Changing Backfields

Changing Backfields

A look at some of the new RBBCs
By: Pete Davidson : May 15, 2014 3:11pm

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When you pull back and look at the fallout from the 2014 NFL Draft, one thing that sticks out, from a fantasy perspective, is all the backfields that got nuked. When you own a back with a decent gig in a dynasty or long term league, the NFL Draft is like an approaching storm. You just hope it misses you or causes minimal damage. So, for all those folks who entered the draft hoping that their RB1 or RB2’s fantasy value would hold steady, we have the fallout. What follows are the ten biggest cube shots and low blows that fantasy owners had to endure on draft weekend. I’ve ranked them roughly by degree of pain.

Obviously, we’ll know more as teams make their intentions more clear and as camp battles begin to play out. Perhaps some rookies will struggle and give the vets some fresh hope. We’ll see. These are our initial thoughts and suggestions.

We’ll have our initial rookie rankings for dynasty leaguers out on Saturday.


Gio Bernard, Bengals

Ouch. It’s possible that a lot of folks don’t realize how good Jeremy Hill can be, but Gio’s value took a big hit when the Bengals went early on a 3-down power back. Hill does have some character concerns, but he’s been a good soldier lately and the Bengals obviously feel comfortable with him and felt that his ability in the passing game made him more desirable than Carlos Hyde. Dealing Bernard right now as the dust is still settling may provide you with the best chance to maximize value. Gio’s still a hot name. Hold out for second round value and you’ll likely get it.

Zac Stacy, Rams

Ka-POW!!!  Tre Mason is not what Zac Stacy owners were hoping for on draft day.  Mason is a back who can challenge Stacy on all three downs and he’s not undersized like the rest of Zac’s competition. Valuing Stacy ahead of training camp has become a decidedly more difficult task. We still like him, but a big camp from Mason could create a shared backfield.

Ben Tate, Browns

I think Tate owners felt confident that running back was not the Cleveland's top priority at the draft.  It makes sense after they dipped into free agency for a back who has played significant snaps for their new OC, Kyle Shanahan. Yeah well, think again. Even with a cavernous hole at receiver and a big investment in Johnny Football, the Browns brought in Terrance West and went on to add the highly-talented Isaiah Crowell as a UDFA. Tate’s long term value took a massive hit. He’s now an underdog. We like all three backs here quite a bit, so it’s a mess. Our early take here is what we told you last year about the Rams. Play value. Take the guy nobody else wants, because all three backs have really high ceilings.

Alfred Morris, Redskins

Maybe you knew it was coming, but Lache Seastrunk could eventually spell the end of Morris’ run as the alpha back in Washington. We’re just as worried about Roy Helu in the short run, but Seastrunk has a lot more upside if he responds well to the coaching he’s going to get in the coming months. I was telling you to sell Morris months ago. I’d sell even harder now if you have somebody who wants Morris.  I’m also looking to get Seastrunk in dynasty drafts if I can swing it.

Frank Gore and Marcus Lattimore, 49ers

You can throw Kendall Hunter owners in there too if you like, but the arrival of Carlos Hyde is a sea change in the San Francisco backfield. This is the guy they’ve been looking for.  Hyde will be scary good in this offense given some time. Frank Gore may retain some value this year as the 49ers will surely make Hyde earn his way to major snaps.  He will have some things to learn, but do not kid yourself ... Carlos Hyde is going to happen. While he will require some learning with pass protection, do not forget that he is a very good blocker. Just watch a highlight reel of Braxton Miller if you need a refresher on this ... and watch number 34 instead of number 5. We think Hyde is potentially the most valuable fantasy asset in this year's rookie drafts, because he can be one of a rare breed: a modern day feature back.  Once he's the starter, we think he can take a 70-80 percent share of the snaps and almost all of the action at or near the stripe.  He can be San Francisco's Marshawn Lynch.

Finally, while we’re cautious about Hyde’s value in 2014, do not discount Jim Harbaugh’s ability to take a vet to the wood shed. Frank Gore won’t be any harder to bench than Alex Smith was. There’s no room for sentimentality in the NFC West. 49ers’ management did not fail to notice how ordinary Frank Gore looked down the stretch last year. This is a fluid situation. Hyde's coming and potentially soon.

Doug Martin, Bucs

We still believe in Martin, but his team drafted a player who has the potential to cut into his fantasy value, especially in leagues that use PPR scoring. While we still view Martin as a RB1, especially in the near term, the development of Charles Sims could become an issue over time. We don’t see Sims as a threat to Martin’s job, because Martin is a superior talent, but we can see Martin giving up a lot of passing downs to the rookie at some point.

Shonn Greene, Titans

I’m sure a lot of Greene owners were hoping for weaker competition than Bishop Sankey, who has the potential to take the big share of the job on Tennessee. And, it could happen right away. Greene should still have a big role and he’s actually an underrated runner, but the Sankey selection in round two carries significant weight. He’s an all-around talent who has pass protection skills. We suspect he’ll rotate with Greene but get more touches to the tune of a 2-to1 ratio.

Stephen Jackson, Falcons

If you were surprised by the Devonta Freeman selection on draft day, then you deserved what you got. This is not a bad beat by any means, but the backfield has been re-faced so it gets some space here. The point we want to make here, is that Freeman is better than his fourth round status might indicate to some folks. We think it’s possible that Devonta takes this job before the season even starts, though we wouldn’t go so far as to bet on it. Jackson still has the talent to make a run. He could stay healthy longer this year. Either way, we expect the rookie to see plenty of time. He should outplay the competition over time and Jackson always has the potential to make it easy on him by getting hurt. The Falcons are clearly unwilling to put the backfield in the hands of Jacquizz Rodgers again. Freeman should get ahead of the smaller Rodgers in camp and we suspect that will be that.

Rashad Jennings, Giants

Since Jennings came into town, two significant bad things have happened. First, David Wilson got a thumbs up to return to the field. That means Jennings is not the most talented back in town. Wilson could give him a run for his money if he’s full recovered from his neck trouble. Jennings’ bad offseason continued on draft day when the Giants selected Andre Williams out of Boston College. While we still like Jennings as the most likely back to have value for the Giants, things are far more muddled as both Wilson and Williams are serious talents and both can steal touches in different ways. Williams has the look of a goal line guy and that’s obviously troubling. This is a volatile backfield for the time being. Pick a lottery ticket. Making things even more tough to predict is new OC Ben McAdoo, who brings West Coast tendencies, but who has used many types of backs in Green Bay. This backfield could go a lot of ways.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, Panthers

The selection of Tyler Gaffney in the sixth round has probably gone unnoticed by many.  It shouldn't.  The Gaffney selection sent a message.  The message is that somebody’s job is on the line. Both Williams and Stewart have contracts that are out-of-line with their relative worth. One of them could become a cap casualty while the other could conceivably get a crack at extended work.  Having said that, do not make the mistake of ruling Gaffney out of the competition and don’t rule out last year’s rookie, Kenjon Barner, for that matter. This backfield is wide open for the cost-conscious Panthers and for the bargain-hunting fantasy GM.  The player I want here for the long term, and I want him cheaply, is Gaffney.