By: The Fantasy Football Clinic
This is Part 2 of our series on the Top Free Agent Running Back Landing Spots in terms of fantasy impact. Click HERE to catch up on Part 1!
As we described in more detail in Part 1, we are not so much concerned about scheme fit in this scenario, but rather we are playing fantasy matchmaker with the running backs. Let’s now dive in on the rest of the top free agent running backs and where we think they’d best thrive for fantasy owners!
Kareem Hunt (RFA)
Physical Metrics: 24 years old, 5-11, 216lb
Career Stats: 35 games, 496 rushes, 2,330 rushing yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 17 rushing TDs. 116 receptions, 1,118 receiving yards, 9.6 yards per catch, 11 receiving TDs.
Ideal landing spots for fantasy value: Miami, Seattle, Philadelphia
(sigh) Kareem Hunt. All-world talent on the field, and all-world poor judgment off of it. We all know the story by now. Kareem Hunt gets kicked off the Chiefs for assault, gets suspended half a season, and the Browns sign him. He performed well in his 8 games for the Browns this past season, but he is already in trouble again, after reportedly being pulled over in Cleveland with possession of marijuana and an open container of alcohol. It is apparent that these character issues with Hunt aren’t going away anytime soon. The new management of the Browns have already stated that Hunt needs to toe a thin line if he wants to stay on the team. Hunt is a RFA this off-season, meaning any team can offer him a contract, but the Browns retain the rights to tender Hunt or match any offer he is given. Given the trouble Hunt has been in recently, it’s no guarantee the Browns want him on the team next season, as they go through YET ANOTHER culture change.
Miami is young, they have cap space, and they are rebuilding. With a glaring hole at RB, Hunt would step in and immediately erase the RB woes Brian Flores dealt with last year. If he can stay out of trouble off the field, we fully expect Hunt to be a top 10 RB in Miami based on volume and talent alone. We can’t forget what this guy was able to do with a full RB1 workload in Kansas City.
Chris Carson, down. Rashaad Penny, ACL tear. Out comes Marshawn Lynch, he takes the hand-off, and he gets…1 yard! The Seahawks need to establish the run in order for Russell Wilson to effectively work the play-action passing game. Hunt could also be the perfect fit to take over for Chris Carson. Hunt is more talented and more durable than Carson, and would give the ‘Hawks a dynamic threat on the ground they have not had since prime Beast Mode. Seattle is also a culture that can readily handle guys who have had past character issues and they aren’t afraid to take risks on guys with off the field issues if they have the talent (ugh, Josh Gordon). If Hunt gets a full workload, he’s an every week RB1.
We know, We know. You fantasy fans are screaming that we’re ruining Miles Sanders’ value. We want to let you all in on a little secret…(psst) Doug Pederson believes in the RBBC (Running Back By Committee) and last year was an outlier due to the amount of injuries to receivers and running backs the Eagles had. This isn’t to say that Sanders won’t be useful in fantasy next year, but we think Pederson would be foolish not to add another RB. Hunt is a skilled runner in between the tackles and could help the Eagles establish a consistent run game. We see Hunt as a Mid RB2 in this situation. This offense would be scary with Hunt and Sanders splitting touches.
Kenyan Drake (UFA)
Physical Metrics: 26 years old, 6-1, 211lb
Career Stats: 62 games, 456 rushes, 2,175 rushing yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 17 rushing TDs. 144 receptions, 1,107 receiving yards, 7.7 yards per catch, 6 receiving TDs.
Ideal landing spots for fantasy value: Arizona, Atlanta, Tampa Bay.
Kenyan Drake was finally freed from the ineptitude of the Dolphins after being traded to the Cardinals mid-season. Drake was absolutely let loose on the Cardinals. It’s obvious he has the talent to be a consistent RB1, but he just needs the opportunity to do so. I’ve always been a Kenyan Drake truther, so I am PUMPED this guy was finally given a chance to breakout. The best thing for Drake going into free agency is that he has relatively low miles, he’s young, and he’s a threat in the passing game as well. He is everything NFL teams want in a modern RB. This should be his only major contract in the NFL, given his age, so look for Drake to cash-in during free agency this off-season.
The obvious answer in free agency is the team that traded draft capital for Drake (even if it wasn’t much). The only problem with a return to the Cardinals is David Johnson’s massive contract still on the books. Don’t expect Drake to take a pay cut to stay with the Cardinals either. With reports of DJ being on the chopping block for the Cardinals (even though the dead cap hit will be massive) it looks like Arizona could be clearing the way to make a run at resigning Kenyan Drake. If Arizona can resign him, we would lock Drake in as a top 12 RB for the season. This guy is for real if he gets the touches.
If Devonta Freeman gets cut, Drake could be the perfect RB for this dynamic offense. He can run and catch the football, which is exactly what the Dirty Birds need in their RB1. Drake has some explosiveness that Freeman seems to have now lost. Drake would be facing defenses that are spread out by Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, so he could put up a lot of yards from scrimmage. In this situation, we’re locking Drake in as a Low-RB1/High RB2 in PPR formats.
Hey hey Tampa Bay, Bucs are gonna SHINEEE! Bruce Arians and Tampa Bay will be shining as bright as the Florida sun if they get their hands on Kenyan Drake. We all saw what Arians was able to do with prime David Johnson in his offense. If Drake goes to Tampa Bay, the upside is massive. We see Drake as a Top-8 RB in this system in full PPR formats, but he could be higher. The usage and volume will be there for Drake if Arians pursues him. This could be a dark horse team in the Kenyan race.
Jordan Howard (UFA)
Physical Metrics: 25 years old, 6-0, 224lb
Career Stats: 57 games, 897 rushes, 3,895 rushing yards, 4.3 yards per carry, 30 rushing TDs.
82 receptions, 637 receiving yards, 7.8 yards per catch, 2 receiving TDs.
Ideal landing spots for fantasy value: Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh
We’ll be honest with everyone from the start. Jordan Howard is one of our least favorite players. He’s not exciting to watch, he’s just an in-between the tackles runner, and doesn’t add much to the passing game. But you know what? The guy just gets the job done. Since entering the league, Howard has consistently been one of the best RBs in the league in terms of running the football. Howard is constantly disrespected in both NFL and fantasy circles, and it’s time that changes. We think a lot of teams could use someone with Howard’s skill set.
Don’t cry Devin Singletary fans, JHow is here to soothe you. While it would not be ideal for anyone who has shares of Singletary, We legitimately think Howard is a great fit for this offense. We could see Howard taking a bulk of the touches in the offense, but not by much. We could see the split being about 60/40 with Howard and Singletary. This relationship reminds us a lot of the Saints with Mark Ingram and early career Alvin Kamara, so both could have fantasy utility. In most formats, I would peg Howard as a Low-RB2 in Buffalo.
As Lions fans ourselves, we have witnessed first-hand Jordan Howard running up and down the turf at Ford Field. The dude just grinds out yards. The Lions have been looking for a veteran in-between the tackles runner for years now (Blount, Anderson) and have failed to find a consistent one. I think Howard could alleviate the workload on Kerryon Johnson, and could be the thunder to his lightning, with Kerryon handing the passing downs and Howard handling the rest. Howard could be a low-end RB2/FLEX in this scenario.
Obviously James Conner cannot handle a full workhorse load in that backfield. I’m not saying Conner is bad by any means, but I just think he needs help. The Steelers could be the biggest dark horse for a deep playoff run if Big Ben can come back healthy this next year. Playoff teams need a grinding RB that can keep the ball safe and kill the clock in tight games, and Howard fits the bill. He would be a perfect complement to Conner, who excels in the passing game. We’d put Howard as a Low RB2/FLEX in this scenario.
Austin Ekeler (RFA)
Physical Metrics: 24 years old, 5-10, 200lb
Career Stats: 46 games, 285 rushes, 1,371 rushing yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 8 rushing TDs.
158 receptions, 1,676 receiving yards, 10.6 yards per catch, 14 receiving TDs.
Ideal landing spots for fantasy value: LA Chargers, New England, Kansas City
The maestro of pass-catching, the under 6-foot wonder on the field, Austin Ekeler fits the mold of today’s modern scat-back, and could have value to almost any NFL team. He can run in between the tackles, but he does best in the open field with the screen and short passing game. Just get the ball in his hands and the dude will make a play. Given that he is a restricted free agent, it is most likely the Chargers retain him, since they can’t afford to lose both Ekeler and Gordon.
If Gordon is not back with the Chargers and they don’t go out and sign anyone else, you can expect Ekeler to be a top 5 RB in PPR formats. That’s the pace he was on last season before the return of Gordon. This will be a bit dependent on what QB the team signs, since Rivers is out the door, but we think Ekeler has one of the highest floors out of all fantasy RBs in the league.
We know, James White is there, but New England obviously needs more pass-catching options than White and Edelman. Brady probably will not return to New England unless the team loads up on offensive playmakers. If Ekeler gets the appropriate snaps in this offense he could be deadly. But, since it is the New England backfield, we think it does limit his fantasy potential. We’d put him as a Top 15 PPR option in this offense.
Now we’re just dreaming at this point. We would love to see Ekeler in the Andy Reid offense. We think Ekeler could put up a historic fantasy season in this offense. I think Reid is creative enough as a play caller to get Ekeler involved both as a RB and WR. I would love to see Ekeler against a spread out box that the KC offense provides. We believe he would be a Top 10 PPR RB in KC.
Matt Breida (RFA)
Physical Metrics: 24 years old, 5-11, 195lb
Career Stats: 43 games, 381 rushes, 1,902 rushing yards, 5.0 yards per carry, 6 rushing TDs.
67 receptions, 561 receiving yards, 8.4 yards per catch, 4 receiving TDs.
Ideal landing spots for fantasy value: Seattle, Miami, Detroit
This guy is one of our favorite RBs to watch. When we watch Breida, we see a smooth runner who can get it done in the running and passing game. We think he could be a great addition for a team in need of a workhorse RB. He has had his injury issues thus far, but when he’s on the field, he’s extremely effective. Breida is also a restricted free agent, but given all the useful RBs the 49ers have, we wouldn’t be surprised if a team offers him a chunk of money that San Francisco does not feel compelled to match.
Again, Seattle was hurt badly by the injuries to their RBs. They simply need more depth behind Carson, given that Penny has either been ineffective on the field or hurt. Breida would be a nice complement in this backfield to take some of the pressure off Carson. In a timeshare with Carson, we would expect Breida to be a weekly FLEX consideration in most league formats.
Breida is young enough and has few enough carries to be in serious consideration for the Dolphins. We think he’d split time with someone in the backfield, but that he’d be more useful in fantasy with the Dolphins than any other team, given the amount of touches he’d be likely to receive. We’d slot Breida in as a low-end RB2 in Miami.
Another team hurting for a consistent ground game when their starting RB goes down, Breida would be a great fit in Detroit with Bevell’s run-heavy scheme. Detroit likes to use their RBs in the run and pass game, which could be a perfect fit for Breida, given he has both skill sets. We’d put him as a low-end RB2/FLEX if he were to go to Detroit.
These are all hypothetical scenarios based on where we feel RBs could have the best fantasy utility. If you haven’t checked out Part 1 yet, what are you waiting for? Go check it out HERE. If you disagree, or have comments, please let us know at our Twitter @ClinicFantasy. We’re always happy to hear the thoughts of readers, thanks again for reading!
Top 10 Free Agent Running Back Landing Spots Part 2Tweet