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2019 Free Agent Preview: Running Back
It’s going to be a weird market for running backs this free agent season.
Running backs have never been less valuable (plenty of supply for the demand, and so often hurt in-season, and RBBCs are taking over). However, this is a weak NFL Draft for RB prospects. BUT the NFL needs more RBs to work their RBBCs…after they saw Todd Gurley’s fall, the prevailing fear is ‘working your main RB too much’. Even Ron Rivera is discussing throttling back Christian McCaffrey’s workload.
So, do you turn to the draft…where RBs are solid and cheap? Do you spend too much on free agents who have age/miles on them? And then with all the economic arguments of supply, demand, and valuations…then we have an elite running back at age 27 available, Le’Veon Bell – but he comes tainted with a bizarre ‘quitting’ on the Steelers to get to free agency (which I agreed he should do).
There are plenty of talented, experienced options in free agency to consider…
Best RB talent in free agency: Le’Veon Bell, PIT – Obviously, the main guy. The question is – how much is he really worth? If I were an NFL GM, I would not touch him because of the price…I would touch him at a 30-50% discount. Too much other talent overlooked by the NFL you can get cheaper. I’d put my money to work elsewhere (O-Line, D-Line, CB). That being said…
This HAS to be the Jets. They are desperate for a name to get their team back in the news, a renewed fan enthusiasm. Oakland is possible, but I’m not sure he’s Gruden’s kind of guy. He’s not a 49er either. I think teams bluff the Jets, as well as Team Bell bluffs them, into paying A LOT when there isn’t as much of a market – like when KC thought they were smart (but were radically dumb) signing Sammy Watkins away from supposed contenders two seconds after free agency opened.
However, I think it will be the Buccaneers. If the Bucs get Le’Veon, combining that with all the ex-Cardinals about to re-join with Bruce Arians…you watch…all the post-free agency talk will be about Tampa Bay ‘winning’ free agency and as a sleeper playoff team in 2019, which may very well be true.
Most overrated RB in free agency: Jay Ajayi, PHI – He shouldn’t be an NFL starter, much less part of an RBBC. Bad hands, limited runner. I could see him going to Indy to be the hammer with Marlon Mack and destroying Mack’s fantasy value in one moment.
Best ‘sleeper’ talent in free agency: Spencer Ware, KC – Only 27 years old. Not a lot of RBs of note in the NFL Draft…Ware, today, would be one of the first three RBs selected if he were magically inserted into the 2019 NFL Draft.
Ware might wind up back in KC as part of a split with Damien Williams. It makes the most sense. Ware is beloved by KC and ignored everywhere else.
The one curve ball could be – Doug Pederson makes a move to bring him into his RBBC…he had him when he was in KC. Also, Matt Nagy could add him as he trades Jordan Howard.
My bet is – the Chiefs-Bears-Eagles in that order.
Best ‘deep sleeper’ talent in free agency: Zach Zenner, DET – Someone please give this guy the chance he has deserved for years? Get ready for him in New England and Rex Burkhead gonzo.
Other RB notes…
-- With this weak rookie class at RB…Latavius Murray, C.J. Anderson, Adrian Peterson ALL have value as guys who could start Week 1 if needed.
-- Tevin Coleman and Mark Ingram will be interesting cases…why spend big on them when you could get a C.J. Anderson or Latavius Murray cheaper to pair with whatever? Coleman and Ingram will be a waste of money.
Coleman possibly to the Jets if they don’t get Le’Veon. The Rams could be an interesting move as a quasi-split with Gurley to (a) reduce the workload on Gurley and (b) have protection in case Gurley’s knee goes out. You’d think Coleman would be a big-ticket free agent starter, and maybe he will be…but for who? Why? Where is Coleman so much better than their current starter (except Atlanta)…maybe Oakland but Tevin is not a ‘Gruden Grinder’ type back?
Ingram is a candidate for ‘most overrated’. He might find his way back to New Orleans when he finds no real takers, but considering he went to Alabama way back when, I’m guessing some team will pony up. The Jets, possibly, if Le’Veon wants nothing to do with NYJ. I think Oakland is in play here too.
-- Corey Grant could be a sneaky pickup by some team and turned into a change of pace, 3rd-down back homerun hitter weapon. He’d make an excellent Patriot as part of their trio (ditching Rex). The Texans could be a dark horse as they’ve seen his work in-division for years. A weapon of mass destruction waiting for some team to use him as a change of pace, 3-5 targets a game lightning in a bottle. One of the fastest players in the NFL…but is ‘old news’ to the asleep at the switch NFL personnel establishment.
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