Best Fantasy Fit for Free Agent Running Backsby Mike Fanelli February 3, 2022 0 comments
While Super Bowl 56 still has to be played, it’s never too early to look towards the offseason. Much will change between now and March 16, when free agency starts. However, fantasy football players are anxious to see who signs with what team and the fantasy impact. In a four-part series, I will give the best fantasy landing spot for the top free agents at each position. Restricted free agents won’t be part of this series as they usually end up back with their current teams. Also, this list will not include potential cap casualties, focusing on only upcoming free agents. So without further ado, let’s dive into it. Next up are running backs.
Be sure to check out all four parts of the series here.
Leonard Fournette → Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Tom Brady retiring, the Buccaneers might not re-sign Fournette as the team faces a rebuilding project. If the Buccaneers turn to Kyle Trask, the best thing they can do for him is provide a strong running game. Before suffering a hamstring injury, Fournette was the RB3 in PPR scoring, averaging 18.3 fantasy points per game. The Buccaneers have a solid offensive line, led by right tackle Tristan Wirfs. The only Buccaneers running back under contract for next season is Ke’Shawn Vaughn. If the Buccaneers re-sign Fournette, they will let Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard walk in free agency. While he will no longer have Brady in the backfield, Fournette could have a featured role next season in Tampa Bay.
James Conner → Arizona Cardinals
After struggling with injuries during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Conner had a career year in 2021 with the Cardinals. He had a career-high 15 rushing touchdowns this season despite missing two games. Furthermore, his 17.2 fantasy points per game average was his best average since his career year in 2018. Conner finished the year as the RB5, significantly outperforming his average draft position. His 18 total touchdowns also finished third in the NFL, only behind Jonathan Taylor and Austin Ekeler. Despite playing only 49.8 percent of the snaps this season, Conner scored more total fantasy points than several star running backs, including Ezekiel Elliott and Antonio Gibson. If the Cardinals let Chase Edmonds walk in free agency and re-sign Conner, he has top-five upside for next season.
Cordarrelle Patterson → Atlanta Falcons
Coming into the year, Patterson was off fantasy radars. However, he turned into the waiver wire addition of the year. Patterson finished the year as the RB9, averaging 14.7 PPR fantasy points per game. Not only did he have a career year on the ground but also in the passing game. Patterson had 205 touches for 1,166 scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns this season, all career-highs. The Falcons have several questions to answer this offseason, especially after Calvin Ridley was suspended for the entire 2022 season. With Ridley out for the year, Patterson becomes even more critical to the team. Thanks to his role on the ground and in the passing game, Patterson should be an early second-round pick next season if he re-signs with the Falcons.
Melvin Gordon → Miami Dolphins
Despite splitting the backfield workload with Javonte Williams, Gordon finished the year as the RB20, averaging 12.2 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, he had eight rushing touchdowns this season, making it the sixth year in a row Gordon scored at least eight rushing touchdowns. The Denver Broncos will likely let Gordon walk in free agency after spending a second-round pick on Williams last year. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have a messy backfield led by Myles Gaskin. However, the Dolphins were one of the worst teams running the ball last season. Adding Gordon would give Tua Tagovailoa the veteran running back he needs to take the next step forward in his career. Gordon would have a feature role in Miami and mid RB2 value next year.
Rashaad Penny → Houston Texans
Penny has been a fantasy afterthought for most of his career because of his injury history. He has missed 43.1 percent of his career games because of injuries. However, Penny had a historic finish to the 2021 season. Penny was the RB1 over the last five weeks of the season, averaging 22 fantasy points per game. He had at least 135 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in four of those games. Penny averaged 7.8 yards per rushing attempt and 26 fantasy points per game in those four contests. Unfortunately, if Penny re-signs with the Seattle Seahawks, his fantasy value will be limited by Chris Carson. Instead, if Penny signs with the Texans, he would take over the lead role, making him a top-20 running back.
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