Below we have five running backs I’ll be queuing up in my fantasy drafts this season. I believe these backs will outplay their average draft position. Unless I have an early draft pick, I’ll likely lean toward wide receivers near the start of my drafts. I like their ability to stay on the field compared to running backs and I like the value you can get from running backs later in drafts. That makes these players key to my draft strategy this season.
Running back draft targets
Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams (RB25, Overall 61)
Henderson was a much hyped player the last two seasons in fantasy due to the Rams offense and his skill set in college, but they went out and drafted Cam Akers and Akers ended up leading the backfield late last season. Akers did win the bulk of the work late, but Henderson still had slightly better stats overall.
Akers rushed 145 times for 625 yards and three touchdowns while catching 11-of-14 targets for 123 yards and one touchdown. Henderson rushed 138 times for 625 yards and five touchdowns while catching 16-of-24 targets for 159 yards and one touchdown. Akers is done for the season with a torn Achilles and Henderson will take over the lead role with very little in the way of backups to push him for touches. As it stands, Henderson looks like a great pick for his likely workload in an offense that should be better with Matthew Stafford instead of Jared Goff.
Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens (RB44, Overall 127)
Last season Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins split work fairly evenly, as Dobbins had 152 touches and Edwards had 158. Dobbins did see 24 targets to Edwards’ 14 and scored nine touchdowns to Edwards’ six, while also beating him in yards per carry at six to Edwards’ five. The hope for Dobbins fans is that he’ll take over the backfield this season, but it’s likely still going to be a split.
What that split is will determine their fantasy value, but at his current ADP, I find it hard to pass on Edwards in such a run friendly offense. An injury to Dobbins makes him a stud fantasy play, but at his ADP, he still should be a useful player for your average league.
Damien Harris, New England Patriots (RB33, Overall 88)
Harris is on a Patriots team that is always tough to choose running backs correctly. Thankfully that history has pushed their ADP back this season and I expect their offense to be better this year, no matter who plays quarterback.
This is still preliminary, but in their first preseason game, he was the clear lead back and only shared time with James White in clear passing situations. Coach Bill Belichick has been praising Harris this summer. When the two were both healthy at the same time last season, Harris out-touched Sony Michel 41 to 17. If he can stay healthy, he has a good shot at being the lead back for the Patriots.
Gio Bernard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (RB51, Overall 166)
His ADP will probably start rising after coach Bruce Arians praised him on Thursday, but either way, he’s so far down that there’s likely going to be a chance to get him at value in this weekend’s drafts.
Last season the Buccaneers ranked sixth in targets to running backs, but 14th in receptions and 20th in running back receiving yards. We know the Bucs offense is good and that Tom Brady can get the ball to his backs through the air, but there was a big need for an upgrade over Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette as receivers. Bernard should fill that role nicely and get plenty of work. He’s not a receiver who’s going to put up a ton of yards after the catch, but he could easily top 60 receptions this season and help boost your PPR fantasy teams.
Trey Sermon, San Franciso 49ers (RB34, Overall 89)
The 49ers backfield can be a pain in the rear much like the Patriots, but the upside is great with Kyle Shanahan drawing up the offensive schemes. Sermon appears to have the No. 2 job in San Francisco while Raheem Mostert has had tremendous trouble staying healthy. But even if Mostert can stay healthy, Sermon has a shot at beating him out for touches, as Shanahan does not play favorites.