How long will the top fantasy RBs be fantasy starters?
A week ago, we introduced a new game for our offseason prep work. It involves deciding how long you would commit, right now, to keeping a player at a given position.
Last week, it was quarterbacks. This week, we’re on to running backs, notoriously a fickle position when it comes to staying power. Six of the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks in 2012 were still in the top 10 in 2016 (and a seventh was Tom Brady), while none of 2012’s top-10 running backs were even top-50 in 2016 — Doug Martin finished 51st, Alfred Morris 73rd, while the rest of 2012’s top 10 either barely played in 2016 or didn’t play at all.
Still, we’re in something of a golden age of young running backs, as David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Le’Veon Bell were all fantasy monsters in 2016, and there’s a trio of potential first-rounders in this year’s draft who could also be stars in a hurry. Could the current running backs outlast the guys of 2012?
The premise: You can keep Player X for as long as you want, but you have to decide on that duration right now.
The cost: You can keep the player indefinitely at the cost of the last starter at the position. So a quarterback will cost you the draft slot of the 10th quarterback off the board, while a wide receiver will cost you the 20th receiver.
With those rules in place, I solicited the input of three PFF Fantasy writers: Brandon Marianne Lee (@BrandonHerFFB), Michael Moore (@PFF_Moore), and Dan Schneier (@DanSchneierNFL). They gave their answers for a list of names, along with a short explanation.
Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
(Age at start of 2017 season: 24; 2016 statistics: 15 games, 1,272 rushing yards, 8 rushing TDs, 151 receiving yards, 0 receiving TDs, fantasy RB11)
2 years: If you’re in a PPR league, please note that Ajayi only had 34 receptions over the course of two seasons. I could see them turning to a passing back here and there. — Brandon Marianne Lee
3 years: You never want to give an RB too many years as a keeper, especially one whose NFL draft stock plummeted due to long-term injury concerns, but Ajayi has established himself as the man in Miami. He has finished near the top of the NFL in both yards per carry and our elusive rating over his first two seasons in the NFL. — Dan Schneier