• Matt Nein

Dynasty RB Buy Lows


Twitter: @mnein9


The 2022 offseason is officially here and that means it’s time to start shaping your rosters for the upcoming season. In my opinion, this is the best time of the year to buy low on players who might have disappointed in 2021 and left a sour taste in some owners’ mouths. If we wait till free agency to buy, a player’s value might go up due to changing teams or even a change in the situation. So, now is the time to take advantage of player values! Here are some RBs you should be trying to get on your rosters today.


If you missed the QB Buy Low article, click here!

 

Kenneth Gainwell – Eagles


Kenneth Gainwell had a very up-and-down rookie season. However, there was a lot of promise that came from it. I’m sure the first thing people will point to is the success rate of 5th round RBs (150th overall) that come into the NFL. Although I agree the odds aren’t in his favor, I think Gainwell might be an exception to the rule. Gainwell only played two college seasons at Memphis before opting out of his Junior year because of COVID. His freshman year he only appeared in 4 games so there isn’t much to take away from that, but he exploded onto the scene for a stellar sophomore campaign. Gainwell carried the ball 235 times for 1550 yards and had 51 receptions for 610 yards. He totaled 2069 total yards along with 16 total TDs. As I mentioned before, he opted out of his junior season, so we only have one year of tape to go off when evaluating Gainwell as a prospect. This probably gave teams pause and caused him to slip in the draft with some uncertainty surrounding him. Had he not opted out, his talent suggests he’s closer to a late second-round pick rather than a 5th.


Several different reports after the draft last summer suggested that Gainwell was the one guy Eagles head coach, Nick Sirianni, couldn’t leave the draft without. When drafting him in rookie drafts last year I cautioned people that Gainwell will probably be more of a 2022 guy rather than a 2021 guy due to him not having played football in over a year. We got to see a small glimpse of what Gainwell can do when he was the featured RB against Dallas (a mixed bag of starters and backups for both the Eagles O and Cowboys D) in week 18. Gainwell rushed 12 times for 78 yards and a TD. He also had 7 targets that resulted in 4 receptions for 9 yards. His rookie year looked rather promising for his future outlook.

The pass blocking grade really stands out because the fastest way to being a 3-down-back is being great in pass-pro. Gainwell ranked 1st in pass-pro among the 2021 rookie class and 8th in the entire NFL (min 90 snaps). I believe that Gainwell will eventually take over as the Eagles RB1 and I expect that to start this season. Miles Sanders is entering a contract year and there’s a good chance the Eagles don’t resign him. Not only that, but Miles Sanders continues to struggle three years into his career.

Fantasy Scouts very own @FFBallAllDay created a fantasy RB model that grades prospects coming into the NFL and Gainwell received the same score as Elijah Mitchell, who we’ve already seen produce.


According to DLF’s January ADP, Gainwell is going as RB45 (133rd overall) which is criminally low for a potential starter. His current value seems to be a third-round pick or a player like Emmanuel Sanders. I am buying all day long at those prices.

 

Rhamondre Stevenson – Patriots


Stevenson has probably one of the least exciting college resumes for an RB that I can remember. Two seasons played, late declare, less than 1200 career rushing yards, and so on. However, Bill Belichick didn’t seem to care when he selected him in the 4th round last April, and quite frankly, after watching Stevenson’s rookie season, I’m not sure I care either. Stevenson can ball. According to PFF, Stevenson was the highest-graded RB in the 2021 class with a grade of 81.1 and that was good for the 10th highest in the entire league. He was also 4th in the NFL in juke rate at 35.4%.


Jim Nagy is one of the best college scouts in the country and I put a lot of stock into the things he says, and this tweet still resonates with me today.

Rhamondre ‘Sweet Feet’ Stevenson was a nickname that he got over the course of the pre-draft process. After a strong showing in the preseason, he made Sony Michel expendable and Nagy noticed. Stevenson doesn’t possess crazy home-run speed, but his ability to shift his weight and accelerate in the hole is special for someone his size. He has a very unique combination of speed and power.

Damien Harris was forced to miss 2 games last season due to injury and as his replacement, Stevenson rushed 30 times for 136 yards (4.5 YPC) and 2 TDs. He also tacked on 5 receptions for 18 yards. Stevenson isn’t nearly as good a pass catcher as someone like Gainwell, but he certainly isn’t bad at it. Additionally, after his week 10 performance vs CLE, Stevenson and Harris started to split drives down the stretch.


Stevenson, like Gainwell with Miles Sanders, sits behind the incumbent starter Damien Harris who is entering a contract year. With the possibility Damien Harris doesn’t return because of the emergence of Stevenson, now is a great opportunity to send out offers for Stevenson and potentially acquire an up-and-coming starting RB.


The Fantasy Scouts RB model graded Stevenson better than Kenneth Gainwell and Elijah Mitchell and just behind Michael Carter.


DLF’s January ADP has Stevenson going as RB28 (80th overall) and his trade market suggests he’s going for a late-second or players like Darrell Williams, Justin Jackson, and Devonta Freeman.

 

Rashaad Penny – Seahawks


I have been riding the Rashaad Penny wagon since draft day 2018 and I never have wavered. No, I don’t count that as a victory in my book but to simply put it, I am a huge Penny fan. He plays for the team I root for, so I’m invested.


During the summer of 2020, I wrote an article about Penny detailing how I thought he would take the job away from Chris Carson. In the article, I explained ad nauseum about how explosive Penny was. I may have been early on projecting the breakout but in fantasy, it's always better to be early than late. I honestly can’t ever recall a 5th year RB breakout, but we may be on the verge of one with Penny. His career over his first three years was more about ‘what if's rather than on-field production. I have been saying for four years now that Penny is truly an elite talent, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, so we really haven’t got to see his potential come to fruition yet. Fingers crossed that his incredible stretch to the end of 2021 is a precursor to the next 2-3 years. We’ve even seen these flashes before dating back to his sophomore season in 2019. Here is an excerpt from what I wrote two years ago;

In 2019, Penny rushed for 370 yards on 65 carries (5.7 avg) with 3 TDs over 10 regular-season games. His yards per carry went up and his TD production doubled (caught 1 passing TD). Now, 4 scores is not a lot, but on 73 touches that’s a pretty solid scoring rate. 5.48 touchdowns per 100 attempts may not seem like a lot but Chris Carson’s career rate is 2.97 per 100 touches. Not to compare Penny to the great Seahawks HOF RB Sean Alexander, but Alexander’s rate was 4.66 and he was a scoring machine. What these numbers tell me, in the small sample size that we have, Penny is explosive and a top-tier running back when healthy.”

I don’t think Penny is a fluke, I just think he’s been extremely unlucky with injuries.

Some numbers from the 2021 season:

  • 1st in true yards per carry (5.5).

  • 3rd in yards per touch (6.4).

  • 1st in breakaway run rate (12.6%).

  • 4th in breakaway runs (15).

  • 4th in yards created per touch (3.83).

  • 12th ranked RB according to PFF.

  • 10th ranked RB in pass-pro according to PFF.

  • 1st in elusive rating according to PFF.

  • 1st in yards after contact per attempt (4.52).

Supposedly when Adrian Peterson signed with the Seahawks back in early December the light clicked for Penny. He was able to witness one of the all-time greats train, practice, and watch film. Peterson even went so far as to take Penny ‘under his wing’ and when he did, Penny took off. Over the last 5 weeks of the season, Penny rushed 92 times for 671 yards (7.3 YPC!) and 6 TDs. Albeit a small sample size, this pace over the course of the regular season would look something like 312 carries, 2278 yards, and 20 TDs. No, I don’t expect him to ever put up that kind of stat line, but it just goes to show how good those five games really were.

Up until recently, it was rumored that Peterson was going to stick around in Seattle and help coach Penny. With his recent arrest, that proposition looks much murkier. Regardless, Penny is a great buy low this summer and we should approach his situation with cautious optimism. Penny when healthy, is a locked and loaded RB1. The question remains though, can he stay healthy? What will Seattle do to manage him during the weeks and leading up to game time? I believe Penny will be the RB1 ahead of Carson if he returns. With the neck issue he has we will have to wait and see. As shown above though, even in a potential timeshare with Carson, Penny doesn’t need much work to be successful.


Only three RB prospects have graded out better than Penny in the Fantasy Scouts RB model; Jonathan Taylor, Antonio Gibson, and JK Dobbins.


Penny currently slides in as the RB31 (89th overall) on DLF’s January ADP. He is being valued close to a mid-late second-round pick.

 

AJ Dillon – Packers


I believe the tides are turning in favor of the big-bodied AJ Dillon. In the very same breath that I say AJ Dillon is a buy, I say that Aaron Jones is a sell.


PFF’s second-highest graded RB from 2021 began to split snaps with Aaron Jones down the stretch of the Packer’s season. Over the last 6 games of the season, Dillon out-carried Jones 79 to 48 (Jones did miss week 18). Jones, however, did see significantly more targets during the same stretch. Over the course of the season, Dillon saw a 45.1% opportunity share while Jones saw a 52.7% opportunity share. In 2022, I expect this backfield to look a lot like the Broncos backfield did last year with Williams and Gordon. A 50/50 split down the middle.


With Aaron Rodger's commitment to Green Bay up in the air and maybe even to football, there’s a chance that Jordan Love takes over at QB. In that scenario, leaning on an effective running game can be very beneficial in helping a young QB. Both Dillon’s and Jones’ usage would go up.


What about this scenario? Rodgers returns to Green Bay for the 2022 season and then leaves/retires next summer. Jordan Love would then take over in 2023. With the Packers already in salary CAP crisis, Aaron Jones could very well be playing his last season in Green Bay with a dead cap of 6.5M after this season. Additionally, the team would save 12.5M by cutting him. AJ Dillon could be the only RB of note on the Packers roster in 2023.


@FFBallAllDay wrote an article on Dillon two years ago in which he compared Dillon's physical size to that of future Hall of Famer, Derrick Henry.

When looking at Dillon, his physical comp is Derrick Henry and it's really easy to see. This is very likely why they went and locked him down in the 2nd (more to come on that in a bit). Both Dillon and Henry are special physical specimens.

Derrick Henry didn’t breakout until year three. I’m not saying that Dillon will break out in 2022 and rush for 1500 yards, but his involvement in the offense has been growing drastically on a weekly basis. This summer is the right time to invest in a potential workhorse RB like Dillon. Especially with the chance to be the only guy in Green Bay in 2023.


The Fantasy Scouts RB model gave AJ Dillon the same grade as Cam Akers and Joe Mixon.


According to DLF’s January ADP, Dillon is currently the RB21 (60th overall). Some players that are being valued in the same range are CEH and Miles Sanders. I would strongly consider flipping either of those RBs for Dillon. I spoke about Sanders in the first segment and CEH was playing behind 29-year-old Jerrick McKinnon in the playoffs.