The Not-So-Sexy Running Back that Will Win You Your League – Part 2

Everyone wants that home run running back lottery pick that blows the lid off a fantasy season and helps you win a championship. Last year it was Alvin Kamara, third in the pecking order in NO to start the year but receiving pre-season hype as a rookie with impressive measurables. He turned out a top-3 standard finish by end of season with historic efficiency numbers. This series is NOT for you Kamara dreamers, it’s for the seasoned veterans who know they need quality depth with upside and, more importantly, a carved out role.

For every surprise stud that emerges from the ashes of a failed season where a player took too many high-risk shots on the Toby Gerhart’s of the world there are three consistent, good running backs that no one wanted because they lacked elite upside or weren’t the new hotness. These players rarely get the press that they deserved until half way through the season when people suddenly start to take notice. Well I say no more, it’s time for them to shine like the imperfect, low-cost diamonds they are! Last time we covered Lamar Miller, an unsung RB2 hero. This time, we’re talking Isaiah Crowell:

Un-Sexy Pick – Isaiah Crowell

Isaiah Crowell broke fantasy players' hearts last season much like he broke tackles in this play
Isaiah Crowell broke fantasy players’ hearts last season much like he broke tackles in this play

Here’s the scenario – you were lucky enough to draft a stud RB like Todd Gurley and a high-end RB like Jordan Howard and you’ve been waiting on RB ever since. Suddenly, it’s the 9th round and you realize that you have ZERO running back depth after your starters. What do you do? The answer is simple, draft Crowell!

Nobody is excited to pick Crowell up instead of a high-upside lottery pick in the later rounds, but he just might be the player your team needs to carry you through a full season and deep into playoffs. He is currently being drafted as the 38th RB (FantasyPros standard ADP). This is a rock solid deal for Crowell and he should have every opportunity to exceed that value. Here’s why:

2017 vs Now

Last season Crowell finished as the 30th best RB (ESPN standard scoring). He did this despite playing on the worst team in the NFL, while competing for touches with arguably the best scat back in the NFL (Duke Johnson), and only scored 2 rushing TDs.

This season, he’s being drafted 8 RB slots lower than where he finished in 2017, despite going to the Jets, who are more than likely a better team than last year’s Browns. In theory, he will be playing the exact same 2-down role as before. The Browns were the worst passing team in the league in the red zone and interceptions hurt his chances to hit pay dirt. TDs are fluky and it would be shocking if he scores just 2 again. Crowell could easily match his production from last year and is in line to improve on it and on his RB ranking.

Durability

There are some backs that rarely miss a game in the NFL and can be relied upon for consistent year in and year out fantasy production. The ageless Frank Gore is a great example of this. It’s a common saying that the best ability is availability and when it comes to depth/RB3 picks this becomes all the more important since they’re the players that will need to fill in when your studs go down or suffer the occasional multi-week suspension (I’m looking at you, Zeke). Crowell has NEVER missed a game. While he’s no Frank Gore, that dependability could come in handy.

A Rookie QB’s Best Friend

The Jets invested some major capital in rookie QB Sam Darnold (and Crowell) this offseason. It would be a surprise if Darnold doesn’t make starts this season and he’s a good bet to start from week 1. Coaches typically like to ease rookie QBs in and that means relying on the rushing game more (see Jordan Howard last year). This is almost certainly good news for Crowell and if Darnold turns out to be as advertised then he may also take some pressure off of him in the run game by keeping defenses honest.

Elijah McGuire

McGuire has been receiving a lot of preseason buzz as a surprise stud in the passing game and was shaping up to be the Jets’ 3rd down back this season. However, he suffered a foot fracture last week in training camp and is now out 3 to 6 weeks. This leaves the aging and somewhat effective 3rd down specialist Bilal Powell as the only notable threat to Crowell’s workload to start the season. Crowell should get plenty of preseason reps with the first team offense and is likely to be relied on more in the early part of the season as a result of this. If he can translate the opportunity into production, he might be able to command the lion’s share of the touches down the stretch.

The Point

Crowell won’t have to do much to exceed the value of his ADP this year and will actually have to perform WORSE than his disappointing 2017 season to place where he’s being projected (RB #38). He’s set up for a consistent, reliable workload on what should be an improved offense compared to the Browns’ last year.  He could also be relied on heavily as they slowly ease Sam Darnold into the offense and comes with no notable injury history or risk. Instead of drafting an outside shot RB like Devontae Booker in the 9th round, grab a more reliable player in Crowell that could still finish well above his ADP value. Throw dem pizza lunchables on the ground and make the right choice!

-By Alex Murphy

We talk Isaiah Crowell and much more on our Way Too Early Mock Draft! podcast episode. Check it out here!

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