The 2018 dynasty fantasy football season is officially underway! We have seen this year’s top rookie prospects work out at the combine and the value of the top rookie RBs seems to be growing by the day. Owners are awaiting their drafts and are eager to get their hands on the rookie prospects. However, there are some RBs with upside you should be targeting as stashes. Leading up to your draft is the perfect time to trade those third and fourth-round rookie draft picks for an RB with upside. The RBs below have an opportunity to have an impact in 2018 and can be obtained for a low-cost. So, if you have a few roster spots open consider targeting these guys as stashes.
Corey Clement PHI
Clement the undrafted free-agent out of Wisconsin made his impact during Super Bowl 52. He had four catches for 100 yards and caught a touchdown in the second half. After Darren Sproles went down in September there was a role as a pass blocker to fill and the undrafted rookie eventually stepped in. He ran the ball 74 times during the regular season for 321 yards for an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Clement also caught ten passes for 123 yards and finished with six total touchdowns. Clement spent most of the season behind LeGarrette Blount who was signed in the offseason and Jay Ajayi who was traded for in October. However, it appears that Blount who had 173 attempts for 766 yards won’t be re-signed by the Eagles. Darren Sproles also doesn’t appear likely to re-sign with the team. This will open up the door for Clement to have a larger role in 2018 as he competes with Ajayi who had 408 yards on 70 carries and two touchdowns with the Eagles last year.
Clement is currently just 23 years and has emerged as a favorite on third down and in passing situations for the Eagles. Clement didn’t dazzle at the combine with his 4.68 40 yard dash but he has proven he has big-play ability. Clement has the clearest role of the backs on this list. Ajayi never quite took a lead role in the backfield and the majority of his success in Miami came in three games. If Ajayi doesn’t get comfortable in Philadelphia expect Clement to have a large role. Clement may even be the highest scoring back on the Eagles in PPR formats with his nose for the end zone. Clement is likely owned in larger leagues but if you can get him for an early third-round rookie draft pick you could be getting a steal to start in the flex.
The Matt Breida hype may begin to build once free agency begins if Carlos Hyde doesn’t return to the 49ers. Carlos Hyde finished 2017 with 1,288 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns. Despite Hyde’s good year, he has a history of getting injured. The 49ers may not want to invest in an RB who has been hurt almost every year since he joined the NFL. If they decide not to bring Hyde back that will open up an opportunity to be the lead back in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Breida would be the popular guess to fill the role if they 49ers don’t add an RB in the draft. Breida is a great stash option if you can get him for the right price which likely means trading for him now before the 49ers decide to not resign Hyde. Breida had 105 attempts for 465 yards for 4.4 yards per carry. He also had 21 catches for 180 yards and finished with 3 total touchdowns. Breida was the change of pace after the 49ers rookie fourth-round draft pick Joe Williams was sidelined before the start of the season due to an ankle injury that lingered from college.
During the 2017 off-season, there was a lot of talk about Williams stealing carries from Hyde. During the preseason Williams ran the ball 25 times for 130 yards. Breida ran the ball 18 times for 69 yards. Each back added three catches and had zero touchdowns. Williams on an injured ankle managed to average 5.2 yards per carry compared to Breida’s 3.8 yards per carry. Although Breida is currently receiving all the attention, Joe Williams might be the favorite to actually win the starting job. Both backs have a lot of speed Breida ran a 4.38 at his pro-day and Williams ran a 4.41 at the combine. Breida who wasn’t invited to the combine outperformed Williams in the 40-yard dash, bench press, broad jump, vertical leap. The talent of Bredia is undeniable. He is an amazing athlete. However, he is undersized at 5’11” and only 190 pounds. Williams is also 5’11” but weighs in at 205 pounds. Both are smaller guys with speed but Williams being 15 pounds heavier and running 4.41 might be more impressive than Breida’s 4.38.
Both Breida and Williams would make solid stashes with the potential to be a flex starter if the 49ers don’t resign Hyde or draft an RB early in the draft. Ideally, if you have the space stashing both wouldn’t be a bad idea. Realistically if the 49ers don’t bring someone else in both backs will get carries and they will likely ride the hot hand. If you only have room for one, Williams’ lower price tag makes him enticing. In some leagues, he might not even be owned. There are talks of Breida having his value raise as high as a second-round pick if Hyde doesn’t return. Breida at 23 years old could be worth the risk of an early third-round rookie draft pick right now as he is likely to have some role with the 49ers even if they re-sign Hyde or draft an RB. Williams, who is 24 years old, comes with greater risk but with a price tag likely around an early fourth-round rookie draft pick he could pay off in a huge way. If the 49ers don’t re-sign Hyde beware of overpaying as they might still look to add a back in the draft.
Austin Ekeler LAC
Austin Ekeler has been able to carve out a role in the Chargers backfield. Due to his receiving skills, Ekeler was able to emerge as a change of pace RB behind starter Melvin Gordon. In 2017 Ekeler ran the ball 47 times for 260 yards and two touchdowns. He added 27 catches for 279 yards and three touchdowns. Ekeler was effective in his limited carries as he rushed for 5.5 yards per carry. Although Ekeler was used in passing situations Melvin Gordon still caught 58 passes for 476 yards and four touchdowns. Ekeler isn’t going to challenge Gordon greatly for carries but if he continues to improve he could start to see more action on third downs and in obvious passing situations. However, Ekeler’s greatest upside could be due to the injury history of Melvin Gordon. Gordon injured his knee in both 2015 and 2016. If Gordon were to go down again Ekeler would be the favorite to take over during his absence. For this reason, Gordon owners should be looking to stash Ekeler as a handcuff. Ekeler is currently just 22 years old and has two years remaining on his contract. If Ekeler can continue to impress in the passing game he has the opportunity to become apart of a committee following the 2019 season when he will be 25 years old and a free agent. Even as part of a committee Ekeler could be valuable as a low-end RB number two or a flex starter in PPR formats.
Ekeler was an NCAA Division II star. He impressed scouts with his 40.5″ vertical jump and followed it with a 4.43 40 yard dash. Ekeler is a smaller running back at 5’9″ and weighs in at 200 pounds. He has great quickness and makes good cuts in the open field. Ekeler is a natural catcher of the football and should continue to have a role in the Chargers offense. His upside is lower than the guys higher than him on the list but he has the highest floor of all the running backs listed. Ekeler’s value should remain limited as he is clearly behind Gordon and the only thing that will change that is an injury. But if you are desperate for a running back and need a bye week starter Ekeler might be a decent option with his ability to find the end zone. Due to his floor, Ekeler’s value is just around a late third-round rookie draft pick.
Spencer Ware KC
Spencer Ware spent the entire 2017 season on IR as he slumped into fantasy irrelevance as Kareem Hunt burst on to the scene and stole the show. However, it is not time to give up on Ware just yet. Hunt had a great rookie season no doubt as he led the NFL in rushing. However, during the middle of the season, there was a significant drop off for Hunt. He ended the year with 1,327 rushing yards, 455 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns. However, after week 3 Hunt went on a nine-game touchdown drought. In only 4 of the 9 games he went without a touchdown did he manage to get 100 all-purpose yards. Obviously Ware isn’t going to be a starter but Ware had 1,368 all-purpose yards and 5 total touchdowns during the 2016 season.
Andy Reid has said that he expects Ware to return in 2018 and that he will diversify Hunt’s workload. Reid has made it clear that Ware who suffered a torn PCL and LCL is expected to have a role next season. Hunt is likely to be on the field in passing situations as he is the better pass catcher. A spot where Ware could have value is on the goal-line. Ware is a stockier back and may get some early-down touches near the goal line. Ware also has the opportunity to possibly step in and take a lead role in a game if Hunt were to struggle like he did during his touchdown drought. Ware is one of the older backs on this list but coming off of an injury his perceived value is very low. Similar to Ekeler and Gordon, Hunt owners should be looking to handcuff Hunt with Ware. If you are stashing Ware without Hunt there is a little more risk involved. Hunt is obviously a fantasy stud.The big question that won’t be answered until the season is what kind of role will Ware have. Will he simply be a change of pace or will he split carries? If he does find a good role and can prove himself effective post-injury the good news is that he will be a free-agent in 2019 and could try to land a more feature role although at 27 that might be difficult. Ware’s value is currently around a late third to early fourth-round rookie draft pick.
Jeremy Hill FA
Jeremy Hill is still just 25 years old. I know if you have owned him in the past he has likely been a huge disappointment. But at this point, his value really couldn’t get much lower. It is hard to have faith in a guy who has been such a big disappointment. But Hill has a chance at a fresh start with a new team and maybe you should look at him with a fresh perspective. In his seven games in 2017, he ran the ball 37 times for 116 yards at an average of 3.1 yards per carry. That isn’t a very encouraging stat line for a back that is supposed to be at the peak of his prime. Hills last 3 years he has run for less than four yards per carry. But in 2014 his rookie season he racked up 1,124 yards, and nine touchdowns on an average of 5.1 yards per carry. 2014 is a long time ago and this isn’t the same Bengals team. One major difference was the offensive line which was ranked seventh by Pro Football Focus in 2014. In 2015 they dropped one spot to number eight. In 2016 they fell down to 13th. In 2017 they fell even further down to 30th. Obviously, the situation in Cincinnati was less than ideal but the offensive line shouldn’t take all the blame as Hill didn’t perform well even when they still had the eighth-ranked offensive line.
As a free-agent Hill may end up in a far better situation then he had with the Bengals. The ideal location for Hill would be to join the Ravens and compete with Alex Collins for the starting job. The Ravens finished 2017 with the sixth-ranked run blocking offensive line in the league. The Raiders who finished 10th in run blocking would be another good location for Hill. If Hill lands with a team with a talented offensive line and competes for a starting job then his value could rise very quickly. However, his floor is likely the lowest of the backs listed. Hill is an old-school running back and in today’s NFL teams are focusing more and more on versatile backs who can run and catch out of the backfield. For that reason, it is likely Hill will ever be more than a member of a committee. However, with his size he has the ability to be a goal-line back, he could have value if he ends up in the right committee. At this point, Hill is worth a mid-third-round rookie draft pick. However, in some leagues, he might not be owned.