The Rookie Report (RB)

The 2015 rookie running back class looks like one of the best in recent years. Here are the most important and featured rookies, from a Fantasy Football perspective. Here are the things I like, don’t like, and what to do with these young players.

Todd Gurley (RAMS)

What I like:

  1. Ram’s first 2015 NFL Draft Pick (Round 1, Pick 10)
  2. He is big, heavy (6’1”/222LBS) and really hard to tackle.
  3. In his college career he averaged 6.4 yards per carry (510 rush att/3285 yards)
  4. He is a potential three down back.

What I don’t like:

  1. He is coming from a serious injury (torn ACL) which could affect his productivity.
  2. In 2013, he dealt with a strained quadriceps muscle and a sprained ankle, which cost him three games.
  3. He has T.Mason breathing down his neck fighting for the starting job back after a great season behind him (to see details see my previous article “Don’t sleep on your Draft!”)
  4. He could be in a committee situation if Mason keeps up the good work.

What to do with him:

He will probably split the workload with Mason at the beginning of the season and won’t help your team at all, but if he performs as a number 1 draft pick, he could get the majority of the carries and could be a nice RB2 from the mid-season on. His average ADP of 59.46(August 15th: NFLF 80.88; ESPN 50; Yahoo 47.5) is a bit high for me and I wouldn’t use a 6th round pick on him, but if I see him available on the late 7th-9th round I’d definitely draft him as my RB3 or RB4. Either way, he could have nice value in the middle of the season and you could sell high on him later or buy low at the beginning. He is worth having on your team, but do not overpay for him.

Melvin Gordon (SD)

What I like:

  1. First Draft Pick for the San Diego Chargers (they wouldn’t give him the money if wasn’t going to be the starter)
  2. Ryan Matthews is out of San Diego so he will be the featured back.
  3. He averaged 8.43 yards per carry in three years of college football! And last year he ran for 2587 yards and scored 29 touchdowns!
  4. He has the speed to be a NFL running back (he was top 5 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine), very nice short space mobility (top 8 in the three cone drill) which is crucial when maneuvering the tight NFL gaps. He has also shown outstanding lateral explosion (top 2 in 20 yards shuttle and owns the All-Time 60 yards shuttle record) that will help him move the ball forward.
  5. He is a very quick and elusive running back, plus he showed a lot of patience behind the line of scrimmage waiting, finding and hitting the holes.

What I don’t like:

  1. He had 7 fumbles in 14 games last year, which means that every two games he had one fumble. If he struggles and doesn’t protect the football, he might lose some touches.
  2. ProFootballFocus ranked the Chargers offensive line as the 29th worst of the league (26th in run blocking)
  3. Since 2010, San Diego has managed to have a top 20 Fantasy Football RB (in standard leagues) only twice.

What to do with him: He will be the guy in San Diego and his Average ADP (as of August 15th) is 40.5 (NFLF: 53.54; ESPN:38.4; Yahoo: 29.7) so you could draft him in the 5th round, I would definitely take him as my flex/RB3 player hands down. However, I might draft him after players like Mark Ingram, Justin Forsett and maybe Frank Gore.

T.J. Yeldon (JAX)

What I like:

  1. Yeldon WILL be the starting RB in Jacksonville.
  2. He’s a big 6’1” and a very strong runner (top 100 in the Bench Press at NFLSC) with very nice speed.
  3. Knows how to run inside and outside the tackles.
  4. He is very hard to bring down and could be a big play kind of player.
  5. In his 39 games in Alabama, he only fumbled 10 times; one fumble every four games or four fumbles in sixteen games… I’ll take my chances with that.

What I don’t like:

  1. He plays on the Jaguars, who hasn’t hada decent fantasy football RB in years.
  2. There isn’t that star player who could attract the attention of a defense (J.Thomas could be that guy, but he has to show what he can do without Manning). So defenses won’t be afraid to stack the box and stop the run.
  3. In Alabama, he had one of the best offensive lines (maybe the best in SEC) in the entire NCAA and now he’s behind an average Jacksonville OLine.
  4. He struggles with the pass protection and doesn’t catch the ball very well, and these two things are crucial in order to succeed in the NFL.

What to do with him: You could get Yeldon in the 8th round of your Draft (Average ADP August 15th: 78.97/ NFLF: 95.11; ESPN: 61.9; Yahoo: 79.9) and I think it’s a great spot to draft your RB3/4.  He could be a great steal if he explodes and you wouldn’t be paying too much for him in case he underperforms as expected.

Ameer Abdullah (DET)

What I like:

  1. He had a very solid college career, averaging 5.6 yards in his four years in Nebraska (almost 20 rushes per game in his last three years)
  2. He has soft hands (73 receptions for 690 yards and 7 TDs) and hardly drops a pass.
  3. Might be the best athlete in this RB rookie class. He proved it in the NFL Combine being a top performer in every drill: top 12 in the 40 yard Dash, Top 7 in Bench Press, Top 3 in the 60yd shuttle,  the best in Vertical and Broad Jump, the 3 Cone Drill and the 20 yards shuttle.
  4. Everyone recognizes his great work ethic and commitment to football on and off the field.
  5. Has great acceleration and patient in finding the holes.
  6. When he runs outside and gets around the corner, it’s almost impossible to stop.
  7. Very good in pass protection.

What I don’t like:

  1. He is smaller than the average NFL RB, which could stand in his way of being three down back.
  2. Needs to improve his ball protection: 23 fumbles in 53 games, he fumbled in 43% of the games in Wisconsin.

What to do with him:

This is my favorite rookie running back because he will be great and you don’t have to use a high Draft Pick. His average ADP is 98.78 (August 15th: NFLF: 140.54; ESPN: 96.3; Yahoo: 95.5) so you probably will find him in the 10th round, however I will advice you to draft him maybe in the 6th-8th round so no one steal this gem from your fantasy team. He has the potential to be a consistent RB2 and a very solid flex option.

Tevin Coleman (ATL)

What I like:

  1. In his last two seasons of college (21 games) he rushed for 2994 yards and 27 touchdowns. Averaging 142.57 yards a game and an amazing 7.46 yards per carry! Plus he only had 7 fumbles in 33 games (21.21%) so one every five games, not bad.
  2. Last year (2036 yards/270 carries) he only had one game with less than 100 yards and less than 4 yards per carry (same game: vs PSU).
  3. He has incredible upside and real big play-maker.
  4. Once he’s in open space, he’s hard to stop and outruns the defensive players almost on every play.
  5. Knows how to run between the tackles but is even better when he runs the outside plays.

What I don’t like

  1. Runs a bit higher than the average RB, so when he gets tackle he takes some bad hits.
  2. He’s impatient and doesn’t wait the play to develop.
  3. Struggles to break tackles.
  4. According to ProFootballFocus, he will be running behind the 29th worst run blocking Offensive Line (26th worst overall).
  5. Last year D.Freeman (95 touches: 65 carries/30 rec) and J.Rodgers (87touches: 58 carries/ 29 rec) split the workload almost equally, so maybe this year they’ll try to play them as a committee, although Coleman has more upside than Freeman.
  6. He is dealing with a hamstring injury.

What to do with him: Seems to me as a high risk, but not that high reward kind of player. He is a player with big upside but has a lot of “buts” and has legit competition for the starring role in Atlanta. His Average ADP 97.5 (August 15th: NFLF: 126.87; ESPN: 70.1; Yahoo: 95.6) is a little high and wouldn’t take even in the 10th round, but I’ll be happy to draft him between the 12-15th rounds. He has the potential to be a RB3, but right now is just a bye week backup or a “sell high” kind of player after a good game.

David Cobb (TEN)

What I like:

  1. He has nice size for a NFL RB: 5’11’’ and 229 pounds.
  2. Had a strong college career, averaging 5.13 yards per carry and 108.7 yards per game his last two seasons.
  3. He managed to succeed in college with a bad offensive line.
  4. He’s a consistent, reliable and durable running back. Very strong and hard to get him down with first contact.
  5. Has powerful legs (top 6 in vertical jump and top 5 in broad jump).
  6. Competing with Bishop Sankey, a player that hasn’t earned the coaches confidence.

What I don’t like:

  1. He lacks breakout speed, so he’s slowed down very often out of the scramble.
  2. Doesn’t have a lot of upside and isn’t a big play-maker.
  3. He fumbled the ball 8 times in 26 games: 30.7% of the time or a fumble every 3 games. Plus, last year he lost the ball 6 times in 13 games, almost a fumble every 2 games!  Numbers that won’t be tolerated in the NFL.
  4. The Titans have an average run blocking offensive line (17th worst) and the 28th worst overall according to ProFootballFocus.

What to do with him: Cobb is a deep sleeper. With consistency, he could earn a lot of carries and maybe steal the job from Sankey (he could get the trick plays and screen passes) on a team that wants to build around their new QB. His Average ADP is 139.74 (August 15th, NFLF: 150.54; ESPN: 143.3; Yahoo: 125.4) that means that you could draft him in the 14th-15th round of your draft, I would definitely take him as my RB5 and wait to see what he can do. If he performs well he might be a solid RB3 and Flex option.

David Johnson (ARI)

What I like:

  1. He had a good college career: In his four years he ran for 4682 yards and 49 TDs, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Plus he had  141 passes for 1734 yards (433.5 yards every year) and scored 14 receiving touchdowns.
  2. He is big and heavy: 6’1’’ and 224 pounds.
  3. He’s a powerful runner that can run-over defenders.
  4. He had good Scouting Combine stats: Top 4 in the 40 yards dash and bench press; top 2 in both vertical and broad jump and in the three cone drill.
  5. Excellent hands.
  6. Ellington dealt with injuries last year, and if that happens again, the rookie out of UNI could get his chance.

What I don’t like:

  1. The Arizona Cardinals B.Arians said that Ellington will get at least 20 touches every game.
  2. Johnson looks slow when he makes the cuts.
  3. He doesn’t have break-out speed and gets caught from behind.
  4. Because of his size, he might be used as an H-back or even a TE.
  5. The Cardinals may sign the veteran C.Johnson as Ellington’s backup.

What to do with him:

Johnson could be the third down RB in Arizona and could be used in screen and short passes to help Palmer, plus if Ellington goes down, he could be the starter. He won’t cost you much with an Average ADP of 149.61 (August 15th: NFLF:150.54 ; ESPN: 170; Yahoo: 128.3) which makes me comfortable taking him in the 13th-15th rounds, especially in 12+ teams leagues.


fantasyreaList Writer: @Fantasy4Rookies


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