When it comes to fantasy football, championships are built on the strength of high scoring running backs. It’s no surprise that eight of the top-12 picks by current average draft position (ADP) are running backs. But by the end of the season, not all of the running backs drafted in the early rounds will end up finishing near the top in fantasy points. There are always some late-round gems that find fantasy success when given opportunities. James Connor, James White, Nick Chubb, and Phillip Lindsay all fit that description in 2018.
Here are some late-round running back targets headed into the 2019 season.
Justice Hill (ADP: 12.07)
Justice Hill and the Baltimore Ravens are a match made in fantasy football heaven. No matter how much Lamar Jackson improved his passing this offseason, the Ravens are going to be a run-heavy team. Jackson’s running capabilities will also help open up running lanes for the running backs. The Ravens ran the most offensive plays in the NFL last season, so there will be plenty of volume to go around in the Baltimore backfield.
Former Saint Mark Ingram signed in Baltimore in the offseason and is likely to start the season as the lead back for the Ravens, but Hill’s eye-popping athleticism and pass-catching ability make him useable as a third down and change of pace back starting in Week 1. Hill posted the top 40-yard dash (4.40), vertical jump (40”), and broad jump (10’10”) of all running backs in the 2019 combine. While numbers aren’t everything, they do show that Hill is electric enough to break a long touchdown play at any time.
Just because the Ravens plan to roll out Mark Ingram as the Week 1 starter, it wouldn’t be shocking if Hill took over a significant chunk of the backfield snaps as the season progresses. Gus Edwards, Alex Collins, Terrence West, and Javorius Allen have all taken over significant backfield roles in the backfield after starting the season lower on the depth chart in recent seasons. Hill is arguably more talented and entering a better situation than any of those backs. He’s even drawn comparisons to Alvin Kamara, who you may recall being quite successful in a shared backfield with Ingram in the past. At his current ADP, he could be the steal of your fantasy draft.
For more reasons to target Justice Hill check out this Potential League Winners article from early in the offseason.
Nyheim Hines (ADP: 13.11)
Let’s run down the list of things to look for in a running back you’ll want on your fantasy football team.
Be on a Good Offense
The Colts were the number five scoring offense in the NFL last season averaging 27.1 points per game. They didn’t lose any significant pieces of their offense, but they did add some more weapons in Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell. There may be concern about Campbell stealing some targets from Hines, but if they are an improved offense it will bode well for all of the offensive pieces in Indy, including Hines.
Have a Secured Role in the That Good Offense
Marlon Mack will be the lead back for the Colts and will handle plenty of early-down work, but he’s only averaged 1.46 catches per game over his first two NFL seasons. For context, Leonard Fournette, not especially known for his work in the receiving game, averaged nearly twice as many with 2.76 over the same time span. Mack simply isn’t used as a pass-catcher.
Hines, on the other hand, had 63 catches on 81 targets in his rookie campaign. He started his college career as a receiver, so it should be no surprise that he excelled catching passes out of the backfield. And his receptions don’t have to be confined to the backfield. As seen in the clip below, he’s also dangerous out of the slot.
5-9 rookie RB on a 5-9 Pro-Bowl DB
The RB Nyheim Hines won against Tyrann Mathieu pic.twitter.com/VmPBWUrZ2B
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 30, 2018
Run Behind a Great Offensive Line
A large reason for the Colts high powered offense is the strength they have upfront. Their offensive line was completely transformed in 2018 and became one of the best units in the NFL. While Hines is known primarily for his pass-catching, the next clip shows that he can succeed between the tackles when he gets the occasional chance.
Welcome to the NFL, Nyheim Hines' spin-o-rama – pic.twitter.com/EyYKhY3vuj
— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) September 18, 2018
Hines has a role that gives him a usable floor every week and the ceiling that could help you win a few weeks.
For more on Hines check out this ZeroRBs to Target article.
Chase Edmonds (ADP: NA)
David Johnson, with his first-round ADP, is set to be the primary back in Arizona. However, if things go the way head coach Kliff Kingsbury is planning, there will be more than enough offensive plays for Chase Edmonds to become fantasy relevant and help your team.
The aforementioned David Johnson was quoted in July that the Cardinals want to run “90 or 95 plays a game”. That might be a little hyperbolic considering the Ravens led the NFL with 70.9 plays per game last season, but we should expect Arizona to be at or near the top of the list in plays per game in 2019. If that’s the case it will be completely unreasonable for Johnson to stay on the field for all of the snaps. By sheer volume alone Edmonds is bound to get a decent workload. If the Cardinals run 75 plays in a game and Edmonds gets on the field for a mere 25% of them, a reasonable estimate considering Johnson saw about 79% of the snaps in Arizona’s lethargic 2018 offense, that would equate to nearly 19 snaps per game.
Of course, there’s also the possibility of offensive packages that put Johnson and Edmonds on the field at the same time. Johnson excels as a pass-catcher and can be an effective weapon lining up in the slot or even out wide, giving Edmonds additional snaps in the backfield. Edmonds himself, who caught 20 of 23 targets last season, could be utilized in similar ways as a receiving option.
Drafting Edmonds is drafting opportunity. If the air raid offense is as up-tempo as advertised he’ll come with a built-in floor every week and will be useable as a Flex or bye-week replacement. He also has the added bonus of being one of the most valuable handcuffs in the league should Johnson miss any time. It all adds up to lots of value for an essentially free draft pick.
Devin Singletary (ADP: 11.03)
Matt Breida (ADP: 11.10)
If you been listening to The Fantasy Footballers Podcast this summer you’ve no doubt heard Andy make a strong case for Matt Breida. You can also read up on him in this Late Round Targets article from Jeff Greenwood earlier this offseason.