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NFL Draft

Fantasy Football: 12 Late-Round RBs To Target

  • The Draft Network
  • June 29, 2021
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Every fantasy manager wants to unearth the hidden gems in their fantasy football drafts. That often means targeting rookies who could explode given the right opportunity. Other times, it just means sitting back and snagging a player who failed to live up to prior hype. Or maybe you’re just as confused as I am about some of these running backs’ ADPs on Underdog Fantasy. 

While fantasy seasons are usually won or lost within the first couple of rounds, there are still a handful of guys who could potentially make an impact on your roster. Let’s take a look at 12 late-round running backs who fall into three distinct categories:

Full-load upside: They may not see the field often, but they’re one injury away from getting thrust into a prime opportunity, a.k.a. handcuffs.

Carved-out roles: You know what you’ll get with these players, who normally see most of their work as a pass-catcher.

Carved-out roles with a full-load upside: The best of both worlds. These guys have defined roles and could be on the verge of a full workload.

With those categories in mind, let’s look at some running backs who you should target in rounds 10 and beyond.

Full-Load Upside 

Tony Pollard 

Underdog ADP: RB37

12-Team Round Projection: 10th

Like the other running backs in this category, Pollard is annually a high-upside fantasy option. That was even more evident when he filled in for Ezekiel Elliott in Week 15. The result: 31.2 fantasy points in PPR leagues, including an 89.7% snap share. If you’re cool with using one of your bench spots on someone who may never play more than 40% of his team’s snaps, then Pollard is your guy. Honestly, he could probably start on a handful of teams as well, but that’s not too important for fantasy.

A.J. Dillon 

Underdog ADP: RB40

12-Team Round Projection: 10th

Dillon had a tough rookie season with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in the fold. Fortunately for him, he showed why Green Bay spent a second-round pick on him with a nearly 26-point performance in Week 17. With Williams in Detroit now, Dillon is one injury to Jones away from 20-plus carries. It’s unclear whether Dillon will have much of a role otherwise, though. As with the other handcuffs, you’d be drafting and stashing him in hopes the right opportunity comes.

Alexander Mattison

Underdog ADP: RB48

12-Team Round Projection: 12th

Despite being drafted behind Pollard and Dillon, Mattison may be the best handcuff to target. Dalvin Cook has yet to play a full season in his four-year career. Last season, Cook didn’t play in Weeks 6 and 17, and he left Week 5 early with an injury. Here’s what Mattison did, with his snap share in parentheses.

  • Week 5 (49%) - 20 carries for 112 rushing yards, three catches for 24 yards, 16.6 fantasy points
  • Week 6 (48%) - 10 carries for 26 rushing yards, one catch for four yards, 4 fantasy points
  • Week 17 (62%) - 21 carries for 95 rushing yards and a touchdown, three catches for 50 yards and a touchdown, 29.5 fantasy points

Setting that weird Week 6 performance aside, Mattison clearly has upside in an offense that annually favors the run.

Chuba Hubbard 

Underdog ADP: RB56

12-Team Round Projection: 17th

Perhaps the most underrated handcuff in fantasy football, Hubbard could easily be the Panthers’ second running back—unless Trenton Cannon or Reggie Bonnafon finally do something. All jokes aside, Carolina didn’t spend a fourth-round pick on a guy who they didn’t think could step in for Christian McCaffrey. After all, injuries kept the fantasy superstar from all but three games last season. If McCaffrey misses more time, Hubbard may be gifted with 20-plus carries and six targets a game. That’s a golden opportunity for a player who’s basically free in fantasy drafts.

Carved-Out Roles with Full-Load Upside

Gus Edwards 

Underdog ADP: RB39

12-Team Round Projection: 10th

The Ravens’ backfield is a fascinating study because no matter how you slice it, their biggest running threat is Lamar Jackson. Many analysts—myself included—were hopeful for a J.K. Dobbins breakout season. Instead, Dobbins saw the field just a bit more than Edwards. Despite a 14% difference in snaps, Dobbins and Edwards both earned 0.37 points per snap. While I’d much rather have Dobbins than Edwards, this split suggests Edwards has a legit role in the offense and he just signed a two-year contract extension, so he’s here to stay. 

Darrell Henderson 

Underdog ADP: RB42

12-Team Round Projection: 13th

Cam Akers finished last season on a very strong note, which is probably why many fantasy players view him as a first-round running back. While it’s certainly possible Akers finishes as an RB1, let’s not disregard Henderson completely. Despite Akers’ late-season success, Sean McVay tends to prefer a committee approach. It helps that Malcolm Brown left for Miami in the offseason, too. He may not have the upside of other players in this category, but Henderson should still see enough snaps in the Rams’ offense to make him rosterable.

Latavius Murray 

Underdog ADP: RB44

12-Team Round Projection: 13th

Murray is continually tabbed as the perfect complement in fantasy football. Not only does he see enough snaps in the Saints’ offense, but he’s proven capable of filling in for Alvin Kamara when needed. Obviously, Murray isn’t a clone of Kamara. That doesn’t discredit Murray as a solid RB2 in New Orleans, though. In fact, among running backs who played at least 10 games, Murray was 21st in PPR points per snap. That was ahead of notable running backs like Joe Mixon, Cam Akers, Ezekiel Elliott, and Myles Gaskin. It’s nice to bank on Murray’s upside, yet you’ll still get some production out of him regardless.

J.D. McKissic 

Underdog ADP: RB49

12-Team Round Projection: 13th

As of now, McKissic is my favorite value of the entire position. However, it’s important to note that may change. If signs out of Washington indicate Gibson may be more involved in the passing game, that could spell big trouble for McKissic’s stock. Still, the facts I laid out in this tweet should be eye-opening enough. He should be the next man up if Gibson misses time, which could give McKissic a workhorse role similar to the one he saw in Weeks 14 and 15. 

Carved-Out Roles

Nyheim Hines

Underdog ADP: RB46

12-Team Round Projection: 11th

I’m scratching my head at Hines’ ADP. We know he’ll continue to have a significant role in the Colts’ passing game. The big elephant in the room seems to be Jonathan Taylor, who many analysts have pegged for a breakout season. While that may come to fruition, that doesn’t mean Hines can’t also make an impact as well. The fourth-year running back played roughly 36% of Indianapolis’ snaps in 2020, yet still found ways to produce nine double-digit performances. We also know Hines has a clear path to a larger role if Taylor gets hurt again, though the return of Marlon Mack may dampen Hines’ ceiling. Either way, his skill set is different from the other running backs on the roster, which bodes well for a steady floor in PPR leagues.

Tarik Cohen 

Underdog ADP: RB50

12-Team Round Projection: 12th

In 51 games as a Bear, Cohen has 264 rushing attempts and has seen 275 targets. Needless to say, he has a clear role in the Bears’ offense. After missing last season with an ACL injury, Cohen will need to prove that he can still provide an electric spark to Chicago’s passing game. In the three games Cohen fully played last season, he had a higher target per snap rate than David Montgomery. It’s pretty easy to see Cohen’s role staying the same this season, though you should monitor Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert’s involvement in training camp.

Giovani Bernard

Underdog ADP: RB52

12-Team Round Projection: 18th

Bernard joins a backfield with Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones, both of whom have failed to secure a firm grip on the Buccaneers' RB1 job. But Bernard wasn’t brought in to challenge that role. He’ll likely be the primary receiving back, as evident by the incumbent duo’s less-than-inspiring impact in the passing game. Last season, Fournette and Jones averaged fewer than four targets per game. Bruce Arians and company seemingly want to increase that number, and Bernard is the perfect guy to do it with. I won’t expect RB1 numbers, but Bernard may develop a consistent floor.

James White  

Underdog ADP: RB54

12-Team Round Projection: 13th

At first glance, it may look like the 29-year-old running back is on the decline of his career. White’s health didn’t help much either last season. And who knows what’s to become of New England‘s running back situation? Luckily, there could still be some room for White to make an impact, though I’d prefer the other three running backs in this category. The Patriots’ offense dolled out 122 targets to running backs last season—the sixth-most in the league. Surprisingly, that’s the second-lowest total I could find for the team through seven years of data. The lowest total came in 2016 when New England threw 116 passes toward running backs, which was still the second-highest total in the NFL. My point here: There’s a clear path for White to make an impact in fantasy, especially with Rex Burkhead out of the picture.

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