Players Looking to Bounce Back in 2016: Running Backs
We will be covering five players at each key position that will look to have a bounce back season in 2016. To be clear, this is players that will look to bounce back, not necessarily those most likely to bounce back. We are moving on to the running backs for this article. All of these guys had down years and have high hopes of turning things around this year. Hopefully this benefits their team and your fantasy team.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
After strong rookie and sophomore campaigns, Lacy was on track to become a superstar in year three. In seasons one and two he averaged over 1,100 yards and and 10 touchdowns. With defenses forced to game plan for Aaron Rodgers, Lacy was set to be a Fantasy Football elite RB1 last year. Then Lacy showed up in the offseason a bulbous mess.
He wasn’t just fat, he was a revolting blob. Lacy was listed at 234 pounds and showed up to play at over 260 pounds last season. Just looking at him on the field, 260 may have been on the lower side. To make matters worse, he got larger as the season wore on. His weight clearly hindered him and frustrated his coaching staff. After being a consensus first-round pick in the vast majority of Fantasy drafts, he ended 2015 rushing for just 758 yards and three touchdowns.
Lacy got off to a very slow start. He didn’t rush for 100 yards in a game until November 22 and only hit the 100-yard plateau three times all season. What further compounds this is the fact he failed to top 10 yards four times. On December 3 against a lackluster Detroit Lions defense, he totaled six touches for only one yard. For most of the season, James Starks was evidently the better option.
Entering 2016, Lacy has slimmed down. He’s reportedly lost upwards of 20 pounds and is under 240 now. His offseason has been spent dieting and working out with P90X creator Tony Horton. You can see in pictures he looks much more fit this offseason.
With Jordy Nelson back from his torn ACL and the Packers aerial attack expected to return to past form, Lacy should have a monster season and bounce back in a major way. Another slow start will forever concern Fantasy owners though.
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Jeremy Hill was a massive disappointment in 2015. Aside from an overall poor performance running the ball, fumbling issues did him in. After fumbling two times Week 2, once while trying to run the clock down with a lead, he never seemed to regain the trust of his coaching staff. For the remainder of the season, Giovani Bernard was the guy they trusted between the tackles late in the game. Which is the opposite of what Fantasy owners had anticipated based on everything we saw in 2014.
Hill was brilliant as a rookie, especially down the finishing stretch of the season. As a rookie he piled up 1,124 yards and nine TDs rushing the ball. What really caught Fantasy owners’ eyes was the fact that during the last three games of the season he racked up 395 yards and three touchdowns on more than 5.5 yards per carry. That’s the last thing Fantasy owners remember, especially those that rode him to a Fantasy Football championship.
Now he looks to bounce back from a down year and I believe he will. A new coaching staff will give him a fresh start in the trust department. Hill has proven to be a gifted and productive back going all the way back to his high school days and his days at LSU. If not for concerns off the field, Hill would have been drafted significantly higher than pick No. 55 in the 2014 draft. He is the perfect complement to Bernard and can handle the bulk of the workload.
C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
Anderson is a polarizing Fantasy option. He was a major reason the Broncos won a Super Bowl and was great in the playoffs and late in the season. However, he was frustrating throughout the Fantasy season, often being outperformed by Ronnie Hillman. He is a tough running back to project.
There is a reason the Broncos matched the Miami Dolphins offer sheet this spring. Even with the addition of talented rookie Devontae Booker, Anderson should be the lead back in 2016. Nevertheless, it appears to this point that Denver sees him as more of a split-back option and not an every-down back. In 2014 he carried the ball 179 times and just 152 times in 2015. This could change, but we have no evidence to believe it will yet. His slow starts rival those of Lacy.
I expect Anderson to make the most of his opportunities this season and be more consistent. Nevertheless, his workload is a question mark. This is why he should be viewed as a low-end RB2 at best and possibly even an RB3.
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
Murray is looking to bounce back after a disastrous decline in 2015. I’m completely writing him off as I did last season. He’ll once again be a Fantasy nightmare. I ranked him outside of my top 30 RBs last year and I have no reason to believe he’ll be better in 2016. After over 2,300 yards from scrimmage and 13 TDs in 2014, he finished 2015 with just 702 yards on 3.6 yards per carry on the ground with six rushing touchdowns.
His numbers in 2014 were outstanding, but he totaled a ridiculous 497 touches. No player in NFL history has ever physically recovered from such a colossal workload. So why would an already injury-plagued back? Some blame Chip Kelly and the dysfunction surrounding the Eagles and their personnel for Murray’s struggles, however, Ryan Mathews still rushed for a very respectable 5.1 yards per carry behind a strong run-blocking line. The Eagles dumped him to the Titans as quickly as they could and I do not expect the move to do him any favors.
Despite constant confidence boosts from the Titans coaching staff, it’s hard to envision the Titans being as all in as they claim to be on Murray, especially after using a high-second round pick on Heisman Trophy winning Alabama RB Derrick Henry. Perhaps more importantly, the Titans have done nothing to lead us to believe they can sustain a successful or consistent rushing attack. While the backs in Tennessee have been subpar, the line and system are equally horrific. Murray is very unlikely to turn around a rush offense that hasn’t been inside the top-25 since 2013, and I wouldn’t even expect him to be the starter by mid-season.
Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens
Forsett came out of nowhere and exploded in 2014. Predictably, the now 30-year-old journeyman came back to earth in 2015. Prior to his 1,266 yard and eight TD outburst, his previous career highs were 619 yards and four touchdowns. Fantasy owners had high hopes with Marc Trestman coming to town with his tendency to target running backs.
Unfortunately things didn’t work out as Fantasy owners hoped. His production was down and by December he ended up on injured reserve. Still, he wasn’t the same guy when healthy. His production was down across the board and some of the younger backs flat out looked more explosive.
Don’t count on Forsett bouncing back in 2016. Suddenly the Ravens have a very crowded backfield and I don’t expect Forsett to emerge as the top option. Buck Allen is the favorite to win the starting job in camp. Baltimore also drafted highly coveted prospect Kenneth Dixon in this year’s draft and still have Terrance West and Lorenzo Taliaferro on the roster. Forsett caught lightning in a bottle for one magical season and another starring role may not be in the cards for him.