Fantasy Football: C.J. Anderson and other so-called workhorse backs

Broncos C.J. Anderson

There is a lot more clarity post NFL Draft for most NFL teams. This is helping fantasy owners get their thoughts together as we head towards drafts. However there are three running backs that most have already penciled in as the guy but these situations should be approached with some patience. These running backs had the role a season ago and seemingly don’t have a fierce competition for the starters role. Let’s take a look at C.J. Anderson, Devonta Freeman, and Matt Jones, the so-called locks.

Denver Broncos

Assumed Starter: C.J. Anderson

Last season anyone who owned C.J. Anderson was incredibly frustrated with his performance. He ran for 720 yards and 5 touchdowns averaging under 3 yards a carry for the first two months of the season. He dealt with a myriad of foot and ankle injuries the clearly hampered his success for most of the 2015 season. He did have a rather strong finish tallying 337 yards and 4 of his 5 touchdowns over the final 5 weeks. Unfortunately for most Anderson owners they were unable to take advantage of those games during the fantasy playoffs.

This offseason the Broncos matched the 4 year $18 million the Miami Dolphins offered him. In theory this means they like him as a player and see him as part of their future. However they did agree to match only after Brock Osweiler signed with the Houston Texans. A healthy Anderson still intrigues me from a fantasy perspective but to assume that he has the role locked up seems short-sighted to me, especially with talent waiting in the wings

In the Wings: Devontae Booker

Devontae Booker is an incredibly talented running back that has all the makings of a three down running back. He put up 2,700 yards and 21 touchdowns during his two seasons with the Utes. He also had 80 catches for 624 yards and two touchdowns during that span. The Broncos took Booker in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

The biggest reason Booker fell was due to a meniscus injury he suffered during his final season at Utah. Prior to the injury he was in the discussion as the second best running back in this class with Kenneth Dixon and Derrick Henry. I know ageists, he is already 23 so he probably needs to retire. I’m only kidding, but in all seriousness Booker has the skills to pay the bills. The Broncos will need a solid running game to help quarterback Mark Sanchez and if Anderson falters, Booker could get the call. He is a must own for all Anderson owners and is definitely worth a stash in all formats even if you don’t own Anderson.

Atlanta Falcons

Falcons Devonta Freeman

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Assumed Starter: Devonta Freeman

Devonta Freeman is player that exploded into the forefront of the general fantasy football populus. He broke out with a 141 yards and three touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys. He backed that up with a 68 yards and three touchdowns effort the following week against the Houston Texans. This performance people still seemed cautious about buying in. Freeman finished the year as the number one running back for fantasy. However his end of season run wasn’t quite as special as some may remember. He had only 352 yards rushing over the final 7 games of the season and only 2 rushing scores over the final 9 games. Freeman showed a ton of ability as a receiver with 73 catches for 578 yards and 3 touchdowns. There is absolutely a role for him in this offense but to assumes he will get the majority of the work seems unreasonable. Especially with Freeman being in the top 5 running back conversation.

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In the Wings: Tevin Coleman

Tevin Coleman came into 2015 as the starter for the Atlanta Falcons. He was forced to leave after suffering an injury. Freeman took over and exploded with the role making it hard for Coleman to garner a serious workload. The game against the Minnesota Vikings showed what Colman could do as the guy. He carried the ball 18 times for 110 yards (6.1 YPC). He also averaged over 5 yards a carry over the final month of the season.

This feels like a situation where both players will have fantasy value in 2016. Freeman is currently going as the 5th running back and 20th players overall on MyFantasyLeague.com. This feels very aggressive to me. Id much rather have Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy, Mark Ingram, Lamar Miller and Jamaal Charles all of whom are coming off of the board after Freeman.

Washington Redskins

Redskins Matt Jones

Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports

Assumed Starter: Matt Jones

The Washington Redskins let Alfred Morris leave in free agency and Matt Jones appears to be in position to garner the most or all of the carries in DC. But Jones was from special in his first season with Washington. He had one really impressive game in Week 2 against the St. Louis Rams, rushing for 123 yards on 19 carries, finding the end zone twice. Outside of the game he had only 367 yards and 1 touchdown the rest of the season. Even for the final three games where he was “the guy” he only had 139 total yards on 46 carries. Most assume that there is little waiting in the wings

In the Wings: Keith Marshall

Keith Marshall is a guy that owners may not know about but probably should. This was the guy that was the starter at the University of Georgia over some guy named Todd Gurley. He is also a guy that would regularly beat Malcolm Mitchell in foot races during practice. He displayed that speed with a 4.31 40 yard dash at the NFL combine. So why was he taken in the 7th round of the NFL draft you ask? His injury history gave teams a lot to think about.

In 2013 Marshall tore his ACL against the University of Tennessee. This was unfortunate setback for a running back coming off of an impressive freshman season where he ran for 759 yards and 8 touchdowns. In 2014 he battled knee and ankle injuries for the majority of the season. For his final season at Georgia Marshall saw spot duty mostly because of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Dynasty and Devy League players already know those names i’m sure.

Despite the injury riddled college career this guy has a ton of talent. There is a chance that he becomes Marcus Lattimore 2.0 but there is a chance he gets a shot as the lead back and he becomes a star. Pay attention to the depth chart during the offseason. If you can find room at the back-end of your roster come draft day don’t be shy to give Marshall a chance.

For more Fantasy Football content check out Fake Pigskin’s Angle of Pursuit podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.

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