Hidden Dynasty Assets: Running Backs (Fantasy Football)

Benjamin Shwaiko
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Benjamin Shwaiko

Born and raised in Chicago Illinois, I am an avid Cubs, Blackhawks and Packers fan. I am new to writing about Fantasy Football community and joined with Going For 2 in June of 2017.Fantasy Football is my passion and I am looking to get more involved in the community.
Benjamin Shwaiko
Follow me at

In part one of my Hidden Dynasty Assets, I broke down 4 quarterbacks that you can use to build dynasty value. In my next segment, I am going to analyze 6 running backs that are perfect players to target in order to capitalize on their current average draft position. Since running back performance outside the top 5 changes so much, it is the position where you can build the most value from year to year if you can pick the right buy low candidates at the right time. For example, only 11 running backs have finished in the top 24 at the position for the past 2 years. Due to the inconsistencies at the running back position, value can be found throughout the rankings and can be capitalized upon from year to year through trading. Here are some of the hidden running back values I have found that should be taken advantage of.

Mark Ingram, NO (RB22 & 85th Overall)

My first Hidden Dynasty Asset at the running back position is the 27-year-old running back, Mark Ingram. At RB22, Ingram is an undervalued fantasy asset that has already proven he can perform at the position. 

Contradicting the statistic I presented in my opening paragraph, Ingram has finished as a top 12 back each of the past 2 seasons. He has done so on some of the lowest carry numbers out of the rest of the top 12 backs. In 2015, he finished as the RB10 and only 2 backs in the top 12 at the position finished with fewer carries than Ingram’s 166. Future superstar David Johnson had 125 while Danny Woodhead only had 98, but Woodhead added 80 receptions to his total touches. In 2016 when Ingram finished as RB8, no other RB1 did it on fewer carries than his 205.

“Why do I highlight the number of Ingram’s carries over the past 2 seasons?”

Well, there are 2 reasons I bring these numbers up. The first has to do with Ingram’s value in the short term. This offseason the Saints brought in superstar Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara to compete with Ingram for the backfield in 2017. With backup Tim Hightower leaving for San Francisco, it frees up 133 of the carries from last season. The top two backs for the Saints combined to have 338 rushing attempts and Ingram and Peterson look to take most of that workload over. Kamara and Ingram look to split the receiving duties, which were around 100 reception last season. If Ingram can receive at least an even split in both carries and receptions, I see no reason he can’t continue to produce at an RB1 level this year even with a low workload.

The second reason I make a note of Ingram’s carry numbers over the past 2 seasons is to show his low workload for his long-term value. At 27 years old, Ingram is still 3 years away from that historical age 30, where running backs start to see a decline in production. However, as a lesser known benchmark, Ingram has only received 953 career total attempts which are a lot lower than the 2,500 carry mark which is when running backs also start to taper off. With an aging Peterson only under contract for 2 years, Ingram can still be the lead back of a high-powered Saints offense, who have always utilized multiple backs. With so much untapped usage, Ingram is a Hidden Dynasty Asset who can produce at an RB1 level for years to come.  

Danny Woodhead, BAL (RB55 & 154th Overall)

As I mentioned in part 1 of this article, not all players on this list will be younger players to keep an eye on. I think that the older veteran to target in the running back class is 32-year-old Danny Woodhead. Similar to Carson Palmer at the quarterback position, Woodhead is at the tail end of his career but still offers an RB1 ceiling. Going off the board in the 13th round of dynasty startups, Woodhead is the perfect piece to add to a contending team.

In 2015, Danny Woodhead finished as the RB3 in PPR formats and he did it on a mere 98 carries for 336 yards. He was extremely valuable in the passing game where he caught an astonishing 80 balls for 755 yards. Woodhead was able to score a combined 9 touchdowns that year, which had a lot to do with him finishing as a top 5 back.

Moving to Baltimore this year is only another plus for Woodhead. Over the past 2 seasons, Baltimore has led the NFL in passing attempts and finished in the top 3 in completions. This bodes well for the shifty Woodhead as this seems like the perfect fit for him. The Ravens also lost tight end Dennis Pitta for the season who led the team in both targets and receptions. Woodhead can hope to see a majority of these targets as most of them were short check down passes when other receivers were covered downfield. Other noticeable departures include future Hall of Famer Steve Smith Sr. and Kamar Aiken who combined to have another 100 receptions. That role could be filled by Woodhead, who is also featured in the slot. I believe that Woodhead can see close to 100 receptions in a full 16 game season.

Additionally, Woodhead also has the opportunity to take some carries out of the backfield as Kenneth Dixon is suspended for the first four games and Terrance West has never proven to be a feature back. If Woodhead is able to secure a solid total number of receptions as well as a few carries, he may be a few touchdowns away from that RB1 ceiling and is a bargain for what his current value is.

The main concern for Woodhead is injury as he has missed almost 2 full seasons in the last 3 years. Where some may view him a fragile, I see even more reason to buy into Woodhead as this injury concern will only drive his price down further. Who knows, he might have even benefitted from the time off since he is getting older. Whether he plays the entire season or not, a hot start might be enough to capitalize on Woodhead if you can sell him for more than you bought him for. All in all, the best case scenario is that Woodhead is the final piece to your dynasty championship team and you were able to trade for him for next to nothing before the season starts.  

Duke Johnson, CLE (RB34 & 112th Overall)

Duke Johnson is the perfect example of a post-hype sleeper. As the 16th running back off the board in 2016, many people had high expectations for Duke taking him 64th in startup drafts. After his rookie campaign, some thought he would take over as the lead back. Although he didn’t meet those expectations, he was a solid flex option and finished as the RB37 in half point PPR. As the 34th running back off the board this season, he is great value for a guy we could have been a year early on.  

The Cleveland Browns revamped their offensive line this offseason by signing center J.C. Tretter and guard Kevin Zeitler. Their new offensive line is ranked 2nd in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. The Browns are going from having one of the worst offensive lines to being a top 3 unit. This significant upgrade will help open holes for the run game.

Duke Johnson’s counterpart Isaiah Crowell broke out last season and has been creating a lot of buzz so far this offseason. Crowell’s emergence as a solid back is one of the reasons why Duke’s ADP is falling so much. What people are forgetting is that Hue Jackson has had a history of supporting two fantasy relevant running backs.

In 2014 and 2015, Hue was the offensive coordinator for the Bengals and supported two top 20 backs in both years, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Additionally, in 2010, Jackson supported 2 top 30 backs with Michael Bush and Darren Mcfadden as the OC for the Raiders and 2 top 35 backs with the same duo, as the head coach in 2011. What’s even more impressive is that McFadden only played 7 games in 2011. 

The 23-year-old is entering his 3rd year in the league and has put up solid numbers in his career so far. In 2015, Duke finished as the RB27 and in 2016 he finished as the RB37 in half point PPR. Duke had 61 receptions in 2015 and in 2016 his receptions fell to 53 despite having 74 targets both seasons. Even though his receptions went down last year his yards per reception went up from 8.8 in 2015 to 9.9 in 2016.

Many people label Duke as only a pass catching back but many forget just how talented he is at running the football. He is in the top 20 in ACC HISTORY for career rushing yards. He was also very efficient when running the ball this season, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and looked very explosive. Duke Johnson has the talent to be a solid fantasy producer and is in a great situation to have a breakout year. He is a Hidden Dynasty Asset who can produce at an RB2/3 level for many years to come.

Bilal Powell, NYJ (RB35 & 130th Overall)

Dynasty Assets from the New York Jets are hard to come by these days, but the 28-year-old Bilal Powell is my favorite player on the Jets to target in dynasty leagues. Even though Powell is viewed as the second string running back to Matt Forte and may not have as high of a ceiling as some of the other players I’ve listed, Powell is a Hidden Dynasty Asset for 2 reasons.

The first reason is that he has grown into the Jets passing down back and has been able to see over 45 receptions each of the past two years. These valuable receptions are also going to continue to grow. Since the Jets are seemingly going to be playing every game from behind this season, the number of passing attempts are going to increase as well as Powell’s 58 receptions he saw last year.

Depending on how bad the quarterback play in for the Jets, Powell could benefit from being the number 1 passing option and see an obnoxious amount of check down passes. Powell came close to leading the team in receptions last year, 1 behind the 59 put up by Brandon Marshall, who plays for the Giants now.

The second reason I like Powell as a Hidden Asset is that he always seems to perform during the fantasy playoffs, or weeks 13-16. In the past 2 seasons, Powell has been a top 24 back all but twice during the fantasy football playoff weeks. While that might not sound that impressive, over that same 2-year span he was able to finish as top 7 at the position 5 out of the 6 times, 3 of which were top 3 performances. In other words, Bilal Powell could have single handily won you 3 different weeks in the fantasy football playoffs. Powell has been able to be successful late in the year due to the Jets burning out the aforementioned Forte early in the season, which has seemed to keep Powell fresh. Expect more of the same this year, as the Jets are ready to ride Forte as long as they can early in the year.

Powell sure is not the most exciting Hidden Dynasty Asset, but if he sees enough receptions he could easily finish as a top 24 back for the upcoming season. As productive running backs are extremely valuable in dynasty leagues, Powell could be a great buy-low candidate who should shine late in the year when it counts.

Ameer Abdullah (RB20 & 69th Overall)

The Hidden Dynasty Asset with the biggest upside is the 24-year-old Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah has the highest ceiling out of all of the other backs I mentioned as he is the only one with the opportunity to become a feature back for more than this year. A good year from Abdullah would send his dynasty stock skyrocketing due to his age and the high volume offense he is on.

Abdullah looks to have at least one more opportunity to solidify himself as the Lions feature back this year as they didn’t bring in any help through the draft and only brought in Matt Asiata in free agency. While the Lions didn’t bring in much help at the running back position, they did go out to solidify the offensive line bringing in Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang.  

Abdullah missed almost the entire 2016 season due to a Lisfranc tear in his foot and is now seen as injury prone. In 2015, his rookie campaign, Abdullah was able to play in all 16 of his games, even though he was inconsistent. Abdullah is still young and could shake the injury prone tag easily with a productive and healthy 2017.

The Lions are set up to use a 2 back approach with Abdullah handling the early downs and Theo Riddick taking care of the 3rd down responsibilities. Also coming off a late season ending injury, any setback to Riddick’s mid-August return date would enable Abdullah to see the early work in passing situations.

Coming out of college, Abdullah was seen as a 3 down back who could be valuable to a team’s passing attack after he didn’t drop a pass his last 2 years at Nebraska. If Abdullah is able to take away some of the 133 receptions that the recovering Riddick has had over the past 2 years, he would take a huge step in becoming a feature back.

Over his first 2 seasons, he has flashed at times but has never been able to secure the necessary volume to provide an RB1 return. That could all change this year if Abdullah is able to play a full season and if he takes a step forward. This time next year it is possible you will be wishing you added Abdullah to your dynasty rosters while he was still affordable.

James Conner (RB74 & 184th Overall)

The youngest running back to make this list is the feel good player of the year, drafted 105th by the Pittsburgh Steelers. James Conner has a great story, but I think that people have overlooked that he has the chance to secure one of the most underrated roles in the league, backing up Le’veon Bell. Going in the 3rd round of rookie drafts, this potential high production role is up for grabs and worth taking a shot on.

For the past 2 seasons, old man Deangelo Williams has proven that this role can be as fruitful as any in the league. In 2015, the then 32-year-old Williams was able to finish as the RB5 in PPR leagues which included 6 games where he played second fiddle to the superstar Bell. In 2016 when Bell missed time again, Williams posted top 10 numbers over the 3 games that Bell missed.

As a move from Carolina to Pittsburgh let Williams see a resurgence in his career, it is intriguing to think about what kind of numbers the 22-year-old Conner could put up if given the opportunity. The competition for Bell’s backup role is not very crowded as both Fitzgerald Toussaint and Knile Davis are on one-year contracts and have not done much to impress this far in their careers. It would seem that the Steelers want to have faith in the hometown kid, Conner, and are going to give him an opportunity to secure that coveted role.

This role is one of the most underrated roles in the league because Bell has frequently missed time. Over the past two seasons, Bell has missed a total of 13 games, partly because he has been suspended twice for smoking that God-forsaken reefer. Fair or not, under the current NFL policy that means that he would be suspended for a full season if he fails another drug test. With that being a full possibility, owning the handcuff in that situation would prove to be rewarding even if only for that year.

Another fact often overlooked is that Bell was given the franchise tag this offseason. I believe that Bell will get resigned long term as he truly is a special talent. If that is not the case, then at this point next year Conner would be the only running back on the Steelers roster. Conner could be the starter next year if he blows the team away this year and they decide to let Bell walk.  

In case you haven’t heard his story, Conner played college football at the University of Pittsburgh. In 2014, rushing for 1,765 yards and 26 TDs, Conner broke the ACC record for the most touchdowns in a single season. In that same year, he also rushed for the 4th most yards in a single season in ACC history. Following that dominant season, in 2015 he was viewed as one of the nation’s best running backs before he severely hurt his MCL in the first game of the year which ended his season. In December of that year, Connor was also diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and instead of giving up football and turning his attention to fight cancer, he decided to tackle cancer while rehabbing from his injury and attending team drills. He was able to return to play his final season at the University of Pittsburgh and then went on to get drafted by his hometown Steelers. The determination in this guy is unreal and the situation he has found himself in should have everyone wanting to take a shot on this Hidden Dynasty Asset.

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Benjamin Shwaiko

Born and raised in Chicago Illinois, I am an avid Cubs, Blackhawks and Packers fan. I am new to writing about Fantasy Football community and joined with Going For 2 in June of 2017. Fantasy Football is my passion and I am looking to get more involved in the community.

Benjamin Shwaiko

Born and raised in Chicago Illinois, I am an avid Cubs, Blackhawks and Packers fan. I am new to writing about Fantasy Football community and joined with Going For 2 in June of 2017. Fantasy Football is my passion and I am looking to get more involved in the community.

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