Throughout the season, the Rookie Report Card has covered some of the biggest rookies and not only looked at their performance to date – but also their long term upside. Now that the season has wrapped up and fantasy owners are looking towards the future, we have an opportunity to take one last look at the 2016 season and assess the rookies – A final report card if you will.
We covered 33 rookies throughout the season, including 14 running backs. Let’s put a bow on the season by taking one more look at those ball carriers’ first shot toting the rock on Sundays, as well as a quick glimpse into their futures.
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Peyton Barber, RB TB
Season Stats: 55 carries, 223 yards (4.1 YPC), one touchdown, five receptions, 28 receiving yards
I wrote about Barber after he had his biggest game of the year in week seven and concluded that due to his powerful running, quality jump cut and good side step, he has the potential to be a fill in starter and committee back. Then he struggled to average 3.3 yards per carry the rest of the year and suffered an injury which costed him three games.
With Doug Martin expected to be released, there is an opportunity for a relative unknown to step up in Tampa Bay. Jacquizz Rodgers has the best chance to do that of the guys on the roster and I’d be willing to bet the guy with the next best chance to be the Bucs’ starter isn’t on the team yet.
Devontae Booker, RB DEN
Season Stats: 174 carries, 612 yards (3.5 YPC), two touchdowns, 31 receptions, 265 receiving yards, one touchdown
As I said back in week 17, I really missed on Booker.
One of my favorite draft targets this past off-season, I thought Booker was a solid, one cut runner with good vision and just enough speed to be an effective NFL runner coming out of Utah. According to what he showed as a rookie though, his lack of footspeed is a major weakness and will keep him from making an impact going forward.
At this point, Booker appears to be a grinder that may be best as part of a committee. I own Booker in a few places and will be hoping for a nice start to 2017 so I can recoup the draft pick I spent on him last off-season.
Alex Collins, RB SEA
Season Stats: 31 carries, 125 yards (4.0 YPC), one touchdown, 11 receptions, 84 receiving yards
Collins was a hard guy for me to figure out during draft season. A patient runner with above average footwork and vision, he’s good between the tackles. Unfortunately however, he lacks the speed to be a quality perimeter runner or the power to break tackles at the second level.
Although he showed some flashes in his limited opportunities as a rookie, Collins belongs as a number three tailback on an NFL roster. I don’t have much doubt that he could be a useful fill-in if pressed into duty, but he shouldn’t be counted on by the Seahawks or any dynasty owner.
Kenneth Dixon, RB BAL
Season Stats: 88 carries, 382 yards (4.3 YPC), two touchdowns, 30 receptions, 162 receiving yards, one touchdown
When I concluded my look at Dixon back in the week 15 edition of the Rookie Report Card, I wrote that he should be seen as, “an all-around running back that should be getting more opportunities in Baltimore but hasn’t, simply because (Terrance) West has played above his head.”
Those opportunities are coming starting this September.
Dixon is a fierce runner between the tackles and has excellent vision to find running lanes and a great burst through the hole. He runs through contact as well or better than any other rookie tailback and has a smooth jump cut and powerful stiff arm to make defenders miss.
There isn’t a better trade target than Dixon among rookie tailbacks. He has RB1 upside which could be realized as soon as this fall when he is a lock to be the lead back in Baltimore.
Kenyan Drake, RB MIA
Season Stats: 33 carries, 179 yards (5.4 YPC), two touchdowns, nine receptions, 46 receiving yards
As I said back in week 16, I really feel like Drake has the potential to be a PPR asset for dynasty owners in the same way that Danny Woodhead has been for years. Right now though, it appears that the Dolphins’ coaching staff sees Drake as a change of pace tailback and special teams ace which severely limits his touches and fantasy appeal.
Drake showed his playmaking ability a few times as a rookie but unless he get more opportunities, he won’t be anything more than bench fodder in 2017 and beyond.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB DAL
Season Stats: 322 carries, 1,631 yards (5.1 YPC), 15 touchdowns, 32 receptions, 363 receiving yards, one touchdown
There isn’t much to say about Zeke that hasn’t already been said. His elite vision and burst along with his great power and exceptional balance make him an RB1. Combine all his personal upside with the bone crushing offensive line that plays in Dallas and you easily have a top-three option at the position.
Elliott is a truly elite dynasty asset. While I rank him as the second best dynasty running back behind only Le’Veon Bell and as the eighth overall pick in startups, I wouldn’t blame anybody who valued the Dallas rookie as a top-five overall player.
Kenneth Farrow, RB SD
Season Stats: 60 carries, 192 yards (3.2 YPC), zero touchdowns, 13 receptions, 70 receiving yards
Farrow is a decisive runner and shows good pad level as a between-the-tackles runner. However, he proved when he filled in for Melvin Gordon late in the season that he can only get what’s blocked, is just an average pass catcher and has a long way to go to become even an average pass blocker.
Farrow isn’t guaranteed an NFL roster spot in 2017 and shouldn’t be on dynasty rosters because of it.
Derrick Henry, RB TEN
Season Stats: 110 carries, 490 yards (4.5 YPC), five touchdowns, 13 receptions, 137 receiving yards
Due to the resurgence of DeMarco Murray, Henry never really got the opportunity to be featured in the Tennessee running game. Only reaching double digit carries in four games and 50 rushing yards just five times, he was primarily used when Murray needed a breather – although he was given a series or two per game late in the year.
Henry was physical and effective throughout his rookie season and although he was never leaned on, appeared to have the tools to be a featured runner at this level. Murray is signed through 2019 at a relatively reasonable salary so there’s no reason to think the Titans will just hand over the lead role. With that said, he turns 29 in February and Henry’s play as a rookie should point towards more of a committee in 2017.
Currently being taken in the late fourth to early fifth round of startups, dynasty owners are expecting big things of Henry in the near future. I couldn’t agree more and anticipate that ADP climbing over the coming months.
Jordan Howard, RB CHI
Season Stats: 252 carries, 1,313 yards (5.2 YPC), 6 touchdowns, 29 receptions, 298 receiving yards, one touchdown
When I wrote about Howard back in the week five edition of the Rookie Report Card, I confessed how I let the lack of hype and draft pedigree taint my view of Howard during rookie draft season. My shame and regret continued to build throughout the season.
Much like he did in college, Howard ran behind his pads well and showed good power and quick decision making as a rookie. He was also a strong blocker and made strides as a pass catcher which did nothing but inflate his fantasy upside.
If Alshon Jeffery moves on this off-season, Howard will be the only proven asset on the Chicago offense. The Bears should build their offense around him and dynasty owners looking to do the same thing should feel confident doing so. He’s an RB1 in 2017 with the upside to finish as a top-six player at the position.
Check back tomorrow to see my thoughts on the rest of the rookie running backs.
Find Dan on Twitter at @dmeylor22