Fantasy football is a game of strategy and luck. A good draft day is the foundation of a strong fantasy team. While everyone gets most excited about the first few rounds of a fantasy draft, the middle to late rounds is the most important for building a strong team. Every year there are league winners like Pat Mahomes last year. Mahomes put up a monster year in 2018, but that alone is not why he was a league winner…He was a league winner because he was a 10th round pick that delivered 1st round production.
In the late rounds, you should look to draft either players with a usable and safe floor OR players with high upside. As we all know, nothing is a sure thing in the double-digit rounds. I challenge you to take at least three upside players this year – I bet one will pan out. Also, it’s better to draft late-round players who have the opportunity to make a fantasy impact based on talent than players who need an injury to become relevant.
As the Ballers say on the show, it’s smart to draft players that will show you something Week 1. As silly as it sounds, it’s important to have disposable players – so maybe one of the three late-round fliers will turn into something. The other two will be recycled and open up space for waiver wire warriors.
Here are three running backs that I’m targeting in double-digit rounds.
What if I told you that you could draft the starting running back on a pretty good offense in the tenth round? Enter Peyton Barber. He’s the favorite to keep the starting job over Ronald Jones. The Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians this offseason, and I expect the Buccaneers to improve on offense. It’d be no surprise if the Bucs took a step forward from their 2018 rank of 29th in rushing yards. The Buccaneers are probably going to score more points in 2019 than they did in 2018. Barber had 6 touchdowns last year. While I’m not projecting it, it’s possible that he scores closer to 10 touchdowns this year.
We know who Barber is. Peyton Barber is not an all-star talent, but he’s a starting running back. He’ll probably run for 3.7 – 4.0 yards per carry this year. But he’ll get over 200 attempts if he keeps the starting job. That’s enough to provide value in double-digit rounds. Draft Barber as your fourth or fifth running back. He won’t be your favorite pick of the draft, but he’s cheap.
Ballage is a sophomore running back who is free in drafts. Ballage is the number two back in Miami, behind Kenyan Drake (who is a potential fantasy steal himself). However, Ballage averaged 5.3 yards per carry in his rookie 2018 season. Granted, he only handled 36 carries and nine receptions last season. Ballage had two games last season where he touched the ball more than six times. Both games he had 12 carriers and one reception.
|Week 15 (MIN)||13||121||1||0||18.6|
|Week 17 (BUF)||13||48||0||1||3.3|
His performance in these matchups couldn’t have been the more polar opposite. However, he demonstrated that he has big-game potential in week 15. Ballage is an unproven, big back that could potentially put up some numbers. While Drake has a better chance of keeping the lead job than losing it, it’s still possible that Ballage becomes fantasy relevant if the Dolphins decide to implement a running back by committee (RBBC) or if he finds a way to impress the coaching staff and steal the main job. The Dolphins do have a brand new coaching staff, so he has a fresh opportunity to demonstrate his potential.
Am I saying Ballage is definitely going to breakout? No. But there’s a decent chance he does, and he’s someone that could turn into an RB2 if everything falls into place. What if Ballage really is the guy that flashed in week 15 last season? Ballage is currently being drafted in the 14th round of redraft leagues. The best part about Ballage is that he’s an unknown commodity who could flash in week 1. And if he doesn’t? GREAT! Drop him for a waiver wire player.
Kyle Shanahan knows how to run a good offense, and he has plenty of talent on the roster. There are three talented running backs battling for touches in San Francisco this year. Bruce Arians would love to have that problem. Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon are expected to fill the Devonta Freeman / Tevin Coleman roles that Shanahan used in Atlanta a couple of years ago. That would leave Breida the odd man out. Coleman and McKinnon have much larger paychecks than Breida, so they’ll get the first shots at starting roles. But what if Breida outperforms them?
Breida ran for 5.3 yards per carry in 2018. That ranked fourth in 2018 (min 100 touches). Let’s look at rushing efficiency over the past two healthy seasons for the 49ers running backs:
|Player||Games Played||Yards per Carry|
|Matt Breida (2017-2018)||30||5|
|Jerick McKinnon (2016-2017)||31||3.6|
|Tevin Coleman (2017-2018)||31||4.4|
Additionally, Breida is the only one of the group who hasn’t disappointed their NFL teams in the past. Tevin Coleman disappointed in Atlanta last year when he finally had a chance to be the lead back after Devonta Freeman’s injury. McKinnon disappointed in Minnesota in 2016 – 2017 when he had the opportunity to fill Adrian Peterson’s shoes. Breida is a gritty running back who went undrafted and earned touches due to his talent. He’s used to fighting an uphill battle, and it’s possible that he earns weekly double-digit touches partway through the season.
Breida averaged 15.7 fantasy points per game during the six games in 2018 where he got at least 14 touches. Is he expected to get to that volume? No, but crazier things have happened. If he does somehow manage to earn 14 touches per game, he’ll be super productive. Breida is being drafted in the twelfth round. Scoop him up!