No matter what round you are talking about in fantasy football, the name of the game is to find value at each position. As for the running back position, whether you’re on #TeamRobustRB or #TeamZeroRB, you still have the mindset of seeking out running backs in the later rounds that can return some value. With more drafts commencing as the preseason approaches, I’ll be highlighting a few running backs that could carry upside later in drafts. To help those that are scratching their head on what to do when it’s time to pick in the later rounds, I avoided listing any running backs that had an ADP lower than 100.
ADP is courtesy of FantasyPros’ ADP Consensus.
Gus Edwards (ADP: 110 Overall, RB42)
Lamar Jackson has led the Baltimore Ravens in rushing in the past two seasons, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in back-to-back seasons. As long as Jackson is the quarterback, the ceiling of any running back on the Ravens is going to be slightly capped. That doesn’t mean that J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards won’t have definitive roles in the offense in 2021, though. Yes, Baltimore added Rashod Bateman in the 2021 NFL Draft and Sammy Watkins in free agency to improve the aerial attack. But make no mistake about it, as long as Greg Roman is calling the offense, the Ravens are a run-first team. Edwards has been a consistent source of rushing production, totaling 700+ rushing yards in each of the past three seasons—despite starting in 13 total games. Last season, Edwards finished as RB35 in half-PPR formats, and seeing that he signed a two-year, $9 million extension this offseason, the Ravens plan on keeping him involved in the ground game.
Nyheim Hines (ADP: 122nd Overall, RB44)
Everyone and their relatives seem to be losing their minds over the news of Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson being sidelined for the Indianapolis Colts. Jonathan Taylor’s stock is declining and the thoughts of him having a breakout campaign in 2021 have subsided, for the time being. As for me, I haven’t wavered much on Taylor. While losing his starting quarterback and his best offensive lineman is far from ideal, neither of them is expected to miss the entire season. On top of that, Taylor is still going to receive a heavy workload in an offense that will need to survive until Wentz and Nelson return to the field. In addition to Taylor, I do believe Nyheim Hines is going to have a consistent pass-catching role, especially if Jacob Eason is under center. Hines has averaged nearly 72 targets, 57 receptions, 409 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns in his first three years in the NFL. Just a season ago, Hines was fourth among running backs with 1.91 yards per route run, and he was effective with his targets with an 83.1% catch rate (fifth-best among running backs). Until we see what Marlon Mack looks like coming off of a serious Achilles ailment, I expect Taylor and Hines both to be busy for the Colts in 2021.
Jamaal Williams (ADP: 126 Overall, RB45)
Talk about being a relatable guy to people around the globe. Jamaal Williams was recently quoted for saying that he doesn’t watch much live television, he just watches anime.
"I don't watch TV. I watch anime all day."— ESPN (@espn) July 30, 2021
Jamaal Williams kept it real during his interview
(via @NFL, @Lions) pic.twitter.com/5sicMn2Siv
Besides becoming a fan-favorite for how he spends his leisure time, Williams is gaining more steam as a late-round value in fantasy football. After spending the first four years of his career with the Green Bay Packers, Williams remained in the NFC North, joining Green Bay’s division rivals (it isn’t really a rivalry) in the Detroit Lions on a two-year, $6 million deal in the offseason. While D’Andre Swift is expected to take on a heavy workload in his sophomore season, Williams figures to be a change-of-pace back behind Swift, especially with Anthony Lynn as his offensive coordinator. Williams led all running backs with an impressive 88.1% catch rate in 2020, so he should see some pass-down work in Detroit next season. Plus, Jared Goff doesn’t have many reliable pass-catching options available to him outside of T.J. Hockenson, giving Swift and Williams plenty of dump-off opportunities in Detroit’s new-look offense. Even though some people don’t believe he has standalone value with Swift ahead of him on the depth chart, Williams is going to see plenty of action in his debut season with the Lions. Everyone continues to search for the wideout in Detroit’s passing attack that could smash value, but it might be their two running backs at the top of the depth chart that are worth rostering.
Giovani Bernard (ADP: 181 Overall, RB59)
It was Playoff Lenny that helped lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl, along with that guy named Tom Brady. Leonard Fournette was quiet for the majority of the regular season, only to explode for 448 yards from scrimmage and four total touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s four postseason contests. While Ronald Jones and Fournette are expected to split carries to begin the season, neither of them have shown that they have soft hands in the passing game. To combat the team’s issue of not having a trustworthy running back for Brady to target, the Buccaneers signed Giovani Bernard, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals. Throughout his eight seasons with the Bengals, Bernard garnered fewer than 50 targets just twice, and he registered a career-high 79.7% catch rate in 2020. The veteran running back with an elite profile picture on Pro Football Reference — and I mean ELITE — is also getting to play behind an offensive line in the Buccaneers that is much better than the one he ran behind on the Bengals. It’s always frustrating trying to guess how Bruce Arians is going to deploy his running backs, but Bernard is someone that is going to quickly earn the trust of the savvy head coach, and the seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. If you’re looking for a running back in the back half of your draft to take a flier on, not many carry as much upside as Bernard, especially in half-PPR/PPR leagues.