Yesterday, I focused on the importance of the early rounds and drafting known commodities. In the later rounds, you can try and pick up sleepers. These are guys that might just be better than everyone thinks they’re going to be. It might be a rookie running back, like Ronald Jones II.
It’s difficult for a rookie quarterback or wide receiver to make a big impact in the NFL. But running backs are different. Look at 2017, where Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey all reached 1,000 scrimmage yards and (more importantly) 200 PPR fantasy points.
I will be looking hard at the rookie running backs on draft day, but the problem is finding the underrated ones. Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants isn’t sneaking up on anyone. He will be a first-round fantasy pick in every league. But what Jones, who isn’t expected to be drafted until the sixth round?
When I evaluate running backs, I am looking for “lead backs” who will be touching the ball a lot. And I don’t just mean taking handoffs and running through the line. Backs like Kamara and McCaffrey are just as valuable as receivers. If you’re in a PPR league, you score a point for every single reception.
I’ve been stressing the importance of drafting good running backs. They are easier to identify than good receivers. Why? The reason is that on any given play, there might be four, or more, receiving targets for the quarterback. But there’s likely only one running back in the backfield that will get the ball.
Tomorrow: Drafting a winning team, part eight.