FFWC ADP Series: Backup Running Backs With Upside

Due to the significant number of injuries that occur at the running back position in the NFL, Fantasy Football owners must select a few backups. Shawn Childs discusses which players to target in 2018 based on ADP.

QB1 | QB2 | Starting RBs | Backup RBs | Starting WRs | Backup WRs | TEs

So back to the ADPs, in this group, there is a mixed bag of pass-catching backs and grinders with some TD value. Most Fantasy owners will select their RB3 between the sixth and eighth round. A Fantasy owner can’t win without depth at the RB position so someone will emerge as an impact back in this area. It comes down to a balance between a higher floor with a pass-catching back, and a running back option who may land a full-time job due to a teammate’s a injury.

Here’s a look at the RB options at RB3:

In the RB3 of running backs, a Fantasy owner is trying to find a balance between floor and upside. A runner with early down value will need to score a TD to produce double-digit Fantasy points in most weeks. A pass catching back can have a lot fewer touches but finish with more consistency in PPR leagues.  

Here’s an example of three types of backs in this area:

Early down back with minimal pass catching value: If a running back gets between 10 and 15 rushes per game, he’ll usually finish with between 40 yards and 75 yards. As mentioned earlier, with no TD, this type of player will score below-double digit Fantasy points in most weeks.

Pass-catching back with minimal value on early downs: The Fantasy owners in the high-stakes market tend to gravitate toward pass-catching backs when developing their secondary core at RB. A running back who catches about four passes per game will gain between 7.5 and 10.0 yards per catch leading to seven-to-eight Fantasy points. If they get four-to-six carries as well, these RB3’s can reach double-digit Fantasy points in many weeks without scoring or hitting on a long play. If they do score, it tends to push them toward backend RB1 status for that week.

Backup RB with starter upside: This type of RB is the most frustrating player to own if forced to start due to an injury or bye week. With minimal touches, backup RBs will score almost no Fantasy points until they gain starting status. Ideally, a Fantasy owner would like to take these types of shots at RB5 and RB6 with some coming as handcuffs.

I see five players in this range that have a chance to earn 15+ touches per game even in a split role. They are Mark Ingram, Royce Freeman, Lamar Miller, Jamaal Williams, and Marshawn Lynch.

Ingram will miss the first four games of the season, which gives the talented Alvin Kamara a huge window to gain more playing time. In a way, Mark is a combination of an early-down back and pass catcher due to the high volume of passes thrown to the RB position by the Saints. The challenge here is giving up a draft pick between the fourth and seventh round. The later the draft value, the better the chance a Fantasy owner has of adding more talent to a Fantasy roster in front of him.

If Royce Freeman does indeed win the starting RB job in Denver, he may be the player who has the most touches in 2018. If Freeman plays at a high level in the preseason, his draft value should jump to RB2 status.

Lamar Miller is the guy no one wants, but Miller gained over 1,200 yards in each of the last four seasons while averaging 37 catches per season. Houston has a poor offensive line leading to minimal impact value in TDs. When surfing for an RB3, steady is not a bad problem when covering injuries or bye weeks.

The suspension of Aaron Jones for two games has pushed up the draft value of Jamaal Williams. His game may not beat Jones on early downs or offer more upside than Ty Montgomery in the passing game, but he is the player who may emerge with three-down ability after an injury or two. There is plenty of risk/reward here.


Marshawn Lynch should average over 15 touches per week with plenty of TD ability. His value in the passing game is fading, and age isn’t on his side. Pure RB3 with rotational value with the right matchups.

Kerryon Johnson falls into the backup RB role for me with plenty of questions with his opportunity or value in 2018. I view him as being over drafted here, but his value in 2018 will be corrected by his play in the preseason.

Dion Lewis, Tarik Cohen, Chris Thompson, and Duke Johnson are the players with the most value in the passing game. Each player should receive between 8 and 12 touches per game.

Lewis is probably the only option with a chance to gain value on early downs. Johnson will have more competition for touches in 2018 with Carlos Hyde having some passing catching value, and Nick Chubb added to the roster.

I don’t trust Marlon Mack coming off a shoulder injury, which will force Fantasy owners to follow his progress closely in August.

Tevin Coleman is the RB3 that is one injury away from a top 12 opportunity. He’ll play time on early downs while showing TD ability and explosiveness in the passing game.

Here’s a look at the RB options at RB4 and RB5:

I see a whole lot of emptiness and a few players with intriguing value in this group of RBs. The RB4s will be drafted between the 9th and 11th round.  Typically, I like to find an upside back with my fourth RB selection. It comes down to your team structure and team development.

The backend of the RB inventory looks weak or unidentifiable, pushing many Fantasy owners to take their 5th RB dance after the 12th round.

When reviewing the RB ADPs, a Fantasy owner can see the potential RBs of interest. Each draft will have a wide range of results, so a targeted backend RB may not fall as far as expected. Decision making in drafts comes down to tradeoffs at each position. If I take player A at RB, will the WR I want fall to me in the next round? Should I move up a WR knowing the RB I like isn’t drawing a ton of interest in other drafts? If I jump a RB and move him up a round in the draft, what are the comparable options at WR if I miss on the WR I targeted before the draft?

Drafting a winning Fantasy team is full of decision making and some weak moments when waiting for a player of interest to slide to your draft pick. Building a foundation of RBs takes some foresight while also giving up some passion for possible edges at QB, WR, and TE. In the end, your success will come down to your draft plan, style of play, and some timely luck.

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Shawn Childs
About Shawn Childs 532 Articles
Shawn Childs has been a high stakes Fantasy baseball and football player since 2004 where he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). In early years of the high stakes market in Fantasy baseball, he was ahead of the curve in player evaluation, draft value, and free agent bidding setting up four top-five finishes in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has four AL-only Auction titles, one NL-only title, and five Main Event titles plus an overall title in 2012 at RTFBC (netted $10,000). This success led to an induction into the NFBC Baseball Hall of Fame. His success in the high stakes market led to a career in providing Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Football content. On the football side, he’s competed and won in all different formats – auctions, draft championship, main events, and high-dollar leagues. He won 2nd place overall in the 2014 Most Accurate Salary Cap Expert contest at FantasyPros.As a dual-sport player, it was natural to transition to the daily games where he is a “swing for the fences type of guy.” Childs has appeared in one FanDuel NFL Live Final and one DraftKings NFL Live Final, a season-ending tournament which led to a couple of chances to win over $1,000,000.