Bounce-Back RB Candidates?

I certainly do not intend to talk smack about every video FantasyPros uploads on YouTube these days. But for the second day in a row, I have questions. Today about D-Bro’s “5 Bounce Back Running Backs” video:

First Candidate: Ezekiel Elliott

Which begs the question: how do we define “bounce-back”? Despite his apparent regression, Zeke always produced in fantasy. Last year, he was RB#6. If we expect him to “bounce back” from that, does it mean we see him in the overall RB#1 conversation?

In my initial rankings, I have Zeke as the RB#17. That’s based on a 50-40-10 rushing volume split between him, Pollard and Dak. If Zeke’s volume share will be closer to 60%, he could move into the top 10 range. But to go beyond that, he’d either need an even higher backfield share (which means we’d have to fade Pollard), or a much higher passing share than his usual ~8%, or the Cowboys would have to run the ball a lot more (2021, they were 10th in terms of rushing yards).

I don’t buy any of that. Zeke will regress. Anything else would be a miracle. The question is: by how much. His ADP of RB#17 may be a tad low, but to expect a top 5 finish from him (which, in my humble opinion, would be required for last year’s RB#6 to qualify as a “bounce-back” candidate) sound like quite the hot take to me.

Next in D-Bro’s list is Cam Akers.

Well, he did miss the entire fantasy-relevant part of the 2021 season, but should be healthy for week 1 of the 2022 season. So coming from zero, of course, he’ll bounce back.

The question is: by how much?

D-Bro says that the Rams want a workhorse RB. Maybe they do - even though, if memory serves me, Sean McVay did swap RBs in the past, even when both were healthy.

But I also expect Akers to be the clear lead back. 65-70% rushing volume is likely, especially since the QB won’t cut into the rushing production at all.

But how much do the Rams intend to run the ball? In 2021, they were pretty successful as a pass-heavy offense. Do they really want to change that? I think they will remain below the league median in terms of rushing production. And a 70% share of that could translate into an RB#18 finish. Which is exactly his current ADP.

Technically, that would qualify as a bounce-back performance. Still, to put that label in Akers might raise expectations too high.

Next man up is Miles Sanders.

2021 was a down year for him. He missed a few games, and when he played, he did not find the end zone even once. That resulted in an RB#45 finish. The only way for Sanders is up, or so it would seem.

But is it?

The Eagles were the #1 team in terms of rushing yards in 2021. Now they have a new top WR in A.J. Brown. Do we really expect their rushing volume to increase even further? Doesn’t seem likely to me.

Last year, Jalen Hurts soaked up 30% of the rushing volume and 45% of the rushing TDs. I don’t believe he will improve as a passer, so I expect him to keep using his legs.

And Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott won’t disappear entirely, either. Even if Sanders will be the lead back this year (and that’s not a given for me), the other RBs will soak up at least 20% of the rushing volume. That leaves a maximum of 50% for Sanders.

And with a 50% volume share, 17 games played and 10 rushing TDs, he comes out as RB#14 in my projections.

That’s his ceiling, based on a fully healthy season. If his volume share will be only 35-40%, he quickly drops to RB#25 - his current ECR.

That’s not enough for me to qualify him as a bounce-back candidate.

So how about the next guy: Saquon Barkley?

Now, before I finally finished my initial 2022 projections, I said that Saquon might actually have a pretty strong season. His injury shouldn’t limit him anymore, the o-line has improved, and the coaching changes should help him. We might see the old Saquon again.

So I gave him all 17 games in my projections, plus a 65% volume share on the ground and 12.5% through the air. Plus a total 8 TDs.

The result ranks him at RB#17. That’s 5 spots below his ADP.

The problem is: the volume just isn’t there on the ground. Daniel Jones rushes more than you would think - 27% yard share and 38% TD share in 2021. And in the passing game, there are very many mouths to feed in an offense that wasn’t terribly efficient in 2021.

A mid-range RB2 finish would probably leave Saquon owners disappointed yet again, especially if they drafted him at his ADP. To enter the top 10 conversation, Saquon would have to get a true workhorse share, and the Giants would have to be a much better offense overall than I expect them to be.

So Saquon is yet another candidate who technically might bounce back, but will still leave owners disappointed.

And finally, the obvious candidate: CMC.

Finally, a candidate I can agree with. Of course, to make his owners happy, CMC would have to stay healthy. I wouldn’t rule that out, as none of his injuries was really severe, and he never injured the same part of his body twice.

I think there is every chance he can have a healthy season. And we know what he can do if he’s on the field.

I gave him a 55% share on the ground and 20% share through the air. With 17 games played, that would make him the overall RB#2. Keep in mind the Panthers aren’t in the best of states, and even a healthy CMC would probably not turn them into a serial winning team.

There’s also every chance that they will manage his workload better, in order to try keeping him healthy. Or that they utilize him even more, and he will miss a good chunk of games again. Both would easily lead to CMC dropping out of the top 5, or even top 10.

Still, I don’t blame you if you want to take the gamble and draft him. His upside knows no limits. Unfortunately, neither does his ADP.

But I can agree to CMC being a bounce-back candidate.

Finally, I’d like to add one name to the list that wasn’t in the video: Nyheim Hines.

In 2020, he had a combined 862 yards + 7 TDs, and another 300 yards returning. As a reward, the Colts gave him a pretty substantial contract for a backup RB. Sadly (for his owners), he mostly disappeared in 2021, when he took a backseat to the Jonathan Taylor show.

But word from Indy is that his role should increase again in 2022. And given the money they pay him, I don’t see why it wouldn’t. Plus, the Colts know that also JT will break down eventually if they keep utilizing him in full workhorse fashion.

Matt Ryan won’t cut into the rushing volume. Phillip Lindsay isn’t likely to see too many snaps, either. So the path could be clear for another 1,000+ all-purpose yards season for Hines. If he can secure just a few more targets and manages to be used as a change-of-pace back on the ground as well, he is an RB3 candidate, who could easily enter RB2 conversation if JT misses even just a little time.

Especially in PPR, I’ll much rather draft Hines at ADP RB#42 than Saquon at RB#12. I have them only 20 FFP apart in season production, and that’s without JT missing any time.

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You know how I feel about Saquon and CMC: Injuries waiting to happen. As for CMC, even if the Panthers “manage his workload”, that could drop him down into RB2 range, at best.

That said, I do think Hines could be a sneaky good bounce back candidate, especially in PPR. Expect the Colts to pass more with a very capable QB in Matt Ryan, which plays into Hines’ strengths.

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I won’t blame anybody who spends an early draft pick on CMC in redraft. I also won’t blame anybody who red-flags him. He’s a high-stakes risk/reward gamble.

I’d easily prefer JT and Najee Harris over CMC. The question is: would I draft him if I was in the #3 spot, and JT and Najee went with the first 2 picks?

I’ll be honest - I think I’d take my chances with CMC then. What are the alternatives? Henry, Ekeler and Swift all carry their own risks. Mixon and Aaron Jones look interesting, and Fournette has sneaky top 5 upside. But would I draft any of them as third overall player?

Drafting CMC will either help you win a title, or will derail your season. There probably is no middle ground here.

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Good question about the 3rd pick after JT and Najee are off the board. I think the format leads me to an answer.

If it’s superflex, I might go with Josh Allen. If the rest of the league leaves a solid QB choice available in the second round, I might even add to my QB dominance, then take my chances on a later high upside RB.

If it’s PPR (not superflex) redraft, a top notch WR could be the pick here. Cooper Kupp anyone? Even if he regresses from last year, he should easily be a top 5 WR.

If it’s PPR (not superflex) dynasty startup, perhaps Jamarr Chase or Justin Jefferson?

If it’s half PPR (not superflex) redraft, I might take a shot at Joe Mixon, since he has a higher floor than CMC.

If it’s half PPR (not superflex) dynasty startup, Breece Hall or Kenny Walker might be the best 3rd choice. It’s a gamble, but the long-term upside is top 5. I would lean more towards Hall.

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I have to admit I find the FantasyPros content increasingly confusing.

The very same D-Bro who, on July 2nd, listed Zeke Elliott as a potential bounce-back RB, includes him in his list of “8 overvalued players” just a day later.

So allow me to sum this up:

In 2022, Zeke will bounce back from his 2021 RB#6 finish, but will disappoint owners who draft him based on his ADP of RB#17, because he should be viewed as an RB2.

Yeah… right… :face_with_spiral_eyes:

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Zak, you and me need to start our own site. :wink:

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From “we should play in the same league” to “we should start our own website” in just a few days - things are escalating quickly here :sweat_smile:

To stand up for the content creators: producing fantasy football content on a daily basis during the offseason is not an easy task. If I was asked every other day to name 5 bounce-back RBs, I’d struggle mightily. Just as I would for most other questions you can put out there.

For many teams, I couldn’t tell you why I distributed the volume the way I did. The answer would be “because I don’t know any better”. There are a couple of beat writers I follow around the interwebs, to get some OTA and training camp info for a few teams. But if I can consider them reliable sources, I have no idea. And they cover less than half of the NFL teams. And I probably miss more than half of the stuff they put out there.

It’s easy to criticize content people put out there, but it’s a ton harder to create it yourself. Stuff like the Breece Hall vs. Ken Walker analysis I can put out there maybe once a week, if at all. If I had to do articles like that every day, including video content, I’d fail. And the technical backbone of a web service doesn’t create itself, either. Yates might be able to tell a story or two about that right now.

I still have a ton of respect for the content creators and the work they do. I think it’s more the editorial approach here that raised the odd eyebrow recently.

Couple of things I noticed:

There’s a new trend that encourages content creators to write short snippets on players and then re-use these over and over again in differently labelled articles. The same snippet about e.g. Gabriel Davis will then appear in “8 undervalued WRs”, “6 breakout players to watch in 2022”, “Top sleepers for all 32 teams”, etc.

The second trend is that every time an analyst updates a ranking, a news article is generated out of that.

The result of both trends is that the news content on FantasyPros feels increasingly generic. And that’s not the content creators’ fault. It’s the editorial approach.

The goal is obviously to create as many articles as possible, in order to increase click rates. That might work from a commercial point of view, but it doesn’t work for me.

Anyway, rant over. TL;DR: I still have a ton of respect for the content creators, I’m not a fan of FantasyPro’s current editorial approach. And I have no immediate plans to start another website. Yet. Maybe I’ll reconsider once Yates starts boradcasting from his yacht in Caribbean. :sweat_smile:

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Fair enough.

There is also the aspect of “this isn’t my first job”. How much time do any of us have to write about fantasy football? Sure, all of us would like to do it as a first job, but how realistic is that? And even if you become successful at it, how much will that make you? This is an awful “get rich quick” scheme.

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