The 4th Down Decision: Free agent running backs and their bad situations

Written by Zach Lyons, co-host of Football & Other F Words and The Flex, “The 4th Down Decision” will look at various fantasy topics from whether you should “Punt” or “Go For It”. When reading the advice please keep in mind: 12-Team League, PPR, 6 Pt Passing TDs. All ADPs based on FantasyPros.com‘s web site.

The free agent running back market in the NFL was wholly uneventful. In fact, I only find one free agent running back that is going to make a positive impact on his new team, and he is pretty unreliable when it comes to staying healthy. So let’s start with some good news first.

Go For It: Todd Gurley

  • Current ADP: 27 (3rd Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: RB14

Oh how the mighty have fallen. This is Gurley’s lowest ADP since he was a rookie. It is a shame how the L.A. Rams treated him, and the teams he was on in fantasy. They just would not give him the rock consistently. They can blame bad knees, but I think there is more going on behind the scenes than we know.

Now he is with the Atlanta Falcons who are known for their passing attack, and they themselves had struggles finding a sure hand at running back. I think this is the perfect match.

Todd Gurley is in his hometown, where he played his best football. He also has no one behind him. Brian Hill is second on the depth chart. Todd Gurley who does his best when he has a lot of carries, now has no one to share carries with. If you’re looking for a workhorse running back that is not in a committee, this is your guy.

The third round is perfect value for Todd Gurley too, because it is a low risk, that’s a very good spot for a RB2, and Todd Gurley still has RB1 upside. People forget Todd Gurley still had 14 touchdowns last year.

He also is facing the third easiest schedule for fantasy running backs. I am telling you right now, you may want to even eye Todd Gurley in the 2nd if you feel your league goes running back heavy in the first few rounds. 

Todd Gurley is a must have for your team.

Punt: The Denver Broncos backfield

Melvin Gordon

  • Current ADP: 36 (3rd Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: RB19

Philip Lindsay

  • Current ADP: 99 (9th Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: RB39

If you’ve been listening to The Flex, then you know I absolutely hate the Denver Broncos backfield since Vance Joseph, and somehow still find myself drafting one of their running backs and hoping for a different outcome.

In no world should you draft Melvin Gordon in the third round. This is a mess of a backfield. I think when you permanently move to Denver and become head coach the altitude messes with your decision making.

When C.J. Anderson was their most efficient running back, and they were winning games because they gave him touches and carries, they dumbfoundedly decided to stay away from him the next game.

Philip Lindsay was a revelation his rookie year in 2018, but they were still splitting carries between him and Royce. However, everyone saw Philip was the better back, and so you would think a veteran coach like Vic Fangio and a young up and comer like Rich Scangarello would use Philip more.

Boy was I an idiot. The altitude got them too. Again, Philip absolutely outshined Royce every chance he got, and yet they still took Philip off the field way too much. Now they sign the one of the most overrated, least efficient running backs in NFL history in Melvin Gordon.

I am sorry to burst your bubble, but you’ve been fooled that Melvin Gordon is good. He isn’t. He has only had one, one 1,000-yard season. He has only once average more than 3.9 yards per carry.

If you watched the Chargers last two years you would’ve seen Austin Ekeler just being more explosive, more efficient, and just a better player. It’s very simple: 

Least efficient running back + A full running back room = different running back week to week.

Fool me once, Denver? Shame on Me. Fool me four years in a row, Denver? Shame on me. Fool me – I can’t get fooled again…until I see Melvin Gordon in the 5th and I draft him like an idiot.

Punt: Jordan Howard if Matt Breida stay healthy

Jordan Howard

  • Current ADP: 92 (8th Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: RB36

Matt Breida

  • Current ADP: 108 (9th Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: RB43

Matt Breida was traded to the Miami Dolphins, and in PPR leagues he is still going a full round later than Jordan Howard, and that is not right.

I do not know how the committee in Miami will work, but Matt Breida is light years better than Jordan Howard. You can show me all those PFF stats about how since entering the league in 2016 he’s had all these rush yards, but he is pure volume, and Matt Breida is just too dang good to be kept at bay.

Matt Breida is one of the fastest running backs in the NFL, while Jordan Howard is one of the slowest. The thing with Matt Breida has always been his availability, and that is where this is a tricky situation, because you almost have to draft both of these guys to get one viable running back.

Matt Breida the last two years has gotten over 5-yards a carry, and since entering the league he’s average 5.5-yards per touch. I see this Dolphins running back situation playing out like this:

Matt Breida does all the work. Jordan Howard gets the touchdown.

Will Brian Flores be the opposite of the Denver Broncos head coaches and actually stay and ride the hot hand? Only time will tell, but his mentor Boston Bill loves to vex fantasy owners every week, and this could be one of those weekly moves that have you looking at your bench at all the points the other guy got.

My advice: Sell Jordan Howard at the 8th, but  buy Matt Breida in the 9th.

Love my opinions? Hate my opinions? Leave comments below, and let’s discuss!

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