Digging Deep: Running Back Dynasty Targets

fantasy football
Matt Hicks

This season I’ll be focusing on waiver wire targets, specifically for our dedicated dynasty football readers here at dominatefantasy. Since we cannot yet refresh our waiver-wire at 3 AM to see if we’ve won the claims we desperately need, I’m continuing my 4-part series on players that can pay off in the long-term for patient, invested owners. The majority of the players in this series are players you can trade for at a value, draft late in rookie drafts, or draft mid to late in start-up dynasty drafts.

Matt Breida

Jerick McKinnon leaves much to be desired in the San Francisco backfield. McKinnon’s career high for rushing attempts in 159, and he’s only started 14 games in his 4-year career. In 2017, McKinnon accounted for just 34% of the carries out of Minnesota’s backfield. He averaged just 3.8 yards per carry in 2017, and just 3.4 yards per carry in 2016. I also have concerns about McKinnon’s ability to contribute to the passing game: in 2017 Carlos Hyde saw 6.6 targets/game in Weeks 1-12, when Jimmy Garoppolo was not the starting quarterback. Once Garoppolo took over the 49ers offense, Hyde’s targets dropped to 3 per game. That means there’s a lot of opportunity at a cost-effective value in San Francisco.

Breida had a quietly successful finish to his rookie campaign. The undrafted free agent out of Georgia Southern averaged 4.4 yards/carry in 2017 on 105 attempts, just 45 less than McKinnon had in Minnesota. Breida improved in the second half of the season, once Garoppolo became the starting quarterback and his volume increased. In Weeks 1-12 he averaged 4.8 carries per game for 4.4 yards/game. From Weeks 13-17, his volume increased to 10.4 carries per carry, but he still averaged 4.4 yards/game. In Weeks 16 and 17 he rushed for 146 combined yards and a touchdown against the steadfast Jaguars and Rams defenses. Here’s the most appealing part of Breida: he only saw 36 targets in 2017, meaning he can compliment McKinnon in the 49ers offense as the volume rushing back-a role clearly still up for grabs in what’s anticipated to be a high intensity offense.

Chase Edmonds

Edmonds is a deep stash, but he’s a name worth keeping an eye on. Edmonds compiled 5,862 rushing yards (6.2 yards/carry), 905 receiving yards on 86 receptions (10.5 yards/reception) and an impressive 74 total touchdowns (1.6 touchdowns/game) in his career at Fordham. In 2016, his last full season at Fordham, he rushed for a FCS-leading 163.5 yards per game. Edmonds was drafted in the 4th round by the Arizona Cardinals, just one round later than they drafted David Johnson in 2015. Edmonds has a smaller build than Johnson (5-9, 210 compared to 6-1, 220) but has the athleticism to contribute to the Arizona passing and rushing attack.

Here’s where the sneaky upside comes in. David Johnson is an unrestricted free agent following the 2018 season. Johnson is still playing on his rookie contract, with a base salary of just 1.8 million-a horrifically low number for the 2016 RB1. We’ve seen this off-season how ugly contract negotiations can get for the often-undervalued running back position. If Johnson’s situation starts to go down the Bell track, Arizona could move on from the player who’s only been relevant in 1 of his first 3 seasons. If that becomes the case, Edmonds is the next player up for an Arizona team that is desperately due for a rebuild.

Mark Walton

Walton is my favorite late-round rookie draft pick. He flashed in Miami in 2016-rushing for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns (5.3 yards/carry). Walton was on pace for an even more successful season in 2017, with 7.6 yards/carry and 3 touchdowns on 56 attempts before a week 5 injury cut his season short. Walton (5-10, 200) has the flexibility to contribute to both the rushing and receiving game for the Bengals; a team that has a history of splitting running back duties.

Marvin Lewis tends to involve multiple RBs in his offense: Cincinnati has had at least two running backs rush for 90 or more carries every season since 2013. In 4 of those seasons, two running backs rushed for at least 150 carries. In 2017, Mixon was the lead back, but his 178 attempts were the lowest of any Bengals lead back since 2013. Mixon rushed for just 3.5 yards/carry in 2017, and saw just 34 targets in the passing game, leaving a lot of opportunity for Walton to contribute in 2018. If Walton does make an early impact, it could mean the Bengals move away from Gio Bernard in 2019-a move that would save them nearly $4 million in 2019 cap space.

Latavius Murray

Murray became the lead back in Minnesota after Dalvin Cook went down with an 2017 early season knee injury. He averaged 67 yards/game in the 12 games he saw significant playing time and wracked up 8 touchdowns on his way to a quiet RB25 finish. Murray isn’t new to fantasy relevance; he finished as RB13 in 2016 when he rushed for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns with the Raiders.

I don’t believe Murray poses any threat to Cook’s starting position. What Murray does give the Vikings, however, is a change of pace and redzone back that can take hits away from the young franchise running back returning from a gruesome knee injury. Murray restructured his contract with the Vikings in March so that he’s an unrestricted free agent following the 2018 season. This gives Murray owners potential value in 2018 with the Vikings or starter-level value in 2019 and beyond.

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