Fantasy 5: Top RB advice from Week 1 of the preseason
Why Derrick Henry could be a better fantasy value than DeMarco Murray, what to make of Seattle's backfield, and more.
Fantasy 5: Top RB advice from Week 1 of the preseason
This past weekend was like taking a big gulp of cold water on a very hot day. That refreshing “ahhh” after an extended thirst.
All 16 preseason games are in the books, and there’s a lot to process. We’re going to focus on running backs in today’s Fantasy 5, but don’t forget that you can get all of the game recaps from Week 1 right here.
1. Derrick Henry is currently a better fantasy value than DeMarco Murray
It may not have been exotic, but the Titans’ run game was certainly smashmouth, as DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry combined for 167 yards and two touchdowns (one from each) on 16 carries. Much of Murray’s 94 yards came on his touchdown run, a 71-yard scamper that he broke off through a hole wide enough to drive a truck through.
Of course, this is the preseason, and a good chunk of these yards came against the Chargers’ second-team unit. But still, this performance bodes positively for the fantasy prospects in this backfield. But how should fantasy drafters handle Murray and Henry?
Murray worked as the starter, but Henry was also on the field for the first offensive snap. So this appears to be trending in a 1 and 1A direction where the two will split carries. Despite the stat lines, Henry had the better game of the two, forcing four missed tackles and racking up 42 yards after contact. At this point, a committee seems all but locked in place for the Titans. It’s going to be tough for Murray to return value at his current ADP of 18th among running backs. Henry is the much better value as the 38th running back being selected.
2. Mike Davis is becoming an interesting name for dynasty leagues
The 49ers appeared to have a very thin depth chart at running back behind Carlos Hyde, but that may not be the case, as second-year man Mike Davis impressed on Sunday night against the Texans. The former fourth-rounder out of South Carolina had 72 yards on just five carries, averaging a ridiculous 12 yards after contact per attempt. Davis was the No. 3 back behind Hyde and Shaun Draughn.
Davis spent much of last season on injured reserve with a broken hand. He entered the league following a solid college career where he racked up a combined 2,165 yards and 20 scores between his sophomore and junior seasons. Though some viewed Davis as a player on the roster bubble, his place on the roster seems to be fairly secure after Sunday night’s performance.
With Hyde inked in as the feature back, Davis isn’t likely to make much of a fantasy impact in redraft leagues. However, he’s an intriguing dynasty stash and is a name to monitor in case injury strikes Hyde. The 49ers offense could certainly struggle at times, but Chip Kelly’s up-tempo system bodes positively for fantasy production.
3. More reason to keep an eye on Devontae Booker
Following a strong preseason debut, Broncos RB Devontae Booker appears to be pulling away from Ronnie Hillman in the race for No. 2 duties in the Denver backfield. Booker’s four carries for 11 yards doesn’t jump off the page, but he performed well in all three phases against the Bears and was ahead of Hillman in Saturday’s practice.
Booker has a very similar skill set to Arian Foster and is a great fit in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking system. He’s likely to factor in as a receiver early on, and would be the primary beneficiary if C.J. Anderson were to go down. Booker is an ideal late-round flier.
4. What to make of Seattle RBs Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael
Perhaps fantasy’s most over-hype players of the last half-decade, Michael is another back who showed well in the first week of the preseason, posting 44 yards on seven carries. He got the start for Seattle, as Rawls is still being eased back in from the ankle injury that sidelined him for the entire offseason.
Speaking about the Seahawks’ backfield, head coach Pete Carroll the Seahawks are going to have “a little 1-2 punch” when Rawls comes back. Fantasy players know to not get overly excited about Michael, but Carroll’s comments are yet another reason to be skeptical of Rawls returning strong RB1 value this year.
Of course, it’s never wise to simply run with what a coach says, but there’s a lot of smoke surrounding Rawls. In addition to Rawls’ slow recovery and small sample size from last season, his team also drafted three running backs back in April. He’s a risky pick, even at his current ADP as the 13th running back.
5. The Ravens running backs are putting heat on Justin Forsett
A lot of the recent focus in the Ravens’ backfield this preseason has been on Terrance West, and that isn’t likely to change after the former Browns running back scored twice in Baltimore’s preseason opener. While West is getting all of the attention, rookie Kenneth Dixon also impressed with 44 yards on nine carries, and Javorius Allen looked to be the best receiving option, scoring on a 19-yard reception (although Dixon’s specialty at Louisiana Tech was as a pass-catcher).
The obvious name not mentioned is Justin Forsett, who got veteran’s treatment and didn’t suit up. While Forsett is still penciled in as the lead back, the Ravens’ depth chart doesn’t suggest that’s a slam dunk. With West coming on, and both Allen and Dixon proving to be more than capable, it isn’t out of the question that the Ravens part ways with Forsett. Those drafting before roster cut-downs will want to keep that in mind. Forsett’s ADP is a reasonable 34th among running backs, but he’s still a risky fantasy option.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.