Part 1 of this series had the bigger names in Fantasy Football. But, it is this piece that I think will account for the more valuable draft picks in 2019. I am leaving Kareem Hunt off of this series because his future is uncertain at this point. If he is removed from the exempt list, he would undoubtedly be one of the more intriguing free agent running backs next season.
All of the players on this list were start-worthy for multiple games this season. Injuries, fluctuating up and down the depth chart, and flat out lack of usage made these players inconsistent in 2018.
Recency bias lingers into the Summer. Thus, the perceived value of these running backs next season may be negatively skewed- and I will be there to pluck them off draft boards in August.
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Free Agent Running Backs – Part 2
Alex Collins (Turns 25 in August)
Despite almost putting up 1,000 yards in 2017, Alex Collins journey in Baltimore seems over. Collins was a hot topic in the offseason and was rightfully drafted in the fourth/fifth round of redraft leagues.
As the lead back with nobody on the depth chart presenting a real threat, the 24-year old Collins was even getting some huge buzz in dynasty formats.
Collins rushed for 411 yards on 114 carries (3.6 YPC) in 2018, however. Even with the lack of efficiency and touches, he managed the find the end zone eight times.
Once Joe Flacco went down with a hip injury the Ravens revamped their offense. Lead by Lamar Jackson, the Ravens opted to put Gus Edwards in the starting role. Kenneth Dixon would eventually leap over Collins in the depth chart as well. Edwards and Dixon will be the one-two punch in Baltimore in 2019. Collins is a restricted free agent and Buck Allen and Ty Montgomery are free agents. I imagine the Ravens will try to sign one of the latter and let Collins walk.
If Collins finds himself in a starting job next season, or even in a complementary role, he can produce. Let’s see what teams make sense.
Oakland Raiders: The location of their home games in 2019 is not the only thing in question for the Raiders next season. Jon Gruden’s controversial tenure thus far should only get more interesting as the future of Marshawn Lynch (32) is uncertain.
Lynch and Doug Martin are unrestricted free agents next season (Jalen Richard is a restricted free agent). If Lynch retires or wants to go to a contender (replace Mark Ingram in New Orleans?) and Martin moves on, The Raiders would be a great fit for Collins.
Chris Warren III might have something to say about that, but the two would certainly compete for the starting role. Collins downhill style of running, and ability to score in the red zone would give him a chance to have success next season on the Raiders.
New Orleans Saints: With Mark Ingram most likely gone, the Saints will have a need to fill. Alvin Kamara will see his first season of an expanded role away from Ingram, but the Saints will still want to pair a down-hill runner with the electric Kamara.
While Lynch would be a great story and a great fit, Collins could step into this role. The Saints are more of a run-first team than ever and Collins would receive a lot of work in the red zone. Five of his seven rushing touchdowns were within the 10-yard line. Kamara and Mark Ingram combined for 14 scores inside 10 yards of the end zone in 2018.
T.J. Yeldon (Turns 26 in October)
Perhaps my favorite of this group, Yeldon has an opportunity to take his career to the next level in 2019. In a fill-in role for Lenard Fournette, Yeldon was often the workhorse for the Jaguars in 2018.
Yeldon had at least 11 touches in each of the first seven games in 2018. In four of those games he had a touchdown. He also was able to rack up 55 receptions in 2018 which was a career-high.
Yeldon would thrive in a role where he can receive 10-12 carries a game plus 6-7 targets. However, he can still be Fantasy relevant in a complementary role.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: With Bruce Arians presumably calling the offensive plays in Tampa, there will be a need for a pass-catching running back. Peyton Barber and Jaquizz Rodgers are UFAs and could both be gone. Ronald Jones could compete for a starting job next year, but consequently has never been known as a pass-catcher.
Yeldon landing on the Bucs would make him a candidate to receive 300 touches in 2019. His career-high in that category is 218 (2015). Yet, I see Yeldon being like Jerrick McKinnon of last season. A talented back who has not had the keys to the backfield. Arians and the Bucs would be Yeldon’s opportunity.
At 26, the Bucs would land a young running back that they could sign at a discount compared to others on the market. They would also snag the best pass-catcher of the bunch. At 6’1, 226 pounds Yeldon has the build and abilities to take on the workload that would make him a Fantasy asset in 2019.
Atlanta Falcons: If The Bucs don’t land Yeldon one of the consequences may be that the Falcons could be in play to sign the four-year veteran.
Tevin Coleman is most likely on to bigger and better things (see part 1) so the Falcons will have a need to replace him. With offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter coming back, the ability to provide two running backs with Fantasy relevant production increases.
In 2016 Devonta Freeman was the RB6 overall and Coleman was the RB18. Freeman will be back and may be a step slower. Whoever is in that satellite back role for Atlanta will not only have stand-alone value, but RB1 potential if Freeman were to miss time.
Yeldon could end up on the Jets and just be another cog in the backfield. If he lands on a team that knows how to use him, however, I think he is a steal in redraft and dynasty leagues.
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