Having a highly productive (and deep) backfield in fantasy football is a necessity if you have any intentions of winning your league. In dynasty formats, this becomes even more important, as a strong core of young running backs can keep you in contention for several seasons. But which running backs can we trust to be the long term centerpieces of our teams? Let’s take a look at each backfield in the league and figure out just who we can bet our fantasy futures on.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have one of the deepest backfields in the league. They also happen to have one of the least predictable backfields, as well. This season we have seen solid fantasy production from four different backs (Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Brandon Bolden), as the team has tended to play the “hot hand” game when it comes to the distribution of touches. Yet, two of these backs reign supreme when it comes to long term value. Sony Michel has been the most involved back in the offense, with a 41.4% snap share, and the fourth most red zone carries in the NFL. As long as Michel’s wonky knee holds up, he should be the primary ball carrier in New England at least until he hits free agency. Michel’s counterpart James White is equally as valuable in the long term despite his age (27) and lack of actual rushing attempts (just 63 yards on the ground through 6 games). White’s value lies in the passing game, where he has caught 31 of 39 targets for 224 yards on the season. Given White’s status as a leader in the locker room and his importance to the offense, he should remain an active member of this backfield for the next 3-4 years, providing flex value for your lineup (especially in PPR). As for rookie Damien Harris, he presents value as a stash in dynasty formats, but until he is able to find his way onto the field, he presents very little fantasy value.
Verdict: Buy Michel/White, Sell Burkhead/Bolden/Harris
If there was one team in need of a new starting running back this offseason it would be the Bills. Currently, the team has been trotting out former Jaguars backup T.J Yeldon, ageless plodder Frank Gore, and undersized rookie Devin Singletary (who has been very limited by hamstring issues) as their primary ball carriers. Of these three, it’s the veteran Gore who has been the most productive, with 333 rushing yards on the year, good for the 13th best mark in the league. It’s disconcerting that neither Singletary or Yeldon have been able to push past Gore, which leads me to believe that the team will invest a high draft pick in one of the many talented backs in this year’s draft class.
Verdict: Sell the Bills backfield
Forget what I said about the Bills being the most running back needy team in the NFL, this team is not only the most running back needy team, it’s the most needy team in general. Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage have had no room to run this season, leading me to believe that they will both be seeking greener pastures this offseason. Leave this backfield to rot in peace.
Verdict: Sell the Dolphins backfield
New York Jets
This one is pretty straightforward. The Jets have a ton of money tied up in Bell, and while he has been just the RB18 in fantasy, the team’s offense has run almost exclusively through Bell, as he has accounted for over 50% of the team’s total yardage. This is going to be the Lev Bell show for the next few seasons, so invest in him as a bellcow. Everyone else on the depth chart can be waiver wire fodder.
Verdict: Buy Bell, Sell the rest of the Jets backs