🕵️ A Big Clue For A Tricky Backfield

It's gonna be gross...

Hoping Zach Wilson gets a chance to relax today…

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by RunDot:

  • Decoding the Cowboys backfield

  • Watercooler: Why you can’t buy Marvin Harrison’s jersey

  • Value Picks At ADP: A bounce-back in store for a star RB?

  • It’s 5/13. Take it away, Peter Overzet…

One of the keys to winning championships in 2023 was correctly decoding the ambiguous backfields.

If you didn’t let a crowded depth chart scare you off of the Miami Dolphins backfield, you stumbled upon two league-winning selections in Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane.

On the flip side, if you pushed your chips in on the running back ambiguity in Chicago, you ended up with a bunch of middling performances from Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, and Roschon Johnson that didn’t move the fantasy needle.

In 2024, the Dallas Cowboys are shaping up to be one of these tricky backfields that could make your fantasy season if you get it right.

Over the weekend, Dallas Head Coach Mike McCarthy said the quiet part out loud when asked if Ezekiel Elliott would carry the ball as much as he did early in his career:

“That’s not going to be his role. We are going to be a running back by committee.”

Ah yes, the scariest four words in the fantasy football universe: running back by committee.

It seems pretty clear that the Cowboys intend to use all three of Zeke, Rico Dowdle, and Deuce Vaughn. The question, though, is if this is more like the Dolphins “committee” last year or the Bears quagmire.

On the one hand, none of these guys have the athletic profile to come close to replicating what we saw from a back like Achane.

On the other, this Cowboys offense will generate tons of Red Zone opportunities for their RBs. Last year, Tony Pollard finished behind only Christian McCaffrey for the most rush attempts inside the 20.

I think at their current prices—Round 11 or later for all three involved RBs—it’s worth taking stabs on all three of them, though Zeke is the most likely to soak up those Pollard touches inside the 20.

But if you are forcing me to choose one or the other, this RBBC feels much more like the Bears from last year than the Dolphins.

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Watercooler

👀 These offenses are going overlooked in dynasty leagues. Don’t make that mistake.

🔥 The 2024 regular season opener has been announced. What a banger.

🤔 Fans cannot buy Marvin Harrison’s jersey yet. Here’s why.

⌚️ A “minute-by-minute” look at Drake Maye’s first practice. Gimme second-by-second.

🚑️ Uh oh, you don’t want to see this for a rookie WR. Get better soon.

🚽 Tyreek Hill tells a stranger he’s a plumber. That’s how you get the fast cars.

😆 Adam Schefter’s got jokes. A good one, though.

🤝 Ladd McConkey looks like a youngyou’ll never guess the comp.

Best Ball Value Picks

ADPs are moving fast and furious through early best ball drafts on Underdog Fantasy. Today, Joe Metz is here to break down five players whose ADP is too cheap to ignore in early drafts…

This time of year is a fun one to draft, as we have yet to see the NFL schedule so bye week and playoff-schedule strategy isn’t something we take into consideration. Instead, the benefit of drafting this early in the offseason is being able to exploit best ball value picks that won’t be available throughout the summer.

I’ve drafted 18 best ball teams on Underdog Fantasy so far in the early part of the draft season. The following five players are veterans whose ADPs have stuck out as ones that I’ve proactively tried to take advantage of so far.

📈 Austin Ekeler, RB - Commanders

You’d be hard-pressed to find a player who’s seen a more dramatic drop in ADP year-over-year than Austin Ekeler, who went from being a consensus first-round pick in 2023 to the current RB33 in early 2024 drafts. He finished as the RB26 in PPR scoring after an overall decrease in efficiency and various injuries throughout the season.

While Ekeler (and the Chargers’ offense) looked disastrous at times, his current ADP of RB33 is one of my favorites on the board.

Joining a new-look Commanders offense, Ekeler could find himself in a role more reminiscent of the role he played earlier in his career alongside Melvin Gordon, where he specialized in a high-value-touch role on third downs and at the goal line as opposed to getting the majority of the early-down work. While an overall count in touches may decrease, the high-value touches should remain.

Despite his struggles last season, Ekeler still showed signs of his elite pass-catching/high-leverage upside that we’ve grown so fond of:

  • Target share: 12% (10th among qualified RBs with at least 499 snaps)

  • TPRR: 20% (10th)

  • Routes: 48% (10th)

  • 2Min snaps: 76% (6th)

I find it hard to believe we’ll find many (if any) other running backs in the RB30+ range with this type of passing-game upside.

The reasons for optimism don't end there. Ekeler is also already familiar with RB coach Anthony Lynn from his time with the Chargers.

In addition, a dual-threat QB like Jayden Daniels is more likely to siphon off early-down touches from Brian Robinson than the high-value touches from Ekeler.

When you add it all up, Ekeler feels like he’s being drafted much closer to his floor than his ceiling.

Through my first 18 drafts on Underdog, Ekeler checks in as my highest-rostered player at 43%. While I surely expect the exposure to level out as the draft volume increases, he’ll certainly remain atop my list of RB targets barring any crazy development.

📈 Rashid Shaheed, WR - Saints

  • Underdog ADP: 120.7 (WR56)

The Saints offense isn’t one that will instill confidence (is any Derek Carr-led offense?), but Rashid Shaheed is primed to reprise a valuable role in the passing attack in 2024.

After topping 1,000 yards last season as the primary deep threat for New Orleans (14.56-yard aDOT), Shaheed steps into the starting WR2 role after the Saints cut Michael Thomas (18% target share when active last season) and didn’t prioritize a WR in the 2024 draft.

As Ian Hartitz pointed out this offseason, no other wide receiver has averaged more than 11 yards per target over the last two years (min. 100 targets), giving him a unique ceiling at this stage in drafts that most receivers in his general vicinity don’t possess.

While the boom-or-bust nature of his game still lends itself more to best ball than redraft formats where you don’t have to make the active decision to start or sit him, Shaheed has shown a week-winning ceiling before and will only have more chances to showcase that upside in 2024.

This is yet another ADP that simply does not make sense, as Shaheed’s WR46 finish last season looks like something he’ll clearly improve upon given the role he’s stepping into and the upside he possesses.

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