The Post’s fantasy Madman Drew Loftis debates with the Roto Rage, Jarad Wilk, about which running backs to pick in your fantasy football draft:
Saquon Barkley vs. Alvin Kamara
Drew: Barkley — This one is tough, because there is every reason to believe Barkley will be great, but he is an unknown. Kamara, though, showed last season how great he was. And that alone is part of the problem. Normally players aren’t able to sustain, in particular, touchdown rates at the pace Kamara set last season. He averaged a touchdown for every 15.0 carries. Teammate Mark Ingram was a distant second at a TD every 19.2 carries. The league average for rushers was 36.3. So Kamara was more than twice as efficient scoring rushing TDs. His TD rate overall of 15.5 was more than 30 percent better than the league average of 22.0. Such rates historically are difficult to repeat. Some return to the norm by Kamara pushes him slightly below our Barkley projections.
Jarad: Kamara — Maybe Kamara’s touchdown rates will fall, but that doesn’t mean his production will. This is no longer an offense forcing Drew Brees to win games with is arm. This is a team that can win games with its vastly improved defense and rushing attack. Kamara rushed the ball 120 times last season and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. He was targeted 100 times and finished with 81 catches for 826 yards (10.2 yards per catch). He has speed and the ability to change games — both in the NFL and in fantasy. Barkley hasn’t proven he can do anything yet, and a preseason leg injury or one 39-yard run from scrimmage is not going to provide tons of confidence, especially not behind an offensive line that may only be slightly improved over last year’s group. Sophomore slump be damned, Kamara is the man.
Joe Mixon vs. Christian McCaffrey
Joe Mixon and Christian McCaffreyGetty Images
Drew: Mixon — Both are going to get a heavy dose of snap counts. And we’re warming up to McCaffrey’s draft position in light of expected boost in big plays, after few last season. But he isn’t a bellcow type, C.J. Anderson will cut into the workload and QB Cam Newton will vulture some touchdowns. Recent rash of injuries to the Panthers’ offensive line don’t bode well either. Mixon, on the other hand, has little competition. Gio Bernard is a distinct second fiddle. Go with the guy who has some guaranteed portion of the workload.
Jarad: McCaffrey — If we’re talking PPR, McCaffrey is obviously a shoo-in, even over Mixon, regardless of Anderson’s presence. He also showed what he can do over his final eight games last year, rushing for 318 yards on 68 carries (4.68 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. He also was targeted 47 times and caught 31 passes for 273 yards (8.81 yards per reception) and three TDs. Mixon might have little competition, but he averaged 3.52 yards per carry last season behind an offensive line that was far from great. They signed Frank Pollack, so that may help … but it may not. McCaffrey’s inclusion in the passing game (Mixon was targeted just 34 times all year) sets him apart.
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Lamar Miller vs. Marshawn Lynch
Drew: Miller — This is all about volume. We expect the Raiders to spell Lynch much more frequently than the Texans do Miller, even with new/relic head coach Jon Gruden back at the helm, and Houston is lacking the services of heir apparent D’Onta Foreman for an unknown length of time as he recovers from an Achilles tendon injury.
Jarad: Lynch — No, Lynch is no longer the top running back he once was, but he surely will get the ball — especially at the goal line. After averaging fewer than four yards per carry in his first 10 games last year, he averaged more than five yards per carry over his final five games while running for 95 yards or more three times. Miller averaged 3.7 yards per carry, rushed for more than 70 yards twice all season and scored just three TDs. That offense is about Watson, period. Miller is just there to take time off the clock.
Tarik Cohen vs. Chris Thompson
Tarik Cohen and Chris ThompsonGetty Images; AP
Drew: Cohen — Both are options only in PPR leagues, and recent Chicago Tribune report said “it is no longer accurate” to list Cohen as just a RB, since he also will line up often at receiver. Meanwhile, Thompson, recovering from a season-ending broken fibula last season, has said he doesn’t expect to be fully healthy until November. His role as the pass-down back isn’t expected to change in the wake of the Derrius Guice injury, and subsequent signing of Adrian Peterson. We’ll take the RB/WR over the just-plain RB.
Jarad: Thompson — No Guice should be nice for Thompson. Peterson is no real concern, as he showed last year he may not have much left in the tank. Thompson, however, has shown ability to make plays — twice topping 100-yards receiving and averaging 4.59 yards per carry (and 13.08 yards per reception). Cohen is 5-foot-6 and weighs 180-pounds wet, maybe, so he will pretty much always be undersized no matter where he lines up. Speed can only take you so far.
Sony Michel vs. Rashad Penny
Drew: Michel — Both are in crowded backfields. Both are rookies currently falling behind while they are sidelined with injuries. Both are expected back at or near the beginning of the season. And both have seen their draft stock plummet in the wake of injuries and disappointing camps. Penny, in fact, reported 16 pounds heavier than his Combine weight. We make this pick based on the offenses rather than the players. We know the Patriots can move the ball and score, and their offensive line rates much better than Seattle’s.
Jarad: Penny — If you trust a Patriots running back over a RB from pretty much any other team, well, good luck. Michel underwent a procedure to drain fluid from his knee and hasn’t practiced since Aug. 1. He has Rex Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee to compete with whenever he does return, which is still a ways away, so there will be no need to rush him back. Penny is looking good to possibly play Week 1, is an elusive runner who ran for more than 2,000 yards last year in college and has a better chance to be a three-down back sooner than Michel.
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