Dynasty Fantasy Football: 3 Buy-Low Running Backs
With free agency going nuts last week and the NFL Draft not too far away, the level of activity in your dynasty leagues should be ramping back up.
I find this window -- between free agency and the draft -- a great time to trade. Unless you're lucky enough to be in a league that's active year-round, your leaguemates are likely to be more interested in the NFL right now than they were a month ago, something that's particularly true at the moment with the sports world on pause. And with free agency shaking up situations around the league, the market can be pretty fluid and unpredictable.
We've already covered wideouts in this position-by-position series that hits on players I'm buying at each of the fantasy-relevant positions. Let's take a look at three running backs who make for good buys right now.
All average draft position (ADP) data comes from Dynasty League Football's March startup ADP numbers.
Le'Veon Bell, Jets
ADP: 54th overall (RB22)
If you're a TLDR type of person, here's what you need to know for why I'm buying Le'Veon Bell -- volume.
A lot of the shine has worn off when it comes to Bell. Once a fantasy monster, he has slipped outside the top-50 overall players in dynasty and isn't even a top-20 running back. A lot of his drop in value has come in the past 12 months as he was the 24th overall player in March of 2019.
But in a time when there's just not many true workhorse backs out there -- only nine running backs had more than 300 total touches (carries and catches) in 2019 -- volume alone makes Bell an appealing buy. Bell was one such 300-touch back last year, amassing 245 rushes and 66 receptions (on 78 targets), and the dude is still just 28 years old.
The volume should be there once again in 2020, as Trenton Cannon and Kenneth Dixon are the backs behind Bell on the New York Jets' depth chart. Our JJ Zachariason projects Bell for 265 carries and 66 grabs.
Bell could also be more efficient than he was in 2019 if Gang Green can improve their offensive line, a group that ranked 31st in adjusted line yards and dead last in open-field rank, per Football Outsiders. The shoddy blocking erased much of Bell's big-play ability. While chunk gains have never been Bell's forte, he had a long run of just 19 yards last season. That's bad.
The Jets have signed offensive linemen George Fant, Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten so far this offseason, and they could pluck a few more hog mollies in the draft.
But even if the Jets' offensive line is trash again this coming campaign, Bell is worth buying. He rode his big-time volume to an RB17 finish last year in half-PPR formats, and he's due for some positive touchdown regression after scoring just four times despite 1,250 scrimmage yards.
Buying Bell isn't as sexy of a move as it was a couple years ago, but in a running back landscape where there's not that many high-volume backs, Bell is an enticing trade target at a reasonable price tag.
Damien Williams, Chiefs
ADP: 95th (RB32)
If the late-season and playoff version of Damien Williams could show up for an entire regular season, we'd be looking at an elite fantasy producer.
Will that ever happen? I have no idea.
But given D-Will's current price tag, which puts him barely inside the top-100 players, I'm fine with buying this lottery ticket and seeing how things play out.
Williams was a divisive figure in the fantasy community heading into last season, and those who passed on his third-round ADP (in redraft) ended up being right, as he finished as the half-PPR RB35.
It's not as simple as that, though.
Williams played just 11 games, so his raw totals weren't going to be that great, and Patrick Mahomes' injury didn't help things, either. Going by points per game, however, Williams was the RB24, scoring 11.5 half-PPR points per outing. And while Williams is never going to be a workhorse-volume guy, the Kansas City Chiefs have shown over the last two postseasons what they think of him, giving him an average of 20.4 touches across five playoff games.
Williams ended up seeing at least 10 touches in eight of his 10 healthy games in 2019. That's not great volume by any stretch, but it's enough touches for Williams to be a solid fantasy producer in this high-octane KC attack. He scored at least 9.0 half-PPR points in seven of those 10 healthy games, with four outings of 15-plus points.
Could Kansas City draft a running back next month and send Williams' stock tumbling? Yes, that's a very real possibility. There's also a chance they don't take a running back -- or if they do, it's late, like they did with Darwin Thompson a year ago -- and that would likely send Williams' dynasty value up a couple tiers.
We're in a very similar position with Williams to the one we were in 12 months ago. I get the fear here; those fears are justifiable. But I also see the immense upside, and with Williams sitting as the RB32 in ADP -- compared to a cost of the RB23 last March -- I'm willing to pay the price to see how this shakes out.
Bryce Love, Washington
ADP: 179th (RB57)
When looking this deep at running back, you're throwing darts.
Some guys in this range need to have a lot of things go their way to be fantasy relevant in the near future. Bryce Love is one of those guys, but if you're willing to work at it, you can craft a tale in which he's a fantasy factor in 2020 or 2021.
The Washington depth chart is messy right now, and it's led by Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice. Peterson is entering his age-35 season, and Guice -- Washington's second-round selection in 2018 -- has played a mere five games through two injury-plagued seasons. Washington also signed Peyton Barber this offseason, which makes all this clear as mud.
Guice is the best bet to lead this backfield in touches in 2020, and if he thrives and stays healthy, that would relegate Love to the pine, possibly for a while. That's a huge if, though, as we've seen, and Peterson is what he is at this point -- a very old running back who is in the final year of his contract. Barber is a pretty meh player. His two-year pact has just $600,000 in guaranteed money, so he's not a lock to make the roster, though he likely will.
So while there might be a lot of hurdles in front of Love at the moment, none of those hurdles are insurmountable.
Love, of course, is far from a sure thing after missing all of his rookie season recovering from an ACL injury. He does have a monster college campaign on his resume, though, rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 scores at Stanford in 2017, and Washington liked him enough to take him in the fourth round last year despite Love coming off a lackluster (mostly due to injury) 2018 college season and being unlikely to play much as a rookie.
Love appears to be on track to be ready to play in 2020, and while he's a long shot to emerge as a fantasy relevant player in 2020, he's a nice depth lottery ticket to have on your bench, especially if you're in rebuild mode.