Late round running backs are in style with the advent of zero running back strategies. Wide receivers are much closer to sure commodities and as a result managers are taking them in the early rounds. With this in mind, here is a list that points out some running backs with major upside. These players are widely available late in drafts and offer some potentially impressive returns.
Last season opportunity did not knock for Hightower until Mark Ingram was injured. This year the Saints may choose to give Hightower some carries earlier in the season to reduce the pounding on their starting back. In limited action last season, Hightower saw a whopping 22 carries in the red zone. He managed 4 red zone touchdowns as a result. The split between Ingram and Hightower is anyone's guess, but the performance last season has shown New Orleans coaches that there is still plenty of tread on the tires for the former red zone specialist.
Isaiah Crowell CLE
Crowell took care of most rushing duties for the Browns last season. This should be true again in 2016, with no true every down running back on the team. Duke Johnson Jr. will handle passing downs again and handle a few carries. In the red zone, Crowell will probably be the only game in town. Last season the Browns gave Crowell 32 red zone carries, good for 13th most in the league. He scored 5 red zone touchdowns from those carries. He is not going to pile up yards or have a breakout season, but Crowell is a valuable commodity at the flex position.
DeVontae Booker DEN
The Broncos have not put much trust in C.J. Anderson to handle their red zone carries. Ronnie Hillman was the Broncos primary goal line back, handling 27 red zone carries in 2015. With Hillman's potential departure, the Broncos seem to have another plan in mind. Gary Kubiak has generally like to have a single "bell cow" type running back in his system. Despite this, he seems to have some reservations with completely trusting Anderson near the goal line. Booker's style of running perfectly matches Kubiak's zone blocking scheme and should merit some carries right out of the gate. If he impresses, he could parlay some early success into Hillman's spot as the goal line back. This role gave Hillman significant value in fantasy last season and would do the same for Booker in 2016. The potential is there and this certainly makes Booker worthy of a late flier.
Terrance West BAL
West being a solid value is a function of the Baltimore running game's uncertainty. Forsett still represents a good middle round choice as well. He can be acquired very late for a "starting" running back. West is available much later in drafts, however. He has looked good in the preseason and scored multiple times. This may prove to be a preseason mirage or he could secure the goal line duties. The potential gain is worth the loss of a late round pick.
The regular season is right around the corner and teams are rounding into form. Good luck to those fantasy owners still drafting. Be sure to utilize all of the draft resources offered by FK.