Lost? But, not forgotten

July 21, 2020

Marlon Mack headlines the running backs who have been written off by the fantasy community

This is part one of a four part series on forgotten fantasy assets at each position

Every year there are values in our fantasy football drafts. Players who have lost a bit of their shine, but are still gems to fill the roster with. And then there are the forgotten players who people just have no interest in. 

Due to free agent signings, draft picks or just the overall ever-changing nature of the NFL, identifying the forgotten heroes of fantasy football is a good way to win your league. We all love the new, flashy talents but that bright flash can overshadow the solid presence behind it.

Here are the five forgotten running backs in fantasy football who need to be brought back to light.

Mack finished as the RB20 in 14 games.
  1. Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis

Can I interest you in the RB20 in fantasy points-per-game (FPPG), who ran for almost 1,100 yards at a 4.4 yards-per-carry (YPC) clip in 14 games? What if I include that the quarterback and offensive weapons are improved which increases touchdown upside for a guy who thrived on the goal-line? Now this could be the deal-breaker, but you have to draft him as the RB33 according to FantasyPro’s ADP chart.

That running back is Marlon Mack, and he is a very good runner. Behind one of the best offensive lines in football, Mack has been a steady fantasy producer. Mack averaged 3.07 seconds behind the line of scrimmage, showing the power of the offensive line to give the fourth-year running back time to pick his lane and go. The biggest worry, of course, is second-round running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor is an extremely fast and powerful rusher who benefitted from a strong Wisconsin rushing scheme and offensive line. Sure enough, he can find both of those fits in Indianapolis, leading many to fade Mack.

But both can be solid options in one of the league’s strongest rushing offenses. Due to the lack of a serious offseason, I would expect Mack to open Week 1 as the starter, and maintain the role for several weeks. For the seventh-round investment, you could be getting locked-in top 20 performances for a good chunk of the season. Mack isn’t the stereotypical no-talent incumbent starter, ready to be replaced by the flashy rookie. His talent will keep him on the field behind the same offensive line that Taylor has. Taylor will likely continue to rise in ADP as the season gets closer, and I’ll be happy to take the forgotten Mack. 

  1. Jordan Howard, RB, Miami

Truth be told, I don’t understand why people continue to sleep on Howard. Sure, he may be one of the worst pass-catching backs in the league, but nobody has been drafting Howard for upside since 2017, and that isn’t changing in Miami. The team went out and signed the 25-year-old running back to a two-year, $9.75 million deal in March and traded for former 49ers running back Matt Breida during the NFL Draft. The two should complement each other extremely well, with Howard manning first and second downs plus goal-line work and Breida handling third-downs and passing plays. 

So Howard will see 200+ carries behind an improved offensive line on a team that needs a running game to balance their offense out after ranking dead last in carries in 2019. And yet Howard is being drafted as the RB39 in fantasy.

How? Seriously, how? There’s just too much volume for Howard not to outperform that draft position, and top 24 upside if first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa thrives as the inevitable starter. There is no competition behind Howard. Breida has proven that he cannot handle a large workload and 2019 team rushing leader Kalen Ballage is one of the worst running backs in the league after averaging 1.8 YPC, 4.5 yards-per-reception and his longest run was just eight yards among his 74 attempts. 

Howard shouldn’t be forgotten. A two-time 1,000 yard rusher, former Pro Bowl player who is a career 4.3 YPC rusher with volume has a valuable role on any fantasy roster.

Despite being cut by the Saints as a sixth-round pick in 2018, Scott finds himself in a valuable spot in 2020.
  1. Boston Scott, RB, Philadelphia

I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m currently riding the Miles Sanders train, pulling that loud whistle with a wide grin across my face. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen how I hope and dream it will be. More likely than not, head coach Doug Pederson will operate under the same philosophy he has used for years —  a committee backfield. While Sanders will have the lion share, Scott will be the efficient complement to the Penn State product. 

Scott thrived when thrust into a role last season, ranking as the RB9 from Weeks 14-17 when he finally saw more than 19% of snaps. This was when Jordan Howard was out with a stinger, and he has since moved on to Miami. Scott can be a valuable change-of-pace running back that could see enough work through the air (23 receptions on 25 targets over the last four games) to provide low-end flex value. 

People want to forget Pederson’s history of committee backfields and Scott’s late season breakout, but if the team does not add a free agent running back Scott could be a late round steal given his current ADP (RB55). 

  1. Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver

Lindsay’s ceiling isn’t what it was a year ago, but he has been absolutely forgotten by the fantasy world. Like Marlon Mack, Lindsay is a very talented player who has new competition for the role. The Broncos signed ex-Charger Melvin Gordon, who should see enough carries and plenty of third-downs to steal value from Lindsay. This is a retooled offense featuring new weapons in Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and Gordon. There’s a new offensive coordinator in town in Pat Shurmer who has performed far better as a coordinator than a head coach, especially when he has pieces to work with.

This offense will put up points, and while Gordon will see his share Lindsay won’t be phased out. This is a Pro Bowl running back who can thrive with less work in an improved offense. Lindsay is a 4.5 ypc runner who has succeeded in poor offenses. I’m not out on him like his ADP (RB38) suggests. It’s a contract year for an undrafted player who has never received his payday. Don’t forget about his talent and efficiency, because an improved offense could allow him to provide for fantasy owners despite a decrease in opportunity.

Thompson does have some injury concerns, missing 17/48 games over the past three seasons.
  1. Chris Thompson, RB, Jacksonville

Does anyone remember when Thompson was a top 30 option? It feels like ancient history, but Thompson was the RB28 two years in a row in full point-per-reception (PPR) leagues in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. This was when he was with coach Jay Gruden in Washington, on a team lacking proven pass catchers or another pass catching running back.

It’s a good thing all those things, including Gruden, are here in Jacksonville. 

Thompson has dealt with injuries his entire career, constantly disappearing from fantasy rosters after a blowup game. But while he is on the field he will be a valuable asset for Jacksonville. Incumbent starter Leonard Fournette had a whopping 76 receptions for a measly 5.22 yards-per-target. Any metric will show you what was evident on tape — Fournette isn’t a good pass catcher. But this was a team that loved to throw to the running back when it mattered. 39% of Fournette’s passing work came when the team was being blown out, and looking at this defense that lost even more pieces this offseason, that won’t change in 2020. This team will still lose a lot of games and Thompson will be the pass catcher to benefit from that. It helps that the team doesn’t seem to like Fournette, with trade rumors circulating ever since they removed the guaranteed money from the LSU product’s contract last season. Backup running back Ryquell Armstead isn’t a capable pass catcher either.

Thompson might not be a fantasy asset, but he definitely needs to be remembered rather than forgotten. His impact on this roster, aiding Minshew while hurting Fournette tremendously, is something that fantasy owners need to know. He is absolutely free in drafts, being drafted as the RB72, and someone to keep an eye on in full-PPR formats.