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Fantasy Football 2018: Running backs to target on ESPN

Fantasy Football 2018 running backs

The average draft position, or ADP, of any given player is generally determined by their location in the pre-draft player rankings, although every platform has varying rankings.

In this article, I will be identifying three running backs whose pre-draft rankings on ESPN.com are skewed compared to other fantasy platforms. More specifically, I will be comparing ESPN’s ADPs as of July 29, 2018, in full point per reception leagues, or PPR, to Fantrax, RTSports, Fantasy Football Calculator (FFC) and MyFantasyLeague.com (MFL) in order to help fantasy football owners who use ESPN.com identify underrated assets in their format.

All ADPs, including the average (AVG), are located on fantasypros.com.

Jerick McKinnon

Fantasy Football 2018 running backs
New San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon speaks at a press conference after being introduced by General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, on Thursday, March 15, 2018. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)

After signing a four-year, $36.9 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers, it is clear that McKinnon will assume the role of feature back. His ability to be a dual threat will propel him to fantasy stardom, as his yards per reception of 8.3 and catch rate of 75 percent are significantly better than former 49er Carlos Hyde, who averaged just 5.9 yards per reception with a 67 percent catch rate.

Also, Carlos Hyde finished second in rush attempts inside the five-yard line, with 16, where he managed to create zero rushing yards and five touchdowns. With McKinnon assuming this role in 2018, he should have no problem matching Hyde’s rushing touchdown mark of eight, while adding a handful of receiving touchdowns as well.

I anticipate 85 targets and 200 carries to be a safe floor of opportunity for the 26-year-old, which should easily net him over 1200 total yards.

Average Draft Position

  • ESPN: 31
  • Fantrax: 23
  • RTSport: 21
  • FFC: 21
  • MFL: 26
  • AVG: 24.4
  • Average Value: RB 13
  • ESPN Value: RB 15

Joe Mixon

Mixon had an underwhelming rookie campaign for the Bengals in 2017, taking 178 carries for 626 yards and four touchdowns. His 3.5 yards per attempt may scare off fantasy owners in 2018, although I am here to calm the nerves. Over his last five games, weeks 10-14, Mixon registered 71 carries for 305 yards and one touchdown. His 4.3 yards per attempt over this span would have been good enough for 15th best among running backs in 2017.

What will push Mixon into the top echelon of fantasy running backs will be his ability to receive the ball. In 14-games last season, Mixon recorded an 88.2 percent catch rate, good for second best in the NFL behind only Dion Lewis. The second-year back is sure to be a three-down contributor despite Giovani Bernard remaining in Cincinnati. Mixon, listed at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, has been reported to have lost 10-pounds going into training camp. As someone who was already in the 92nd percentile in weight-adjusted speed score according to playerprofiler.com, it seems as though Mixon is on track to have an explosive year as the Bengals bell cow.

I anticipate the former 2nd round pick in 2017 to amass 240 carries and over 1300 total yards in this upcoming season.

Average Draft Position

  • ESPN: 36
  • Fantrax: 27
  • RTSport: 24
  • FFC: 25
  • MFL: 21
  • AVG: 26.6
  • Average Value: RB 15
  • ESPN Value: RB 16

Lamar Miller

Fantasy Football 2018 running backs
Lamar Miller looks to have a major comeback season after an underwhelming 2017 campaign. (Photo from The Dynasty Football Factory)

Miller may seem like an underwhelming fantasy asset after posting 3.7 yards per attempt and just three touchdowns for the Houston Texans in 2017, although with an average ADP of 60.8, he may be the steal of fantasy drafts this season, especially in ESPN formats. The Texans offense will continue to amaze in 2018, and Miller is sure to be a vital piece. He was exceptional receiving the ball, posting an 80 percent catch rate on 45 targets, which was just two targets shy of Devonta Freeman (AVG ADP 12.4) and Kenyan Drake (AVG ADP 19.2).

You may be worried about the touchdown outcomes for Miller, although he has averaged eight total touchdowns over his last four seasons. With an average ADP of 60.8, Miller will be a perfect selection as your RB2, who will give you serious RB1 upside. His ESPN ADP of 75 is 15 draft positions behind his average, making him a huge steal in ESPN formats specifically.

I anticipate Miller to have a total of 260 touches and 1200 total yards in 2018.

Average Draft Position

  • ESPN: 75
  • Fantrax: 56
  • RTSport: 59
  • FFC: 51
  • MFL: 63
  • AVG: 60.8
  • Average Value: RB 26
  • ESPN Value: RB 30

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