Fantasy Football
James Conner has completely changed his body and may factor into the Steelers plans sooner rather than later (Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)

The running back position is the lifeblood of any fantasy football team. Having the best running backs on your team like Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, and Ezekiel Elliott can lead you to a fantasy championship. However, finding those running back gems late in the draft can help avoid disaster in your league. The NFL stands for ‘not for long’ and running backs go down via injury all the time. One injury to a prominent running can change the landscape of your fantasy season. Just ask David Johnson fantasy owners last year. Let’s take a look at what running back handcuffs can potentially save your fantasy season!

(No Particular Order)

Aaron Jones

No one knows what to make of the Green Bay running back room but in my eyes, it’s pretty simple. Here are your options; Ty Montgomery (YPC – 3.8), Jamaal Williams (YPC – 3.6), Aaron Jones (YPC – 5.5). Jones has clearly shown that he’s the best option, or at least he did a year ago. Jones is dealing with a two-game suspension to open up the year but… who cares? Montgomery is really a gimmick guy at this point and Jamaal Williams is already dealing with an ankle injury. Do you really think any of them will take the bull by the horns? No, so it won’t take long for Jones to establish himself as the guy. Also, his quarterback is Aaron Rodgers so they’re going to move the football.

Gio Bernard

If you read my ‘that’s some cheese’ column on running backs, you would know that Joe Mixon isn’t good and shouldn’t be trusted this year either. Cincy is going to give Mixon every chance to take the job but Bernard is as reliable as it gets. Bernard, 26, is still fresh and averaged 4.4 yards per carry. He’s also a factor in the passing game reeling in close to 400 receiving yards. With Jeremy Hill out of town altogether, why can’t Bernard become fantasy relevant? The offensive line is also greatly improved coming into this season.

Chris Carson

Everyone wants to make a big deal out of Rashaad Penny and rightly so because he was a first-round pick. Then again, are we sure that Penny is actually better than Chris Carson? Penny’s finger injury has opened the door for Carson to take the reigns in the early stages of the season. If Carson succeeds, the Seahawks won’t be so eager to just give away the job to the rookie from San Diego State. Carson averaged 4.2 yards per carry in 3 starts a year ago as a former 7th round pick behind what probably is the worst offensive line in the NFL. Let’s also not forget that Rashaad Penny’s big weakness coming into the NFL is pass protection. If he can’t learn how to pass protect this year, I can promise you he won’t be on the field.

D’Onta Foreman

D’Onta Foreman is better than Lamar Miller. He proved that at the end of the year. In the final three weeks of the regular season, Miller received a total of 27 carries. In the final three games Foreman appeared in, he received 28 carries. It was clear that the torch was being passed to Foreman until he tore his Achilles. Now because of that, people act like Miller is still light years ahead of Foreman when that isn’t the case. Now, we don’t know if Foreman will be ready for the start of the regular season but my guess is by week 8, Foreman clearly steals the show. Foreman’s upside as a top-tier back in an offense led by Deshaun Watson is terrifying.

Corey Clement

Would you really be that surprised if Corey Clement is the best running back on the Eagles by week 8? Regardless, one injury to Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement instantly turns into a diamond in the rough. Clement was a factor as an undrafted free agent from Wisconsin in both the run and pass game. Clement did have 6 touchdowns a year ago despite limited work. Now LeGarrette Blount is gone and at the worst case, Clement is a really good change of pace guy who really becomes a more dynamic Darren Sproles. By the way, he plays for the Eagles so there’s that.

Jeremy Hill

People have short memories. Jeremy Hill scored 29 touchdowns for the Bengals in the first three years of his career in Cincinnati. Last year he did nothing so everyone is out on him. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but Rex Burkhead didn’t do a whole lot with the Bengals either and now everyone loves him with New England. Why can’t Jeremy Hill do what Rex Burkhead did a year ago with the upside to do much more? I know New England is a crowded backfield but throwing the dice at a few of them isn’t a bad idea. I can tell you this from first-hand experience as a beneficiary of LeGarrette Blount’s 18 touchdown season in 2016.

Don’t Eat The Cheese: 2018 Fantasy Football Running Back Busts

James Conner

Pittsburgh is a weird team. A lot of people don’t know what to make of Le’Veon Bell’s contract situation and it appears that 2018 will be his last year in Pittsburgh. Playing hardball with Bell may be risky business because you never want to lose one of the best running backs in the NFL but then it hit me. What if the Steelers already have his replacement on the roster? Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Le’Veon Bell was drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Bell comes from Michigan State as a big power back weighing in over 245 pounds. Bell gets into the Steelers program and it appears that he has completely changed his body. Bell loses 20 pounds and all of the sudden becomes a shifty back that can’t be tackled.

Enter James Conner who was drafted out of the 3rd round from local Pitt U. Conner was known as a bulldozing back who raked at the goal line and made defenders tremble who got in his path. Conner came into his final year at Pitt at 245 pounds. Magically, Conner’s body type looks a hell of a lot different this preseason and is listed at 229. I don’t know what’s in the water in Pittsburgh but it seems like Conner is on a similar path. Give Mike Tomlin this much, he’s unbelievable at developing young talent. I’m betting on Conner to break out in a big way within the next two years.

SHOP VENDETTA!