The offseason is officially underway with the start of a new league year. As a dynasty owner, the toughest decision is often trying to decide if it’s time for a full rebuild or if you’re going to make some tweaks for the upcoming season. The first step with whichever decision you make will be simply identifying the players that offer strong production for the next two or three years and then the ones that don’t meet that qualification, should be used as your trade chips. Below is a list of running back trade targets that could significantly help your team his season and beyond. Also, be sure to check out Jeff Donovan’s write-up on WRs to target.
Carlos Hyde, 49ers
Before getting knocked out for the year with a stress fracture in his foot, Carlos Hyde was well on his way to a solid sophomore campaign. In 7 games, he rushed for 470 yards on 115 carries (4.1 YPC) and three touchdowns. At the time of his injury, he was on pace to rush for around 1,000 yards and 8 or 9 touchdowns, which would have put him firmly in the RB2 discussion. He also had a solid 2.8 yards-after-contact which was 6th among running backs who had at least 100 carries. This is especially impressive considering he ran behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines (26th overall). The interesting part here will be how will he fit in Chip Kelly’s offense in 2016 but one thing that is fairly certain is the fact that he should be the team’s workhorse in 2016. During the three seasons in Philly, Chip Kelly team’s finished first, ninth, and eleventh in attempts which spells good things for Hyde and his value in 2016 and beyond. For me, he’s a borderline RB1 entering 2016 but fantasy owners who may be turned off because of injury and the overall state of the offense in San Francisco owners may be able to get him at a discounted rate.
Jerick McKinnon, Vikings
For the past two seasons, Jerick McKinnon has been groomed to become the heir to the throne that Adrian Peterson sits atop of. Well, year three won’t be much different but I would anticipate an increased workload for the soon to be 24-year-old. Adrian Peterson has been one of the top running backs this league has had to offer the better part of a decade but father time always wins the race. Peterson has been the workhorse of their backfield and has averaged 264 attempts a season since entering the league in 2007. With AP turning 31 in a few weeks and the departure of Matt Asiata to free agency, the time is now to see exactly what McKinnon can bring to the table. In 2015, he rushed 52 times for 271 yards, 2 touchdowns, and hauled in 21-of-29 targets for 173 yards and a touchdown. I doubt we see a huge jump in touches for McKinnon but should have some PPR appeal. However, if Peterson begins to show his age or suffers an injury McKinnon would be the main benefactor and would raise his value substantially.
Melvin Gordon, Chargers
Things couldn’t have been much worse for the rookie running back last season. Not only did he struggle to gain any consistency which is illustrated by his 3.5 YPC average, he also never found the end zone. While labeling him a bust is a bit premature, chances are that some owners may be looking to cut ties with him which makes him a perfect buy low target. The Chargers offense should be improved this season with the addition of Ken Whisenhunt who last ran their offense in 2013. Taking a look back at that 2013 season, the Chargers offense ranked 5th in yards per game (393.3), 4th in passing yards per game (270.5), and 13th in rushing yards per game (122.8). Since Whisenhunt has left, their rushing attack has taken a turn for the worst. In 2014 and 2015 they ranked 30th and 31st on the ground and didn’t average more than 85.6 in either year. For Whisenhunt, his first order of business will need to be fixing the running game and it will start with an offensive line that used the 4th-most combinations (24). For Melvin Gordon to turn things around the Chargers may be inclined to run more of a zone blocking scheme that would better suit his strengths. If the Chargers can make improvements to their offensive line, then I believe Melvin Gordon has the potential to be one of the best buy-low candidates.
Duke Johnson Jr, Browns
Duke Johnson put together a quality rookie season with 900 yards from scrimmage, 61 receptions, and two touchdowns. The question remains that if he can develop into a three-down back or will he remain as more of a change of pace/ passing catching back. I believe he can develop into an elite level passing catch back. With Hue Jackson as the new head coach their offense is in good hands. During his time in Cincinnati, 20% of the team targets went to the running backs, which is obviously, a great thing for Johnson and his progression in 2016 and beyond. I don’t think it’s out of the question to think Johnson could eclipse 80 receptions and 1200 yards from scrimmage which would make him a solid RB2.
Matt Jones, Redskins
Matt Jones had somewhat of a forgettable 2015 season. He carried a miserable 3.4 YPC average and struggled mightily with ball control issues as he coughed it up five times. However, with Alfred Morris and his 385 snaps likely signing elsewhere the door couldn’t be more open for Jones to lock down the lead-back role in Washington. If Matt Jones can clean up his butter fingers he figures to be a solid RB2 option, especially in PPR leagues. Jones hauled in 19 of 23 targets for 304 yards and a touchdown last year and would likely drastically improve these numbers if he does secure the lead role in 2016. Overall, Jones is a powerful back with the ability to haul in a healthy dose of passes. I’m a big advocate of opportunity and he has that in spades. Of course, all of that could be negated if they draft a talented running back. As for now, Jones should be viewed as the team’s RB1 and has the potential to be a solid RB2 for your team next season.
Others to look at:
Charles Sims, Buccaneers – He ended 2015 with 1,090 yards from scrimmage and four receiving touchdowns. He also finished 16th among running backs in PPR leagues with 184 FP. Last season, Charles Sims carried an impressive 5.0 YPC average on 106 carries which accounted for just 27% of the total team carries. With Martin back in the fold, Sims’ will still be a solid RB2 in PPR formats.
Buck Allen, Ravens – Allen is another second year back that could be in for the lead role. I can’t imagine the team will turn back to veteran Justin Forsett, which would significantly boost the stock of Buck Allen. He finished last season with 857 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns.
Cameron Artis-Payne, Panthers – I have zero faith that Jonathan Stewart will stay healthy in 2016. With that in mind, I would love to get my hands on a talented runner like Cameron Artis-Payne, especially with the idea of getting him at a reduced cost.
Zach Zenner, Lions – With Joique Bell out the door in Detroit it opens another for the 24-year-old back out of South Dakota St. Zenner was a player who caught people’s attention early on in training camp as a power-back who could take on a larger role in the future.
Akeem Hunt, Texans – Will likely never be a feature back at his size (5’9 and 189) lbs but could offer some PPR appeal. He’s a speed back who ran a 4.3 forty last season at his own combine with a 37 inch vertical. Look for Hunt and his value to rise as the season gets closer especially with Arian Foster out the door.