Dynasty Stock Watch: RB Edition
By Shaun Laibe (@ShaunLaibe)
What a wild and crazy year it has been for the running backs of the NFL in 2016! Huge rookie performances from Ezekiel Elliott and Jordan Howard landed themselves tops in the league at #1 and #2 in rushing yards, respectively. David Johnson was the complete “do everything” back, rushing for 1,239 yards while catching 80 passes on the year. Le’veon Bell came back from an early year suspension to finish 5th in rushing yards. Unfortunately, it was not all sunshine and roses for this year’s crop of RBs. Todd Gurley, CJ Anderson and Eddie Lacy were utterly disappointing in every aspect. Regardless of how you finished, it is never too late to make some moves. This article will focus on running backs you should be buying, selling, and holding this offseason.
Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns – Anybody who was watching could tell you that the Browns offense struggled mightily in 2016. Duke Johnson notably regressed from his overall 2015 stat line to post fewer yards rushing and receiving in 2016. The rise of Isaiah Crowell helped many of us forget about Johnson, but I’m still convinced that Duke is Hue Jackson’s version of “Giovanni Bernard”. Cleveland should be in the market to add a QB, either through the draft (#1 and #12 overall pick) or via free agency (Tyrod Taylor). Duke and the other offensive playmakers will benefit greatly from the addition of stability at the QB position in 2017, after seeing six different signal callers this year.
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens – The 2016 season saw the unlikely resurgence of Terrence West, who finished the year with 1,010 total yards. The outburst by West helped Dixon fly under the radar. Even though, Dixon managed to slowly gain more and more touches throughout the year, upping his average to more than 10 carries per game over the last 6 weeks. West might begin the 2017 season as the starter, but I think Dixon will finish the year as the #1 in Baltimore.
CJ Prosise, Seattle Seahawks – Despite being banged up for the majority of the year, Prosise shined in limited work this season. His best performance came in Week 10 when he combined for 153 total yards on 24 touches. Unfortunately for Prosise and the Seahawks, he was injured the very next week and would go on to miss the remainder of the season. The 3rd round pick out of Notre Dame is going to have a ton of opportunity entering 2017. Buy now while his stock is still rather low.
Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears – Howard had one of the best breakout seasons among this year’s crop of RBs. He rushed for 1,313 yards on the ground and gathered another 298 yards through the air in his rookie campaign with the Bears. He ended up as a top 10 fantasy scoring back in 2016 and will no doubt be very high on 2017 dynasty rankings because of it. I’m not questioning Howard’s talent, but more of the future of the Bear’s offense. There are many question marks entering next season, mainly the future of stars Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffrey. Cutler is signed through 2020, but rumors are swirling of his release. Jeffrey is a free agent, so whether or not the Bears decide to bring him back depends on their view of the future. A complete rebuild in Chicago would decimate Howard’s value for the immediate future.
Dion Lewis, New England Patriots – Dion Lewis has more than thrived since arriving in New England. After missing a large portion of the regular season while recovering from a torn ACL, Lewis has once again entrenched himself as one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets. He is having an amazing post season thus far as well, scoring 3 TDs against Houston in the Divisional Round. Lewis is a Bill Bellichick favorite, but has a history of nasty injuries including that pesky torn ACL in 2015. Lewis has only one more year on his contract in New England, so if you can get near RB1/2 value for Lewis, I would take advantage.
Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers – Montgomery has been a complete surprise for both Green Bay and fantasy owners alike. Starting the year as a WR, Montgomery quickly gained RB status after a rash of injuries left the Packers with no better options at the position. A lot of Montgomery’s value will ultimately depend on whether or not Green Bay drafts some competition for the position. The good news is that Montgomery is just 25 years old, so he should have a role in the Packers offense for several years to come. Because of the uncertain future of the Green Bay running game, it will be hard to find a trade partner who will give equal equity in return. Hold him and reap the benefits of a this dual eligibility in 2017.
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans – When the Titans drafted Derrick Henry, the consensus around the fantasy community was that Tennessee would be quick to discard the former Pro Bowler. Following a dismal 2015 season in Philadelphia, there was not much of an argument otherwise. He surprised us all, however, when he completely returned to his former self, rushing for 1,297 yards (3rd best in the NFL), 387 yards through the air and 12 total TDs. Murray is signed with Tennessee through 2019, so it looks like the Derrick Henry train will have to wait. His doubters will point to the tread on his 28 year old legs, but I wouldn’t move on him anytime soon.