Tier 2 Running Backs: Studs or Duds?

Your sitting in the back half of the 1st round, or maybe even the beginning of the second, and wondering to yourself which player should you take? You’re saying to yourself “Maybe I should take a Wide Receiver since the top 3 running backs are off the board, so let me stock up now and find running backs later.” I am here to tell you, DON’T PANIC!!! Taking a Runningback in the late first round a great choice, but which one should you take? Today I will be giving you a rundown of why this year’s Tier 2 Running backs could be studs or duds.

LeSean McCoy

ADP: 7

2016 Stats: Attempts: 234 Yards: 1,267 Receptions: 50 Yards: 356 Total TD’s: 14

 Why he could be a Stud: For starters, McCoy has incredible yards per attempt at 5.4 yards a carry, which is the highest he has averaged in his career. He is an explosive player with lateral movement unparalleled by the rest of the league. Next, he was getting goal line carries siphoned away from him by Mike Gillislee, but that will no longer happen, as Gillislee has signed a deal with the New England Patriots in the offseason. This in return kind of spells out more touches for LeSean considering a real dependable backup has yet to be established. Finally, Last year McCoy finished as either an RB1 or RB2 86% of the time, meaning he is going to give you that consistent floor from week-to-week.

Why he could be a Dud: The ball might be spread around a little more. Since McCoy is going to be the primary focus out of the backfield, the Bills will look to spread the ball around with their passing attack, including new Bills receiver Zay Jones who looks primed and ready to make a serious impact. Secondly, the Bills brought in a new offensive coordinator in Rick Dennison, (previously with the Denver Broncos) who is looking to bring new life to the passing attack with the QB under center running a lot of play action. This isn’t alarming news, but McCoy operates much better out of the shotgun formation. Lastly, although it is a minor example in the grand scheme of things, according to CBSsports.com, The Bills have the 5th toughest schedule this year.

 My Prediction: Stud

Melvin Gordon

ADP: 8

2016 Stats: Attempts: 254 Yards: 997 Receptions: 41 Yards: 419 Total TD’s: 12

 Why he could be a Stud: This offseason the Chargers made a number of big moves to help Gordon really take hold of this backfield. First, they hired Anthony Lynn as their new head coach from Buffalo, who has been heralded as the running back master. Lynn produced a backfield that was number one in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Next, the real competition in the backfield last year is gone, as Danny Woodhead signed a contract in the offseason with the Baltimore Ravens. With Woodhead now on a new roster, Melvin’s volume of usage should be on the rise this season. Lastly, the Chargers will be a lot healthier this year on the offensive side of the ball, so they should not see 8 guys in the box every time they line up like last year, thus allowing for a more spread around attack and bigger lanes for Gordon to run through.

Why he could be a Dud: As you can see from last year’s stats, Gordon was not the most efficient running back coming in at just 3.9 yards per carry, so the increased volume that he may receive from Woodhead’s departure could end up hurting him. Next, Gordon has yet to eclipse 1000 yards in his career, he was one of only two running backs last year with over 250 carries who did not achieve 1000 yards or more. Overall you would think this many carries would help him achieve that mark, but his efficiency has hurt him badly. Lastly, the Los Angeles Chargers play the third toughest schedule this year in arguably the best conference this year in the NFL.

 My Prediction: Dud

Devonta Freeman

ADP: 10

2016 Stats: Attempts: 227 Yards: 1,079 Receptions: 54 Yards: 462 Total TD’s: 13

 Why he could be a stud: If you haven’t found out already, I am a big advocate of efficiency and that is exactly what you are going to get with Freeman. Last year he averaged 4.8 yards per carry and didn’t show any signs of slowing down. Also, it helps that the Falcons play in the NFC South, which is not known for their defense whatsoever. Lastly, I understand that you might have concerns about the game script if Atlanta ends up falling behind on the scoreboard, and they abandon the run, but no need to worry because Freeman has had at least 50 receptions in each season, and continues to be a threat catching out of the backfield.

Why he could be a dud: The big question surrounding the Falcons is how are you going to replace guru offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan? We don’t know how this offense is going to look, even though the staff says they will not change the philosophy of the offense. Next, Steve Sarkisian is set to be the new offensive coordinator and wants to make an emphasis on getting Julio Jones the ball in the red-zone, which means fewer looks for Freeman. Lastly, although Freeman has shown being in a 2 man committee is something he can work with, there is that constant concern that Tevin Coleman could steal serious volume from him. If Freeman goes down and you don’t have Coleman as a handcuff it could cost you.

My Prediction: Stud

Overall, determine what you value most in your running backs on your team, and that will help you sort through the advice. Check-in next week as I’ll go through my last 3 tier 2 running backs.

If you want to reach out and discuss this article or have any other fantasy football related questions you can find me on twitter @a_disberry