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Best late-round fantasy football running back values


No matter what your fantasy football draft strategy is, a key part of building a solid roster is finding gems at every position in the later rounds that have the potential to out-produce their asking price. Last season, LeGarrette Blount's average draft position (ADP) hovered in the Round 8 range, yet he led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns and was fantasy's RB7 in standard scoring. You could have drafted Tevin Coleman in Round 9, and he paid dividends with 11 total touchdowns and finished as a top-20 fantasy back. Well, it's about time we start identifying some backs for 2017 who could return the same kind of results. All ADP data in this article is taken from's 12-team, standard mock draft leagues.

Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP: 10.10 via FFCalc)

Yes, I am aware the Bengals selected perhaps the most talented running back in the 2017 draft class in Joe Mixon. Some believe the rookie may have a chance to eventually become the team's feature back. But I am here to remind you that Jeremy Hill is still hanging around in Cincinnati. Given Mixon's costly Round 3 ADP, if Hill retains his early-down role he will probably make owning Mixon in fantasy football a frustrating affair.

Since the end of last season, there's been a steady hum from Bengals' beat writers that Hill will remain the team's short-yardage and goal-line running back. Mixon has a three-down skill set but he'll probably start the year behind Hill on the depth chart as the team's third-down back while Giovani Bernard recovers from an ACL tear. No matter how talented, rookies must earn their keep and aren't always immediate assets in fantasy. For more on the impact of rookie running backs in fantasy football, check out Michael Fabiano's deep dive into some historical trends on the topic.

A few things that keep Hill in the mix as a valuable late-round option at running back: As Rotoworld's Evan Silva recently pointed out, Cincinatti has ranked top 10 in both rushing attempts and red-zone carries in each of the past three years.

To take this a step further, Hill has ranked fourth among all running backs in red-zone rush attempts in 2015 (48) and 2016 (40) which he converted into a combined 18 rushing touchdowns. If there's one thing Hill is good at, it's converting his high-value touches into scores. He's tallied no fewer than nine touchdowns in each of his three seasons in the NFL and has ranked in the top 10 in rushing scores among running backs all three years.

If you're worried about a workload decrease for Hill this year, you're probably on the right track. But even in a split backfield with Bernard for much of last season, Hill still saw a 56 percent market share of the Bengals' running back carries. Despite his struggles with efficiency and limited third-down usage (just 47 plays with 26 touches over the last two seasons), Hill has still maintained a 220-plus attempt workload.

Let's also not forget the competition factor. Hill has enjoyed his seat atop the depth chart for the last couple of years but now must keep Mixon at bay. Maybe that's exactly what the LSU product needs to get his production between the 20-yard lines back up to the level we saw in 2014. Given the options at running back post-Round 10, Hill makes for an ideal late-round play with a ton of touchdown upside.

James White, New England Patriots (ADP: 12.04 via FFCalc)

Will the real Super Bowl LI MVP please stand up? Ah, there you are, James White. Thank you, kind sir and nice work. All right, maybe I'm just sick (jealous) of Tom Brady's omnipresence on trophy podiums and in pop culture. Whatever, moving on. Given White's current ADP in fantasy football redrafts, he's an ideal late-round option to consider bolstering your bench with.

This offseason, New England made some significant moves to revamp its backfield. LeGarrette Blount bounced during free agency. The team acquired former Bengals' back Rex Burkhead and former Bills' runner Mike Gillislee. Dion Lewis remains on the roster but could be on the bubble given how crowded this unit is.

Anyway, Gillislee has drawn all of the hype this offseason as the New England back to own. He's been forecasted to slide into what was Blount's early-down and goal-line role, which on a high-scoring offense like New England's, is extremely valuable in fantasy football. But his current Round 5 asking price is a tad steep and may continue to climb. Given the unknowns that come with trying to project what coach Bill Belichick is going to do with his backfield, White's Round 12 ADP is a much better value.

Last season was White's first full 16-game slate of his career and he made the most of his opportunities. The Wisconsin product tied Theo Riddick for first among running backs in receiving touchdowns(five) and was third in receiving yards (551), targets (86) and receptions (60) to only David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell.

Yeah, that's decent company.

His 60 catches marked a high for a Patriots' back in the Belichick era. White has also led New England's backfield in receptions in each of the last two seasons and has seen increasingly more work as he develops into a solid change-of-pace player. While his strength is clearly as a receiving back--he led all NFL backs with a 16.23 percentage of snaps lined up out wide--he has also shown efficiency as a runner, averaging 5.0 yards per carry on runs out of the shotgun formation last year.

White has garnered praise from both coach Belichick and Brady for his consistent improvement since entering the league. A bit of praise from either can go a long way as evidenced by the shiny new contract White signed in April after he played a key role in the Patriots' epic Super Bowl LI comeback. It's time fantasy owners take note that New England's go-to pass-catching back can provide much needed late-round value at the position.

C.J. Prosise, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 11.02 via FFCalc)

As a rookie, C.J. Prosise missed a significant chunk of training camp and preseason action due to injury. But when he did get on the field, he was a fantasy game-changer. In a four-game span between Weeks 8 and 11, Prosise averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 28 rush attempts, scored double-digit standard fantasy points thrice, and collected 80-plus receiving yards twice.

He was the star of the show during a Sunday Night Football game in Week 10 against the Patriots with 24 touches that went for 153 yards leading his team in both rushing and receiving. After helping the Seahawks hand Tom Brady his only loss of the season, Prosise was promptly promoted to starting running back and got off to a hot start against Philadelphia in Week 11 with a 72-yard touchdown run. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending injury later in the first quarter, halting his rookie campaign.

Seattle made one significant change to its backfield during the offseason by acquiring Eddie Lacy in free agency. Prior to Lacy's signing, there were whispers that Prosise would compete for the starting job with Thomas Rawls. That's a sign that the Seattle coaches believe the Notre Dame product is capable of being a feature back at the NFL level. But now that Lacy is in the picture, it's likely Prosise is relegated to change-of-pace duties, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We've seen him flash explosiveness in this role, albeit via a small sample size.

Reports on Prosise this spring have been nothing but positive, so there is still room for optimism. Seahawks beat reporter Sheil Kapadia of ESPN wrote that the second-year back has "looked healthy and dangerous" in offseason workouts. Head coach Pete Carroll, who was giddy about landing Prosise in the NFL Draft last year, reiterated how the team plans on using the converted wideout's versatile skill set as a weapon in the offense.

Sure, Prosise will be behind Lacy and Rawls on the depth chart to start training camp, but neither provide the spark or mismatch opportunities that the talented second-year player does. If he can prove worthy of a bigger workload, it's not out of the question for him to usurp Rawls as the No. 2 before the season is underway. With the lack of upside options in Round 10 and later, fantasy owners need to be willing to take a chance on this explosive player when they can.

Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions (ADP: 10.06 via FFCalc)

The Lions' backfield production has been garbage for the last two seasons. Ameer Abdullah's 597 rush yards as a rookie in 2015 is the highest total among any Detroit running back during that span and Theo Riddick led the team last year with a mere 357 rush yards.

Both backs missed significant playing time with health issues in 2016: Abdullah went down with a Lisfranc injury in Week 2 and missed the rest of the campaign, while Riddick had surgery on both of his wrists this past winter. But the team didn't make any power moves to improve its backfield this offseason and seem fairly confident that the combination of Abdullah and Riddick will suffice heading into 2017. Abdullah is the favorite for early-down work, a role we know Riddick isn't cut out for given his 3.5 career yards per carry average. But Riddick's role as a third-down, change-of-pace option shouldn't be dismissed when the later rounds of your fantasy draft roll around. The Detroit running back ranked second at his position in targets and tied for first in receptions (99/80) in 2015. He was on pace for even higher totals in both categories (107/84) in 2016 before his injury.

Because both Abdullah and Riddick missed so many games last year, let's use 2015 to get an idea of how the duo was used on third downs. Riddick was on the field for 128 third down plays compared to Abdullah's 35. It's fair to note that the team's current offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, took over halfway through 2015 and that it was Abdullah's rookie season, so we can't completely use this as an indicator of what to expect in 2017. But for now, it's the only barometer we have for how the workload might be split.

Based on Riddick's average target market share out of the backfield over the last two seasons, he's in line for about 80 targets this year across a full 16 games. Only four backs had 80-plus targets in 2015 and only three reached that mark in 2016. When you consider the departure of slot specialist Anquan Boldin from Detroit, the team's lack of depth at wideout and Riddick's 6.31 percent of snaps from the slot last season (fourth among running backs), that aforementioned target share could creep even higher.

Rookies with a path to playing time and other honorable mentions:

Joe Williams, San Francisco 49ers (12.10): The 49ers traded up to get Williams in the NFL Draft and reports from area beat writers suggest that he could push Carlos Hyde for the starting gig under a new coaching regime.

D'Onta Foreman, Houston Texans (13.12): A big, powerful back with quick feet, Foreman is forecasted to be the No. 2 in Houston behind Lamar Miller. The rookie presents a power option in goal-line situations and could spell Miller at times after we witnessed the veteran breakdown under a massive workload last season.

Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (13.12): One of the top running back prospects in the 2017 draft class, Kamara will be competing for snaps with two hugely successful veterans in Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. Kamara will likely fill the pass-catching role in New Orleans, which has been extremely valuable for fantasy owners in seasons past in New Orleans.

DeAndre Washington, Oakland Raiders (13.11): The second-year back is the No. 2 option behind Marshawn Lynch in Oakland. He'll likely get enough work to be relevant as a low-end flex play, and if the 31-year-old Beast Mode breaks down, Washington would be the top option in what would likely be a committee approach. As a rookie, Washington averaged an impressive 5.4 yards per carry on his 87 attempts.

-- Follow Matt on Twitter @MattFranchise, on Instagram @mattfranchise and like his page on Facebook


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