Fantasy Football – Rookie RB Breakdown

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Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

6.) Storm Johnson, Jaguars

Playing time – With Jags legend MJD now a Raider, the running back position is a free for all in Jacksonville. The Jags brought in Toby Gerhart in free agency and he is slated as the #1 RB on the depth chart, but the other two RBs in camp (Jordan Todman & Denard Robinson) are better suited as back-ups. Gerhart has had some experience as the lead back in Minnesota when AP went down and showed flashes of lead back ability, but the Vikings have one of the best run-blocker O-lines in the league and those wide running lanes aren’t going to be there with the Jags. It will be interesting to see if Gerhart has the juice to succeed as the main option. If he can’t Storm Johnson will be the next man in line for a shot. Even as a back-up he should still get 8-10 carries per game and is a competent receiver out of the backfield so he could catch a few balls as well.

Fantasy Outlook – I’m making a bold prediction right now that Storm Johnson finishes in the top five for offensive rookie of the year. I know top 5 isn’t the boldest thing you heard today, but for a 7th round pick that would be a great season for Johnson. He has the size to hold up as a workhorse back (6’0, 210), has excellent vision, can break tackles, catch the ball out of backfield, and has underrated shiftiness. He’s not a burner so won’t be breaking many long runs and his pass blocking needs work if he’s going to be a 3-down back, but the potential is there for a 1,000 yard, 50 catch, 10+ TD season if he wins the job. About half of those numbers is a more realistic expectation, but if he can beat out Gerhart then he has RB2 potential.

Auction value – Re-draft $2, Keeper $5

2013 Statistical comparison – Donald Brown

Draft him ahead of – David Wilson, Latavius Murray

7.) Carlos Hyde, 49ers:

Playing time – At first glance it looks like a crowded backfield, but workhorse Frank Gore is 31 with a lot of mileage on his legs. Kendall Hunter has been productive (4.6 ypc) but is a free agent next season, Lamichael James is on his way out of town, and Marcus Lattimore isn’t healthy enough to be cleared for rookie mini-camp. For this year I think Hyde will be limited to a back-up role, but he’s got a chance to be the feature back as soon as 2015. The 49ers have been giving Gore more rest every season and if he stays healthy, I think around 125 carries is Hyde’s ceiling this year.

Fantasy outlook – Hyde was the closest thing to Frank Gore in this year’s draft and it should be a smooth integration into the Niners offense. Hyde is a powerful back with surprising wiggle for his size and could be a beast once he takes over the #1 role. I don’t think that will be until 2015 at the earliest, so for this year Hyde is nothing more than a late round stash who could vulture some short yardage TDs, but won’t get enough carries to be an every week starter.

Auction value – Re-draft $2, Keeper: $10

2013 Statistical comparison – Montee Ball

Draft ahead of – Andre Brown, James Starks

8.) Lorenzo Taliaferro, Ravens

Playing time – Ray Rice is going to get suspended and how many games he misses will have a direct impact on Taliaferro’s playing time. If it’s 1-2, then that isn’t really long enough for Taliaferro to establish himself as an impact player, but if it’s 4 or more than that could be all the time he needs to prove that he deserves a portion of the overall carries. Bernard Pierce will be the #1 RB when Rice is out, but he showed last year in his stint as the #1 RB that he is better off as a back-up with limited carries (2.9 ypc). Pierce is a powerful runner, but doesn’t have the jets to get outside and is limited as a receiver. With Rice out of the picture for a few games at least, Taliaferro could prove a better option than Pierce and his touches will increase accordingly. If he struggles while Rice is out, then he’s on the end of the bench as the 3rd RB. Taliaferro’s recent arrest for being drunk in public may lead to some discipline from the commish, but it is his first offense so I don’t think he’ll be suspended.

Fantasy Outlook – Taliaferro does a lot of things really well, but similar to James White doesn’t have one defining characteristic. He’s tall for a back and his upright running style could lead to injuries, but he was durable in college and very productive (1,729 yards, 6.3 ypc). He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, one of the best pass blockers of the rookie class, and has deceptive speed (4.58) for a guy his size (6’0, 229). I am higher on Taliferro than most and think he is going to eventually push Rice out of Baltimore.

Auction value – Re-draft $1, Keeper $5

2013 Statistical comparison – Joique Bell

Draft him ahead of – Andre Brown, James Starks

9.) Andre Williams, Giants

Playing time – There are some bodies in front of Williams in Jennings, Hillis and maybe David Wilson, but they all have their flaws. Jennings should be the starter out of the gate and has the talent to keep the job, but he has struggled to stay healthy when given a full work load. Wilson is coming off a career threatening neck injury and it’s questionable how much he will be able to contribute. Hillis is nothing more than a short-yardage back and none of the other rostered backs (Scott, Cox) are more than depth. If Jennings gets banged up, I think Williams is the next best option on the roster to take over as the feature back. If not I still think Williams gets 8-10 carries a game to keep Jennings fresh. The opportunity is there for Williams but he needs to show he can catch the ball after not having any catches last season.

Fantasy outlook – The Giants have a bunch of mediocre running backs, but Williams is the one best suited to a workhorse role. If he can earn the lead back job, he could be a beast and make a fantasy impact. Williams had 355 carries last year so he proved he can hold up to a feature back workload and if he can win the job he should be a solid RB2 in fantasy. If not, his fantasy value will be limited since he doesn’t catch the ball and won’t see more than 8-10 carries a game as a back-up.

Auction value – Re-draft $1, Keeper $5

2013 Statistical comparison – Joique Bell

Draft ahead of – Andre Brown, James Starks

10.) Charles Sims, Bucs:

Playing time – Sims joins a crowded backfield with starter Doug Martin and capable backups Bobby Rainey and Mike James. Sims does have the benefit of being a 3rd round pick and with new coach Lovie Smith taking over, the fact that Sims is a Matt Forte clone will certainly help his chances of seeing the field. Martin is coming off a serious injury last year so if he’s not 100% Sims could see quite a few carries early. He’s also a smooth receiver out of the backfield and can block a little, so he may see 3rd down snaps as well. All things considered I think Sims will see around 100 carries this year and catch 40-50 passes.

Fantasy outlook – Barring another Martin injury, I don’t see Sims getting enough touches to be fantasy relevant but he isn’t a bad stash for the end of your roster. Martin has a checkered injury history and the Bucs wouldn’t have spent a 3rd round pick on Sims if they didn’t like him. I think he’ll have a similar fantasy value to Jacquizz Rodgers last year which is end of the bench territory, but unlike Rodgers Sims has #RB2 upside should Martin go down.

2013 Statistical comparison – Jacquizz Rodgers

Auction value – Re-draft $1, Keeper $3

Draft ahead of – Jacquizz Rodgers, Bryce Brown

11.) Ka’Deem Carey, Bears

Playing time – Matt Forte is the clear starter in Chicago, but Carey has a shot to be the primary back-up which could mean 6-8 carries per game and a catch or two. Carey’s not likely to see more than that unless Forte goes down. If he does, Carey is the best receiver and pass blocker among Forte’s back-ups so he should have a clear path to around 20 touches per game.

Fantasy outlook – Carey is a tough runner with great vision who should be able to put up decent stats in his limited carries. The Bears have struggled in short-yardage situations the last few years and if Carey can take over that role, he could vulture 5-6 TDs this year to go with around 500-600 yards. That’s not fantasy starter material, but a decent guy to have on your bench. If Forte were go get hurt, Carey has RB2 potential and maybe more in PRR league because he is a solid receiver out of the backfield. Let’s hope nothing happens to Forte though… Forte is under contract until 2016 so Carey isn’t going to be a fantasy factor any time soon.

* From this point on every player has $1 value and is an end-of-your bench handcuff. 

12.) James White, Patriots

Playing time – One of my favorite backs in the draft and he ended up with a team that could be leaning on him as early as mid-season. White will start out behind Stephan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden on the depth chart, but HC Bill Belichick has shown a willingness to play any RB that can hold on to the ball and that is one of White’s many strengths. Ridley will start the season as the lead back, but he has struggled with fumbles the last two seasons, back-up Brandon Bolden is nothing special, Vereen is more of a receiver than a running back  and LeGarrett Blount is no longer with the Pats. I think White will have a start under his belt by week 9

Fantasy Outlook – White doens’t stand out in any aspect of the game, but he is solid at all of them. He can catch, block, hold on to the ball, and take what’s given to him. I don’t see a ton of huge games in White’s future but a 25 carry, 100 yard, 5 catch game isn’t a stretch. Sometimes fantasy output is more about opportunity than ability and if Ridley has fumbling problems again then I think White will get a chance to be the lead back in New England this year.

13.) De’Anthony Thomas, Chiefs

Playing time – Thomas should take over Dexter McCluster’s role with the Chiefs last year. which should result in a carry or two per game and 3-4 catches. He has blazing speed and is as elusive as any back in this year’s draft but his small frame keeps him from becoming anything more than a situational player. Thomas could also handle kick & punt return duties which increases his value in some leagues.

Fantasy Outlook – He should break a big play or two this season, but on a week to week basis isn’t a viable fantasy option. If you’re in a PPR league that counts return yards than Thomas may warrant a spot on your bench since he should be a dangerous return man and give you 3-4 receptions per game. In most leagues, those are waiver wire stats.

14.) Dri Archer, Steelers:

Playing time – Archer should take over as the Steelers primary kick and punt returner right away. I don’t see Archer getting many carries as a standard running back this season, but I see the Steelers using him in a number of trick plays like reverses and he might catch the occasional screen pass to get him out in space or even be used as a slot receiver.

Fantasy impact – If your league counts return yards, then Archer may have some value but I don’t see him getting enough touches on offense to have a fantasy impact. Eventually he might develop into a Dexter McCluster type with a Darren Sproles ceiling.

15.) Jerick McKinnon, Vikings:

Playing time – If AP stays healthy all year, then there won’t be much playing time for McKinnon who is making the transition from college QB to RB. AP has had his troubles staying healthy the last few seasons though and even if he does the Vikings may give him a series off every once in a while to keep him fresh. Unless AP misses actual games though, I don’t see McKinnon getting enough carries to make an impact in fantasy. He could see some time as a kick or punt returner.

Fantasy Outlook – After watching McKinnon struggle at RB in the Senior Bowl I thought he’d be switched to defensive back in the pros, but it sounds like the Vikings are going to use him as a running back. There is no doubting his athletic ability after one of the best overall performances at the combine. He’s transitioning from QB so it is going to take a while for him to get comfortable at his new position and he may split backup duties with Matt Asiata. I’d be surprised if McKinnon gets enough touches to even warrant fantasy consideration this year.