbar was brought in, and he’s an exceptional pass-catching back. Trust the workload for Gurley. He will not be benched, but his upside is limited. The chances he will be as bad as last year is very low, and we will more likely see more of that 2015 playmaking this year.
Lamar Miller had a disappointing year last year. His touchdown total was low, and his efficiency went way down from the year prior. The offense behind Brock Osweiler was the downfall of Lamar Miller. I don’t think Tom Savage is the answer either, but if Deshaun Watson can come in, Miller can have huge value because of Watson’s rushing ability. Rushing QBs always open up running lanes for their running backs, and Miller can take advantage. D’onta Foreman was drafted in the third round, and some might see that as a detriment to Miller. I actually think if Foreman can come in and spell Miller, I can see Miller’s efficiency going up. Foreman is actually pretty bad in pass protection, so Miller will be on the field for third downs. Expect Miller’s production and efficiency to go up in 2016 in his second year in this scheme and offense. He’s going appropriately in drafts towards the middle-to-end of the second round.
Isaiah Crowell seems to be a good value for this year. The Browns will probably run the ball more this year (head coach Hue Jackson’s words), and with Crowell’s efficiency (4.8 yards per carry) last year, more carries can make him a great fantasy producer. Crowell only had 198 carries last year, but still finished in the top 20 in rushing, and was the only RB to do that. Not only that, but the Browns have upgraded their offensive line to the point where it is one of the best in the league on paper. Behind that line, with the team committed to the run, combined with Crowell’s talent, Crowell can have major success this year. He’s being drafted in the third round, which might seem high for a lot of people, but it’s a great situation to be in. Another good thing to realize is that if you’re able to draft Duke Johnson a bit later in the draft, you’ll have insurance in Crowell goes down, and you’ll have a three-down back in Johnson in case anything happens to Crowell. That’s a good situation to put yourself in.