Fantasy Football draft prep: What to do with Myles Gaskin now, plus more preseason RB film notes

Written by on August 19, 2021

Dolphins coach Brian Flores raised some eyebrows recently when he said he would utilize his running backs situationally. It intimates that who starts doesn’t matter and that his running back will be determined by in-game factors, primarily down and distance.

But he’s kidding himself if he gives Malcolm Brown a sizable role in his offense over Myles Gaskin.

Brown started for Miami at Chicago and was quickly removed on a second-and-7 play for Gaskin, then put back in on third-and-8. The two mixed and matched throughout the 22 snaps the quasi-first-team offense played, but there was no doubt who the better talent was. That would be Gaskin, who is sleeker and quicker than Brown.

And you’d think that if Brown were a powerful runner that he’d be successful, but that wasn’t the case at Chicago. He plays physical football, but he was stuffed on a pair of goal-line tries, unable to cut inside quick enough on one attempt and frozen in place on another when his O-line couldn’t keep Bears linebacker Alec Ogletree from shooting a gap. His most productive play was a 7-yard reception on a dump pass from Tagovailoa.

Gaskin, meanwhile, flashed his speed on a 14-yard run to the left end, but was otherwise stuffed. Not that he had a lot of opportunities — he played one fewer snap than Brown but had five fewer carries.

Using my eyeballs and general logic, my expectation is that Gaskin will recoup the primary running back job for the Dolphins. However, he’ll probably yield passing downs and goal-line work to Brown — at least to begin the year. That’s rough news for Gaskin’s numbers, but it may not stay that way. Brown’s lack of elusiveness could take him out of some passing situations sooner than later, which would open up a path for Gaskin to get some useful PPR numbers. But Gaskin’s disappointing 52.7% conversion rate on short-yardage downs last year pales in comparison to Brown’s 69.6%, which is probably what got Brown’s foot in the door with the Dolphins in the first place.

So even though Gaskin is the much more talented running back, his upside to be a breakout runner in Fantasy figure to be limited, at least until Brown is determined a problem by his coaches. My fear is Gaskin eventually gets more work in the valuable passing down role, but not the short-yardage goal-line role. That eliminates him from No. 2 running back contention, but does keep him in high flex regard. Gaskin should be safely viewed as a Round 6 pick.

Should we chase Edmonds?

Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds played the first 10 snaps for the Cardinals against the Cowboys, some with backup running back Jonathan Ward (filling in for James Conner). It certainly seemed indicative of somebody becoming a primary back for his team.

More importantly, Edmonds looked as speedy as ever whether he touched the ball or not. The stats don’t necessarily reflect it — 10 yards rushing on three carries and 10 yards on a catch — and he’s not going to truck anybody with his lithe frame, but he fits the Cardinals’ short-area turbo spread offense like a glove because he’s so dangerous as a pass-catcher. It’s enough to make me wonder if his PPR upside is higher than I give him credit for.

Originally one of my busts for 2021, the thought of him as a heavy-target option was enough for me to wedge him at the end of my No. 2 running back range in PPR drafts. He’s a Round 6 option for those in need of a running back in those formats (and a round later in other formats).

Denver’s new thoroughbred

Count me among those excited about Javonte Williams‘ debut. Against a listless Vikings defense, Williams showed out with 29 yards on five carries over nine snaps played. He showed off the good burst we saw at UNC, but it was the physical nature of his game — stiff-arms and powerful runs through contact — that earned him extra yards.

There might be a little worry about him not following his blocks, but one time when he didn’t trail his fullback into a pile of bodies, he cut outside with good speed to the edge and skipped out of an ankle tackle and spun through another tackle for a touchdown. Unfortunately it was called back by a Jerry Jeudy holding penalty.

The bad news on Williams was that he split snaps even though he barely played, swapping reps with Royce Freeman through the first quarter. The Broncos seem hell-bent on using two running backs no matter who they are from game to game. Nonetheless, Williams’ debut was pretty fine. While we wait to see more, count him among your Round 6 options.

Ranking the running backs I’ve discussed so far


Half- and Non-PPR

A not-so-boring Sermon

Without Raheem Mostert active, Trey Sermon started and rotated with Wayne Gallman into the second half against the Chiefs. While his speed wasn’t anything to write home about, Sermon’s balance, natural hands and eye-opening pass protection skills were worth dropping the note to Momma. Sermon actually held up two Chiefs defenders from teeing off on Trey Lance on one play, a rarity for any running back much less a rookie.

His physicality was also displayed when he carried a 324-pound defensive tackle with him for a 4-yard gain on the fourth drive.

The 49ers don’t exactly have specific roles for their running backs. They just like to give them several plays, then rotate them with another guy or two. That happened against Kansas City as Sermon never played more than four snaps in a row, nor did Gallman except in the two-minute offense when he took six straight snaps. But if the coaching staff in San Francisco sees Sermon as a physical grinder who can work three downs, he could wind up seeing the most snaps of anyone in the backfield. As good as that sounds, it doesn’t guarantee big numbers, just a chance at decent numbers (60 total yards?) at a minimum every week.

Rookies haven’t been super-productive with Shanahan since Alfred Morris went off in 2012 in Washington, and no 49ers runner has had 1,000 rushing yards since Shanahan took over as head coach. Sermon should live in that Round 7 range for now, as should Mostert.

More from the weekend

  • The vibe I got from the Lions after their preseason game was that they’re not ready to commit to D’Andre Swift as a full-time stud. I did not react positively.
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire definitely looked better behind an improved Chiefs O-line. His first carry went for 10 yards and he wasn’t touched for the first 7. There were a couple of runs where he needed to follow his blocks instead of improvise, and a third-down conversion saw him not fight for extra yardage, and he was replaced on a first-and-goal snap from the 5-yard line by Williams, but it was after he played five snaps including that third-down conversion. It’s all a small step in the right direction for Edwards-Helaire, but not enough to shoot him into the top-15 in my running back ranks.
  • Damien Harris showed off good speed and a good ability to stop and start his feet, but he worked zero third downs, didn’t see any targets and didn’t throw any pass blocks. As long as Cam Newton is the Patriots‘ quarterback, Harris’ touchdown upside is capped. That crushes any semblance of high-value touches he’ll get until Mac Jones plays. Jones didn’t look bad and could take over for Newton sooner than originally expected. When that happens, Harris’ value will skyrocket. You could take him in Round 6 in non-PPR, maybe a round later in PPR.
  • James Robinson doesn’t need to show a lot as a runner, but his work in pass protection in limited snaps was a big positive. He also broke through two tackles on a futile short-yardage play that his O-line dropped the ball on. I suspect that will help him play way more than Travis Etienne and Carlos Hyde at the traditional running back role. No one should count on him to catch a lot of passes, but he could rack up touchdowns in this offense. He’s a tremendous flex or a near-desperation No. 2 rusher you could grab around 65th overall.
  • I was a little disappointed in Michael Carter’s play with the Jets. I’m not even sure he was the best running back on the field for them against the Giants. Splitting reps relatively evenly with Ty Johnson, Carter had one good pass pro rep and was otherwise above-average on his runs. He was helped by a mostly-healthy first-team O-line, but struggled once the Jets moved to their second unit. I’m a little nervous he’s being overrated in drafts.
  • DeeJay Dallas was a thicker, smaller version of Chris Carson. He didn’t have Carson’s burst but was fine as a receiver and did a nice job skirting a defender’s grasp on a 17-yard catch-and-run. It wouldn’t be a bad move to stash Dallas or link him to Carson in deeper leagues.
  • Damien Williams looked leaner than I remember. He had a nice run on the Bears’ second drive where he had nothing up the middle, bounced outside and accelerated for a first down, but it was called back by a holding penalty. He’s another deep-league stash or handcuff. 

Dynasty diamonds

  • One reason for the concern about Latavius Murray’s long-term job security? The play of Tony Jones Jr. against the Ravens. He had good acceleration and burst and did a very nice job following his blocks. I loved his ability to find space to speed outside when the Ravens defense sealed up the inside of the O-line on his 18-yard touchdown run. Keep an eye on him — he could end up being a super-steal off the waiver wire in long-term leagues.
  • I mentioned Johnson earlier for the Jets. He was used almost exactly like Carter, but he started and played a little more. Johnson showed some legit speed against the Giants as well as receiving chops. I remember Johnson being a useful pass-catcher before. I know Tevin Coleman didn’t play in the game, but if he’s sluggish then it might be Carter and Johnson as the Jets’ 1-2 punch moving forward. 
  • Chris Evans wasn’t special when he ran the ball (no real speed), but he used his balance and toughness to compile some modest numbers. He had two pass pro reps over 16 plays but did make two nice grabs, one on a dump screen and another on a well-blocked tunnel screen against third-stringers. He had a bad habit of running backward — that’s never good. Evans is competing to back up Mixon but wouldn’t have Fantasy relevance this year unless he was the Bengals‘ lone running back.
  • Khalil Herbert had some nice runs and catches against Miami’s backups. He could be a nice long-term stash for the Bears.  


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