Koerner’s Undervalued Upside Ratings: Fantasy Running Backs to Draft and Stash

Aug 25, 2019 09:25 AM EDT
Credit:

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Austin Ekeler

  • Sean Koerner introduces his Undervalued Upside Rating: A rating to identify fantasy football running backs to draft and stash.
  • It ranks backups (or handcuffs) and committee RBs whose potential upside isn't being fully factored into their Average Draft Position.

It’s this time of year when we start to think we have the running back position all figured out.

Wrong.

The game of football is incredibly violent, and RBs typically endure the most hits week-to-week. It’s also a very tough position to play through when at less than 100%. That’s not to mention it’s very volatile: So many teams have committees in which, any given week, we can see one RB leapfrog teammates to fantasy relevance, relegating his predecessor(s) to fantasy irrelevance.

It’s critical to remember the chaos that’s coming with training camps and preseason games, but more importantly, to use it to your advantage.

I often find people too concerned about what the exact order of the first four picks should be: Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott or Christian McCaffrey. The truth is you can’t go wrong with any of the four. If they all play 16 games, they should put up eye-popping numbers. You’ll be in a real bind if any happen to miss significant time, but you’d chalk that up to bad luck — we aren’t here to predict who could suffer an unfortunate season-ending injury.

It’s much more critical to think about your overall strategy at RB. I always advocate for not drafting a kicker or defense (assuming your league allows it) and instead stashing a couple RBs who could see their value shoot up if anything happens to the RB ahead of them in the pecking order.

The two RBs I targeted as stashes in every 2018 draft were James Conner and Chris Ivory. Conner ended up being a league-winner when Le’Veon Bell’s holdout lasted the entire season, while I simply dropped Ivory right before the season started, when LeSean McCoy’s potential legal troubles had gone away.

There are three to five backs who fit this bill every season. They typically draw the highest bid to acquire in-season, so it’s essential to carry as many RBs with league-winning potential as possible so that you already have them on your roster and can save your Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) for other players.

You rarely see a quarterback, wide receiver or tight end suddenly have potential top-flight fantasy value for the remainder of a season as much as you do with RB. That’s the phenomenon I’m attempting to tackle in this piece.

It’s important to not take season-long RB projections/rankings at face value and to instead view them through a complex three-dimensional lens. There’s underlying upside with RBs that’s largely outside of their control — i.e. if a RB higher on their depth chart misses time. That’s why I created the Undervalued Upside Rating to identify RBs who are not only fantasy relevant when every back on their depth chart is healthy, but could see a significant boost if a specific back misses time.

Let’s start by explaining my methodology, then rank the 80 RBs/situations I rated.

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