Fantasy Football 2014: Undervalued Running Backs
“But he doesn’t catch passes.”
I don’t care.
Over the last two seasons, you’d be hard-pressed to name six or seven more productive running backs than Alfred Morris. The Butler has been serving fantasy owners nicely during his first two years in the league, finishing as the 5th and 14th-best fantasy running back. During that span, he’s rushed for 2,888 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. And yes, the downfall with Alf? With those 20 touchdowns, Morris has also caught just 20 balls in years one and two. And for that reason only, Morris is finding himself sliding down draft boards, currently coming off the board as a third-round draft pick.
Morris didn’t play bad last year, thus, finishing outside of the top-12. No, it was the Redskins who faltered, winning just four games and only leading in games 10.4 percent of the time. And according to Pro Football Focus, Morris played in just 115 snaps when Washington was in the lead, while playing almost 800 snaps when they were behind. In 2012, Morris’ rookie campaign, he played 377 winning snaps, compared to 425 losing snaps. Obviously, when teams are behind, they will throw the football, and Morris hasn’t been on the field enough in certain scenarios. This is very crucial to Morris’ value, as Jason Lisk of USA Today points out.
In the 13 wins over the last two years, 22.8 carries, 105 rushing yards, and 1 touchdown a game.
In the 19 losses, Morris averaged 16.6 carries, 80 rushing yards, and 0.4 touchdowns per game.
This year, the Redskins should be improved, as well as the play of quarterback, Robert Griffin III. Morris is also going to see great volume in the red zone, as over the last two years, he’s accumulated 91 red zone carries, as well as 39 totes from inside the 10-yard line. Alf is learning how to catch the football more under Jay Gruden’s offense, and if he can see an uptick in receptions, his fantasy value will absolutely skyrocket. I think he is still one of the ten-best running backs in football, and is being overlooked in fantasy circles.
But who else?
Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills (RB37)
You knew it was coming.
I have been proclaiming my love for FJax for years now, and in 2014, it’s no different. People just find it so easy to give up on them, and those who did last year missed out on 890 rushing yards, 47 receptions and a top-12 fantasy finish among running backs. Many people are scared of the presence of C.J. Spiller and Bryce Brown, but this is an offense that was horrible in the red zone, ranking 29th in goal-to-go efficiency last year. Jackson is their best pass-catching back, best pass-protector and best goal line option, and his role will remain. Last year, he ranked inside the top-five in both red zone carries and carries from inside the 10-yard line. Buffalo will run the ball close to 500 times, so there is still more than enough volume to be had for Jackson, the league’s oldest running back, to remain relevant.
Joique Bell, Detroit Lions (RB27)
Bell, in a limited role, finished as the number 17 fantasy running back last year, and now his role is expected to increase. So why is he barely being drafted inside the top-30 among running back? Meanwhile, his counterpart, Reggie Bush, is being taken three rounds earlier. Bell will score the touchdowns among the two, posting the fourth-highest touchdown conversion rate among running backs, while scoring eight times. He saw a healthy 24 red zone carries, as well as healthy 13 from inside the 10-yard line. He’s going to catch 40-50 passes, on top of being the goal line back in an offense that saw 3.5 red zone attempts per game last year, and has only gotten better.
Other notable values: Pierre Thomas (32), Maurice Jones-Drew (31), Carlos Hyde (39).