by Joe Delcorse
Fresh off a record $45 million guaranteed contract Todd Gurley has set the bar for the rest of his brethren. Having such a short life-span due to the physical nature of the game, owners have become reluctant to ink such deals as the stigma is 30-years old for a running back is ancient. Former Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis has even accused the NFL collusion as are not selecting RB early in the NFL draft to stymie their financial value.
While this could very well have been the case, the NFL stands for “Not For Long”. Gurley, Ezekiel Elliot and LaVeon Bell have proven that an every down, do everything back is imperative to success in the NFL. Every position on a football field is important, and while the quarterback obviously has the most responsibilities I would consider the running back the heart beat of every offense:
- When there is only half a yard to gain, you feed it to the running back…
- Running backs protect their quarterback against blitzing defenses trying to knock them out and act as a safety outlet as a receiver…
- A running back’s mere presence as a decoy opens up opportunities for other teammates to succeed…
Not all running backs are as gifted as the elite but there are plenty of good options throughout your fantasy draft. If you are not lucky enough to land one of the golden nuggets I suggest stockpiling on running backs with high upside in a good offense and have a chance to accumulate a lot of touches. Here are some sleepers to consider:
Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings
While it will require a leap of faith and closely monitoring him during the pre-season, there is a lot to like about Cook. He showed the ability to be a game breaking, do everything back last season and his rehab is seemingly going well. Being the focal point of a loaded offense with Super Bowl aspirations is what gets my juices flowing. Keep tabs on him throughout training camp and confidently draft this potential star. Imagine what production Cook is capable of with 15-25 touches a game for a full season.
Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals
A clear-cut three-down running back is hard to come by with so many sub packages and the dependence of a receiving threat out of the backfield. While many are not very bullish on the Bengals in general as points could be few and far between a lot of weeks, Mixon is still a trendy sleeper because of his ability. Will the Bengals win a lot of track meets? Probably not but it’s nice to have healthy back you know will get it on the goal line with at least 20 touches a game. Sprinkle in some 100-yard games and you have yourself a middle round bargain.
Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders
Part of this ranking is due to the threat of the Oakland offense producing big days. Not too often can a running back of Lynch’s caliber return to form after taking a year off, but I think he is talented enough to still make a difference. Jon Gruden was paid a lot of money to bring the Raiders back to prominence and what better way than feeding the beast? With David Carr, Amari Cooper and the newly added Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant and Jared Cook I believe this could be a dangerous offense with a lot of opportunities to light up scoreboards. If Lynch is getting 25 carries and pulverizing over defenders on the goal line I expect him to outperform his ADP of 74 and overall 29th running back ranking.
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 preseason rankings: