Backup Running Backs With the Highest Fantasy Football Upside
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Chase Edmonds
It’s very tricky to “rank” backup running backs based on their sleeper value. Instead, it’s much easier to categorize them by their current role, then use that as the starting point in mapping out the various paths to hitting their ceiling.
That’s the foundation of my Undervalued Upside Ratings. Heading into this NFL season, I used these ratings to grade which backups to draft and stash on your bench — backups who could become a starter by either leapfrogging their team’s incumbent or would inherit a substantial workload if the incumbent were to be sidelined by injury.
I highlighted Kareem Hunt as the perfect example of the type of high-upside backup to target in drafts: He had a role right out of the gate, but his upside would be massive if Nick Chubb were to ever miss time. Well, sure enough, Chubb sustained an MCL sprain that is expected to keep him out through Week 9. And Hunt’s value has spiked substantially.
But it’s not too late to cash in on another high-upside backup.
You’ll find my latest Undervalued Upside Ratings below. They’re listed in order of what their projected rank would be as the starter (Column H) — the best way to rank the value of their upside — but I would also heavily consider a back’s chance to take over as their team’s starter without an injury (Column E).
For backups, their Start% (Column E) is the projected chance they start at least one game at some point this season, even if their team’s starter is healthy. For starters, their Start% (Column L) is the chance they start every game the rest of the season when healthy.
Note that starters highlighted in red mean they’re currently hurt, while backups in green have already been activated into “upside mode.”
Undervalued Upside Ratings
This is the lead back who will handle most rushing, receiving and goal-line work for their team’s rushing attack. These are typically the best RBs in the league and require an early-round draft selection to obtain.
Lead committee backs are their team’s starter and are likely to handle most of the rushing, receiving or goal-line work. However, there are RBs behind them on the depth chart who are expected to steal most of the touches from one of those three areas.
Lead committee backs tend to have less job security than a workhorse, which means they have a much lower floor. However, they have some hidden upside in that if backs behind them on the depth chart miss any time, they may become a workhorse.
This is a real position battle that can be a very volatile situation to invest in. I use the player’s current ADP to decide if the risk/reward is worth it. The Colts and Lions are the two teams that currently fall under this label. Each team had talented RBs heading into 2020 but decided to spend high draft capital in the draft to land D’Andre Swift and Jonathan Taylor.
I would consider this the most valuable bucket to target.
A player who trails in a committee is likely to be discounted in their ADP, however, they can carve out a role significant enough to see fantasy value at times while likely seeing RB1/2 value if their RBBC-mate were to miss time. There is also the chance they could overtake the starter, when healthy, and become the lead back.
It’s their high floor/ceiling combo, typically at a discounted price, which makes this my favorite type of RB to invest in.
A RB who likely needs the starting RB to miss time to see fantasy value. Their only downside is that they take up bench space, and there is no guarantee they will ever get the call to start. I only invest in those who offer the most upside or handcuff them to a workhorse RB to protect my investment.
Strict Backup RBBC
This is the worst possible situation to take a flier on. It’s typically a RB who needs several things to go their way to see fantasy value. They likely need the starter to miss time, but their role would be unclear even in that event. It’s mostly a position battle to see who the spot starter will be. They typically aren’t worth using up bench space outside of extremely deep leagues.
This is a back who dominates the passing down work. They typically have a high floor because they are able to provide steady Flex value in PPR formats. However, their upside is usually limited and only in rare cases are they capable of stepping up into a workhorse role.
These are backs to target if your RB depth is thin and you need a safety net play.