Five buy low RBs

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by John Hansen, Publisher

Published, 8/28/13 

At this point in the preseason, a lot of people have had their drafts, and while it’s kind of early to talk buy-low guys, I do have a few running backs who are standing out a little to me in terms of having values that are very low right now, yet should rise.
So if you’ve had your draft and have commenced trading – or if you’re looking for some sneaky values in your draft – here are five RBs who I believe can be had right now at discounts, and in a couple of cases pennies on the dollar.
  1. Lamar Miller (Mia) – I’m not going to tell you that Miller is perfect and is poised for a great season, but what I can tell you is that Daniel Thomas stinks. Thomas may be a serviceable power back and is fairly versatile, but he has zero juice, and he’s a momentum-killer. Miller is obviously their best talent and a potential difference-maker. He didn’t light it up in the preseason, and we’re told they have been a little underwhelmed by him in practice this summer, thus the “battle” for the starting job. But he’s also flashed in their games. He’s a good fit for their one-cut-and-go scheme, and he can “go” with the best of them, thanks to his great speed. I also like how he rarely gets tackled for a loss and how he always seems to be falling forward for decent yardage on his inside runs. He’s essentially won the “battle” at RB here, so while he could see his snaps somewhat limited at times early in the season, the Dolphins would be thrilled if he stepped up because, again, he’s a difference-maker.
  1. DeAngelo Williams (Car) – He’s been my guy all along here this summer, and he’s always been my guy, as I’ve given DeAngelo mad love since even before the Panthers drafted him. Obviously, his value is going up with Jonathan Stewart on PUP. But most may not realize how good DeAngelo actually is, and they might be assuming Stewart will be the guy upon his return. Williams is a great back, and he doesn’t have a lot of tread on his tires. I’d guess he has the body of a 28-year old back, even though he’s 30. And I don’t think anyone can expect anything from Stewart at this point. I’d guess Stewart will be, at best, the changeup when he’s ready to play. We’ve also seen clear signs this summer that the Panthers will actually run the ball this year, since QB Cam Newton has been under center more. Newton has also been erratic as usual, so it would behoove the Panthers to actually run the ball, and I think they will. Williams could struggle Week One against Seattle, but otherwise his schedule looks solid. Also, the Panthers aren’t expected to sign another back due to the Stewart move. That means DeAngelo is the guy.
  1. Le’Veon Bell (RB, Pit) – Every time we acquire a player with an injury issue on the cheap we’re taking a risk, and Bell is certainly no exception. But it’s crystal clear that the Steeler backfield is already a disaster without him. The fact that they are going to “start” Isaac Redman over Jonathan Dwyer tells us how much of a mess Dwyer is because he should be the lead back while Bell is out. I actually think Dwyer will be their main ball-carrier while Bell is out, but they’re opting to start the more-reliable Redman, which is something of an indictment on Dwyer. They also have LaRod Stephens-Howling, who was surprisingly strong in a lead role for the Cardinals last year. But LSH is too small to be a lead back. Basically, we’re already seeing why the Steelers used a 2nd-round pick on Bell; they want to end this ugly committee. When he’s ready, Bell is going to be the guy. It’s a long season, so even if you have to wait 5-6 weeks from now, Bell should be worth what he’ll cost today, which is very little. He’s already out of the walking boot, so he could return sooner than expected.
  1. Montee Ball (RB, Den) – This is clearly another strong buy-low opportunity. We know Ronnie Hillman is not a lead back – he’s a changeup runner, albeit a dynamic and active one – and Hillman is hurting his cause by fumbling in the preseason. The Broncos could certainly lean early on the reliable Knowshon Moreno, especially since he understands all their protections and is good in pass pro. But he’s ultimately a JAG (just a guy), and he’s also prone to injury. Ball was drafted over Eddie Lacy (a move the Broncos will regret) because of his reliability and his availability. My theory is they believe they have a 2-3 year window to win the Super Bowl with Peyton, and they preferred the durable Ball over the upside (and downside) of Lacy because they’ll only have 1-3 more cracks at a title with Manning. Ball’s not a stud, but he can do everything, and he’s extremely durable. He’s not exactly moving well in the preseason, but that should improve once he finds his grove and comfort level. Ball has shown this preseason that he’s clearly their best power back and banger inside, and he looked good on his short TD run this past weekend. My guy Fran Tarkenton was talking with Archie Manning a couple of weeks ago, and Manning told Fran that Peyton likes having a bigger back in the backfield with him – and that’s Ball. Ball could max out value-wise as flex option, but given his ability to score short TDs and eventually catch the ball a little bit, he could eventually be a solid #2 or a fantastic flex. 

  2. Stepfan Taylor (RB, Ari) – The Cardinals hate Ryan Williams right now. They’ve grown weary of his injury woes, and they’re ready to part ways. They’d love to trade him, but if they don’t get any offers, I think they might consider releasing him. That would be a shock, but the bottom line is that things are looking up for those in this backfield not named Ryan Williams. I have to recognize how veteran Alfonso Smith has looked very good this summer and should make the roster. In fact, he’ll probably open the season as the #2 back. But over the long haul, I’m still betting that Taylor surprises this year with an impactful role. He’s obviously on the low-end, since he’s likely on the WW for most leagues. But in deeper, more competitive leagues, I still think he will be quite handy at some point. He doesn’t move well, but he’s very reliable, durable, and versatile. I still think Bruce Arians will appreciate those traits, especially since Taylor is good in pass-protection. As we’ve stated many times, I view Taylor as this year’s Vick Ballard for Arians. The Cardinal running game took some hits over the weekend with the loss of OG Jonathan Cooper, and another knee issue for Rashard Mendenhall. Taylor will be standing by ready to help all year as a runner and perhaps more important as a receiver, and at some point, he will help them.
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