Three Contract Year Running Backs To Watch: Is There Value Behind Their Motivation?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The perception is that impending free agents have a little bit extra to play for.  With the dreams of a big contract looming, and with many taking a “what have you done for me lately” mentality, it makes sense.  Which running backs have the potential to turn a contract year into a monster 2018 campaign?  Here are three running backs  to watch:


Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles
Current ADP – 43.2

Acquired ahead of the 2017 Trade Deadline, Ajayi helped Philadelphia to a Super Bowl title.  While he’s going to share the workload, over the final three regular season games and the three playoff contests Ajayi began to take the reigns:

83 carries (roughly 14 carries per game)
363 yards
4.4 yards/carry

He added 11 receptions, though the Eagles have a few players who could help in that regard and keep Ajayi off the field for third downs/passing downs (like Darren Sproles).  That said Ajayi should assume the role of LeGarrette Blount (173 carries) and get the bulk of the work on early downs.  A healthy Carson Wentz will only help open up lanes and keep defenses honest, further strengthening the potential for Ajayi.

He has extra motivation to produce gaudy numbers, as his draft day value fell due to concerns about his knee.  If he gives teams any reason to think it’s going to become an issue, the value of his next contract could quickly plummet.  At his fourth round ADP it’s a fair price, given the risk.


Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons
Current ADP – 72.5

It’s been frustrating for fantasy owners, as they’ve waited for him to take over as the lead back but things continue as a 1/1A situation along with Devonta Freeman.  Barring injury that’s not going to change in ’18, though Coleman has proven that he can produce with limited touches with 19 TD over the past two seasons.  A dual threat (he has 58 receptions over the past two seasons, scoring 6 TD), it’s possible that he actually gets more money in free agency given the lack of wear and tear on his body thus far:

Carries – 361
Receptions – 60

That said, it would behoove him to show that he can be dynamic and make plays so someone is willing to pay him with an eye towards doing so.  The potential is there, and at his current price tag he’s a no-brainer to gamble on.


Doug Martin – Oakland Raiders
Current ADP – 157.8

Martin has been among the most frustrated running backs over the past few seasons, taunting us with his potential/talent only to fall flat (like averaging 2.9 yards/game each of the past two seasons, playing just 19 games).  While he isn’t guaranteed a roster spot, there have been rave reviews this offseason and the current running back mix in Oakland is questionable at best (does anyone believe in Marshawn Lynch to return to form).

Martin is 29-years old, and it’s possible that he turns his motivation into a big season once again.  At this price tag, why not?

Source – ESPN

Make sure to check out all of our 2018 preseason rankings:

Date Updated
Running Back09/02/18
Wide Receiver 08/29/18
Tight End08/24/18
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