Every year, rest assured someone at some point during each your
draft will utter some variation of the words “value pick.”
But what exactly is a value pick? What is value? Value is a relative
term that changes based on public perception. When I consider
value, I’m looking for a positive return on my investment.
Just because a player has an a fourth round ADP and is still sitting
there in the sixth round does not make him good value. At the
same time, taking a player a round or two above his ADP is not
necessarily bad value. Again, everything is relative. My goal
in every pick I make is to take a player I believe will have a
higher ADP the following season. Last season, Melvin Gordon had
a fifth round ADP. This year, he has a first round ADP. Gordon
gave owners one hell of a positive return on investment. On the
flip side, Brandon Marshall had a second round ADP. This year,
he has a sixth round ADP. That’s the type of pick we all
hope to avoid.
Let’s take a look at which RBs I expect to outperform their
ADPs and which I expect to fail.
Undervalued: A 1000-yard, 8 touchdown season
is certainly within Spencer Ware's range of outcomes.
The case for Ware being undervalued:
He was an elite RB1 over the first few weeks of 2016 and remains
the No.1 running back in the Chiefs offense.
The case against Ware being undervalued:
The Chiefs inexplicably didn’t use him on passing downs and also
traded up to draft Kareem
Verdict: In preparation for this
article, I went back and watched college film on Hunt. There is
no chance, barring injury, that Hunt takes Ware’s job. He may
force a timeshare, but Ware was basically in a timeshare with
West. Ware’s snap count actually decreased every single week
in 2016 but West’s steadily decreased as well. Ultimately, Ware
finished as the PPR RB15 on a per game basis with a 53.3 percent
snap share while West handled 34.9 percent. A 60-40 split between
Ware and Hunt seems likely and would benefit Ware.
According to Football Outsiders’ defensive value over average
(DVOA) stat, Ware was the second most effective pass catching
RB in the league last year. He has great hands and a high football
IQ to help make him an elite pass catcher. For some reason, Andy
Reid didn’t see this. Perhaps he will this year. But even
if he doesn’t, Ware is the same player who averaged 5.6
ypc in 2015. He’s the same player that was so effective
the past two seasons that the Chiefs felt comfortable letting
future hall of famer Jamaal Charles walk.
Ware’s struggles as the season went on can be explained
by his Week 8 concussion and the loss of Parker Ehringer, the
Chiefs top run blocking offensive lineman. According to 4for4’s
Joe Holka’s rushing expectation metric (which measures an
RB’s success rate compared to what an average RB would do
in the same situation), Ware far outperformed expectation. Ware’s
12.9 red zone touchdown rate was in the bottom quarter of the
league. That’s not a knock on Ware but more of an indicator
of bad luck. Ware is due for positive regression in the touchdown
department and there is quite little standing in the way of a
1,000-yard, 8 TD season. He has legitimate RB1 upside.
Verdict: Rawls is making his second
consecutive appearance on this report (shameless self promotion
alert: he was the only guy I didn’t completely nail on last year’s
list). He’s here again because, for starters, he’s proven that
he’s good at football. The Seahawks’ offensive line has been bad
for a few years now, yet Rawls led the league in yards per carry
in 2015. That counts for something.
After breaking his leg, he struggled to recover heading into
2016, came back too soon, and reinjured himself. He did manage
to squeeze in a 15-carry, 106-yard game Week 13 against Carolina
and torched the Lions for 161 yards on 27 carries in the first
round of the playoffs.
The biggest concern with Rawls, aside from his health, is his
competition. However, it seems like Aaron Rodgers had a hand in
making Eddie Lacy look better than he actually is, and in a contract
year, Lacy couldn’t bother to keep himself in shape. The
man is getting paid $50,000 just to not be fat however Lacy looks
slow every time I watch him. Prosise concerns me more than Lacy,
but it’s doubtful he can hold up in a feature role. He looked
great last year against the Patriots and then what happened –
he promptly got hurt. If and when Rawls firmly supplants Lacy,
he will be a lock to shatter his current ADP, even if he is running
behind the league’s worst offensive line.
The case for Vereen being undervalued:
He’s the most talented running back on the Giants’ roster and
the team hasn’t been effective at running the ball since Tiki
The case against Vereen being undervalued:
He has never been able to put together a string of successful
performances, largely due to his health.
Verdict: Yep, they got me again
with Shane Vereen. This is the fifth consecutive year I’ve been
on board with the “Vereen Team.” I can’t help myself. Vereen had
a breakout game back in 2013 with New England, but promptly broke
a bone in his wrist, derailing that train. He had another breakout
game last year and then tore his triceps next week. The guy just
can’t ever build on his own momentum. But this is the year!
Admittedly, Vereen is probably not going to be an RB2, but there’s
no reason he should be the RB70, or even the RB50 for that matter.
When you’re throwing a late round dart, you want to see
plausible upside – a clear path to that player out-producing
his draft position. It’s hard to find a backup with more
of a clear path than Vereen. Paul Perkins was one of the least
efficient runners in 2016 and somehow managed to avoid scoring
a single touchdown last season. The Giants also have a poor offensive
line and haven’t been able to run effectively in years,
which fits Vereen’s pass catching role. While I think Vereen
is a better runner than Perkins anyway, this team is going to
be a pass heavy offense. As long as he can stay healthy, he should
be no worse than an RB4 with the upside for more. You can do far
worse in the double-digit rounds of your draft.
The case for Miller being overvalued:
What exactly did Lamar Miller do in 2016 to warrant being an RB1
The case against Miller being overvalued:
Osweiler is to be blamed for Miller’s 2016 failures.
Verdict: Also making his second
consecutive appearance here is the Texans “feature” back. I put
“feature” in quotes because, as I cautioned last year, Miller
is not built to handle a full workload. He saw the carry count
increase and as expected, he saw the efficiency tumble. Miller
was just 54th in fantasy points per snap and averaged a pathetic
0.7 yards after contact per touch.
But it wasn’t his fault, right? Brock Osweiler was so bad
that defenses knew what the Texans were running, right? An eight-man
front is considered a stacked box. The league average for rushing
attempts against six and seven man fronts was 60 and 72, respectively
last season. Miller saw 97 and 96 attempts against six and seven
man fronts. Despite playing on a poor offense, Miller was significantly
ahead of league average in favorable run situations…and
This year, the Texans drafted D’Onta Foreman, who then
showed up to camp doing his best Eddie Lacy impression and got
into some off the field trouble. That should delay his ascent
and while Foreman isn’t a particularly impressive prospect,
he’s good enough to steal some work for Miller. That might
actually be a good thing, though. It’s possible that Miller
can regain some of his lost efficiency with decreased usage, but
can he overcome the bad offense and low touchdown upside? He’s
being drafted as the last of the RB1s but I have him ranked as
the last of the RB2s. Miller is an easy pass in the early third
The case for Lynch being overvalued:
He’s 31 years old and hasn’t played football effectively since
The case against Lynch being overvalued:
He’s had a full season to rest and now returns in a better offensive
Verdict: I can’t do it. Aside from
the fact that Lynch looked done in 2015 before succumbing to injury
and then retiring for all of 2016, there’s just nothing to be
gained here. Lynch’s draft cost is at his ceiling – a near RB1.
The history of 30 year-old running backs producing is working
While the Raiders do have a top five offensive line, they also
haven’t shown any desire to give their best running back
a true three-down workload. Latavius Murray was their top option
last year and he averaged a hair under 14 carries per game. With
this aggressive drafting of Lynch, we’re assuming his floor
is Murray’s 2016 season. However, I think Murray represents
He still has the power to wear down opposing defenses –
that is – if he’s healthy but I believe Lynch will
be used in a closer/goal line role. He will shuffle in and out
with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington just like Murray did
last season and won’t play on passing downs making his RB13
ADP in PPR leagues a tough sell. He will probably have weeks where
he takes 12 carries for 80 yards and two touchdowns but he’s
going to not only be touchdown reliant, but he’s going to
need them to be useful. The weeks where he doesn’t score
are going to be ugly. He also needs to stay healthy, something
he was unable to do as he began breaking down in 2015.
There are just too many paths to failure and not enough to success
for me to endorse Lynch as a high end RB2 with RB1 upside.
The case for Gillislee being overvalued:
The Patriots have four RBs on the roster and there’s no telling
who will produce when and how much.
The case against Gillislee being overvalued:LeGarrette
Blount scored 18 touchdowns last year and Gillislee appears
to be his replacement.
Verdict: Gillislee’s fifth round
ADP suggests the fantasy community thinks he’s going to fill the
LeGarrette Blount role. First things first: Gillislee appears
to be a better all-around running back than Blount. The thing
is, we don’t really know how good Gillislee actually can be. He
looked great last season spelling LeSean
McCoy, but never received more than 15 carries in a game and
was barely used as a receiver.
Chasing Blount’s 18 touchdowns is also be a bad strategy.
For starters, there is no “Blount” role. That role
did not exist until last year. Benjarvis Green-Ellis had 11 touchdowns
in 2011 and Stevan Ridley had 12 touchdowns in 2012 and those
represent the only two other times in recent history that a Patriots
running back scored double digit touchdowns – until Blount’s
2016. The Patriots also ran the ball an unrepeatable and truly
absurd amount of times in the red zone last season. In 2014, the
Patriots leading red zone carrier, Jonas Gray, handled 25 carries
out of the team’s 80. In 2015, the Patriots leading red
zone carrier, Blount, handled 31 carries out of the team’s
61. In 2016, Blount handled a whopping 69 out of the team’s
90. One of these things is not like the other.
In addition, the Patriots also signed Rex Burkhead and extended
James White. While Dion Lewis is also on the roster, he strikes
me as the odd man out. Regardless, possibilities are endless and
we know Belichick is not above using a different running back
each week. The notion that Burkhead, who actually projects as
a better goal line back (and far superior pass catcher), is going
almost 100 picks later doesn’t make sense. I would still
project Gillislee to lead this backfield in fantasy points, but
in the fifth round at RB22, you’re drafting him near his
ceiling. Considering Gillislee’s wide range of outcomes,
I’m passing on Gillislee for my RB2.