Dynasty running back bargains
As free agency and the draft near, we roll on with our dynasty bargains at each position. This week, we look at running backs you can target who should ultimately cost less than they are worth for the 2016 season and beyond, including a potential blue chipper and several RB2 / Flex positions.
Carlos Hyde – RB – San Francisco 49ers – There might not be a better choice in all of football to bounce back from injury than Hyde. Before he suffered a stress fracture midway through the season that ended his 2015 campaign, he was on his way to a solid first season as Frank Gore’s long-term replacement. In just seven games he rushed for 470 yards on 115 carries, with three touchdowns. He also kept his yards-per-carry steady at 4.1, despite playing behind the sixth-worst offensive line in the league. He finished with the 22nd-best rushing rating from PFF, despite playing less than 300 snaps all year.
If anyone can fulfill the promise of a workhorse back, it’s Hyde. In games he had 20-plus carries last year his yards per carry were 6.5, 4.4, and 2.6. In games with less than 20 carries, he never had a yards per carry over 3.6. He was a victim of the poor team around him falling behind early and playing catch up. By comparison, the Eagles finished first, ninth, and 11th during the last three years in team rushing attempts under Chip Kelly.
Hyde entered dynasty leagues last season as a fringe RB1 prospect due to the Gore departure. That value shouldn’t be any different this season, despite the injury. But when you combine a lack of attention due to injury with playing on a (formerly) bad team, it’s easy to see why people might have lost faith. Now’s a good time to swoop in on a potential RB1 for your dynasty team.
Charles Sims – RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Heading into the 2015 season, Sims was one of the least likely players to tally over 1,000 all-purpose yards, but that’s exactly what he did. In the change-of-pace role behind Doug Martin, Sims flourished. In his limited rushing role, Sims totaled 529 yards on just 107 carries for a nearly 5 yards-per-carry average. He was even better in the receiving game, with 51 catches and 561 yards for an 11 yards-per-reception rate. PFF’s 16.1 rating actually placed Sims as the highest-rated running back.
It’s been quite the turnaround for Sims. He entered the league in 2014 as a 24-year-old rookie and finished the season with a -3.4 rating. But he won an expanded role over Bobby Rainey, setting the stage for his breakout season. And while he never single-handedly won fantasy owners games this season, he proved a steady contributor, more so in PPR leagues.
Much of Sims’ value will undoubtedly depend on where Martin ends up in free agency. The market is not exactly hot for running backs, meaning Martin could return. But whether he does or not, Sims’ ranking is still a good value. Worst-case scenario, he continues his role as he did in 2015 and serves as a viable flex option in PPR leagues. Of course the best case is Tampa Bay hands the reins over to him for the full-time gig. Either way, get Sims now as his value won’t go any lower.
Theo Riddick – RB – Detroit Lions – Despite leading all NFL running backs in receiving last year, Riddick may not even be the most popular Lions running back in dynasty circles. But his 80 receptions for 697 yards were no fluke, and he’s in a great position to repeat his performance.
The sixth-round pick from the 2013 draft started his career well down the depth chart, fighting for scraps behind Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. But Riddick stuck around and his usage increased from 49 snaps in his rookie season to 195 the next year. Bush was out of Detroit after 2014, setting the stage for Riddick’s breakout 2015 season. Besides leading all running backs in receiving, he also ranked as the third-best running back in PFF ratings.
Heading into 2016, Riddick’s dynasty value should continue to grow. First, Bell was released, which opens up 245 more snaps. Secondly, the coaching staff now includes offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, and will continue feeding Riddick the ball out of the backfield. He will start the season at age 25, and while there’s virtually no chance of him becoming the three-down back (unlike the aforementioned Sims), Riddick’s value as a pass catcher is rock solid. He’s an outside-the-box option for the flex position on your dynasty team and can be had for a song.
Karlos Williams – RB – Buffalo Bills – Williams was part of a full-blown makeover of the Buffalo backfield. Out were longtime Bills Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, and in were Williams and new starter LeSean McCoy. And while McCoy’s season disappointed many dynasty owners with only 895 yards on 203 carries and just three touchdowns, Williams broke out. Picked in only the fifth round of last year’s NFL Draft, Williams ended up being one of the more effective rookie running backs. He ran for 517 yards on 93 carries with seven touchdowns in 11 games, or less than three-quarters of a season. His 5.6 yards-per-carry were tops among all rookies with at least 90 carries (tied with Thomas Rawls). He also finished as PFF’s 12th-highest-rated running back despite playing less than 250 snaps.
Williams’ stock hasn’t skyrocketed yet, but it very well could. McCoy will be 28 before the season starts and the chances of him rebounding from a disappointing 2015 are slim. Furthermore, if his production doesn’t return, it’s less likely the Bills would want to pay McCoy the $5 million he’s owed this season or the $6 million he’s owed for the season after. Meanwhile, Williams will be on his cheap rookie deal through 2018.