Rachaad White Is Being Undervalued Right Now (Fantasy Football)
On Thursday’s Fantasy Footballers podcast, we opened with a quick question regarding Buccaneers RB Rachaad White.
Rachaad White is poised this season, but do you think he can capitalize on the opportunity? pic.twitter.com/BYqPL05WAa
— Fantasy Footballers (@TheFFBallers) April 6, 2023
Andy, Mike, and Jason shared their opinions and I tended to side more with Andy. I figured I’d dive a bit deeper on the 2nd year RB and lay out the case why he might be going undervalued in Best Ball drafts.
The Buccaneers selected White in the 3rd round (91st overall) as the 4th RB in the NFL Draft behind Breece Hall, Kenneth Walker III, and James Cook. Coming into the league from Arizona State, there were some concerns about his age and transferring from junior college in his Rookie Profile. But he was an excellent zone runner and profiled as one of the better receiving backs as of late.
It was a slow burn as Leonard Fournette started the year as a legit fantasy force. However, from Weeks 10-17, White averaged 53 percent of the snaps and 17 opportunities per game as Fournette was slowly detached from the offensive game plan. Nevertheless, you wouldn’t say White was a fantasy difference-maker finishing with just five top-24 performances on the year.
As a runner, some of his metrics were a bit concerning including averaging 2.39 yards after contact, a bottom-10 percentile number among runners in 2022. You can point the finger at Tampa Bay’s less-than-stellar offensive line ranking 25th in PFF’s run-blocking metrics or the fact the Buccaneers’ point differential (-45) was an outlier for any divisional winner. They simply couldn’t run the ball all year long en route to Brady re-setting his own record for most pass attempts in a season.
The highlight was White catching 50 of 58 targets becoming one of 11 rookie RBs over the last decade with 50+ receptions. The pass-catching prowess he showed in college certainly was evident in the NFL.
With Leonard Fournette cut earlier this off-season, White looks like the main guy in the backfield before the NFL Draft unless there are still some Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Chase Edmonds, or Patrick Laird truthers out there. Currently going as the RB28 in Underdog Best Ball drafts, the question is White being undervalued right now at that ADP?
Looking back at that list of rookie running backs over the last decade with 50+ receptions, what did they accomplish the next year?
Among rookie with RBs with 50+ receptions, the key takeaway for me what was their role the next year.
- Nyheim Hines and Duke Johnson continued to be utilized as satellite backs not topping 75 carries. However, the rest of the backs on this list all totaled 99 or more carries and ended up in the top-24 for fantasy.
- Tarik Cohen is a bit of an anomaly with 99 carries, 91 targets and five receiving TDs. He almost finished as an RB1 in a clear outlier year for his career.
- Giovani Bernard tag-teamed with rookie sledgehammer Jeremy Hill and gave the Bengals two top-20 fantasy RBs.
- The rest of the backs were all seen as the lead ball carriers for their team and averaged over 20 opportunities per game and a whopping 282 over the course of the season.
We don’t take this data and simply and copy & paste those conclusions for White. But it does give us a range of outcomes to consider when viewing him at ADP.
The Main Concerns
Weighing outcomes and perceived values in fantasy doesn’t come down to gut feelings but also answering the tough questions. Here are a few major concerns with White’s outlook that is likely being baked into the current ADP.
What if Tampa Bay adds an RB in the upcoming NFL Draft? The Footballers suggested this notion on the podcast after reviewing their depth chart on the Team Opportunity page of the Dynasty Pass. Based on the early draft capital (19, 50, 82) they possess, it seems possible they take someone in Round 2 or 3 that is able to mix in such as Syracuse’s Sean Tucker or Texas A&M’s Devon Achane, two players we discussed on the Fantasy Footballers Dynasty Podcast. Both are smaller backs but could be solid counter-punches to White’s size. A bigger early-down back (Auburn’s Tank Bigsby or Ole Miss’ Zach Evans) could also be viable. Regardless, White looks like the early favorite to gain the lion’s share of work in the backfield. At RB28, the ambiguity and worry along with other RBs having more secure situations are likely short-siding his stock. There are very few backfields that don’t have RBBCs so yes… expect Tampa Bay to add someone, which might sink White’s ADP outside the top 30. That looks like a spot to buy someone with his pass-catching profile.
Beyond the competition in the backfield, what if Tampa Bay is just plain bad? It’s easy to abandon ship (sweet Buccaneers reference Kyle) considering some guy named Tom Brady won’t be under center. They finished 1st in the NFC South despite a losing record (8-9) and were awarded a “1st place” schedule for their seeded games. The NFC South matches up with the NFC East, AFC East, and NFC West for those games in 2023. The Bucs will draw the Eagles at home and games on the road against the Bills and 49ers thanks to their finish. Woof. You can look at this through a couple of lenses:
- Tampa Bay will be bad; therefore, White will get a ton of garbage time. Maybe the best way to phrase this is the NFC South projects to be bad. I wrote about this topic last year that chasing garbage time outcomes is a fallacy considering fantasy managers (myself included) are bad at projecting game flow.
- Tampa Bay will be bad; therefore, White will be bad. As a good rule of thumb, we want RBs on good teams in good game scripts. But we care most about opportunity and targets to the RB position knowing a target is worth more than 2x a carry.
- Tampa Bay will be bad; therefore, I want no part of this backfield. That is another viable take and something worth exploring after what we see in the NFL Draft. But outrightly dismissing a team from your pool of players fails to notice that fantasy football is all about a market. At any cost, a player is worth considering.
What about the change in offensive philosophy? Out is Byron Leftwich and in is new OC Dave Canales. A long-time Seahawks assistant of 13 years, Canales was brought in to calm things down. The passing pie has to come down from 2022’s insane 751 attempts where they averaged over 45 per game! The Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud reported that Bucs head coach Todd Bowles hired offensive coordinator Canales “hoping he could bring the Seahawks’ efficient run game with him.” It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Buccaneers try to win rough and ugly style in a winnable division but it’s not a guarantee they can run the ball effectively enough. Shaving off more than 150 pass attempts seems aggressive but putting Tampa Bay more towards a league average pass rate (33.4 per game) puts them in the neighborhood of 580 for the season. That still leaves north of 100 targets… just for the RB position alone.
Will Baker target the RB position? Brady notoriously targeted RBs throughout his career while Baker Mayfield‘s presence might be cause for concern. Looking a bit deeper, the Tampa Bay RBs saw 20 percent of the team’s targets in 2022 and Mayfield’s career RB target rate (19.4 %) is roughly league average since coming into the league. Perhaps based on necessity alone, it seems White could finish 3rd on the team in targets behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Taking all of those factors into account, we might end up with a projection with White near 60 receptions, only ten more than he received in 2022 as a backup to Fournette. Using a couple of data points, we’re able to see a list of RBs with high-end outcomes for fantasy over the last decade, all of which sit ahead of White’s RB28 ADP.
A reminder: This is not at all prescriptive but descriptive of what we’ve seen from RBs with this type of high-end pass-catching profile entering their 2nd year. 60 receptions is a projection, not a lock by any means especially if a rookie RB with that skillset is added in the mix.
At this point of the off-season, I’m willing to buy into White as an RB3 with upside in Best Ball
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