Dynasty Off-Season Buy Lows - Runningbacks
As we progress through the NFL Playoffs and ultimately head into the NFL off-season, those playing year-round dynasty leagues will be looking to make moves to better their teams for the next season and years to come.
I’m going to break down a few of my favorite off-season targets per position, starting with runningbacks.
My plan is to offer a balance of value. From my breakouts to potentially reach or return to RB1 status to the lesser owned guys poised for a breakout or a chance to prove themselves.
Lets get into things!
Javonte Williams (Denver Broncos)
Javonte Williams’ sophomore season came to a halt after suffering a ‘brutal’ knee injury as he tore his ACL, LCL and damage to his posterior lateral corner. In the past, this would have been a death sentence but with today’s technology and advancement in medicine, we’ve seen players return to form from worse. Due to his injury, he is a buy low candidate heading into the off-season.
Williams was on pace to better his stellar rookie campaign. Although through just three games, he was on pace for 210 carries for 997 yards. We don’t have a touchdown pace as he didn’t score a touchdown in the three games he played. He was also on pace to have a monster season in the passing game. He was on pace for 85 receptions for 408 yards.
The Broncos used a make-shift backfield with veteran names such as Latavius Murray and Chase Edmonds to fill the void left behind by Williams’ injury and the cutting of veteran Melvin Gordon after Week 10. Gordon of course is no longer with the team and Murray was brought in on a one year deal. Edmond’s contract has an out for the 2023 season, meaning there’s a clear bath for Williams to take the reins back in the backfield.
Last season, the Broncos ran the ball 26.1 times-per-game.. We’re using a baseline of 15 rushing attempts-per-game for Williams as he ran the ball 15 times in two of his three games this season. In their total 444 rushing attempts a year ago and with a 57.47-percent share of all rushing attempts, this would give him 255 carries.
During his rookie year he averaged 4.4 yards-per-attempt and 4.3 yards-per-attempt in his shortened sophomore campaign. Using the 4.4 yards-per-attempt measure, that would give him 1,123 rushing yards. Again, we don’t have a baseline pace for his touchdowns last season, but in his rookie year, he shared the backfield with Gordon. Gordon dominated the short yardage situations, meaning he had more goal line looks. If we use those eight touchdowns Gordon had scored in 2021, he scored a touchdown on every fourth attempt. Applying this to the 255 projected carries, he would score ten rushing touchdowns.
Williams’ work in the passing game is what really sets him apart from the rest. In his three games he had 15 total receptions. This comes out to five receptions-per-game. In a 17 game season that comes out to 85 receptions. Additionally, he averaged 4.8 yards-per-reception this year but 7.3 yards-per-reception in his rookie season. For the sake of this lets use a happy medium at 6.1 yards-per-reception. This would put him at 514 receiving yards. We’ll give him two receiving touchdowns.
This brings his projected fantasy total to 270.7 PPR points. This would have made him the RB7 this past season.
As a buy low candidate you’re getting RB1 upside out of Williams. Of course there is concern about his return from such an injury but reports suggest that he is recovering and healing just fine. If you have the ability to snag Williams on the low, you could find yourself with an RB1 on your roster without giving RB1 value in return.
Khalil Herbert (Chicago Bears)
Herbert is probably my top off-season target across all positions. I’m going all in on him. David Montgomery is set to hit free agency. This leaves a lead role available for Herbert to take. Herbert, although out touched by Montgomery, outproduced him. Montgomery averaged four yards-per-carry as Herbert averaged 5.7 yards-per-carry. I don’t see him keeping that number as a lead back, although he did do it on ten carries-per-game this season.
Herbert also missed some time this season, playing in 13 games. He still managed 731 yards and four touchdowns while missing four games. He was on pace for 169 carries for 956 yards this season if he were to play all 17 games. The knock to his game is his absence in the passing game. This will keep him off the field to an extent but when averaging 5.7 yards-per-carry, he won’t be off for long. If Montgomery is gone, we could see Herbert a bit more involved in the passing game.
If we give Herbert the same number of rushing attempts that Montgomery averaged last year (12.6) and kept the 5.7 yards-per-carry he would be on pace for 1,221 rushing yards. As I previously mentioned, I don’t see how he can keep up those YPC numbers. For the sake of things lets average his YPC with Montgomery’s from last year and give him 4.9 yards-per-carry. This would still have him breaking the thousand yard rushing mark at 1,039 yards.
As for touchdowns, taking the 12.6 attempts-per-game Montgomery had a year ago and multiplying that by 17 games, that would be 214 carries. If we take the 5.2 touchdowns-per-game he was on pace for a year ago, that would see him scoring a touchdown every 0.03 attempts. This comes out to a rounded number of seven touchdowns.
Through this, we get a final line of 214 carries for 1,039 yards and seven touchdowns. Lets say, for this article, he doubles his receiving production due to the lack of Montgomery. That would put him at 24 receptions on 31 targets for 149 yards and two touchdowns. This would put his anticipated fantasy score line at 196.8. That would have put him at RB20 last season.
With Montgomery likely leaving the team and leaving behind just Tresten Ebner prior to the NFL draft or free agency, Herbert has the upside of a top-20 runningback. He finished as the RB37 last year.
The Bears too are a young team on the rise. They will almost certainly be better than they were this year and with that, could come more chances for Herbert.
Herbert could likely be tossed into a deal as a second piece. Generally looking, coming off a RB37 season in his second season, his value is likely rather low. Don’t trade for him with the value of a top 20 runningback, but do your homework. You can get a RB2 for great value this off-season.
D’Andre Swift (Detroit Lions)
It was an odd turn of events for the Lions to opt for Jamaal Williams as their top guy instead of D’Andre Swift. Williams is entering free agency but with the way he produced and the way he was favored in Detroit, he’ll likely be back. Either way, I’m still buying low on Swift.
Swift was used much more in the passing game than Williams, out receiving him 48 to 12. This is where Swift makes a name for himself. This is also a team on the rise. A team quickly putting together a fantastic receiving corps and has the possibility to take a top quarterback in this year’s draft. If that ends up being the case, the passing game is where this team will thrive.
Williams will not score 17 touchdowns again and in turn, some of those goalline chances will go to Swift. It was also something like ten of those touchdowns came from the one-yard-line. It’s rare that a team will get so many chances from that close again. Therefore, more touchdown opportunities from further out will go Swift’s way. There’s also a chance that a team outbids the Lions for Williams, seeing him leave the team after his incredible season, opening the door for Swift to regain his top dog spot.
Say this team does bring Williams back, Swift will be on the final year of his deal. He’ll then get to test free agency and writing on a sense of dynasty, grabbing him now while his value is at the lowest it has been in some time, could pay off down the road.
Despite the back-up roll, Swift had career highs in yards-per-carry, yards-per-reception and receiving touchdowns.
He too missed three games this season and if we took his averages, across 17 games his line would be 120 carries, 658 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns, 85 targets, 58 receptions, 472 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. That would give him a fantasy line of 231 yards. This would have placed him as the RB15.
He was drafted as a RB1 across the last two years in dynasty startups and likely a high rookie selection in older dynasty leagues. There are chances that the owner is frustrated with the return on value. You can possibly get him at a discount and in time, he could return to RB1 form.
Zamir White (Las Vegas Raiders)
We’re changing pace here to go from “established” value to the “what ifs.” Zamir White is arguably the biggest “what if” of the offseason. Josh Jacobs is set to hit free agency after leading the league in rushing. Las Vegas could very well be the destination of choice for any of the top free agent quarterbacks (Lamar Jackson, Tom Brady or Geno Smith) or could even be a trade destination for the likes of Aaron Rodgers if he is to move.
Either way they go about it, they’ll have to spend a pretty penny to bring in one of the names above with Derek Carr splitting ties with the organization. If that’s the case, Jacobs may not be plausible to return to Sin City. There’s also a chance that the Raiders simply do not want to outbid an opposition in the Jacobs sweepstakes. If any of the above scenarios take place, enter White.
Jacobs has been very good since entering the league, rushing for over 1,000 yards in three of his first four years in the league. This season he led the league in rushing yards at 1,653 yards. He also ran the ball 63 more times than any other season.
We didn’t get to see White much this season due to the way Jacobs ran the football. He had just 17 carries in his rookie year. It’s hard to even begin to project what a Jacob-less workload would look like for White, but for ol’ times sake, let's give it a go.
We’ll give White half of Jacob’s production from a season ago. This equates to ten carries per game. In limited action he averaged 4.1 yards-per-carry in 2023. As Jacobs averaged a career high 4.9 yards-per-carry with a much improved offensive line, I'm giving White 4.1 yards. This comes out to 170 carries for 697 yards. We also gave White half of Jacob’s touchdowns for a total of six.
White was not involved in the passing game once on the season, but with the way the Raiders use their runningbacks in the passing game, being a lead back we gave White half of Jacob’s attempts and used his career average of 7.2 yards-per-reception. This gives him 27 receptions on 32 targets for 190.8 yards and we sprinkled in two touchdowns.
Through all of this, this gives White a grand total of 163.28 PPR fantasy points. That would have placed him as the RB29 on the season. White’s value at this point is essentially nothing having just 17 carriers across his rookie year. There isn’t much risk to this reward.
Hassan Haskins (Tennessee Titans)
If you’re the Derrick Henry owner you best have Haskins already rostered or you should be attempting to acquire the rookie. We all know the storyline behind Henry; his usage. He’s seen over 300 attempts in three of the last four seasons and was on pace for over 400 attempts a year ago while playing eight games due to injury. The now 29 year-old Henry is not getting any younger. The usage and wear to his body will catch up to him, that’s where Haskins comes into play.
We didn’t get to see a whole lot out of Haskins a year ago with just 25 rushing attempts and 11 receptions. He did get a start in Week 17 against the Cowboys with Henry out. It came in a losing effort as the Titans played from behind. He ran the ball 12 times for 40 yards while grabbing two receptions on three targets for 13 yards. Haskins also ran the ball nine times for 37 yards and caught his lone target in a Week 2 losing effort to the Bills.
Using his two higher usage games as a baseline, he would average 11 carries for 38.5 yards while catching two balls for 6.5 yards. This would give him a baseline of six fantasy points. Again, both of these were in losing efforts to the Cowboys and Bills. A touchdown would put him in the 12 fantasy point range, great for a spot start.
Again, as the Henry owner you need to roster Haskins, but taking a shot on a guy who’s good for a spot start or even a stretch of games with Henry’s track record to miss some time. You can’t go wrong for someone with currently little to no value.
Jerome Ford (Cleveland Browns)
Kareem Hunt is likely on his way out of Cleveland, leaving a big hole in the two-headed backfield the Browns have been running with him and Nick Chubb. Cleveland ran the ball to the tune of 31.1 attempts-per-game last season, fifth most in the league. This number is a bit inflated due to the absence of Deshaun Watson for most of the season but not that much. Across their last three games they ran the ball 28.7 times-per-game.
Nick Chubb is entering his sixth year in the league and is fresh off a season where he had a career high in rushing attempts. The usage has been high for Chubb since entering the league, having totaled 1,200 carries over those first five seasons. Let’s also not forget that prior to 2022, Chubb had not played a full season since 2019 as well.
As it stands right now, Ford is set to see an increased role in 2023 and beyond. We don’t have any information to go off for Ford as both Chubb and Hunt did not miss time in 2022. So for the sake of determining some statistics, we’ll use some modified Hunt statistics.
If we take a carry away from Hunt’s 7.2 attempts-per-game a year ago and give it to Chubb to match his career high, this gives Ford 6.2 attempts-per-game. This comes out to 105 carries on the season. I used the same 3.8 yards-per-attempt that Hunt averaged this season to get a total of 400.5 yards. As Hunt rushed for three touchdowns last year we’ll give Ford two for the sake of this article.
Hunt topped Chubb in the passing game and that's where we can assume Ford will be more involved. During his senior year at Cincinnati, Ford saw 21 receptions for 220 yards as he averaged 10.5 yards-per-reception. Ford has what it takes to take over that passing game work, to an extent, left behind from Hunt.
I’m not going to give him all of what Hunt did last season as Hunt is one of the better receiving backs in the league. Say we give him 20 less targets than Hunt from 2022, Ford would see 24 targets while catching 19 of them. At a clip of six yards-per-reception that would give him 114 yards and we’ll toss a receiving touchdown in there for the sake of it.
This brings his anticipated fantasy line to 88.45 fantasy points. That would have placed him as the RB51 in 2022.
When it comes to Ford we’re not anticipating him to magically jump to a top 15 or top 20 back. We’re simply saying that he will be more involved and in the instance of Chubb missing time, he would be the next man up where he was top 20 runningback potential for the weeks he’s a spot starter. You can get Ford for next to nothing, unless he’s rostered by the Chubb owner, which he should be.