By: Andrew Metcalfe
NFL Russian Roulette
Ever since I started playing Dynasty Fantasy football, the NFL offseason became so much more exciting to me. Holding on to mid-tier running backs can be like playing Russian Roulette with your Dynasty roster. One news flash of the team signing another starter and their value could instantly come crashing down. This is especially true during the NFL Draft, as we have no idea what coaches and front office executives are discussing in their war rooms.
The following running backs are all RB1s for their respective teams at the moment, but I don’t have much hope for their future outlook by the conclusion of the NFL Draft. I’m suggesting that you consider trading them away while they still have value.
Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals
Once the news broke that Kenyan Drake was leaving Arizona to sign with the Raiders, Chase Edmonds owners rejoiced. He quietly had a top 25 RB season in 2020 as the number two behind Drake, finishing with career highs in carries, targets, yards, and TDs. At that point, Edmonds was the RB1 for the Cardinals by default, but then James Connor signed in April and now things are a bit murky. Connor hasn’t shown the ability to stay healthy throughout his career and seemed to have lost a step last year, despite only being 25 years old. His signing actually bodes well for Edmonds, but the chances he survives the NFL Draft without the team bringing in additional competition are low.
The track record for running backs that have not secured a lead role by their third season isn’t good (Edmonds will be going into his fourth). There have been opportunities in the past for Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury to hand the backfield over to Chase, but he does not seem to have much confidence in Edmonds as a lead back. In 2019, after David Johnson injured his ankle and was essentially benched for the season, AZ decided to trade for Kenyan Drake midseason instead of rolling with Edmonds. Last year, they could have easily let Drake walk and named Edmonds as the starter, but chose to transition tag Drake for an additional year. The most recent signing of James Connor is confirmation that Edmonds will never be “the guy”.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Edmonds could still have fantasy relevance if another running back is added. If the Cardinals decide to draft a bigger back like Rhamondre Stevenson or Trey Sermon, I’m sure that Edmonds will continue to have a receiving role. I just think what we saw in 2020 was his ceiling and his value has peaked. There were only two games last season in which Edmonds was a top 30 RB without having to score a TD. That is not the type of guy you want to rely on in your lineup on a weekly basis. The downside for Chase would be AZ making a splash by drafting one of the top-tier running backs (Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, or Javonte Williams), which would absolutely crush his value. Given the tough competition and offensive firepower the Cardinals face in the NFC West, this is certainly a possibility. I would be looking to trade away Edmonds for an early to mid 2nd round rookie pick.
Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins
Myles Gaskin was a 2019 7th-round pick out of Washington that ended up becoming one of the unsung heroes of the waiver wire in 2020. While some were hoping to see Jordan Howard revive his career in Miami, Gaskin came out of nowhere to take the starting job and was a Top 20 running back in PPG through the first eight weeks. He battled injuries for most of the second half of the season while maintaining solid production in the games he did play, including a monster 35 point (PPR) game against Las Vegas during Fantasy Championship Week (Week 16). On the surface, it seems like Gaskin would have job security going into 2021, but I’m not confident that Miami won’t be looking to upgrade in the Draft.
As I mentioned before, Gaskin was a decent fantasy running back, but teams don’t care about his fantasy production. It’s about what they see on the field, and his inefficiencies as a runner are a concern. He only created 1.22 yards per touch which ranked 31st among RBs and his 4.0 true yards per carry (removes runs of 10+ yards) ranked 49th in the league. I typically don’t like to remove a players’ big plays to make a point, but Myles had a Big Run rate of just 2.1% (credit: PlayerProfiler), which ranked him 55th. He’s a subpar NFL athlete, so long runs aren’t a major part of his game.
The Dolphins were rumored to have interest in both Chris Carson and Aaron Jones during free agency before they were extended by their respective teams. It’s clear that Flores is looking for a more dynamic running back. The arguments against Miami drafting a back to replace Gaskin are similar to the ones we heard about Indianapolis and Marlon Mack last year. Mack was a feasible starter, he even had over 1,000 yards rushing in 2019, but Indy did not hesitate to pull the trigger on Jonathan Taylor when he fell to them and their offense soared in 2020 because of it. You should try to move Gaskin for 2nd round rookie pick value before the hammer comes down in the Draft.
Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons
I mentioned earlier that I’m not a fan of RBs that don’t secure a lead role by Year 3. Well, Mike Davis took 6 seasons to find himself in a starting role and it was only because of an injury to Christian McCaffery. I understand why Davis supporters like him, he looked great last season while filling in for McCaffrey. He was Top 10 in Fantasy Points Differential (measures his production compared to what an average RB would do with his same touches), yards after contact per attempt and he even led the league in broken tackle rate. Based on those metrics, you would expect him to be a solid backfield option, but I think his success was more about his situation than actual talent.
When McCaffrey was first injured in Week 3, Carolina didn’t have a choice but to promote Davis to the starting job. The other backs on the roster were Reggie Bonnafon who is more of a gadget player (never had more than 5 carries in a game before 2020) and Trenton Cannon who is primarily a special teamer. Davis walked into a ton of volume, seeing the fifth most targets, tenth most redzone touches and a career-high 64.2-percent opportunity share. He didn’t do anything special though, just 4.5 yards per touch (48th best) and an unimpressive 3.89 yards per carry. His best trait is breaking tackles, but when you don’t have much burst or speed, it doesn’t mean much. The longest run of his CAREER went for 23 yards.
Atlanta should have the RB position high on their priority list going into the draft. Davis signed a two-year deal, but there is no guaranteed money next year and the average annual compensation is just short of what Devontae Booker and Cordarrelle Patterson (recently signed by the Falcons as primarily a return specialist) are going to make. That does not sound like a guy that was brought in to take on a significant role. Even if he escapes major competition from the Draft, he will not see the same volume that he had in 2020. If you can get one or two 3rd round rookie picks for Davis, take it and run.