Three Running Backs You Can Trust in 2016
2015 was a dark time for the running back position. Only 7 runners managed to cobble together 1,000 yards. This represents the fewest rushers to accomplish the feat since 1991. Now more than ever it is imperative that you know which RBs you can trust for 2016 before you draft this season.
If you haven’t read my article on WRs you can trust, I consider a player to be trustworthy if you can plug him into your starting lineup each and every week, regardless of matchups and be reasonably certain that he will score starter-worthy numbers (a top 30 finish). Those within the circle of trust may not return top 5 points at their position, but we want to avoid those stinkers, the performances that could potentially cause you to lose your weekly matchup.
Here are three RBs you can trust for the upcoming season.
Despite playing only 12 games, a career low, LeSean McCoy managed 1,187 total yards and 5 TDs, good for a 17th place finish amongst RBs. McCoy was remarkably consistent as well, finishing in the top 30 at his position in all but one of his games, a rate of 91.6%. These numbers are impressive considering “Shady” was slowed by a nagging hamstring injury and last year’s rookie Karlos Williams pilfered 9 TDs. McCoy’s solid production has been a theme throughout his career. Since his rookie season, he has averaged 17.5 carries per game, paired with 3.4 receptions per game. McCoy is truly a featured back, who has added value in half-point and full PPR formats.
Moving forward to 2016, McCoy is entering his 2nd year in Greg Roman’s offensive system and for the first time since 1996, the Buffalo Bills are expected to return all 5 starters on their offensive line. This provides consistency and cohesion in the running game, something that cannot be underestimated.
McCoy is currently being drafted as an RB2 in 12 team leagues. You would be wise to trust him at that price, especially if you go WR early in the draft, as he will provide you with consistent RB1 production.
Like McCoy, Mark Ingram’s 2015 campaign was shortened by injury. However, in the 12 games Ingram played he racked up 1,174 total yards and 6 TDs. Also like McCoy, Ingram ranked in the weekly top 30 at his position 11 times. His only “bad” game came against the Eagles in Week 5 when the Saints got boat raced by a score of 39-17. In that game, Ingram still managed 4.8 YPC but simply suffered from poor game flow.
Going forward, game flow should not be a regular issue for Ingram as he has proven himself to be a capable pass catcher, finishing with 50 grabs last season. Additionally, New Orleans will field a young group of receivers in the coming season which should lead to even more opportunities for Ingram out of the backfield. As a runner, Ingram only faces competition from the likes of journeyman Tim Hightower, 7th round rookie Daniel Lasco, and the disappointing C.J. Spiller. Look for Ingram to put together another strong season with RB1 numbers.
Even though he was locked in a nightmarish RBBC last season, Mathews still managed to finish in the top 30 at his position in half of his games played. Considering he only received 23.9% of the team’s rushing attempts, finishing in the top 30 so often is a serious accomplishment. Mathews was an efficient runner in 2015. He turned his 106 carries into 539 yards and 6 TDs. His 5.1 yards per tote was second only to Thomas Rawls and his first down rate of 30.2% was the best in the league (min. 50 carries). You do not get fantasy points for first downs (in most leagues) but Mathews will benefit from sustained offensive drives.
Going into 2016, Mathews is due for even more opportunities. The team leader in carries last year, DeMarco Murray, has been traded to the Titans leaving just Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles on the roster. At the age of 33, Sproles doesn’t figure to be much of a challenge for between the tackles work, and Smallwood is an unproven rookie, leaving the majority of carries and goal line work to Mathews. New head coach, Doug Pederson, also figures to benefit the run game in Philadelphia. (For more information about Pederson and other coaching changes, check out the Ultimate Draft Kit.) I expect Mathews to channel prior success as a feature back and reward your trust by providing high-end RB2 numbers at the cost of just a 5th round pick.
As always, I have presumed the health of all players discussed. Be sure to check the UDK for up to date injury news and notes before you draft.