For all intents and purposes, the NFL preseason is over. Well, it’s not officially over until the fourth games on Thursday night, but that’s only for the backups and fringe players trying to win a roster spot. The starters got their reps in the third game and will be taking the night off, with the key battles mostly settled by this point.
It’s also the busiest week of the fantasy football preseason, when most leagues hold their drafts and make final preparations for the regular season. Or at least, the smart leagues waited until after the third preseason game to do their draft. Our apologies if you drafted Julian Edelman or Spencer Ware last week.
Anyway, with the biggest weekend of preseason out of the way, let’s review some sleeper and bust candidates at the running back position.
Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs — Well, he’s barely a sleeper now, so get him before his draft price skyrockets. Ware has a torn PCL and his season is in jeopardy, leaving Hunt with the starting job all by himself. Perhaps he’ll get some early-season touches stolen by the likes of Charcandrick West or C.J. Spiller, but the Chiefs apparently trust him enough to handle workhorse duties. Hunt is a volume-based RB2 with the talent to be an RB1.
Jamaal Charles, Denver Broncos — Perhaps the old Charles is still in there somewhere? Making his first preseason appearance after multiple knee surgeries over the past couple years, Charles needed a good performance to secure a roster spot (none of his contract money was guaranteed). He passed the test with 27 rushing yards on four carries, throwing his hat into the mix with C.J. Anderson and rookie DeAngelo Henderson. This backfield is still too crowded to recommend Charles as a standalone fantasy option, but he’s a good bench stash in deeper leagues.
Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts — Frank Gore seems ageless, but he’s now 34 years old and Father Time is undefeated. Mack has been making some noise as a fourth-round rookie, and should soon take over the No. 2 RB spot from career journeyman Robert Turbin. He probably won’t do anything notable to start the year, but Mack is a name to watch in case Gore goes down.
Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks — Lacy finally showed some burst and playmaking chops last weekend, getting 21 yards on four carries against the Chiefs. But it might be too little, too late with Chris Carson racking up 90 yards on 10 touches in the same game. Lacy still looks like the odd man out between Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, and Carson, and is way too expensive at his sixth-round ADP.
Mike Gillislee/James White/Rex Burkhead/Dion Lewis, New England Patriots — I’ll just lump these all together because the Patriots’ backfield is looking like a fantasy quagmire once again. They all have a useful role to play — Gillislee is the goal line back, White is the pass-catching specialist, Burkhead and Lewis can do a little of everything. I also have little doubt that a Tom Brady offense can sustain multiple fantasy-relevant running backs. That said, good luck figuring out which ones will be start-able from week to week. It seems inevitable that one or more of these guys will be lost in the shuffle.
Matt Forte/Bilal Powell, New York Jets — Forte made his first preseason appearance, rushing 10 times for 43 yards. Powell slightly better with 32 yards on seven carries, adding 110 yards on four receptions. Out of the two, Powell has more fantasy upside, but they could be locked into a committee early on while Forte is healthy. When you factor in the trash fire situation at quarterback the Jets’ offense should be avoided in general.