FFHR Free Agency Reaction and Fantasy Outlook (Running Backs)


We have seen some big moves from the running backs so far this offseason. Some understandable. Others? Not so much. No matter what it may look like on the surface, the teams feel like it makes them better.

With many of the largest moves now done and the Draft still a month away, how do we at Fantasyhotread.com feel about the moves?

To find out, we polled many of our writers. Below are the responses we got back from each of them and what it means for the players’ fantasy value. I mean, that is what it is really all about anyway.

Running Backs

Derrick Henry –TEN–

Adam’s Outlook: High-End RB1

Tennessee was able to keep both Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill this offseason, and they’re hoping that the nucleus that was able to find so much success last season. Much of the success that the Titans found last season, especially late in the season and into the playoffs, was on the back of Henry. From Week 7 on Henry averaged 25 touches and a score in each game. He was not only the engine of one of the last seasons’ most prolific offenses but also one of the most bankable fantasy plays on a weekly basis. Henry should continue to flourish following a season that saw him set career highs in almost every offensive category.

Tyler’s Outlook: Mid-Range RB1

Henry is a beast and an absolute nightmare for teams’ late season. No one wants to tackle this behemoth. What keeps me from putting him in the top 5 is his lack of involvement in the passing game. Last year, he had his career-high in receptions in a season, 18. That floor is scary if the Titans aren’t rolling. In 2019 the Titans red zone efficiency (TD) was a league-high 77%. Much like Tannehill, regression is coming, and more field goals are coming for this offense. I still like Henry, but not as a top 5 guy.

Dominick’s Outlook: RB1

Derek Henry staying with Tennessee- He may not like the franchise tag, but he was not going to get a long-term deal anywhere. After seeing the deals struck around the league, Henry hopefully realizes this and does not attempt a Melvin Gordon type hold out. With 400 touches in 2019, Henry is rocketing up draft boards for 2020 going in the early first-round. While this could pan out, it is his ceiling for sure. A ceiling that could be hard to match after a brutally tough 2019. At 6’4 and 250 pounds, he might be the one to break the mold though.

Conlin’s Outlook: High-End RB1

The reigning rushing leader is back home in Tennessee. It’s hard to think that Henry will have repeat success after totaling 303 carries for 1540 yards and 16 TD’s. He will take a step back in 2020 but remain the unstoppable force we all love to watch.

Hunter’s Outlook: High-End RB1

Great news for Tennessee as they kept arguably one of the best running backs in the league right now. Henry is nothing but a beast as he ran for nearly 1600 yards and for 16 touchdowns last season with the Titans. On a team that made the playoffs last season and made a run with most credit to Henry, he is in line for nearly all the carries and scoring opportunities.

Ferris’ Outlook: Who Knows…

Henry is probably RB6 in PPR formats but he does have a little upside there. He still has catching ability that hasn’t been harnessed yet and the Titans have basically incentivized running him into the ground.

Hank’s Outlook: Mid-Level RB1

After running over opponents for the duration of the Titans’ extended playoff run, Henry instead watched the team fork over a mega-contract to Ryan Tannehill while he will have to remain on his rookie deal playing under the franchise tag. Pulling a Le’ Veon Bell could be in the cards. If he does play, he will again have plenty of volume.

 

David Johnson –HOU–

Adam’s Outlook: High-end RB2

We have all seen the takes on DJ99 recently. The idea that this player is washed is absurd. His story plays itself out almost every year in fantasy. Player X gets hurt, player X returns too early, player X struggles because they aren’t healthy. Oldest story in the fantasy Disney catalog.

Here’s the truth. Johnson can still be effective and was in spurts last year. He will only be 28 at the beginning of this season and we have seen multiple cases of running backs getting some needed rest (especially when you count for his hellacious college workload) coming back the next year and crushing. Whether or not you were a Carlos Hyde fan you cannot dispute that Hyde was top 12 in the NFL in carries and posted a near 4.5 YPC. Opportunity is the key to fantasy success and if DJ99 returns to 80% of his former self he’s still substantially better than anything Houston had last year.

Tyler’s Outlook: Mid-Range RB2

David Johnson’s status in 2020 comes down to one thing. Have injuries caught up to him? He was not himself for much the season last year – which led to the Cardinals trading for Kenyan Drake. I think that DJ has something left in the tank. With Bill O’Brien trading away Hopkins for DJ, the brilliant (not really) GM/Coach has no other choice but to ride David Johnson into the sunset. While DJ doesn’t have the RB1 overall ceiling he once had, the volume and opportunity should make him a viable fantasy RB.

Dominick’s Outlook: High-End RB2

David Johnson to Houston- Hopefully Bill O’Brian knows what he is doing. David Johnson had one good season and got a huge contract. Now he goes to Houston in hopes of finding the fountain of youth. The offensive line will be better than in Arizona but nothing else is better. As the number one back in Houston he will still have fantasy value. Relatively speaking that is.

Conlin’s Outlook: Low-End RB1

Being traded to Houston could shape this Northern Iowa alumnus into Comeback Player of the Year. He will be relied upon more in the receiving game with DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona, too. Overall, Johnson could return to his 2016 form in this high-octane offense.

Hunter’s Outlook: Low-End RB2

David Johnson is very underappreciated and slept on in the league as of late. Arizona barely used him last season, which is just strange. If Houston wants him as their RB1, he’s in line for a steady number of carries and red-zone looks.

Ferris’ Outlook: Predictably Negative

Cooked. With a trash coach who should be gone by mid-season.

Hank’s Outlook: Low-Level RB2

While the Texans certainly blew this trade no matter how you want to chop it up, I do think Johnson has gotten an undeserved bad rap amidst the turmoil. Yes, he’s battled injuries the last few years and he is 28. But I see another productive year or two left, provided he receives the volume. If Carlos Hyde could rush for 1,000 yards as a Texan last year, why can’t DJ?

 

Kenyan Drake –ARI–

Adam’s Outlook: Low-end RB1

Drake put together one of the more impressive runs after his mid-season trade to Arizona. In fact, he was so good that he essentially rendered the shell of David Johnson useless and then saw him get moved to Houston in a heist. Bottom line, Arizona and their incredibly potent offense Drake should continue to see bell-cow usage in one is going to be one of the most electric offenses in the league. Drake will see his value continue to rise as offseason puff pieces begin to emerge (even more so as we’re all locked indoors) but I am comfortable rostering him as my RB1 and hitting the wide receiver position early.

Tyler’s Outlook: Low-End RB1

Kenyan Drake was spectacular in his short time with the Cardinals. After settling into and winning the starter role in Arizona, Drake was the RB4 from weeks 9-16. Looking great as a runner and even better as a passer. Drake was unleashed, and it was beautiful. With David Johnson out of town, this is Drake backfield, and I have no problem saying Drake will be an RB1 in 2020.

Dominick’s Outlook: RB1

After the move to the desert, Drake finally broke out. In 2020, with David Johnson somehow in Houston and an improving offensive line, he should continue to thrive. The addition of DeAndre Hopkins will take a lot of pressure off both Drake and second-year quarterback Kyler Murray. This can only lead to good things as the Cardinals fight for the NFC West crown.

Conlin’s Outlook: High-End RB2

All it took was eight appearances for this former Miami Dolphins RB to secure a new home. He averaged a TD and more than 100 total yards per game with the Cardinals. Factor in an improved offense, a full year of learning the playbook, and Drake could compile many accolades this year.

Hunter’s Outlook: High-End RB2

After being traded from Miami, Drake immediately made an impact on Arizona’s offense. It’s nice to see Drake blossoming into a young star on a new offense. With the new additions in Arizona, he’s on route for a large number of carries, especially with David Johnson out of there now.

Ferris’ Outlook: Favorable

Kenyan Drake had one of the better glow-ups we’ve ever seen last season. Finally away from Miami, Drake exploded for tons of fantasy points in the desert. He’s RB12 for me and could have some upside there as I still have questions about the Cards defense and he could rack up catches during high-scoring games.

Hank’s Outlook: Low-Level RB1

With Johnson out, Drake is the man for the 2020 season in Arizona. His performance could determine how his own future with the team pans out beyond this year. There are suddenly several mouths to feed in the desert, but with Kyler Murray just an NFL sophomore, Drake will get plenty of his as a safety valve.

 

Melvin Gordon –DEN–

Adam’s Outlook: Low-end RB2

The good news is that Gordon is going to a team that was sneaky good running the ball last year, and leaving that porous Charger offensive line isn’t a bad parting gift either. The bad news is that Gordon is going to a team that already has a stud running back and is looking to head into the year with a quarterback that is essentially a rookie. Add to that Gordon looking wildly mediocre when he played last season and his inability to break 4.0 yards per carry in four of the past five seasons and you’re left with a fantasy player that is destined to be overpriced come draft day.

Tyler’s Outlook: Mid to High RB2

Yuck, I do not like this landing spot. While Gordon is undoubtedly more talented than Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, I find it hard to believe one of these two guys (likely Lindsay) won’t see the field a good bit. This is likely to be an RBBC, but I wouldn’t put it past Gordon to eventually push for 50% RB snaps. He will be more than usable in fantasy football, but don’t count on him to be your RB1 bell-cow.

Dominick’s Outlook: High-End RB2

Melvin Gordon to Denver- There goes Phillip Lindsay. Gordon gets a contract making him the fourth highest-paid RB in the NFL. This means usage is coming. Lindsey and Royce Freeman have seen their fantasy stock tumble. As for Gordon, this is a great move to get behind a good offensive line and restart a career that needs one.

Conlin’s Outlook: Mid-Level RB2

Trying to follow in Jets’ back, Le’ Veon Bell’s footsteps, ultimately backfired. Gordon’s past injuries, lackluster 2019 campaign and new team are all concerning. In addition, he will be splitting touches with Phillip Lindsay, hurting both of their production.

Hunter’s Outlook: Low-End RB2

Don’t quite understand this move considering Denver has two solid backs in Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, but adding Gordon will add even more punch. Gordon is clearly going to be splitting carries between at least one other guy, so his value is going to fall a bit this upcoming season.

Ferris’ Outlook: Buy at RB20 or lower…

This move hurts Philip Lindsey and Melvin Gordon. I think that if you can get Gordon around RB20, there is some good upside there. Aside from that, I would avoid the backfield all together.

Hank’s Outlook: Mid-level RB2

Gordon’s fantasy heyday appears to have passed him by. After a middling shortened season with the Chargers, he failed to attract the big money offers he was looking for. Sharing a backfield with Phillip Lindsay may be a good move for the Broncos offense, but it sabotages both players’ values in fantasy football.

 

Todd Gurley –ATL–

Adam’s Outlook: RB2

The Rams shocked the fantasy world when they unloaded Gurley just two years into a massive contract (which never should have been offered as he still had two years left on his rookie deal) but it was even more shocking that Atlanta, after offloading Devonta Freeman, swooped in with a one-year six million dollar contract inside of 24 hours. That’s top ten at the position for 2020 salary and is indicative of the role that he’s to play in the offense. Gurley is being paid this year like a bell-cow running back, and if he can return to his elite form he is likely to be a steal in fantasy drafts this summer.

Tyler’s Outlook: Mid-Range RB2

As of today, this is a solid landing place for Gurley as Freeman was recently cut, and there isn’t much left on the roster to challenge him for a starting role. However, I do believe that the Falcons are looking to add a running back in the draft. They have shored up the offensive line and still have great weapons in the passing game. The situation, currently, is good for Gurley. While not the player he once was, he should still be a solid RB2 for you as long the Falcons don’t add anyone of note. Check back after the draft.

Dominick’s Outlook: Low-End RB1

The Georgia boy is coming home. After his release from the Rams, it did not take long for Gurley to find a great home in Atlanta. In a case where the new offense is as good as or better than his old one, Gurley took a major step up in what he could do in 2020. I mean who is going to replace him? Ito Smith?

Conlin’s Outlook: Low-End RB1

After being released by the L.A. Rams, Gurley is heading home to Georgia. Gurley is walking into an offense where he’ll have no competition for carries and can have a successful season. Looking at former Atlanta RB, Devonta Freeman’s numbers, Gurley should be in line for about 250 total touches.

Hunter’s Outlook: Low-End RB2

Yet another unpredictable move made this free agency was Gurley going to Atlanta. Gurley’s knees are a liability and it’s likely anyone who’s drafted him the past two years has been disappointed. He’s still extremely talented and can put up a solid fantasy season, but now plays in a pass-heavy offense in Atlanta.

Ferris’ Outlook: Not Good….

Gurley’s knees are dust. There is no way I can draft him. I know there is a popular correlation between Gurley and Steven Jackson but that is at best a dumb thought process and at worst a borderline racist one. Just because they moved from the Rams to the Falcons and have dreads, don’t expect the same results.

Hank’s Outlook: High-Level RB2

Just a year removed from being the best thing going in fantasy, Gurley found himself released by the Rams with no other team willing to take on his huge contract. The landing spot is as good as one could hope, as he steps right in to be the unquestioned top back in Atlanta’s backfield. Look for the Falcons to add a second option through the draft and run a consistent two-back system, but as long as Gurley’s knees hold up, there will be enough touches for steady production.

Still looking for dancing partners: Devonta Freeman, Lamar Miller, Carlos Hyde

You can find our Free Agent (Quarterbacks) article here. 




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