NFC Team-by-Team Backfield Breakdowns (Updated)
Note: This article was originally published on July 12 and updated on August 28. Updates are in bold.
Jared set the tone for this series with a look at AFC backfields — and the importance of volume.
Today, we’re examining NFC backfields and peeling back the layers of some of the league’s messiest situations.
Let’s jump right into all 16 teams…
Note: ADPs are from MFL Public League Drafts after June 15.
Top fantasy target: David Johnson
Others in the mix: Kerwynn Williams, Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington
Johnson is a workhorse — no questions asked.
Last year, he saw a high of 41 touches in a single week. In total, Johnson handled 373 touches (293 carries, 80 catches), a figure only 12 RBs have surpassed over the last decade. And just 6 have exceeded more than DJ’s 2,118 yards from scrimmage.
At 25 years old — and absent a major injury behind him — Johnson is locked in as our RB1 (and the RB1 in ADP).
Behind him rests an uninspiring crew. Williams, a former 7th-round pick, goes 5’8, 198 pounds and has only 98 career carries. Ellington, a former starter, transitioned to WR in the spring before moving back to RB in June.
Now healthy, HC Bruce Arians is looking for the shifty Ellington to recapture some of his early-career mojo.
"Run harder, run tougher like he did as a rookie," Arians said of what Ellington needs to do. "Once he tore the foot up and the knee up, he kind of looked for places to fall down too much.”
We’ll track his progress in training camp, but Ellington’s highly unlikely to become a fantasy factor barring an injury to Johnson.
Logan arrived in Round 5 of the draft this spring. He turned heads with a 4.37-second 40 time at the Combine but never topped 120 rushes or 29 catches in a college season. Outside of dynasty leagues, there’s no fantasy value to mine with the former Tar Heel.
Update: The team re-signed Chris Johnson just before training camp, but he's no lock to make the team. Logan landed on IR with a wrist injury.
Williams looks like the best bet to back up David Johnson, as his kick- and punt-return roles appear to secure his roster spot. Do not consider this a "must" handcuff situation if you draft Johnson.
Top fantasy target: Devonta Freeman
Others in the mix: Tevin Coleman
The Falcons fielded an all-time great offense in 2016. Piloted by an ultra-efficient Matt Ryan, Atlanta scored 40+ points 5 times — the 2nd highest total in NFL history.
That provided the backdrop for Freeman and Coleman’s production. Combined, they scored 24 TDs and gained 2,482 yards.
Efficiency-wise, fantasy owners should expect some regression. Coleman, in particular, is a lock to drop off from his 13.6 yards per catch on 31 grabs. The duo also benefited from having all 5 O-line starters play each game. No other team had that luxury.
But impending regression doesn’t mean these guys are unappealing. Staying healthy, Freeman boosted his YPC from 4.0 (2015) to 4.8 (2016). Just 25, he's now entering a contract year.
Freeman cements his value as the preferred red zone back. Last year, he drew 50 red-zone rushes — 3rd most behind LeGarrette Blount and David Johnson. Coleman checked in with 21, albeit in 3 fewer games.
We’ll see how much different the offense looks under new OC Steve Sarkisian, who’s never assumed the position in the pros.
The early chatter, wisely, has centered on continuity.
"We love the way that we attack, and it took a lot of work to put that system in place," HC Dan Quinn said after Sarkisian was hired. "Along with [GM Thomas Dimitroff], we have a real emphasis now on how we can fit guys into that system. It's very important that we stay consistent with that.”
Consider Freeman a fine pick at his RB6 ADP. Coleman’s inconsistent volume makes him an easy avoid with an RB20 ADP (Round 6), 13 spots behind his place in the Draft Sharks rankings.
Update: Freeman got a big 5-year extension -- then sustained a concussion less than a week later. He's reportedly in the final stages of the protocol and should be ready for Week 1.
Coleman has had a quiet preseason, with just 18 yards on 6 carries. He remains a high-ceiling, low-floor fantasy play as the 1B behind Freeman.
Top fantasy target: Christian McCaffrey
Others in the mix: Jonathan Stewart
In March, the Panthers signed Stewart to a contract extension through 2018. Weeks later, they addressed the position long-term with the selection of McCaffrey 8th overall.
On draft capital alone, McCaffrey projects as the clear leader in backfield touches. J-Stew also notched just 3.8 yards per carry last year and totaled only 8 catches. He missed 3+ games due to injury for the 5th straight season.
Now, the Panthers are switching up their approach a bit this offseason. Cam Newton’s taken his share of hits, and coming off right shoulder surgery, the team’s aiming to get the ball out of his hands quicker.
McCaffrey’s elusiveness in space will surely help out. A slashing runner and receiver at Stanford, he confirmed that skill set with a 97th percentile 3-cone time (6.57 seconds) at the Combine.
Detractors will point to the fact that Carolina hasn’t featured receiving backs. Since Cam Newton’s entered the league, the lead RB has posted the following catch totals: 25, 18, 25, 27, 27, 47. The names behind the numbers: Mike Tolbert, Fozzy Whittaker and Stewart.
Essentially a bulked up slot WR playing RB, McCaffrey’s clearly the best receiver of that bunch. Coupled with Carolina’s desire for more quick-strike passing, we’re not worried about the Panthers’ history of RB usage.
Just don’t expect the 202-pound McCaffrey to hog 20+ touches per game. We currently have him pegged for 15.8 per game across 15 appearances. It’s enough for him to pay off an RB15 price tag — 2 places behind his DS rank. Stewart’s an extreme discount at RB46 in the 11th round, making him a fine (albeit unexciting) depth pick.
Update: McCaffrey has looked as good as expected while garnering plenty of 1st-team work in the preseason. Stewart's continued presence lowers the workload ceiling, but Stewart's extensive injury history relieves some of that pressure. Carolina also appears to be trying to work McCaffrey heavily in the passing offense -- as it should.
Top fantasy target: Jordan Howard
Others in the mix: Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham, Jeremy Langford
Howard took over as Chicago’s starter in Week 4 and never looked back.
At season’s end, he rolled up 252 carries for 1,313 yards, enough to finish 2nd league-wide in rushing. He notched 6 scores — 3 of which came in 1 meeting with the dreadful 49ers.
Howard quietly added 29 catches for 298 yards and 1 score.
The monster season positions him for workhorse touches this fall. That notion’s amplified when your backups are Cunningham — a receiving back — and the underperforming Jeremy Langford. The Bears added Tarik Cohen in the 4th round, but he goes just 5’6, 179 pounds.
Howard’s supported by a solid O-line, mostly along the interior. That’s a boost to a power back who grinds out the tough yards between the tackles.
But the Bears lack proven playmakers at WR and TE and will trot out Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky at QB. Neither guy will take much pressure off the running game.
While Howard excelled last year — despite a lackluster crew — the Bears surprisingly ranked 5th in yards per play. We foresee regression there, especially with Alshon Jeffery out of town.
We’re passing on Howard at his early-to-mid Round 2 ADP (RB8). Don’t bother with any of the backups.
Update: When Howard missed the 2nd preseason game with a minor eye injury, Cohen stepped in to start. His clear backup/handcuff role makes it easier to check the speed and playmaking chops late in 2017 redrafts.
Top fantasy target: Ezekiel Elliott
Others in the mix: Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris
As a 21-year-old rookie, Elliott ran all over opposing defenses with 1,631 rushing yards (5.1 per carry) and 16 total TDs in 15 games. To put that in context, only Eric Dickerson produced more rookie-season rushing yards in league history.
Dallas ranked 2nd in run rate with rookie QB Dak Prescott under center. They’ll likely put more on his plate in year 2, but Elliott remains a great bet to hover around the 23.6 touches per game he saw in 2016.
We’ll monitor the O-line closely this summer. After losing LG Ronald Leary (free agency) and RT Doug Free (retirement), Dallas will likely rely on former 1st-round bust Jonathan Cooper and La’El Collins.
McFadden, now 30 (in August), was re-signed to a 1-year deal worth roughly $1 million. He made just 3 appearances in 2016 due to an arm injury. There's no standalone value here, but McFadden would be a fantasy starter if Elliott misses time.
Morris mustered just 3.5 yards per carry last year and will head to training camp 3rd on the depth chart. He's even been bandied about as a cut candidate.
Elliott, of course, remains in play as an early Round 1 option. But he does come with some suspension risk due to the league’s ongoing investigation. He sits as the RB3 in ADP — and our rankings — due largely to his relative lack of receiving upside vs. Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson. We do, however, project Elliott for a small bump in receptions this season.
Update: It's McFadden when Elliott's not there. We'll see if the starter's appeal this week changes anything.
Top fantasy target: Theo Riddick
Others in the mix: Ameer Abdullah, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington, Matt Asiata
We’re intrigued by the starter here. But the situation?
Abdullah blew up the 2015 Combine, showing superb strength, change-of-direction skills and leaping ability. His rookie year turned up just 168 touches, though — 10.5 per game — plus 5 fumbles.
Then, last year, Abdullah missed all but 2 games with a foot injury that required surgery. Now 100%, he returns to a backfield that has an established receiving threat (Riddick) and power complements in Zenner, Washington and Asiata.
Still, Abdullah has a chance to emerge as the clear rushing leader. Tim Twentyman of the Lions official site anticipates 200+ carries for the Nebraska product this season. We have him pegged for 173 carries, but there’s upside beyond that.
Can Abdullah carve out a goal line role? And can he be efficient without stud LT Taylor Decker, who’s slated to miss games following shoulder surgery? Those are 2 potential upside blockers.
Riddick is the “sure thing” here following seasons of 53 and 80 catches. He underwent offseason surgeries on both of his wrists but should be ready for the start of training camp.
Come draft day, we’re only considering Abdullah or Riddick in this backfield. Both are in play, but Riddick’s the superior PPR value at RB33 (compared to our ranking of RB24). Abdullah’s going close to his ceiling at RB21.
Update: Riddick finally returned to game action for the 3rd preseason contest, though he only touched the ball once. Kyle Meinke of MLive say's Riddick's "been elusive as ever" in practice, though. He and Abdullah remain the only real backfield targets here for most redraft leagues.
Green Bay Packers
Top fantasy target: Ty Montgomery
Others in the mix: Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones
We’re a little surprised by the lack of love for Montgomery around the fantasy community.
He’s currently coming off the board as the RB18 in early Round 5. We have him 11th in between Jordan Howard and Isaiah Crowell.
We can understand 1 point of contention — a lack of RB experience. The converted WR rushed 3 times as a rookie and just 77 times in 2016. Across 4 years at Stanford, he totaled 39 carries.
So, there is some unknown here. Montgomery, though, fared extremely well in his limited action last year, posting 5.9 yards per carry. Pro Football Focus also credited him with the top Elusive Rating from Week 7 forward (when Montgomery shifted to RB).
At 220 pounds, he has the size to hold up in a lead-back role. We’ll see how he fares as a pass protector in camp and the preseason, as that’ll hold the key to earning a 3-down role.
Williams and Jones have the best chance of siphoning touches from the veteran. Jones arrived in Round 5 following a productive career at UTEP, but he goes just 5’9, 208 pounds. Williams — a 4th-round pick —is more of a grinder at 6’0, 213.
Neither guy projects as a lock for year 1 production.
HC Mike McCarthy has shown that he’ll ride 1 RB or utilize a committee. But the bottom line is that Montgomery enters camp as the clear #1 for an elite offense. He’s among our favorite draft targets at any position.
Update: A leg issue kept Montgomery out of the 2nd preseason game, but he and Williams both looked good in the 3rd. Green Bay might be figuring out the rotation through the season. Montgomery remains the highest-upside option in 1 of the league's strongest offenses, though.
Los Angeles Rams
Top fantasy target: Todd Gurley
Others in the mix: Malcolm Brown, Lance Dunbar, Aaron Green
You know the story about Gurley’s 2016.
Drafted early in Round 1 of fantasy drafts, the Georgia product sputtered to 3.2 yards per carry. He never reached 90 rushing yards in a game and scored just 6 times all year.
Now, the Rams ranked last in total yards and points. And they fielded an O-line ranking 29th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards metric. Per ESPN, Gurley also averaged 1.59 yards before contact after posting a figure of 2.7 in 2015.
Clearly, the O-line caused issues.
The Rams at least breathed some hope into a rebound, adding HC Sean McVay and nabbing former Falcons QB coach Matt LaFleur for OC. A pair of young minds, their arrival certainly gives Gurley and the Rams a schematic upgrade over Jeff Fisher’s crew.
Los Angeles also added a top-tier LT in former Bengal Andrew Whitworth. Now 35, he’s played 16 games in 3 straight seasons and in 7 of the last 8.
So, what if Gurley struggles once again? Well, the Rams don’t have a talented backup to plug in.
Dunbar was on his way to a breakout year in 2015 but suffered a torn ACL and patellar tendon that October. He mustered 25 touches last year behind Ezekiel Elliott.
Still, there’s a chance he puts a dent in Gurley’s receiving upside. Gurley snagged 43 passes last year, but HC Sean McVay is expected to utilize the 5’8, 190-pound Dunbar similarly to the way he used Chris Thompson in Washington.
Thompson broke out last year with a 49-349-2 receiving line (plus 68 carries) on 62 targets. That production, of course, came on a loaded offense. We’d ultimately bet against Dunbar reaching Thompson’s volume.
Brown and Green are strict depth pieces. Green went undrafted last year and doesn’t give us much to believe in based on athleticism or college production. Brown, a power back, went undrafted in 2015 and has just 22 carries through 2 seasons.
Gurley, still only 23, is the only piece of this backfield you want. And with an ADP late in Round 2, he’s fairly priced.
Update: Dunbar is expected to open the regular season on the PUP list after spending all of camp and the preseason on it for a knee injury. Brown looks like the top backup to Gurley, though the surrounding offense doesn't make it an attractive handcuff situation for fantasy.
Top fantasy target: Dalvin Cook
Others in the mix: Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon
Let’s first celebrate the good news.
Matt Asiata will no longer wear the purple and gold. His TD-stealing ways — at least in Minnesota — are a thing of the past.
The bad news? This backfield remains cluttered.
Cook joined the squad as a Round 2 pick this spring. On tape, he looked like a top-3 RB prospect. But the workout numbers said otherwise — he ranked in the 9th percentile or worse in the vertical, the 3-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle.
Now, we’ll favor the production over his t-shirt-and-shorts figures. Cook, after all, led all draft eligible RBs with 1,208 yards after contact in 2016, per Pro Football Focus. He posted a ridiculous 4,188 total yards over his final 2 years at Florida State.
Cook’s also a nice fit with hyper-accurate short-range passer Sam Bradford. In total, Vikings RBs saw 104 targets last year. Cook’s poised to lead the team in receiving.
Latavius Murray’s quiet offseason certainly helps Cook. Signed in free agency, the former Raider missed every OTA and minicamp session while rehabbing an ankle injury. He remains iffy for the open of training camp.
As for McKinnon, we remain intrigued by his athleticism. And he turned just 25 in May. Still, the Vikings offseason moves signal that they’re not counting on him.
Cook’s clearly the highest upside option here, but he comes with a pricey ADP of RB19 — 5 spots ahead of our ranking.
Update: Murray played 13 snaps to Cook's 15 in Sunday's game against the Niners. That marked his 1st preseason action after sitting out early camp following ankle surgery. Cook took advantage of Murray's absence and showed well, but Minnesota appears likely to keep Murray more involved than fantasy owners would like. That makes sense considering the Vikings just signed him in March -- knowing the vet had the ankle issue. Keep Murray's presence in mind as you consider whether to pay for Cook on draft day.
New Orleans Saints
Top fantasy target: Mark Ingram
Others in the mix: Adrian Peterson, Alvin Kamara
The Saints really don’t like Mark Ingram.
Only 27 and signed through 2018, the incumbent watched as New Orleans added Peterson and Kamara this spring. Ingram, by the way, just ripped off a career-high 5.1 yards per carry and played all 16 games for the 2nd time since entering the league in 2011.
Nevertheless, he’ll now work in a committee. The Saints have hyped up Peterson — even as a pass-catching option. The team lost 146 targets with the departures of Brandin Cooks and Tim Hightower. Travaris Cadet also quietly snagged 40 balls last year but doesn’t project for a role in the Saints overhauled backfield.
So, there’s opportunity for Peterson to contribute in both phases. He simply hasn’t been an effective per-catch receiver over his past few healthy seasons. And we’ll see how he looks coming off a torn meniscus last fall. AP has appeared in only 20 games since the 2014 season.
The Saints invested a 3rd-rounder in Kamara, who has the short-area wiggle and long speed to excel in space. He’s our bet to lead the RB corps in catches, with Ingram close behind (43 vs. 38).
Ultimately, a pass-tilted offense limits the rushing volume for this 3-headed monster. So it’ll be vital to cash in on scoring chances — something that should remain aplenty. In HC Sean Payton’s 13 years as an OC or HC, his units have finished top 12 in points 10 times. They’ve never ranked outside the top 13 in yards.
A DS favorite, Ingram remains our preferred target in the early Round 7 range.
Update: Kamara has flashed the big-play ability we all knew he had. All 3 remain draft options, and we'll have to wait and see what Payton does with the playing time. Peterson carried 6 times to 4 for Ingram in the team's 3rd preseason contest, the only time we saw Peterson in a game this summer.
New York Giants
Top fantasy target: Paul Perkins
Others in the mix: Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa, Wayne Gallman
When it comes to Perkins, the discussion typically boils down to 1 simple question…
Is this guy actually any good?
The 2016 fifth-round pick wasn’t anything special as a 21-year-old rookie. He posted an OK 4.1 yards per carry but wasn’t particularly powerful or elusive. At UCLA, the 5’11, 213-pounder was a tackle-dodging stud.
Now, the Giants’ O-line was a weakness. It’s 1 reason why they were the only team league-wide without a run of 30+ yards in 2016. The G-Men added a potential starter in D.J. Fluker, but they’re not considerably better (on paper) entering the fall.
The reason for optimism stems from New York’s coaching staff. Ben McAdoo tabbed Perkins the starter way back in May. RB coach Craig Johnson hopped on the bandwagon, too.
"He [Perkins] ended last season playing like a guy that is ready to take over the job," Johnson said. "There is nothing so far in the offseason to show he’s not going to be able to handle that role [as lead ball-carrier].”
The Giants just don’t have a legit challenger for Perkins. Vereen slots into a pass-catching role but tore his triceps twice last season. He made only 5 appearances.
Now 28, the Former Patriot hasn’t topped 96 carries in his career.
Gallman was taken in Round 4 this spring and has the power traits to help out in a committee. But we weren’t thrilled by his college tape, and he won’t be handed a major role this summer.
We’re high on Perkins as an undervalued RB2 target. He’s our RB23 — 8 spots ahead of his late-Round 6 ADP.
Update: The Giants' run game generated basically just negative buzz this summer, but the team doesn't seem to have much choice beyond letting Perkins lead the way. He did, at least, finish well with 33 yards on 6 carries against the Jets on Saturday. We're not expecting to see Perkins again before Week 1.
Gallman has spent the summer buried on the depth chart, which really only offers Vereen as a viable fantasy option beyond Perkins. The backfield's struggles add volume upside to Vereen, whom you can get late in PPR drafts.
Top fantasy target: Darren Sproles
Others in the mix: LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey, Corey Clement
The Eagles signed Blount to a 1-year deal, but not until May 19 — roughly 2.5 months after the open of free agency.
Despite the circumstances, Blount’s positioned for the bulk of early-down snaps. Sproles is the primarily pass-catching threat, while Smallwood and Pumphrey are listed at 208 and 180 pounds, respectively. Pumphrey’s reportedly impressed in OTAs and minicamps, but the real test comes once the pads go on.
We’d bet against him entering the fantasy radar before 2018.
As for Blount, he showed his goal line worth last year, popping in 11 of his 18 TDs from the 1-yard line. The bruising back’s value still derives largely from scoring, although his TD chances will certainly decrease now that he’s away from New England. He enters September with 46 catches in 100 regular season games.
Sproles might be in his final season at age 34. Yet he’s remained effective as a receiver, ranking 6th among RBs in receptions since he joined the Eagles in 2014. Sproles also owns 40+ catches in 8 straight seasons.
Smallwood was selected in the 5th round last year and didn’t put much on tape to evaluate. Not a lock to make the team, you can safely avoid Smallwood on draft day.
Overall, we’re not particularly excited about any Philly RB. Neither is the fantasy community, as Blount’s ADP sits in mid- Round 7 while Sproles is typically lasting until the 11th. We project that duo for the same number of PPR fantasy points (135).
Update: It doesn't like Pumphrey's ready for a significant role anytime soon. HC Doug Pederson shot down rumors of Blount potentially getting cut by saying that "he's going to be a big part of our offense." That still doesn't mean Blount should be a big part of your fantasy team.
Sproles is the best bet to contribute value at his ADP, though his contributions might remain tough to predict. Smallwood's worth a very late look in drafts in case Blount falters. He worked in for 1st-team snaps in the 3rd preseason game after missing much of camp with a hamstring injury.
Smallwood will 1st need to fend off undrafted rookie Corey Clement for a roster spot, though. Clement has run for 89 yards through 3 preseason games while elevating to the 2nd team.
San Francisco 49ers
Top fantasy target: Carlos Hyde
Others in the mix: Tim Hightower, Matt Breida, Joe Williams, Kapri Bibbs, Raheem Mostert
Hyde enters a contract year looking to prove that he’s a trustworthy starting RB.
So far, that’s been a struggle. Since entering the league in 2014, he’s missed 14 games with a variety of injuries: knee, leg, foot, ankle, shoulder and concussions.
Hyde, though, has used his 235-pound frame effectively. Pro Football Focus charts him with the 4th most yards after contact per attempt (min. 250 rushes) since 2014. Only Jay Ajayi, Spencer Ware and Jordan Howard gained more.
Of course, a bruising style hasn’t helped him remain durable. Running smarter was a point of emphasis this offseason.
New leadership arrived this winter, as young HC Kyle Shanahan brings 9 years of experience as an OC. His units ranked top 9 in total offense 6 times. He’s averaged a 14th-place finish in rush attempts, posting 2 in the top 6.
Under a new staff, early offseason chatter indicated Hyde could lose his starting role. That remains a possibility, but entering training camp, he’s still the #1.
San Francisco drafted Joe Williams in Round 4 at the request of Shanahan. But he brings character red flags and struggled with fumbles in college.
The team signed Tim Hightower in free agency. Now 31, he’s coming off a fine season with 4.1 yards per carry and 9.1 yards per catch. That came in a limited sample (133 rushes; 22 catches) and in New Orleans, though, where the pass game and the O-line flourished.
The 49ers also swapped draft picks in a trade for former Bronco Kapri Bibbs. But through 3 seasons, he’s handled just 31 touches. The former undrafted free agent brings an unappealing athletic profile (14th percentile SPARQ) and goes 5’11, 203 pounds.
Hyde’s the only 49ers RB you want on draft day — but he’s not a screamin’ value, sitting at RB17 in ADP and RB19 in our rankings.
Update: Hyde has proved more secure in the starting job than all those gloomy spring reports tried to indicate. Williams, meanwhile, was the 4th RB into Sunday night's 3rd preseason game -- after Hyde, Breida and Mostert. The cuts will be interesting to watch here. In the meantime, don't bother cuffing Williams to Hyde.
Top fantasy target: C.J. Prosise
Others in the mix: Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, Chris Carson
Lacy sits above his teammates in our rankings. But we’d call Prosise the better value given the difference in ADP (8.02, RB37 vs. 6.05, RB30).
Why? At this point in the summer, there’s no clear leader for touches. Here’s how long-time Seahawks beat writer Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times characterized this backfield last month:
"I think the Seahawks are going into the year just fine with the idea that they can spread the carries out and not have to count on anyone taking a [Marshawn] Lynch-like share of the load."
The approach makes sense. Lacy remained a yard-churning machine last year en route to posting 5.1 yards per carry. But he handled just 71 rushes and suffered a major ankle injury in October.
Rawls has 2 years of NFL service under his belt, yet he’s already sustained a sprained shoulder, a fractured leg and a fractured ankle.
Prosise, a 3rd-round pick last spring, appeared in just 6 games due to a sprained wrist and a fractured scapula.
Only 23, Prosise is easily the best pass catching RB here. While he snagged 17 passes last year, they went for 208 yards — a WR-like 12.2 per catch. He impressed on the ground, too, averaging 5.7 yards on 30 rushes.
Health-wise, Prosise has stayed clean over the offseason, much to the delight of his HC.
"It was incredibly beneficial for us to see C.J. make it through the whole time," Pete Carroll said of Prosise’s offseason availability. "He has a great scope that he fills for us. He can come out of the backfield, and he can run routes as a receiver, and he looked really good running the ball behind the line of scrimmage. So he goes into this six weeks hugely ahead of where he's been in years past, and we have really high hopes.”
Look for Seattle to establish the ground game more this year than they did in 2016. The Seahawks averaged 25.1 rushes per game from 2012-2015, but that figure dropped to 19.3 last fall. A healthy Russell Wilson will not only boost that number but help increase the offensive’s overall efficiency and keep defenses honest.
Rawls represents a wildcard. Despite the checkered injury history, he turns just 24 in August and has some explosive career lines behind him, including:
15-106-2 (Week 13, 2016, vs. Carolina)
27-161-1 (Wild Card, 2016, vs. Detroit)
23-169-1 (Week 5, 2015, at Cincinnati)
30-209-1 (Week 11, 2015, vs. San Francisco)
19-101-1 (Week 13, 2015, at Minnesota)
Carroll described Rawls’ 2016 play as “impatient,” something to monitor in training camp.
Perhaps that’s because of Seattle’s O-line, which remains shaky beyond C Justin Britt. Their struggles figure to hurt Prosise the least, as he’s the RB Seattle will most often want to get in space.
Update: Prosise remains the highest-upside athlete here, but he's much less comfy in his "top target" role after another injury-laden camp and preseason. Lacy has been fine. Rawls was fine before ankle trouble sidelined him.
Undrafted free agent Carson has been the revelation, though. He was splitting 1st-team work with Lacy in the Seahawks' 3rd preseason game -- and looking good doing it.
The crowd plus a weak O-line that lost its starting LT makes this an ugly backfield on fantasy draft day. The positive, however, is that all Seahawks backs are now lasting into low-risk range. There's nothing wrong with taking a shot on your favorite from Round 9 on.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Top fantasy target: Doug Martin
Others in the mix: Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims
Interested in Martin? Well, you’ll need to think big picture.
Martin was suspended 4 games last December for violating the NFL’s drug policy. He entered a drug treatment program over the winter and will miss the first 3 games of the 2017 season.
Before that, he sloshed his way to a minuscule 2.92 yards per carry on 144 attempts. Since 2000, only 6 RBs have handled 140+ carries and tallied a worse YPC: Jonathan Wells, Tim Hightower, Warrick Dunn, James Jackson, Bernard Pierce and Marcel Shipp.
Not a great group.
Sill, Martin has garnered a steady stream of hype this offseason. GM Jason Licht, QB Jameis Winston and media members alike have praised Martin’s physique, character and OTA/minicamp performance.
Martin’s now 28, but it’s not a number we’re concerned with. He’s just a season removed from a strong 288-1,402-6 line (plus 33-271-1 receiving). And he should be aided by the return of RG J.R. Sweezy, a prized 2016 signee who missed all of last season with a back injury.
With an ADP in the 6th round, Martin represents a savvy pick for patient owners.
While the starter sits, Rodgers figures to see most of the touches. He posted 4.3 yards per carry last year, the first time he exceeded 3.9 since entering the league in 2011. HC Dirk Koetter wasn’t worried about overworking him, either — Rodgers had games of 20, 27 and 35 touches.
Those are striking figures for a player listed at 5’6, 205 pounds. And they make Rodgers — whose ADP rests in Round 15 — an intriguing short-term fantasy pick.
Sims missed 9 games in 2016 with shoulder and knee injuries. Back healthy, though, he should regain the bulk of passing down snaps. He snagged 24 balls last year and tallied 51 in 2015. Tampa Bay’s ultra-deep offense simply doesn’t allow for much pass-caching upside.
Update: This backfield has gone as expected in the preseason, with Martin starting, Rodgers working in like a starter and Sims complementing.
Top fantasy target: Rob Kelley
Others in the mix: Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine
Kelley provided a nice story in 2016.
A part-time RB/FB from Tulane, he never reached 100 carries in a single season. He flunked the speed, agility and explosion tests at his Pro Day.
Athletically, he compares similarly to Matt Asiata. With little to intrigue NFL teams, Kelley went undrafted last spring.
Still, this rookie ended up seeing 168 carries for a needy Washington run game. He parlayed that into 704 yards (4.2 per rush) and 6 scores. He didn’t fumble, either.
Kelley’s numbers, though, were boosted by a 66-yard scamper against Green Bay. Take that away, and his yards per carry drops to a more reflective 3.8. He also averaged just 6.8 per catch on 12 grabs (18 targets).
Washington secured an upgrade this spring with the selection of Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine. The 4th-rounder brings massive power at 5’11, 233 pounds. Perine led all Combine RBs with 30 bench reps of 225. He’s drawn comps to tackle-breaking aficionados Michael Turner and Marshawn Lynch.
In OTAs, HC Jay Gruden called Perine a “very hard worker” who “runs hard.” That combo should help him outshine Kelley before long. But we can’t expect workhorse touches for the rookie.
Thompson is coming off a breakout season with 49 grabs, 349 yards and 2 scores. Most importantly, he stayed healthy and played 16 games for the first time in his career.
Overall, this offense remains potent and boasts a rock solid offensive line. While the unit lost OC Sean McVay, HC Jay Gruden will handle play-calling duties. We’re not particularly interested in any RB here, but the costs are predictably reasonable (Perine, RB34, Kelley, RB44, Thompson, RB58).
Update: We all waited all summer for Perine to rush past Kelley, but it never happened. Kelley even delivered a 10-carry, 57-yard outing in the 3rd preseason game to emphasize his lead. Perine retains plenty of upside -- likely more than Kelley -- if he gets a shot in season. Thompson remains mostly a pass-catching complement.