After looking at two teams in a recent FFWC draft that invested in all running backs over the first four and five rounds, here’s a look a third team that went RB strong over the first four rounds: Team 11
At the back end of the first round in the 2018 draft season, a Fantasy owner will have a chance to start his team with a strong base of WRs after the elite RBs come off the board. The challenge then becomes finding RB options on the on the next two turns in the draft.
The second option, which was taken by Team 11, is to follow the early trend and make sure to develop an early base and edge at RB. Leonard Fournette is laying in the weeds at the end of the first round. Most Fantasy owners agree he’s a beast with high upside in TDs and not dead in the water in the passing game. Jacksonville has a strong defense, and they will play from the lead in many games pointing to a high volume run game. Fournette does come with some injury risk based on his first year in the NFL (three missed games), and multiple missed games in his last year in college. A Fantasy owner can’t help but be intrigued by his excellent 2015 season at LSU (2,206 combined yards over 12 games with 23 TDs and 19 catches. I’m a big fan of Fournette, and he is a great upside swing at RB at the end of the first round. To confirm my feelings, here’s my early player profile for Leonard written in mid-May:
Leonard Fournette (RB) – Despite missing three games, Fournette was the 9th highest scoring RB in PPR leagues. He finished with 304 touches for 1,342 yards with 11 TDs and 36 catches. His success projected over 16 games would have led to 1,652 combined yards with 13.5 TDs and 44 catches. Most Fantasy owners were surprised with his value in the passing game. Leonard has three down value with the overall skill set to match the top RBs in the game. His opportunity in the passing game is well below the elite RBs in the game, but he can beat many of them with his scoring ability. Fournette runs with power with enough speed to make a long scoring TD. The Jaguars have a top defense with an offensive that is built to run a power rushing offense. Their offensive line has a chance to be improved in multiple areas. The biggest question for Fantasy owners is: can he stay healthy? In Fantasy football, talent always outweighs injury risk. In 2017, Jacksonville RBs combined for 2,730 yards with 19 TDs and 96 catches on 561 touches. There’s a great opportunity here for Fournette. Next step: 1,800 combined yards with 15+ TDs and 50+ catches. For a team that starts with a WR in PPR leagues, Fournette is going to be a great value in the second round in many drafts.
In the early 2018 Fantasy draft season, Fantasy owners have placed a high bet on Dalvin Cook playing at a high level while gaining his previous form. I saw one draft where a Fantasy owner selected him first overall. I tend to take the conservative side when drafting players coming off significant injuries in football. In the second round in this draft, Cook has a better price point. The early training camp reports have been positive on Dalvin, which is adding more fuel to his draft fire. Here’s my 2018 player profile on Cook from mid-June in the Minnesota Vikings Outlook:
Dalvin Cook (RB) – There’s a lot to like in Cook’s resume at Florida State. He rushed for 4,464 yards on 687 carries over three seasons while scoring 48 TDs. Dalvin even chipped in with 79 catches for 935 yards. His looked more explosive rushing the ball in 2015 (7.4 yards per rush), but he gained an amazing 14.8 yards per catch last season. His running style has something in common with Devonta Freeman who also went to FSU. The key for his upside will breaking free at the second level of the defense where his vision and his open field quickness will create huge plays. Cook will make plenty of yards after contact due to his strength and ability to break arms tackles. Dalvin will be a massive threat in the passing game, but he needs to improve his technique and toughness in pass protection. In 2017, Cook blew out his ACL in his left knee. I’m never a fan of a player coming off an injury as too much could go wrong in his recovery. Last season the Vikings’ RBs finished with 457 rushes for 1,803 yards and 14 TDs plus 84 catches for another 681 yards and two more TDs. With repeated success, Minnesota will once again have a special run game, but their offensive line will rank at the backend of the league. Of all the backs on the Vikings in 2017, Cook was by far the most dynamic with three down value. In his four games, he had 95 touches for 444 yards with two TDs and 11 catches. His skill set points to 50+ catches at the minimum with a floor of 275 rushes. Possible 1,300+ yards with six to eight TDs and 40+ catches with the best value coming late in the season.
For the Fantasy owners that follow Bill Enright at Fantasy Football Champs who now works under the ScoutFantasySports umbrella, he made the same two picks from pick 11 in a recent staff draft. Here’s a look at the first two rounds:
After a great RB start to his team, this Fantasy owner hit the RB gas again on the 3/4 turn with Alex Collins and Derrick Henry. Here’s my write up on both players:
Alex Collins (RB) – As a late addition to the Ravens roster in September after being cut by Seattle, Collins blossomed into the top RB option for Baltimore. Alex flashed upside in Week 2 (9/82) and Week 3 (9/82), which eventually led to him earning the starting job. Over the last nine games with starting snaps (19.2 per game), Collins gained 785 combined yards with six TDs and 23 catches while averaging 18.2 touches per game. He finished with three strong games (143 combined yards with two catches, 98 combined yards with two TDs and two catches, and 146 combined yards with a TD and two catches). His value is limited while offering some risk in pass protection. In 2017, the Ravens’ RBs gained 1,805 yards and 12 TDs on 431 carries. This season Alex will be the lead runner on early downs for Baltimore. He projects to get about 300 touches for 1,400 yards with double-digit TDs and about 25 catches.
Derrick Henry (RB) – After chasing Henry around as the upside RB over the last two seasons, Fantasy owners now have an opportunity to ride this exciting RB to a winning season. Despite expecting a huge bump in touches and high value in TDs, many Fantasy owners may trust issues with 2018 Fantasy value for Derrick with Dion Lewis to the Titans’ roster. In 2017, Henry had 187 touches for 880 yards with Six TDs and 11 catches. He finished two games with over 100 yards rushing (19/131/1 and 11/109/1). In his only game with the whole show at RB in Week 17, Derrick delivered 117 combined yards with a TD and one catch while receiving 29 touches. Last year the Titans’ RBs had 383 rushes for 1,521 yards and 13 TDs plus 50 catches for 402 yards and two TDs on 66 targets. There is no doubt that Henry will receive 300+ touches in 2018 leading to about 1,500 combined yards. I expect double-digit TDs with about 25 catches. Derrick is a power runner who will be better with a high volume of touches. Excellent upside RB2 with tremendous upside if he gets the whole show for the Titans.
When comparing RBs to all three teams that drafted four RBs over the first four rounds, a Fantasy owner can see the front end talent plus the potential breakout value of the secondary backs. For comparison, here are my recent projections for the top 26 RBs:
When doing the player profiles, I write my outlook on my player based on how I project his opportunity within an offense and how each team tends to play on the field. I look back at the recent history plus add in my thoughts on roster and coaching change. Generally, my projections will fall short of my outlook on players as I have to temper my giddiness when trying to fit each player within their system.
In the fifth round, this Fantasy owner added Corey Davis who I have listed as my top breakout player in 2018. I didn’t love his choices over the next three picks. Chris Hogan may have gained more value since this draft after the Jordan Matthews injury. I can’t place a WR2 bet on a player that’s never had over 41 catches in his NFL career. I don’t like Robert Woods as much this year with Brandin Cooks added to the Rams’ roster. Devin Funchess will have more competition for targets with a healthy Greg Olsen back in the starting lineup and D.J. Moore added to the roster.
I like the upside of Michael Gallup later in the draft, and Marqise Lee should be a steady option at WR.
When reviewing the WR choices after round 6, I can see the minefield of failure.
His combination at QB will be competitive while accepting backend weakness at TE. He just missed the second tier run at TE in the seventh round, which must have been frustrating while drafting.
He handcuffed Dalvin Cook with Latavius Murray, which is a smart move and one more Fantasy owners should be doing.
I sense that this team is going to fall behind at WR2, WR3, TE, and Flex2 while not owning enough strength at RB to be a consistent team from week-to-week in head-to-head play. If a couple of players breakout and his secondary WRs perform better than expected, this owner will be a waiver wire move or two at WR from being a playoff contender.
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