• Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

Three Running Backs to Buy

 

While sitting roughly two months out from the opening week of preseason action, we’re officially in that dry zone of summer. The majority of rookie drafts are dead and gone, the hype of the incoming class is at a pause until training camp, and a lot of owners are just kind of hanging around tinkering with their lineups awaiting news coverage. 

When taking this into consideration, there are still a lot of dynasty managers right now who’d like to make trades, and now is as good of a time as any to reach out for players who are flying well below the radar.

Respectfully, the running back position is looked at by managers as a dumping ground, despite it probably being the most important position on your roster because of positional scarcity. Unless you’re a savvy dynasty manager, the only backs that people are attempting to make moves for are those near the top of consensus dynasty rankings. It can be a scary proposition to invest in this position when guys are off of that initial rookie contract, but luckily, those we’re looking are a few guys who I think will finish well above their current value and can be had at a discounted price. 

Rhamdondre Stevenson, Running Back, New England Patriots

Last season, while the quarterback position was zig-zagging between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe, the Patriots’ offense ranked a middling 17th overall in points per game, 20th in passing yards per game, and 24th in rushing yards per game. 

Despite the nastiness of their stagnant, one-read, horrific offense, Rhamondre Stevenson finished 7th overall at the running back position by topping 1,000 yards on the ground and tacking on an additional 421 yards on 69 catches (nice). While accounting for 279 total touches within the offense, Stevenson even saw a below-average touchdown rate where he only scored six times. That number will improve! Positive touchdown regression! Throughout the season, Stevenson showed that his contact balance and ability to break the first tackle is legitimately among the best in the NFL. 

At the running back position, PlayerProfiler has credited Stevenson #3 in evaded tackles, #3 in juke rate, #6 in breakaway runs, #6 in yards created per touch, and #13 in breakaway run rate. 

As we look toward next season, we have to assume that prying the play-calling duties from Matt Patricia’s cold, dead hands and giving that responsibility to Bill O’Brien can only improve the Patriot offense. Additionally, acquiring players such as Juju Smith-Schuster, Mike Gesicki, and a few other minor pieces should only help extend drives and opportunities to score. 

Stevenson is currently on the outside looking in at consensus dynasty RB1 rankings, and that shouldn’t be the case. With Damien Harris leaving for Buffalo, one of the positions top pass catchers and bell cow backs will resume his role as fantasy’s most underrated running back. 

James Conner, Running Back, Arizona Cardinals

Public Service Announcement: I just want to let everyone know that it is, in fact, okay to roster Arizona Cardinals in fantasy football this upcoming season. 

Here is a list of recent trades made involving James Conner, according to the Dynasty Nerds “Trade Browser,” which, by the way, is a tremendous tool. 

James Conner and 2025 3rd for Raheem Mostert and a 2024 2nd

James Conner and a 2024 1st for Dalvin Cook and a 2024 2nd

James Conner and a 2023 3rd for a 2023 2nd and a 2024 3rd

James Conner for D’Onta Foreman and a 2026 2nd

James Conner for a 2024 2nd and a 2024 4th

Should I keep going? These are all smash accepts, for me. 

Last season, James Conner finished as the RB10 with 15.4 PPG. That was better than the aforementioned Rhamondre Stevenson or Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Kenneth Walker III, Jamaal Williams, Dalvin Cook, and more. Not more than a single point separated Conner from high capital, sexy names like Breece Hall, Joe Mixon, and Tony Pollard. 

He’s criminally underrated, and it’s happening again because people are scared of the Murray-less Arizona offense. However, you shouldn’t be. Running backs, no matter how good or bad, only need touches, and Conner is going to get plenty of opportunities. Who’s competing with him? No, seriously. Who’s competing with Conner for touches in Arizona? 

 

Conner is quietly coming off of his most efficient season since 2018 and is valued as the dynasty consensus RB 36. Sure, he’s 28 years old, and there’s an additional discount because of his team or injury concerns, but if you’re looking to acquire a highly-impactful player at a rate that feels like stealing, he is your man. 

David Montgomery, Running Back, Detroit Lions

There’s a terrific Dynasty Dilemma piece written by our own Cody Folden on Montgomery, which I definitely recommend reading if you want an extensive look on his situation. 

If there’s one thing that I learned over the past two seasons, it’s that I have no idea what’s going to happen in the Detroit backfield. And thanks to Detroit’s staff deciding to acquire Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th pick of this year’s NFL Draft, a nice buying window for David Montgomery has emerged. 

It goes without saying that he isn’t likely to be the lead back similar to last year’s Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift situation, simply because of the level of capital spent on Gibbs; however, there’s still a plenty decent sized role for Montgomery that I project to include the lionshare of the 10-zone and goal line opportunities. 

Montgomery, unfortunately, hasn’t lived up to the “RB Frankenstein” dream that was displayed at Iowa State, but he has quietly had a really nice start to his NFL career. He has easily gone over 1,000 scrimmage yards each year of his career and has shown a nose for the end zone at times. He’s a reliable, rumbling, shifty mess to tackle, without necessarily being explosive. Maybe most importantly, he has been promised some pretty good coin from Detroit to help lift their offense, potentially, to the playoffs. 

I see Montgomery as a “professional runner” in the same sense that folks see a DeMar DeRozan as a “professional bucket getter.” There’s just always going to be a role for a ball carrier like that on a NFL team, so you should make room on your dynasty squad. 

Similar to Conner, he’s a really safe RB2 with some upside as a back that would make a discounted payday worth your while for a dynasty contender. We have yet to see what Gibbs’ exact role is going to be with Goff, and while the majority of us are expecting him to be a check-down merchant, someone needs to control the pace of the ground game, which likely will be the ho-hum, under-the-radar Montgomery.