Henry John, @HankTimeSports
Deep Dives: Buried Treasure
Throughout the 2017 NFL season, I will be writing weekly editions of this Deep Dives article. The article will be focusing on the depths of fantasy rosters and the free agent market. My goal is to provide readers with a few options at each position each week. These players are likely to be off the radar at the time. Things that will impact the players chosen on a week to week basis will include injuries, matchups, trends, and the overall performance and situation of their team, resulting in how each player will fit into the playing rotation. For the first preseason edition, here are some low ADP running backs who are worthy of late round consideration come draft day.
Giovani Bernard | Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals head into 2017 with a potent and deep backfield. The addition of rookie Joe Mixon looks promising for Cincinnati. The hope is that Mixon will ultimately take over the lead running back job for the Bengals, something that the team has been hoping to have fourth-year man Jeremy Hill claim, but to no avail. Hill simply hasn’t been good enough. Enter in Giovani Bernard who, as a result, has been able to remain fantasy relevant the past couple years. This season, Bernard is coming off of a torn ACL. There was speculation mid-summer as to whether he would be ready for the start of the season, but he has been practicing in full and saw his first preseason action in the third game, carrying four times for 25 yards. The expectation is for Bernard to be the third down back for the Bengals. However, there could be ample opportunity for an enlarged role. Hill was pulled from the third preseason game after rolling his ankle and his health status is now in question to open the season. And while Mixon has shown flashes in the preseason, he hasn’t exactly claimed the lead back role for himself either. If the two backs in front of him struggle on the field or with injuries, Bernard could see a quick jump in his workload early in the year.
Marlon Mack | Indianapolis Colts
Let’s face it. The Colts’ offense is a mess right now. Without quarterback Andrew Luck behind schedule recovering from shoulder surgery, Indianapolis will be stuck trying to tread water at the beginning of the season with Scott Tolzien leading the offense. As a result, a ground game that hasn’t been overly potent in recent years will have to pick up the slack. Frank Gore returns as the lead back after eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark for the fifth time in the last six seasons in 2016. While he figures to see the bulk of the carries early, at age 34, Gore could wind up slowing down if overworked. Robert Turbin has been the speculated number two on the depth chart. He matched Gore with 8 touchdowns last year but has been in and out of practice recently with an undisclosed injury. If that continues, Marlon Mack could be stepping into a larger role right out of the gate this season. Mack was very impressive against the Cowboys in the second week of the preseason, rushing for 45 yards on just 5 carries and forcing 5 missed tackles on his 7 total touches. The rookie out of South Florida has shown the ability to rip off yards in bunches as well. If Mack continues to show he is deserving, the Colts are likely to reward him with reps, given that the offense is in desperate need of anything reliable to lean on to start the season. He is a well-served late round handcuff. Given the potential for health issues with Gore and Turbin, Mack’s role may actually expand for the Colts as the season goes on.
Javorius Allen | Baltimore Ravens
After showing flashes of talent as the starting back after Justin Forsett’s injury in 2015, last season was a let down for Ravens running back Buck Allen. Being in a backfield that included Forsett, Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West will limit the opportunities for almost anyone, and Allen was held to a mere 9 carries. There is much more cause for optimism surrounding Allen heading into 2017. Entering training camp, he was again at the bottom of a Baltimore depth chart that included Dixon, West, and Danny Woodhead. Dixon has been removed from the equation due to a season ending meniscus tear, and Woodhead is currently dealing with a hamstring injury that doesn’t have him a sure thing to be available for Week 1. Reports have cited Allen as having the best training camp of all the Ravens’ running backs. He hasn’t had the greatest preseason game success so far with a low average yard per carry numbers. However, his abilities as a pass catching back could play a big role in the Ravens offense which has been reliant on the passing game in recent seasons. If Woodhead is indeed sidelined to start the season and remains an injury-prone back as he has in recent years, expect Allen to surface in a solid chunk of third and passing down situations to complement West.