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The new fad in Fantasy Football has become the need to go after rookies at the running back position. With players like Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and others coming into the league and blazing a trail, many owners salivate at the thought of getting the new shiny toy on draft day. Over the last couple of seasons it has become the norm to reach for these rookies to ensure having them rostered as opposed to going after proven veterans that provide a safe floor of production. It’s the ultimate risk/reward game. You can use the narrative of “he has yet to play a down in the NFL” but that has been proven false by many running backs lately. Couple that with the idea that a lot of experts in the industry as well as everyday owners want the recognition of being the first to say “I saw it first with him”. This has dramatically affected the ADPs of rookies across the position. It’s not due to talent or role in an offense, but primarily due to being a first-year player in the league. Everyone is doing what I call “Chasing Zeke”. This is essentially going after the rookies at the position in hopes they return value much like Ezekiel Elliott did in his rookie season.
Two of those backs that you will see come off the board earlier in drafts this season are Derrius Guice and Rashaad Penny. With Guice, you have a player with a large amount of talent but with a little bit of baggage which caused his slide on draft day. Rashaad Penny is a lesser-known commodity among the casual owners, coming from a smaller school, but is every bit as talented as any other player at the position. Where should these players fall during your draft and which one should you select first?
Derrius Guice: PPR ADP of 36 on FantasyPros
After a very strong final season at LSU, Derrius Guice’s value going into the NFL drafting process was very high. But whether you want to believe it or not, some issues he had meeting with teams caused his name to be dropped down some organization’s draft boards. But as is the case with Guice, once a team gets him in a position to prove it on a field, whether in practice or a game, he shows them the type of player he is. He has the prototypical size and speed a team wants in a three-down back in the league. He’s elusive, and runs with the kind of patience that you see from some of the more elite backs in the NFL.
When it comes to Guice’s potential in the Redskins offense for 2018, the arrow is pointing up. He should easily break training camp as the starting running back for the team, giving him plenty of value in standard scoring leagues. The real question comes into play in PPR formats, where he has to contend for targets with Chris Thompson, once he is healthy again. Pass-catching running back seems to be the role strongly held by Thompson, but Guice does hold value in this area and Thompson (leg) is still on the mend. If given enough looks, Guice could force his way into more opportunities in that role. That will only help vault his value in PPR as well. But as it stands now, Guice is being drafted as an RB2 in any format and that is where he should finish 2018. IF he is given a true three-down back role in this offense, he could potentially sneak into lower-tier RB1 status by season’s end.
Rashaad Penny: ADP 42
Not known by many going into the pre-NFL draft process, Rashaad Penny’s name started popping up all over the place after his performance at the Senior Bowl. Penny was the nation’s leader in broken tackles at the position in 2017. Playing for a smaller school in San Diego State, the argument could be made that the level of competition could be held against him as he enters the NFL. Penny is a powerful back for his size and has a burst that helps him separate from defenders in the open field. He can work between the tackles as well as being a threat on pass routes from the backfield. These are the things that the Seahawks saw that led to his selection at the end of the first round of the NFL Draft.
Early word coming out of Seahawks camp has Chris Carson as the leading runner. But if you want to believe this team spent that high of a draft pick on a player just to have him as second fiddle, that’s on you. Carson isn’t the talent that Penny is and only saw success in limited playing time last season due to the lack of true weapons in the backfield. So I expect Penny to assert himself very early for the leading role in this rushing attack. I have been high on Penny for quite some time and to see a team go out and grab a player so early sends the message that they have big plans for him in the offense. Even though the Seahawks don’t have a very good offensive line, they’ve made small improvements that could help the team develop more of an identity in the running game. If Penny shows he can handle pass protection at the pro level quickly, I expect for him to be the true bell cow back that Pete Carroll has been looking for since the departure of Marshawn Lynch. I see Penny as being this year’s Kareem Hunt or Jordan Howard -- A back that greatly exceeds his draft day value.