It is never too early to start planning for the next fantasy football draft. At this point, most free agents have signed with their new teams, and only minor changes in rankings will occur for players. Unlike the past few seasons, there are no top running backs projected in this year’s rookie draft class. That means it is the perfect time to start ranking out running backs to target for the next fantasy season.
This is part two of a four-part series that separates the running back class into four tiers and counts down to the top back.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams could be one of the highest risk/reward backs this season. Coming into 2018, Williams was the number three back on the roster. However, after Kareem Hunt was cut by the Chiefs for an off-field incident, he moved up the depth chart quickly. Spencer Ware initially took over the starting job, starting weeks 13 and 14. However, he was injured in week 14, and Williams took over from there.
Williams performed much better than expectations. In two of three regular-season games he started, he had over 100 yards from scrimmage. In two postseason games, Williams put up 154 yards, and then 99 scrimmage yards. He certainly looks the part, but there are a few things that might hold him.
The most obvious question is Williams’ lack of playing time. Since he has only started five games, there are questions on how he will handle a full season workload. In fact, Williams might not even get a full workload, since the Chiefs also signed Carlos Hyde. Hyde looked good during his time with the San Francisco 49ers, but he was often injured.
Hyde signed with the Cleveland Browns in the last offseason but was traded the Jacksonville Jaguars midway through the season. He looked good during his time with the Browns but was ineffective with the Jaguars. A lot of Williams workload will depend on what version of Hyde shows up to the Chiefs. If he looks good, this could quickly become a running back by committee (RBBC), limiting Williams’ potential.
Midway through last season, Derrick Henry was starting to look like a bust for the Tennessee Titans. At week eight, Henry was ranked as the RB49 in standard scoring leagues, averaging a measly 5.5 points-per-game. However, Dion Lewis wasn’t doing much better. He was the RB35, and barely rosterable.
However, Henry had an awakening towards the end of the season. From weeks nine to 17, Henry shot up to the RB4 ranking. However, he really didn’t break out until week 14. Henry made the Jaguars defense look like a pop-warner team, bulldozing through them for 238 yards and four touchdowns.
Former Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware took a free agent visit to the Indianapolis Colts Tuesday, according to the list of visits mentioned on the league transaction report.
Ware (5-10, 229) is in the process of trying to find his next NFL contract after reaching free agency on March 13. If the Colts signed Ware, he’d add depth to a running back group that currently includes Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, and Jonathan Williams. Ware has familiarity with Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who was an executive with the Chiefs before coming to Indianapolis.
Ware, 27, is in his sixth NFL season after being selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of LSU. He lasted just one season with the Seahawks, in which he had three carries for 10 yards, then eventually caught on with the Chiefs in late 2014. Ware began to see playing time in 2015 and had 72 carries for 403 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games, then he took over the starting spot in 2016, rushing for 921 yards and three touchdowns while catching 33 passes for 447 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games.
Ware headed towards the 2017 season as the expected starter at running back, although Kareem Hunt was looming in the rear view mirror after the Chiefs traded up to select him in Round 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft. But Ware’s path took a significant detour during a preseason game against the Seahawks last August when he suffered a significant knee injury that ended his 2017 season and opened the door for Hunt to establish himself as the starter the Kansas City backfield.
Ware’s knee injury, which included damage to his PCL and LCL, was unusual and required an extensive amount of time for recovery, but he worked his way back to being in a position to play in the 2018 preseason and wound up being the number two back over Damien Williams and Darrel Williams.
“There was a question exactly whether he’d be able to come back from that injury,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Ware on November 12. “That was a pretty tough injury to come back from. But you know the kid, you go, ‘Well, if anybody can do it, he can do this.’ He bared down, got after it, and Rick [Chiefs vice president of sports medicine and performance Rick Burkholder] and the trainers worked with him, and he was here every day doing his thing and very diligent with it. So when he goes out and plays, you go ‘whoa’ and he’s able to score a touchdown. That’s a great thing. The last couple weeks, he’s played good football. You see where he’s more confident here each week here that he’s playing.”
After the Chiefs decided to release Hunt due to off-field issues in November of 2018, Ware took over the starting role for a brief time before a hamstring injury sidelined him for the final three games of the regular season. He finished the 2018 season with 51 carries for 246 yards and two touchdowns, along with 224 receiving yards on 20 catches. There hasn’t been much hint of interest publicly on the Chiefs’ end in re-signing Ware, who if he stayed in Kansas City would be competing for a spot with Damien Williams, Darrel Williams and free agent signing Carlos Hyde.