Fantasy Football: Which Surprise Top-15 RB Was Random or Repeat?

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Nothing in life is certain except death, taxes, and random fantasy football studs that come out of nowhere. Two season wonders like Sean Alexander, Peyton Hillis, and Eddie Lacy were flashes in the pan that changed the course of fantasy leagues everywhere. The toughest part of handling these situations is trying to see them coming ahead of time. Making those predictions in the offseason before their breakouts is close to impossible, but we can certainly evaluate them going into year two with a lot more knowledge.

Last season Chris Carson, Phillip Lindsay, and James White all posted top 15 fantasy performances despite having ADPs in the triple digits. Finding players like these can vault your team from the middle of the pack to the league favorite within the first few weeks of the season. Let’s examine these three a bit closer and determine if their 2018 campaigns were random or likely to be repeated.

Chris Carson – 2018 Finish: RB15

Among the three players on this list, Carson had the most momentum during draft season. There were quite a few reports coming out of Seattle’s training camp that he would lead the team in touches but given the draft capital spent on Rashaad Penny, it seemed unlikely. Carson set the fantasy world on fire the last four weeks of the season posting 90+ yards and a touchdown in every game from week 13 on. Given Brian Schottenheimer’s historical commitment to the run game, we should expect more of the same in 2019 from a scheme standpoint. The only genuine threats to Carson’s chance to repeat are his health and Rashaad Penny. Although the rookie running back improved as the year went along in terms of YPC and overall efficiency, it would be very surprising if the Seahawks turned away from Carson as their lead back if he stays healthy. 

In terms of efficiency, a lot of people don’t realize just how good Chris Carson was in 2018. He ranked inside the top ten in evaded tackles, breakaway runs, and yards created. In terms of opportunity, he ranked inside the top ten in total carries, team run plays, red zone carries, and goal-line carries. Pair those performances with a top-five efficiency rating for the Seahawks run blocking unit and you’ve got yourself a genuine RB1 in 2019.

Random or Repeat?: REPEAT

Phillip Lindsay – 2018 Finish: RB12

The undrafted and undersized free agent that rose from the abyss was the most exciting story of the NFL season in 2018. Phillip Lindsay wasn’t just someone who fell into a starting spot either. Lindsay outplayed Royce Freeman and won the starting job outright with his play on the field. He ended the season in the top ten in rushing yards and total touchdowns while carrying a less than stellar Bronco offense that hasn’t improved much. It’s tough to tell how things will change with Joe Flacco behind center, but Lindsay will likely get a majority of the carries given how well he performed as the lead back. 

Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images

He’s in a similar situation to Carson because he plays on a run-heavy offense and has a rookie RB breathing down his neck each week. I personally think Lindsay is a good back but his fantasy production was a result of what Denver wanted to do last season, and repeating a top twelve fantasy finish might be tough. An RB2 campaign is more realistic unless Flacco can help open up the offense downfield. Denver’s offensive line was surprisingly efficient in terms of run blocking, but if they can’t take the next step as a team it could impact Lindsay’s chances to repeat an RB1 performance.

Random or Repeat?: RANDOM 

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James White – 2018 Finish: RB8

Trying to predict third down specialists on a week-to-week basis is a more daunting task than trying to win the battle for Winterfell. But what do we say to the gods of pass-catching running backs? Not today, because Tom Brady is no ordinary quarterback. James White was targeted more times in 2018 than Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley. Not impressed? Well, he also saw more targets than T.Y Hilton, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandin Cooks, and Kenny Golladay. The New England offense is truly one of a kind. 

White functions as a receiver who sees a carry once in a while and he’s been that guy for years. His role on the team should remain constant but with Sony Michel ascending it’s unlikely that he repeats a top-8 fantasy campaign. The only reason I call this performance random was that he found the end zone so many times when Michel went down and it boosted his end of season finish immensely. James White should remain in the RB2 territory because his role is solidified in New England, but finishing in the top-8 won’t happen again unless Michel suffers another significant injury in 2019. 

Random or Repeat?: RANDOM

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