Running Back Trust Issues

As fantasy football owners, we want points.  Lots and lots of points. Without fail, we end up chewing our nails off trying to decide which player we should start when all we want is consistency.  Is that too much to ask?

Yes, actually, it is.  Otherwise, fantasy football would not be fun.

What we can do is take a look at some offseason moves and make an educated guess on who we can trust to take us to a fantasy championship.

Let’s take a look at four big names at the running back position and break down their new environment.

Dalvin Cook

Obviously, Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings gets a huge boost now that his rival is gone.  No, I’m not talking about Latavius Murray who currently resides with the Saints. I am talking about offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

I will touch more on DeFilippo later in this article.  For the purposes of Cook, the hire of “offensive advisor” Gary Kubiak is a gigantic step in the right direction.  Under DeFilippo, Cook was highly underutilized both as a runner as well as a pass catcher.

Kubiak loves his running backs and uses their receiving skills as well.  Terrell Davis anyone? Kubiak uses a zone blocking scheme that heavily favors the run game and Cook has the talent to exploit this.  Kubiak likewise brings much needed balance that the Vikings had been lacking all last season.

I already mentioned that Latavius Murray is now with the Saints.  This is fantastic news for Dalvin Cook. Guess who his RB2 is… Ameer Abdullah.  Let me repeat. Ameer Abdullah. It seems clear to me that the Vikings are planning on being all in with a Kubiak-inspired run game and the talents of Cook.

My trust in Cook is a 10 – a heavy, I am so excited, I’m definitely going to draft… 10.

Derrick Henry

Oy.  I have a personal issue with this from last season.  Remember, Henry exploded into fantasy relevance in week 14 when he blew his first 13 weeks of stats completely out of the water.  It seemed the Titans finally realized at the end of the season they have a star, bell-cow running back.

I would think that history would repeat itself here moving into 2019.  However, new offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith, has made it abundantly clear he plans on relying heavily on Derrick Henry.  Much like Kliff Kingsbury is going to use David Johnson.

How much of a role Dion Lewis will play in this offense remains to be seen and we could see Lewis cut into Henry’s touches.  We could also see a nicely balanced complement of pass-catching versus line-of-scrimmage running.

Trust is about a 6.5.  I will definitely grab Henry at a reasonable draft price, but I refuse to reach for him.

Devonta Freeman

It was abundantly clear that the Atlanta Falcons missed a strong run game in 2018, finishing 7-9 and missing the postseason.  They finished 27th in rushing, averaging a mere 98.3 yards with Freeman injured. Clearly Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith couldn’t get it done.

While that’s not good news for the Falcons 2018 season, it is great news for Freeman.  I believe head coach Dan Quinn will heavily rely on Freeman and I don’t worry about Ito Smith cutting too deep into his touches.  Sure, Smith will have an uptick in playing time now that Coleman has signed with the 49ers, but this will be Freeman’s backfield.

In terms of health, he may have had the opportunity to see playing time last year if the Falcons had made the postseason.  However, they did not so we didn’t get to see how healthy Freeman actually was. No matter. He’s had the entire offseason to get right, get back into shape, and stew about his lost year.  He’s going to play with something to prove.

Trust factor is an 8.5.  I am totally willing to give him another shot. I really like the offense he’s in and I love Quinn’s comments on his upcoming utilization.  He noted that Freeman isn’t only a great running back but that he has excellent hands as well. Good news for PPR players.

Leonard Fournette

Oy!  No. Don’t. Just don’t.  

Spoiler Alert: He’s one of my 3 Potential Bust Candidates in 2019.

I know, I know.  I have read all the hype about how Fournette is “in a good place”, he’s training in Wyoming to get focused, blah, blah, blah.  

Please don’t get me wrong.  I really want to believe that Fournette will break out in 2019 and smash his 2017 numbers.  I hope that my bust potential is completely and utterly wrong.

The problem relies heavily on one single person.  John DeFilippo.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned that DeFillipo was the offensive coordinator for the Vikings and effectively tanked Dalvin Cook’s production.  They ranked 27th in rushing with only 357 rushing attempts for a meager 1493 yards, and only 9 rushing touchdowns. That was with Dalvin Cook.

Now, DeFillipo has moved to Jacksonville and is expected to learn from the error of his ways.  I don’t buy it.

In fact, reports DeFilippo as saying:

“There’s no one that wants to run the ball more than me, and we’re going to try to establish that and continue to grind away on that. But at the same time, there’s a fine line between doing something just to do something and maybe taking some success away from your team.”

Really?  That makes zero sense.  The Vikings ran the ball only 37% of the time with Dalvin Cook.  What on Earth makes me believe that DeFilippo is going to have some sudden change of heart and want to work in Fournette consistently?  He may start doing that, like he did with Cook in the first few weeks of 2018, but I have no faith that DeFilippo is going to stick with that script.

As fantasy owners, we want consistency.  We want a no brained player we can plug and play and not stress over.  Fournette is not that guy.

My trust factor here is -10.  Negative 10.  Less than zero.  I want nothing to do with Fournette.  Again, I hope I’m wrong.