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Early Best Ball Running Back Targets

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By examining current Average Draft Position (ADP) in early best ball leagues on DRAFT, we can identify players who are going under-drafted relative to their ceilings. This articles identifies running backs that we should be targeting in early best ball leagues.

Wondering what to do with yourself now that football season is over? Fear not! Early best ball drafts are already up and running. If you’re not familiar, best ball is an 18-20 round draft format. There are no trades, waivers, or decisions to be made once the draft is over. Best ball leagues optimize your starting roster for you each week.

Nick Chubb (ADP 9.9)

The recent signing of Kareem Hunt is going to push Chubb’s ADP into the second round over the next few weeks. However, several factors are still working in Chubb’s favor. First, Hunt is not going to be immediately reinstated by the NFL, and will likely be suspended for at least the first half of the season.

Second, the needle is pointing up for the entire Browns offense entering Baker Mayfield’s sophomore season. Chubb will retain significant touchdown upside even when Hunt returns to the field. We should also remember that Chubb was Pro Football Focus’s highest graded running back in 2018:

Assuming he does begin to slide into the second round in early best ball drafts, Chubb remains well positioned to return value as a fantasy RB1 in 2019.

Le’Veon Bell (ADP 11.8)

Do you remember how freaking good Le’Veon Bell was in 2017? If not, allow me to refresh your memory: he ran the ball over 300 times for close to 1300 yards and nine rushing TD’s. He added another two receiving TD’s on 85 receptions for 655 yards. The receiving production alone would make him a viable WR2 in a half-point PPR format.

We don’t know where he’ll end up yet, but so far this off-season, Bell has been linked primarily to the Colts, Jets and Bucs. Regardless of where he lands in 2019, he will be a centerpiece of the offense. Bell should easily outperform other running backs currently being drafted ahead of him, including James Conner, Melvin Gordon III, and Alvin Kamara.

In fact, it’s not out of the question that Bell could once again reclaim his status as the NFL’s top fantasy running back. We can’t typically find that type of upside at the end round one. Draft him here while you can. As soon as he signs with a team, I expect his ADP to jump into the top five.

Dalvin Cook (ADP 19.7)

One of fantasy’s more disappointing backs in 2018, Cook will be in good shape to bounce back this year for several reasons. For starters, backfield mate and TD-vulture specialist Latavius Murray is an unrestricted free agent and is unlikely to return. That frees up 160 RB touches from 2018, including high-value touches inside the five yard line.

Additionally, Cook should be fully healthy after tearing his ACL in 2017 and playing through a hamstring injury last year. Finally, new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak and right-hand man Rick Dennison will look to emphasize their zone running scheme after the Vikings offense lacked balance for much of 2018. Cook’s running style fits the scheme perfectly.

If he’s able to play a full 16 games for the first time in his career, he has a good chance to outperform his mid-second round draft status in early best ball drafts.

Sony Michel (ADP 23.5) & James White (ADP 49.7)

I’m not surprised that Michel is being drafted in the back end of round two, following his dominant performance in the playoffs. Let’s remember, though, he has yet to demonstrate a role in the passing game. The Patriots are also among the most game plan-specific teams in the league when it comes to running back usage, and Michel will not be featured every week.

With that in mind, if you draft Michel early on, you should consider taking James White at the round 4/5 turn. We saw in their Divisional round match-up against the Chargers that both players can produce in the same game. The more likely scenario, though, is that only one of them will be featured in any given week. Drafting both of them will allow you to capitalize on this highly productive backfield 0n a weekly basis, regardless of how the game plays out.

Kerryon Johnson (ADP 33.2)

Before his rookie season got cut short by injury in week 11, Johnson had begun to separate himself from the Lions’ three-way running back committee.

I don’t anticipate LeGarette Blount, who looked old and slow in 2018, to return. Theo Riddick remains a passing down specialist. Johnson is the present and future of the Lions offense. In his final two starts of 2018,  Johnson looked dynamic, amassing 186 combined yards and three TD’s on 29 carries and eight receptions. Those are RB1 numbers. If you’re telling me I can get that kind of production in the back half of round three, I’ll take that all day. I expect Johnson to generate a lot of buzz in the off-season, and for his ADP to rise. Get him here while you can.

Kenyan Drake (ADP 61.7)

OK, I get it. Drake was a major disappointment in 2018, and it might be hard to go back to him if he burned you last year. Even in a down year, he still had over 1000 yards from scrimmage and nine TD’s on only 173 touches, which included 53 receptions. The guy can play. He just needs to get the ball in his hands more.

Enter Chad O’Shea, the new Dolphins Offensive Coordinator. Since 2009, O’Shea has served as the Wide Receivers Coach for the Patriots, a team that clearly knows how to scheme the ball to the running back in the passing game. If he buys into Drake more than the previous regime did, Drake could easily surpass value at his early sixth round ADP. He’s a guy I will be looking to target as my third or fourth running back.


Follow me and hit me up on twitter @BTWalker23. You can find me grinding best ball drafts and on DFS sites under the user name Brexico.      

BWalker