Who Is the Year’s Best Rookie Running Back Not Drafted in the First Round?
The 2017 NFL player draft continued a decade-long trend where running backs were not a spotlight in the first round. There have been a few exceptions like Zeke Elliott last year, and Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch 10 years ago, but for the most part, first round running backs have a strong tendency to be busts.
Fantasy team owners also have to consider the fact that many of the earliest picks have made little more than a modest immediate impact on the league. With such suspect production, even a tendency to bust, drafting a rookie RB on your fantasy roster could be risky.
However, at least one running back taken after the first round has turned into a great fantasy option. Even in 2008, Jamaal Charles slipped into the third round. Here’s why D’Onta Freeman should not be an afterthought on draft day in your fantasy league.
Cream of Crop Not Always Taken in the First Round?
One trend that has held for the last few years is one of the lesser-rated rushers surfaces as a stud pickup. While not labeled a first round worthy, franchise-changing back, they have taken the reigns of their respective team’s rushing opportunities. Last year it was the Bears Jordan Howard (5th round out of Indiana) surpassing 1,000 yards in his rookie year.
In 2015, Jay Ajayi and David Johnson fell to the 3rd and 5th rounds respectfully, and both of them warrant top 10 consideration heading into 2017. Johnson is actually has the highest projection of all fantasy players heading into the new season. Remember, he was a 5th round pick.
Go back three years to the 2014 draft and you’ll find another Freeman, the Falcons Devonta. 4th round pick out of Florida State and rated sixth heading into the new fantasy season on the running back board. Going back one more draft class, although not as much of a stretch, Le’Veon Bell wasn’t considered talented enough for a first round spot.
Longhorn Stays in the Lone Star State
D’Onta Freeman is a bruiser, with shifty moves and deceptive speed, aka: Bell, Elliott and Howard. Lamar Miller may be a serviceable running back for the Houston Texans, but he is not the future, his durability somewhat in question, plus he’s only surpassed 1,000 yards twice in his 5 full seasons.
As the 2016 season wore on, Miller’s production diminished, seven times with under 20 carries and no more than 3 passes caught out of the backfield. He did break 100 yards 3 times after week six, but it seems that the Texans are showing a suspicious sense that he is not the running back they thought he was.
In comes the new kid straight from across the Lone Star State in Austin. Freeman is powerful back at 233 pounds with agile feet and shifty lateral movements like the Steeler’s Bell. He proved he could play against the top talent in the nation, leading the BCS in yards per game while surpassing 2,000 yards with 15 TD’s in his final year at Texas. He plays with a chip on his shoulder also, after being only a 3-star recruit out of high school, less heralded than his own brother.
Copy the Cross-State Formula for Success
The Houston Texans are beginning to look like a potential mirror image of their cross-state rival Dallas Cowboys. Just like the Cowboys last season, the Texans have both an intriguing rookie quarterback and a workhorse first year running back heading into camp.
You have to figure that Bill O’Brien and his staff must be looking at how that model turned out for ‘The Boys’. If that formula is to happen, it will mean D’Onta Freeman earns the starting running back spot for the Texans. Look for it to happen sooner than later.
In preseason, we’ll may get a little better feel for how the Texans plan to use Freeman. Keep an eye on developments when camp opens in July, to take a break from your daily MLB lineup to see how much attention Freeman gets over Miller.
If your league uses keeper-players, Freeman’s potential worth is even greater. Pay close attention to the flow of running backs off the board, and