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Dynasty Leagues

Pint-sized playmakers

Undersized rookie running backs piling up long runs

Keaton Mitchell keeps busting loose for long runs. At what point do we start thinking of this guy as pretty similar to Jahmyr Gibbs and DeVon Achane? They’re all small, and they’re all really explosive.

Unlike those more heralded backs, Mitchell wasn’t even drafted. But his measurables are pretty similar. He ran a 4.37 at the combine – a hundredth slower than Gibbs and 5 hundredths slower than Achane. But his 10-yard split was faster than either of those guys, and he jumped over 4 inches higher in the vertical. They’re all twitchy athletes.

Mitchell was productive at East Carolina, running for 1,452 yards his final season while average 7.2 per attempt.

No getting around the size. At 5-foot-8 and 186 pounds, Mitchell is small. But Achane is listed only 2 pounds heavier at the same height. Gibbs is an inch taller and 13 pounds heavier.

The Ravens started using Mitchell in Week 9, and he’s had runs of 60, 40, 39 and 21 yards in his first three games. He’s also picked up 32 yards on a reception. Against Cincinnati there was a play where he slipped in the hole – looked like he was going to pop it outside for a long gain.

The below chart shows all running backs with at least 50 carries or at least 3 runs of 20-plus yards. Only seven backs have produced gains of 20-plus yards on over 5 percent of their carries, and four of them are undersized rookies (including Jaleel McLaughlin from Denver).

Keaton Mitchell, Balt.20420.0%
• DeVon Achane, Mia.38615.8%
• Jaleel McLaughlin, Den.4449.1%
James Conner, Ari.8456.0%
Khalil Herbert, Chi.5135.9%
• Jahmyr Gibbs, Det.9055.6%
Raheem Mostert, Mia.10965.5%
Zack Moss, Ind.13364.5%
Najee Harris, Pitt.11654.3%
Latavius Murray, Buff.5123.9%
Breece Hall, NYJ10743.7%
Kenneth Walker, Sea.14553.4%
James Cook, Buff.12043.3%
Jerome Ford, Cle.12443.2%
Bijan Robinson, Atl.12543.2%
Kyren Williams, LAR9733.1%
Gus Edwards, Balt.13343.0%
D'Andre Swift, Phil.13543.0%
Saquon Barkley, NYG13942.9%
Jaylen Warren, Pitt.7122.8%
Joshua Kelley, LAC7922.5%
Travis Etienne, Jac.16042.5%
Brian Robinson, Was.12132.5%
Jonathan Taylor, Ind.8522.4%
Tony Pollard, Dall.13532.2%
Austin Ekeler, LAC9222.2%
Chuba Hubbard, Car.9422.1%
Derrick Henry, Ten.14832.0%
Christian McCaffrey, S.F.15332.0%
David Montgomery, Det.10621.9%
Justice Hill, Balt.6111.6%
Isiah Pacheco, K.C.12421.6%
Joe Mixon, Cin.15321.3%
D'Onta Foreman, Chi.8611.2%
Devin Singletary, Hou.9211.1%
Josh Jacobs, L.V.18621.1%
AJ Dillon, G.B.10311.0%
Javonte Williams, Den.11110.9%
Tyler Allgeier, Atl.12510.8%
Rhamondre Stevenson, N.E.12610.8%
Kenneth Gainwell, Phil.5400.0%
Cam Akers, 2 tms6000.0%
Aaron Jones, G.B.6200.0%
Kareem Hunt, Cle.7000.0%
Miles Sanders, Car.7100.0%
Ezekiel Elliott, N.E.8600.0%
Alvin Kamara, N.O.10400.0%
Dameon Pierce, Hou.10900.0%
Alexander Mattison, Min.13000.0%
Rachaad White, T.B.13200.0%

All three of these rookies are in remarkably good situations. Lions, Dolphins, Ravens – these are teams that ran really run the ball. These are offenses that can make average running backs look good, and good backs look great.

For dynasty purposes, these are all running backs I think will be making an impact next year and in future seasons.

Below see my revised list of running backs for dynasty leagues (operating under the assumption that teams get to control the rights to players indefinitely). I’m assuming PPR scoring. Rookies tagged with black dots.

When you see our in-season rankings during the week, they’re created by carefully projecting performance in each of the stat categories – touchdowns, rushing yards, receiving yards, etc. You estimate what you think a player would average in a typical week, then multiply those projections by the number of games he’s going to play (if a player has an injury risk or a suspension, you account for that by projecting him to play fewer games).

The rankings below aren’t as carefully formulated. For these ones, I’m just going by gut. I’ve got a list of all of the running backs in front of me, and I spend about an hour moving guys up and down until it feels right. And with the season two thirds over, I’m trying to avoid make picks that will look awful next August. Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, Raheem Mostert and Aaron Jones, for example, are all older guys – where might they be heading into 2024? Think of Dalvin Cook, who a year ago was considered a top-10 back a year ago at this time but now is more of a nothingburger.

Anyway, it’s a stab at it. Feel free to weigh in the comments section on the guys where you think I’m way off.

I turn my attention to dynasty leagues each Saturday during the season, rotating between the four notable positions.

Last week: Quarterbacks.

Next week: wide receivers.

1.ATL• Bijan Robinson21.8
2.NYJBreece Hall22.5
3.SFChristian McCaffrey27.4
4.JACTravis Etienne24.8
5.INDJonathan Taylor24.8
6.DET• Jahmyr Gibbs21.7
7.LVJosh Jacobs25.8
8.LACAustin Ekeler28.5
9.NYGSaquon Barkley26.8
10.KCIsiah Pacheco24.7
11.DENJavonte Williams23.6
12.SEAKenneth Walker23.1
13.MIA• DeVon Achane22.1
14.WASBrian Robinson24.7
15.PHID'Andre Swift24.8
16.DETDavid Montgomery26.4
17.DALTony Pollard26.6
18.LARKyren Williams23.2
19.NERhamondre Stevenson25.7
20.PITNajee Harris25.7
21.CINJoe Mixon27.3
22.TBRachaad White24.8
23.CLENick Chubb27.9
24.TEN• Tyjae Spears22.4
25.ARIJames Conner28.5
26.PITJaylen Warren25.0
27.BUFJames Cook24.1
28.BAL• Keaton Mitchell21.8
29.SEA• Zach Charbonnet22.9
30.TENDerrick Henry29.9
31.CARChuba Hubbard24.4
32.HOUDameon Pierce23.7
33.CHI• Roschon Johnson22.8
34.NOAlvin Kamara28.3
35.GBAaron Jones29.0
36.MIARaheem Mostert31.6
37.BALGus Edwards28.6
38.CARMiles Sanders26.6
39.HOUDevin Singletary26.2
40.MINAlexander Mattison25.4
41.CHIKhalil Herbert25.6
42.ATLTyler Allgeier23.6
43.JAC• Tank Bigsby22.2
44.CLEJerome Ford24.2
45.INDZack Moss25.9
46.NYJ• Israel Abanikanda21.1
47.NO• Kendre Miller21.4
48.WAS• Chris Rodriguez23.1
49.CLEKareem Hunt28.3
50.BALJ.K. Dobbins24.9
51.SFElijah Mitchell25.5
52.CHID'Onta Foreman27.6
53.DEN• Jaleel McLaughlin23.2
54.LACJoshua Kelley26.0
55.GBAJ Dillon25.5
56.WASAntonio Gibson25.4
57.SFJordan Mason24.5
58.MINTy Chandler25.5
59.PHIKenneth Gainwell24.7
60.DALRico Dowdle25.4
61.LVZamir White24.2
62.LAC• Elijah Dotson24.8
63.KCClyde Edwards-Helaire24.6
64.GB• Emanuel Wilson24.5
65.NYJDalvin Cook28.3
66.CLEPierre Strong24.9
67.ARIKeontay Ingram24.1
68.MIASalvon Ahmed24.9
69.CINTrayveon Williams26.1
70.KCJerick McKinnon31.5
71.NYG• Eric Gray24.0
72.CIN• Chase Brown23.7
73.BUFDamien Harris26.8
74.BALJustice Hill26.0
75.JACD'Ernest Johnson27.7
76.SEA• Kenny McIntosh23.7
77.DAL• Deuce Vaughn22.0
78.MIAJeff Wilson28.0
79.BUFLatavius Murray33.8
80.NOJamaal Williams28.6

—Ian Allan

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