ROOKIE RUNNING BACKS
Matthew Phillips – May 21, 2018
The running back position could once again dominate fantasy football drafts in 2018 as eight went in the first three rounds of this year’s NFL Draft. Beginning with the No. 2 overall pick, Saquon Barkley now of the New York Giants, all the way down to Royce Freeman who went to the Denver Broncos with the 71st pick, there are some seriously talented running backs that could make a huge impact come this fantasy football season. It could be reminiscent of a season ago when guys like Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, and Alvin Kamara each had fantastic seasons. Who will it be in 2018?
Each of the four previously mentioned backs gained at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage and finished among the Top 10 of fantasy running backs. In fact, 5 rookie RBs from the last 2 years have produced over 1000 yards from scrimmage. This year’s crop could do the same and the one to watch early on is Barkley, the dynamically talented back out of Penn State. It’s not breaking news that the former Nittany Lion is a threat in both the run and pass games as well as a gifted kick returner. Last season, Barkley returned two kickoffs for scores in addition to running for 1,271 yards and catching 54 passes for 632 more. Barkley is being drafted in the 1st and 2nd rounds of most redraft leagues and the potential return may be worth it.
Barkley is the only likely fantasy first-rounder in this year’s group of rookie running backs, but Rashaad Penny, Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones, and Freeman might make their way into the fourth round of a standard 12-team fantasy draft. Penny is a big back with 4.4 speed who rushed for 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at San Diego State last season. He could become the feature back in a run-heavy Seattle offense. Chubb, who shared the backfield with first-rounder Sony Michel at Georgia, could do the same in Cleveland. With the release of Doug Martin in Tampa Bay, Jones could step in and start immediately and Freeman may be in a similar situation in Denver.
Drafting rookies in fantasy football can be difficult. There are no projections to work with, but considering how well rookie running backs performed a year ago, fantasy owners should take a good long look at this year’s crop of ball carriers. Despite the risk, drafting any one of the top eight rookie running backs – Barkley, Penny, Michel, Chubb, Jones, Kerryon Johnson, Derrius Guice, and Freeman – could produce tremendous rewards.