With the 2018 training camps in full swing, it’s a great time to refresh our view of the RBs that best fit the mold for ZeroRB strategy enthusiasts. For most, ZeroRB means drafting 4 WR positions and 1 TE position in the first 5 rounds, thus taking a pass on the top 25 RBs. If you take this approach you will need to be prudent in your selection of middle round RBs.
In PPR formats, RBs that are involved in the passing game is a “must have” for your fantasy team to have a shot at winning your league. Here we will cover some discounted values at the RB position that can yield results that exceed their current average draft position.
RBs fitting the “Target Hog” category are outside the top 25 RBs in ADP and had over 50+ targets in 2017. These include the usual names: Chris Thompson, James White, Theo Riddick and Duke Johnson. All these names have offered solid receiving target numbers and production in terms of total yds/TDs at a great value with their later round ADPs. Let’s examine each player’s situation and an outlook for 2018.
*Note: All ADP figures courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator (settings: PPR/12 Team)
Chris Thompson, RB Washington Redskins
(54 targets, ADP 86th overall, Pick 7.12)
Chris Thompson suffered a broken fibula in the latter half of the season in 2017 causing him to miss weeks 12-16, but that didn’t stop him from amassing 804 total yds, 39 rec, 6 TDs on his way to a Top 30 RB finish. He is still recovering and has recently stated that he doesn’t expect to be fully recovered until November. That said, there has been no mention of any doubts about his Week 1 availability. The addition of rookie RB Derrius Guice to the backfield is also of little impact to Thompson’s role.
There is a new QB in Washington as Alex Smith came over from Kansas City just after completing a hugely successful 2017 campaign. Alex has a history of hitting his check down RBs often in the passing game. I see this as continuing to be the case in Washington. Head coach Jay Gruden and returning OC Matt Cavanaugh should continue to funnel targets to Chris Thompson. With news of WR Josh Doctson’s recent grade 1 shoulder sprain and the oft-injured TE Jordan recovering from toe surgery, Chris Thompson should be needed in the passing game more as the season progresses. If he is able to remain healthy for the full season, he could easily be a Top 20-25 RB that you can get at the back end of the seventh round.
Projection for 2018: 850 total yds, 50 rec, 7 TDs
Duke Johnson, RB Cleveland Browns
(87 targets, ADP 97th overall, Pick 8.11)
Under cover of the Browns 0-16 record in 2017, Duke Johnson quietly finished as the 11th RB overall with over 1000 total yds, 74 rec, 7 TDs. Exit RB Isaiah Crowell and enter RB Carlos Hyde and rookie RB Nick Chubb to cast a little uncertainty to the Cleveland backfield. Crowell did not hinder Duke’s opportunities and Nick Chubb likewise should pose no threat. However, Carlos Hyde does possess pass catching abilities that could impact Duke’s chances of repeating the success of 2017. That said, with Hue Jackson remaining head coach and the addition of Pittsburgh’s OC Todd Haley, Duke should see plenty of opportunities in the new Cleveland offense. QB Tyrod Taylor joins the Browns along with number one overall rookie selection and Heisman Trophy winner, QB Baker Mayfield to get the Browns 2018 campaign off to a much-needed improvement at the QB position. If the Browns’ Offense improves in any way, then Duke stands to improve along with it.
It’s a travesty that Duke has been undervalued for so long. There may be some regression in Duke’s overall finishing position due to the influx of talented rookie RBs, but that will not diminish his statistical performance. Even with the addition of so many rookie RBs in the 2018 class, Duke finds himself safely available to ZeroRB owners at the back end of the eighth round. I still see him as a Top 15-20 RB at the end of 2018. Getting that level of performance with an 8th round price tag is a great value.
Projection for 2018: 925 yds, 67 rec, 6 TDs
Theo Riddick, RB Detroit Lions
(68 targets, ADP 150th overall, Pick 12.12)
Theo Riddick continues to be a factor in the Detroit Lions’ offense. He has a new head coach in Matt Patricia, but he has continuity in the OC Jim Bob Cooter and QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford has come to rely on Theo Riddick in 3rd down passing situations. Riddick has averaged over 700 total yds, 50+ receptions, and around 4-5 TDs over each of the last three seasons. The Lions have added rookie RB Kerryon Johnson who is being touted as a complete back. However, Riddick has established his role even beating down challenges from Ameer Abdullah and other lesser known backs.
Riddick finished as the 26th RB in 2017 and with his current ADP at the end of the twelfth round, he is a safe selection for ZeroRB team owners.
Projection for 2018: 732 yds, 60 rec, 5 TDs
James White, RB New England Patriots
(72 targets, ADP 160th overall, Pick 13.09)
A recent favorite RB target for ZeroRB drafters, James White has provided his owners with an average of 600-700 total yds and 3-5 TDs in the past two seasons. This despite the flavor of the week coaching whims of Bill Belichick. While the addition of rookie RB Sony Michel poses a potential threat to White’s role, that doesn’t stop the veteran from teaching the rookie what is required to be successful in the Patriot way.
If there is an element of upside for White, it may be ball security that determines his worth in 2018. Michel has had an issue with fumbling in college and in the early days of training camp. This is something that is not tolerated in New England. If Michel is not able to maintain possession of the ball, he may get off to a slow start and this could create the opportunity for White to secure his role as the team’s 3rd down pass catching RB.
Dion Lewis is gone to Tennessee, but Brady remains the QB and Josh McDaniels returns as the OC. The QB and OC are really the most reassuring aspects of James White’s role in 2018. Who can forget White’s amazing performance in Super Bowl LI where he scored three TDs including the game-winner in overtime? Josh McDaniels remembers this and it will be hard for him to leave White out of his game plans. New England should have another opportunity to waltz through the season on their way to another strong playoff run and this includes James White contributing often in the passing game. White is definitely worth a look as a proven asset in the 13th round.
Projection for 2018: 587 yds, 49 rec, 9 TDs
Other notable options:
Tarik Cohen, RB Chicago Bears (63 targets, ADP 66th overall, Pick 6.06)
Carlos Hyde, RB Cleveland Browns (84 targets, ADP 85th overall, Pick 7.11)
Gio Bernard, RB Cincinnati Bengals (51 targets, ADP 130th overall, Pick 11.05)