As more NFL teams shift to a committee approach to their ground games, finding a running back with a sizable role has become increasingly difficult. Accordingly, the training-camp battles at the position garner considerable attention, with the winners usually seeing huge boosts in their fantasy ADP.
Malcolm Brown, Miami Dolphins
After serving as the Miami Dolphins’ primary back in 2020, Myles Gaskin appears to have fallen behind newcomer Malcolm Brown. All 16 of Browns’ snaps in the team’s preseason opener took place with the starting offense. Gaskin, who also had 16 snaps in the game, played more than half of them with the backups. That serves as a strong indication that the coaching staff prefers Brown as the lead tailback at this stage.
If that trend continues, expect Brown to separate from Gaskin in the DK Nation fantasy rankings. Currently, Brown holds a slight edge in standard formats (No. 39, two spots in front of Gaskin) while trailing slightly in PPR (No. 41, one spot behind).
Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos
With Melvin Gordon sitting out the Denver Broncos’ preseason opener with a groin injury, the majority of the backfield work with the starters fell to rookie Javonte Williams. The second-round pick took advantage of the opportunity, producing 29 yards on five carries (5.8 average). Williams had already made progress toward unseating Gordon as the lead back in Denver, and the solid showing in his first live action did nothing to change that perception.
However, Gordon still appears to have the inside track at this time, a notion reflected in DK Nation’s fantasy rankings. The veteran comes in 25th and 26th in standard and PPR formats, respectively. At present, Williams ranks 29th in both formats.
Michael Carter, New York Jets
Michael Carter might become the New York Jets’ No. 1 back, but he hasn’t reached that point quite yet if the preseason opener serves as any indication. Carter played nine snaps with the starting offense, four less than Ty Johnson. Both played snaps with backups as well, so the Jets probably have not made any final determinations. Tevin Coleman, a free-agent addition with whom offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur knows from their shared time with the San Francisco 49ers, will also factor into the competition despite missing Saturday’s game for “personal reasons.”
Because the Jets have so many backs vying for touches, none cracked the top 40 in DK Nation’s fantasy rankings. Carter came in the highest at No. 45 in standard formats and No. 44 in PPR.
Damien Harris, New England Patriots
While the outlook for the Jets’ backfield remains uncertain, the division-rival New England Patriots seem to have more clarity. Damien Harris played the most snaps (eight) of any back with the starters in the preseason opener, exactly double that of James White. White will see most of his action in passing situations, making him little threat to Harris’ grip on the top spot. Former first-round pick Sony Michel worked exclusively with the backups and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson did not play until the second half.
Accordingly, Harris holds a massive edge over his teammates in DK Nation’s fantasy rankings. He comes in at No. 28 in standard formats and No. 30 in PPR, roughly 20 spots better than the next highest-rated Patriots running back.