Now that the smoke has settled for Fantasy Football 2018, it is on to next year. One of the more intriguing story lines as we build up to the NFL Draft is all of the impending free agents at premium positions in Fantasy Football. Players can officially sign on March 14, which will be here before we know it. So, let’s talk about potential scenarios for some of the more compelling free agent running backs.
There are a LOT of free agent running backs, so this piece will take up two articles (the next when will be out next week). The ensuing two weeks will be on wide receivers, and I will even include quarterbacks and tight ends which should bring us to the end of February.
I will write about these players from a Redraft perspective, but will also include age and the hypothetical outlook for Dynasty leagues.
Fantasy Outlook: 2019 Free Agent Running Backs
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Le’Veon Bell (Turns 27 in February)
Despite what you think of Bell, he is one of the best running backs in the NFL. He will be an asset to any team that signs him. Can he be a distraction off the field? Maybe. But, as long as he is healthy and on an NFL roster, he is still a first round draft pick at this point.
Let’s take a look at the potential suitors.
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts have the most cap space to work with ($1.15M according to Spotrac.com) and are the most talented team on this list. Bell has expressed interest in the Colts who produced one of the leagues best offensive lines in 2018.
It would be a match made in Fantasy Heaven with Andrew Luck side-arming to Bell in the flat for a 30-yard gain. If the Colts are to sign Bell, there is an argument to be made that he should be a Top 5 pick in Redraft leagues even though he sat out last season. That is just bonkers.
There are two players that make this scenario a bit more complex: Marlon Mack and Antonio Brown.
Mack out-produced what most expected out of him in 2018. 195 carries for 908 yards and nine touchdowns in only 12 games. He averaged 4.7 Yards Per Carry for those of you who were using his YPC as an anti-Mack narrative last offseason.
Mack, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins give the Colts a more than serviceable trio behind one of the leagues top rated O-lines.
Antonio Brown makes things interesting because he could be traded this offseason. If you ask me, a Colts team that has Brown lined up opposite of T.Y. Hilton would make the Colts offense as good as any in the NFL. But, that is merely speculative as the Colts have shown no interest in Brown as of now.
New York Jets: Although the Colts technically have the most cap space, the Jets might be willing to pay more for Bell. Especially when you consider that Bell reportedly wants $17M a year with $45M guaranteed.
The Jets will undoubtedly be willing to make Bell the highest paid running back in the NFL. From a Fantasy perspective, Bell could be great in this offense which features a pass-catching running back. Sam Darnold would rely on Bell with check downs and he would rack up over 250 carries in the Jets offense.
While the under-talented Jets team would be a drop-off from the Colts, Bell still has RB1 upside as the all-purpose back on the Jets.
Houston Texans: This is the one I want to take place. I think the pieces are in place for the Texans to make Bell a Top-5 back in Fantasy Football. The Texans supported a RB2 in Lamar Miller this season with 235 touches. Of course Miller would have to take a back seat to Bell if the Texans signed the former Steeler.
Those 235 touches would increase substantially for Bell and the Texans as a team would be able to thrive with a lethal trip of DeShaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Bell. However, if Bell is serious about $45m guaranteed, the Texans may be reluctant to oblige as they only have $61M in total cap space for 2019.
Mark Ingram (29)
After eight years under Sean Payton, Mark Ingram is finally free. The Saints are obviously going in another direction with Alvin Kamara and it is known that Payton and Ingram did not always see eye to eye. Ingram still has good years left as he ran for 645 yards on 138 carries and six touchdowns while adding 21 catches for 170 yards and a score.
Buffalo Bills: With LeSean McCoy (31 in July) getting older, the Bills could use some balance at the running back position. The tandem of McCoy and Ingram would be intriguing from a Fantasy perspective with Josh Allen at quarterback. The running game in Buffalo would be a triple threat.
The Bills have plenty of cap space and Ingram was making a little over $3M last season. The Bills could pay him more without breaking the bank.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are missing a true workhorse running back and have brought in Head Coach Bruce Arians who will require one.
Ingram has proven he is a reliable pass-catcher. Before last season he managed to post two consecutive seasons of at least 1,000 yards rushing and at least 46 receptions. For Ingram, Tampa Bay would be enticing because he would be the No. 1 option in a high-powered offense. With the Buccaneers in 2019, Ingram would seriously have RB1 upside, but would be a safe bet as an RB2.
Wherever Ingram lands, he will most likely be a good value selection in 2019 Redraft leagues and is maybe tops the list of free agent running backs with the most to gain.
Tevin Coleman (Turns 26 in April)
While Coleman was disappointing from a Fantasy perspective in 2019 (Rb19), he actually had a career-year. Of course, Devonta Freeman went down in Week 2 which gave Coleman his first shot at being a workhorse back.
Coleman rushed for a career-high 800 yards on 167 attempts. He caught 32 passes for 276 yards with nine total touchdowns on the season.
Perhaps it was his usage in the passing game that left a lot to be desired, but if he landed in the right situation, we could see Coleman have a big year.
San Francisco 49ers: The connection to the 49ers for Coleman has been publicized for a while now. Kyle Shanahan, who was the Offensive Coordinator on the 2016 Falcons that almost won the Super Bowl, would put Coleman in a position to succeed.
In 2016 Coleman had almsot 1,000 all-purpose yards with 11 touchdowns and was featured in the pass game for explosive plays. The only issue would be the number of running backs the 49ers are currently rostering – including Jerick McKinnon who missed 2018 with a torn ACL.
The 49ers would most likely use Coleman AND McKinnon with Matt Breida being phased out. It would not be the end of the world for Coleman in terms of Fantasy, as he was able to put up RB2 numbers in 2016 working alongside Freeman in the backfield.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: They need somebody. Coleman possesses the dual-threat skills that the Buccaneers and Bruce Arians would love in 2019.
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