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Which prime operating again might be a fantasy soccer bust?

Saquon Barkley didn’t stay as much as his top-five fantasy draft standing
Photograph: AP

With impending, ill-timed, why-the-hell-did-you-schedule-it-on-a-Saturday-afternoon-when-I-told-I-have-a-wedding fantasy drafts looming, when you’re not skimming random web prime 100s to solidify your consensus prime 100 listing, you’re infringing on the unwritten guidelines of procrastination. the remainder of the drunk idiots smoking weed and cramming for the massive day are wanting on the identical data, so no matter how correct the specialists are, what you discover from 20 minutes of Googling is a fairly good start line.

Let’s be sincere, we’re all simply drafting towards the room anyway. Choose your bidding wars — or let some randomly generated snake order decide your destiny — and hope you don’t spend invaluable draft capital on David Johnson or Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliot. Along with constructing or revealing character, public sale drafts have made essentially the most coveted gamers out there to each group.

Now whether or not you need to goal one of many prime 5 gamers is a matter of technique, however often, there are just a few irresponsible spenders per league, and their early sprees could make a potential franchise cornerstone out there if the nomination course of works out proper. (Or you might be caught with a top-five choose in a snake draft as a result of the marbles actually didn’t fall your method.)

Regardless, no matter method you end up with a shot at a seemingly top-five choose within the sparsely studied draft materials, a type of operating backs goes to wreck your season. Barkley made specialists’ prime 5 final yr, and I personally understand how that turned out. (Editor’s Observe: Sadly, I do, too). Zeke completed prime six or seven in 2021, however the yr prior he didn’t break 1,000 yards and completed with eight whole touchdowns. Christian McCaffrey wrecked numerous groups in 2020 (and ’21), and David Johnson was the sunk value in 2019.

So first, earlier than I identify the double agent within the prime 5, who’re the consensus prime backs? My cursory analysis says it’s some combination of those 5:

  • Jonathan Taylor
  • Derrick Henry
  • Christian McCaffery
  • Austin Ekeler
  • Joe Mixon

I noticed Dalvin Prepare dinner rather than Mixon in a few mocks, however he has a prolonged historical past of accidents and can be too apparent of a selection. So out of these remaining gamers, Taylor will get a cross due to the fireball he was final yr, and Mixon’s earlier consistency and function in a potent offense make him really feel protected — albeit begrudgingly.

In order that leaves Henry, McCaffrey, and Ekeler — and all three have giant well being issues. I do know it feels insane to imagine Run CMC goes to be sturdy contemplating he’s performed 10 video games whole previously two seasons. But Carolina has the least spectacular quarterback scenario, and whether or not it’s Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold, he’s going to be on the receiving finish of numerous verify downs and handoffs. For what it’s price, he’s adamant that is the very best he’s ever felt, and I’d be keen to wager on his pedigree.

At 26, McCaffrey is also the youngest of the three, which low-key issues. So far as age goes, Deadspin workers author Jon Hoefling not too long ago identified that there hasn’t been a prime 5 again over the age of 27 in 5 years. Which means by default — or quirky anomaly — Ekeler (27) and Henry (28) are the previous males out.

So between a operating again with the physique of Terry Crews who virtually had 1,000 yards in eight video games throughout an injury-shortened season, and a 5-foot-10, 200-pound all-purpose again whose longest play from scrimmage final yr was 40 yards, it’s a fairly straightforward resolution. Henry is an all-time nice. Adrian Peterson had 1,400 yards when he was 30. Ladanian Tomlinson virtually had 2,000 yards from scrimmage when he was 28. That’s the form of aristocracy King Henry is in.

What Ekeler did in ’21 was worthy of a top-five choose, and if he places up one other 20 touchdowns after having a earlier season-high of 11, good for him. Whereas I’m certain Henry’s 2021 ruined the seasons of a giant portion of the pretend GMs who chosen him, Ekeler’s first yr of full-time work in 2020 was equally damaging — it simply wasn’t as excessive profile. He’s damage inclined and has solely had the function for 2 years. Was I one of many many managers whose 2020 was steadily devastated by the at all times tight hamstring of the Chargers’ operating again? Possibly, perhaps not, perhaps fuck your self.

I do know he’s elite out of the backfield, however essentially the most dashing makes an attempt he tallied in any sport final yr have been 17. The cash is within the assured touches, and if a few of these get taken away, particularly within the purple zone, it’ll be exhausting to justify what you spent on him. Head coach Brandon Staley, speaking about Ekeler’s function this season, mentioned, “Hopefully, we are able to do much more with him.”

That’s good and all, however you may want him wholesome later within the yr — he missed Week 15 (additionally a fantasy playoff spherical) in 2021 — so that you don’t gag away one other playoff berth. Los Angeles additionally added fourth-round choose operating again Isaiah Spiller out of Texas A&M who’s getting some first-team reps in camp.

All of the press Justin Herbert and LA’s different NFL group have acquired this offseason additionally makes me nervous. Wouldn’t or not it’s peak Chargers to instantly dig themselves into an insurmountable gap as quickly as we forgot they weren’t the Chargers?

In the event you’re complaining about my argument being based mostly solely on intestine feeling and luck, you’re lacking the purpose. Accidents or odd circumstances dictate the end result of fantasy soccer. There’s at all times a again or large receiver within the prime 5 who dismantles your rickety hopes of successful the trophy.

The sport of roulette with the highest-priced ability gamers is why fantasy specialists blather on about gamers’ worth later within the draft. (Or, once more, for you plebeians on the market, it’s why individuals who get a top-five choose in a snake draft bemoan their luck. As a result of when you botch it, you’re not choosing once more for nearly two rounds.)

So, if mid-bidding struggle with the league’s self-proclaimed genius, you end up saying, “This looks as if rather a lot for Austin Ekeler.” Again away — or hope he tops your $65 bid. 

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