Welcome to the Stock Watch. While the picture above might make you worried you’ve stumbled into a financial advice column, have no fear, this is about our fantasy football stock. Each year in dynasty leagues we look forward to rookie drafts, snatching up all the prospects we know will lead to glory. But it doesn’t always happen right away. Over the next few pieces, as this off-season draws to a close, I’ll be taking stock of prospects at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end for the 2018, 2019, and 2020 draft class. This isn’t about the stars that we already know are great, it’s about the players taken in the first three rounds that haven’t hit yet—and might never hit.
The Class of 2019 wasn’t a running back-rich group. Only two backs were taken in the first two rounds, with Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders establishing themselves as decent options and starters for their teams. A third-round pick, David Montgomery with the Bears, has also established himself as a Top 24 back. But what about some of the other third-round running back selections? Today I’m looking at four options—the first of which was just a big beneficiary of a major pre-season injury.
Drafted: No. 70 overall by the Los Angeles Rams
Situation: Henderson was a trendy snag in rookie drafts as many thought he’d take over for starter Todd Gurley, or at least be a great handcuff. Instead, Henderson hardly saw the field, carrying only 39 times for 157 yards in his first season. Heading into 2020, the Rams snagged Cam Akers in the second round, but it was assumed that Akers and Henderson would team to be the lead options. Henderson started 11 games, mostly early in the season, rushing for 624 yards and 5 TDs, catching 16 passes for 159 yards and a TD. That was good enough to finish as RB36, highest among Rams’ RBs. But Akers exploded at the close of the regular season, and looked strong in the playoffs, leading many to assume he’d have the lead in the backfield in 2021.
On July 20, Akers ruptured his Achilles Tendon and was lost for the year. Suddenly, Henderson was not only the best man left standing, but he’s also the only man left standing in the backfield. The Rams will look at younger options this pre-season—including Raymond Calais, Jake Funk and Xavier Jones—and I suspect they may sign or trade for a veteran, but Henderson was the starter for 11 games last season and figures to be the head of a committee at the least in 2021. This is his year to prove his position and long-term value.
Stock Value: Rising. In fact, if you have Henderson, given the offers out there you might consider moving him. I think Henderson is in for a good season, I even have him as a low-end RB2, but I don’t think he has the ceiling Akers did. His value might never be higher than it is right now, so it’s a good time to pounce.
Drafted: No. 74 overall by the Buffalo Bills
Situation: Singletary was an intriguing pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Frank Gore led the backfield that season, but Singletary showed flashes of greatness as a rookie. Limited some by injuries, he rushed for 775 yards and 2 TDs in 12 games and eight starts. He added another 29 receptions for 194 yards and 2 TDs. Gore moved on after the season, but the team drafted Utah running back Zack Moss in the Third Round of the 2020 draft, and some worried Moss would eat into Singletary’s touches. Instead, Moss struggled with injuries while Singletary played in and started 16 games for the Bills.
The problem was, he didn’t have great production. Singletary had more carries, with 156, but ran for fewer yards, finishing with 687 yards for the season and just 2 TDs. He did catch 38 passes for 269 yards but finished as just RB31. It left questions about whether Singletary could ever be more than an RB3. The Bills added veteran Matt Breida but otherwise will head into the season with Singletary and Moss again leading the backfield. The question is whether Singletary can improve upon his 2020 season and move up the ranks, returning better value for those that drafted him in fantasy.
Stock Value: Uncertain. Singletary’s value was a yo-yo last off-season. He looked like the guy pre-draft, then fears about Moss crept in after the draft. But Singletary was the starter and put up the best numbers. Still, Moss seems like a better touchdown bet and Singletary’s decline in production despite greater opportunity and less competition in 2020 is worrisome. This season will tell the tale of Singletary’s long-term value. Right now, if I can find a true believer, I’m moving on.
Drafted: No. 87 overall by the New England Patriots
Situation: Running backs taken by the Patriots are always a headache for fantasy players. Harris was a talented prospect out of Alabama but he didn’t get much of a chance as a rookie. He had just four carries and 12 yards. In 2020, with Sony Michel hurt and James White out, Harris got his chance. He started 10 games for the Patriots, leading the team on the ground with 691 yards and 2 TDs, catching 5 passes for 52 yards. He finished the season as RB53.
Harris looked good when given a chance, though he mainly moved the ball in the middle of the field. The Patriots also still have a loaded backfield with White back, Michel healthy and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson in the mix. In addition, the Patriots have Cam Newton back, and if he wins the starting job he could again be the team’s goal line back. So, it’s far from certain that Harris has a meaningful role in 2021.
Stock Value: In Flux. Anyone who says they know what the Patriots’ rotation in the backfield will be is either deluded or a liar. For more than 20 years, Bill Belichick has kept fans and fantasy players guessing, and I doubt that changes. The Patriots will use all their backs at some point. I suspect White will go back to being a receiver, but I think Harris is the most talented runner and will be given a chance to run. I suspect Michel is being phased out as his contract expires after 2021. If that’s the case, Harris could have value, more in Standard than PPR, but even that has a ceiling. He’s likely an RB3/4 at best, which is short of some of the expectations when he came out. A good season here will prop up his value, so now might be the chance to get him cheaper and hope for the best.
Drafted: No. 102 overall by the Minnesota Vikings
Situation: Mattison was the final pick in the Third Round of the draft, a solid running back added to a team that already had Dalvin Cook to carry the load. Some wondered if Mattison would get a chance when Cook’s rookie contract expired, but both Cook’s production on the field and his massive extension last year quelched those dreams. So, Mattison remains little more than a handcuff going into his third season.
Mattison has been a spotty contributor and decent spot starter when Cook has missed. He’s rushed for at least 400 yards each season, tallying 896 yards and 3 TDs on 196 carries in two seasons. He’s added 23 receptions for 207 yards and a TD as well. Mattison is a decent producer but his opportunities and touches are capped in Minnesota, and that’s unlikely to change in the next two seasons. A key injury could open the door to more work and, if he impresses, Mattison’s best hope for a legitimate shot could come in free agency.
Stock Value: Holding. Mattison is valuable as a handcuff and a deep stash. If Cook misses time, he could be a starter in fantasy, or at least return flex value. But it’s clear he won’t get a shot to be the guy in Minnesota, and it’s uncertain if he’ll ever get that shot.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.