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At the start of training camp last year, no one was expecting Alvin Kamara to be a Fantasy star. Even if you were optimistic about his rookie season in 2017, there's no way you thought he would blow up the way he did.

You're lying if you say otherwise.

Going into training camp, the Saints had two prominent running backs ahead of Kamara on the depth chart in Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. Kamara looked like a talented rookie, but his opportunities were expected to be limited. And his Fantasy outlook was somewhat bleak in seasonal leagues.

For example, in our Fantasy Football magazine with Beckett Sports we said, "Take him with a late pick in seasonal PPR leagues if you'd like, but his upside lies in his future. That's why you'll see him go in Round 2 of rookie-only drafts and with a late-round choice in dynasty/keeper league start-ups."

Another publication had this to say about Kamara: "He won't have 2017 re-draft value."

You'll probably find plenty of other examples of commentary like this from the preseason, and it was fair at the time. The Saints had to trade Peterson to the Cardinals after Week 4 to give Kamara a bigger opportunity, and then the rocket ship took off. Kamara finished 2017 with 120 carries for 728 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns, along with 81 catches for 826 yards and five touchdowns. He was a top five Fantasy running back in all formats.

While we'd love to re-create this scenario with other third-string running backs around the NFL, it's clearly not realistic. But we can look at other running backs lower on the depth chart on other teams to see if they have Fantasy relevance — and potential starting opportunities — this year.

Here are 15 third-string running backs, in order, who could become the next Kamara in 2018, although it will likely be a poor-man's version. For this exercise, we are using the pass-catching running back as the No. 2 guy on the depth chart (see Duke Johnson and the Browns as an example). And we're not including situations where the No. 1 running back remains unclear, especially when there's a pass-catching running back involved (see Detroit and New England as examples).

Third-string stars


Nick Chubb
CLE • RB • #24
2017 stats at Georgia
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  • Browns depth chart: Carlos Hyde (starter), Duke Johnson (No. 2/third-down back), Nick Chubb (No. 3)
  • Outlook: Johnson will stay in his role as a pass catcher and change-of-pace back for the Browns, and his role is solidified. This is more about Hyde and Chubb. Hyde played 16 games in 2017 for the first time in his career, but he missed 12 games due to injury in the previous two seasons. He'll be 28 in September, so he's still in his prime, but we'll see if his durability issues become a concern again. There was an ESPN report in June that Chubb could be Cleveland's best running back this year, and it's believable given his track record at Georgia. He's well worth his Average Draft Position at No. 106 overall in Round 9, and if Chubb ends up playing more than Hyde this season, he could emerge as a No. 2 running back in all leagues.


Aaron Jones
GB • RB • #33
2017 stats - 12 games
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  • Packers depth chart: Jamaal Williams (starter), Ty Montgomery (No. 2/third-down back), Aaron Jones (No. 3)
  • Outlook: Jones might have been the starter in Green Bay when training camp opened, but a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy dropped him to No. 3 on the depth chart, especially with Montgomery being pegged as more of a specialist. Williams will now open the year as the starter, but Jones will push for playing time once he's active in Week 3. And hopefully he'll perform like he did as a rookie in 2017 when he led the Packers' running backs in yard per carry and had three games with double digits in Fantasy points in a non-PPR league in the four games where he got double digits in carries. Jones' ADP has fallen following the suspension to No. 115 overall in Round 10, and that's a good spot for him. Be patient until his suspension is over, but don't be surprised if he takes over for Williams as the main running back during the season.


Jordan Wilkins
CLE • RB • #30
2017 stats at Ole Miss
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  • Colts depth chart: Marlon Mack (starter), Nyheim Hines (No. 2/third-down back), Jordan Wilkins (No. 3)
  • Outlook: By the time we get to Week 1, Wilkins could be the starter, although the Colts are expected to use multiple running backs this year. That's the way new coach Frank Reich, the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia under Doug Pederson, wants it, which means Wilkins will play even if he doesn't start. It could be messy for Fantasy owners if Mack, Hines and Wilkins are all sharing touches on a weekly basis, but Wilkins could be the "big back" in this offense, which has a healthy Andrew Luck (shoulder) again, along with a rebuilt offensive line. There's a lot to like about Wilkins with his Round 13 ADP at No. 153 overall, and I plan to own a lot of stock in Wilkins this year.


Kalen Ballage
PIT • RB • #29
2017 stats at Arizona State
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  • Dolphins depth chart: Kenyan Drake (starter), Frank Gore (No. 2), Kalen Ballage (No. 3)
  • Outlook: Drake and Gore are likely going to split work on rushing downs, with Drake leading the way on passing downs. But Ballage could find a role for himself with a strong preseason. The fourth-round pick from Arizona State made a good impression in OTAs and minicamp, and he's a physical presence at 6-foot-3, 229 pounds. Keep in mind that Drake hasn't been a full-time starter in the NFL or college, and Gore is 35, meaning this backfield has some potential flaws. By the end of the season, Ballage could be the best running back in Miami, and he's a great stash candidate in Round 14 at No. 165 overall.


Joe Williams
SF • RB • #32
2016 stats at Utah
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  • 49ers depth chart: Jerick McKinnon (starter), Matt Breida (No. 2), Joe Williams (No. 3)
  • Outlook: McKinnon and Breida are two of my favorite players this year, and the reason is San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan. He has a great track record with running backs, and someone from this backfield should have a big season. I'm hopeful it's McKinnon, and Breida could fill in should he falter. But Williams also has the chance to be a playmaker for the 49ers, and he's once again generating hype in the early part of training camp. The Press-Democrat said Saturday that Williams was the "best skill position player on the field today," and he's someone to keep an eye on during preseason games. Last year, Williams was a training camp star, but he missed his rookie season in 2017 because of an ankle injury. Now that he's healthy, Williams could be worth a late-round stash candidate, especially in deeper leagues.


Kenneth Dixon
NYJ • RB • #38
2016 stats - DNP 2017
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  • Ravens depth chart: Alex Collins (starter), Javorius Allen (No. 2), Kenneth Dixon (No. 3)
  • Outlook: Dixon missed last season with a knee injury, and he's dealing with a hamstring injury at the start of training camp. That's not a good sign for him to have a big role this year, especially with how well Collins performed in 2017, along with Allen. But Dixon looked good as a rookie in 2016, and hopefully he'll be healthy by Week 1, which is all that matters. It will likely take an injury for him to earn a prominent role, unless Collins again has trouble with fumbles, but Dixon could also work on passing downs for the Ravens. He's an intriguing player to stash if he can prove to stay on the field and out of the training room.


Elijah McGuire
KC • RB • #24
2017 stats
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  • Jets depth chart: Isaiah Crowell (starter), Bilal Powell (No. 2), Elijah McGuire (No. 3)
  • Outlook: I would have put McGuire in the top five of this list if he were healthy, but he suffered a broken foot at the start of training camp and could be out for up to six weeks. Hopefully, when he returns, the Jets use him as originally planned, as a change-of-pace option and pass catcher out of the backfield, but he also could push Crowell for the No. 1 job. We'll see how the Jets replace McGuire early in the season if he's not ready for Week 1, as they have Thomas Rawls and sixth-round rookie Trenton Cannon on the roster. However, those guys might not have the upside McGuire has, and he's worth adding off the waiver wire early in the season once he's over his foot injury.


De'Angelo Sr. Henderson
2017 stats - 5 games
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  • Broncos depth chart: Royce Freeman (starter), Devontae Booker (No. 2), De'Angelo Henderson (No. 3)
  • Outlook: Freeman and Booker are going to compete for the starting job until Week 1, and Henderson and Phillip Lindsay are going to battle for the No. 3 job. I expect Henderson to be in that role, but his playing time is far from guaranteed, especially if Freeman and Booker remain healthy. But should either one suffer an injury, Henderson would fill in and hopefully perform at a high level. His only real action as a rookie in 2017 came in Week 17 against the Chiefs, and he scored on a 29-yard reception. But he also had just 15 yards on five carries. Still, the potential is there for Henderson if touches ever become available, and he could be a popular waiver-wire addition at some point during the season. 


Corey Grant
GB • RB • #30
2017 stats
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  • Jaguars depth chart: Leonard Fournette (starter), T.J. Yeldon (No. 2), Corey Grant (No. 3)
  • Outlook: The Jaguars have a workhorse in Fournette, and Yeldon should be the backup, while also playing in a change-of-pace role and on passing downs. Grant will get touches, albeit minimal when everyone is healthy, but Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said this offseason they want to get him the ball more. "Every time we've given him the ball, he's done really good things," Hackett said. It will likely take an injury to Fournette for Grant to really showcase his skills, but Fournette missed three games as a rookie in 2017 and dealt with foot and ankle issues in college as well. You're likely not going to draft Grant in the majority of leagues, unless he beats out Yeldon for the No. 2 job, which would be a surprise. But Grant could be a popular waiver-wire addition during the season if Fournette gets hurt.


Jalen Richard
LV • RB • #30
2017 stats
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  • Raiders depth chart: Marshawn Lynch (starter), Doug Martin (No. 2), Jalen Richard (No. 3)
  • Outlook: It's not a certainty that Richard will be No. 3 on the depth chart, and he suffered a calf strain at the start of training camp. DeAndre Washington remains in the mix, and the Raiders appears to like undrafted rookie Chris Warren. One report out of Oakland, however, has the Raiders not keeping Washington on the final roster, which would bode well for Richard if he's healthy. Whoever is No. 3 on the depth chart is intriguing since Lynch is 32, and older running backs tend to break down. And Martin is 29 himself and hasn't played a full season since 2015. Keep an eye on Richard's health during the preseason, and he could be worth a late-round flier in deeper leagues as someone to stash on your roster this year.


Terrance West
NO • RB • #38
2017 stats in Baltimore
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  • Saints depth chart: Alvin Kamara (starter), Mark Ingram (No. 2), Terrance West (No. 3)
  • Outlook: The Saints could have a third-string running back who is Fantasy relevant for the second-year in a row, although this time it will only be for a short period since Ingram is suspended for the first four games of the season. West is competing with Jonathan Williams, Boston Scott and Shane Vereen for that role, but West might have the edge given his ability to be a physical runner as a complement to Kamara. "In between the tackles, I like that," West said in The Advocate. "The physical runs, break tackles, make 3-yard runs into 6-yard runs, that's the key for me." Kamara and Ingram should handle the majority of work from Week 5 on, but West or whoever opens the season as the No. 3 running back in New Orleans could be a flex option in deeper leagues early in the year. Keep an eye on this battle throughout the preseason.


Bo Scarbrough
LV • RB • #40
2017 stats at Alabama
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  • Cowboys depth chart: Ezekiel Elliott (starter), Rod Smith (No. 2), Bo Scarbrough (No. 3)
  • Outlook: Elliott is the workhorse for the Cowboys, and Smith had some positive moments in 2017 when he helped fill in for Elliott during his six-game suspension. But should Elliott miss any time this year, Scarbrough could get an extended look, and Fantasy owners would gravitate toward anyone in this backfield because of Dallas' offensive line. He's a big running back at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, and one Cowboys reporter already called Scarbrough one of the team's sleepers heading into the season. Even though he was just a seventh-round pick in the NFL Draft, he could be a good late-round lottery ticket as insurance in case Elliott gets hurt.


Justin Jackson
DET • RB • #38
2017 stats at Northwestern
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  • Chargers depth chart: Melvin Gordon (starter), Austin Ekeler (No. 2), Justin Jackson (No. 3)
  • Outlook: Jackson is in a similar spot to Scarbrough because he was a seventh-round pick in the NFL Draft, but he might be the second-best running back on the roster. Ekeler will definitely have a role, but if Gordon goes down, we could see Jackson getting significant touches. He has a good pedigree as he ranks third-all time in the Big Ten with 6,289 rushing yards, the most in Northwestern history. He scored 42 touchdowns in his career, and he became the ninth player in NCAA history to eclipse 1,000 yards all four years he played. Like Scarbrough, keep Jackson in mind during the season, and if something happens to Gordon then he could emerge as a Fantasy relevant option.


Mark Walton
MIA • RB • #22
2017 stats at Miami
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  • Bengals depth chart: Joe Mixon (starter), Giovani Bernard (No. 2/third-down back), Mark Walton (No. 3)
  • Outlook: The Bengals will likely give Mixon and Bernard the majority of touches if both stay healthy, and in 2017 that duo had 283 of Cincinnati's 377 carries. Walton, a fourth-round pick in the NFL Draft, most resembles Bernard, and he will likely be Bernard's replacement if the latter is not retained in 2019. But Walton could benefit if there's an injury in Cincinnati's backfield this season, and last year Mixon missed two games due to injury. I'm excited for the Bengals run game this year with the addition of offensive linemen Cordy Glenn and Billy Price, and Mixon should benefit the most. And if Walton gets the chance for increased touches in 2018 then he could be a good waiver-wire addition during the year.


Ito Smith
DAL • RB • #43
2017 stats at Southern Mississippi
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  • Falcons depth chart: Devonta Freeman (starter), Tevin Coleman (No. 2), Ito Smith (No. 3)
  • Outlook: Smith is in a similar spot to Walton in that his best Fantasy value likely lies in 2019 when he could be a replacement for Coleman. And Smith, like Walton, was a fourth-round pick in the NFL Draft on a team where the top two running backs dominate touches. In 2017, Freeman and Coleman combined for 352 of Atlanta's 430 carries, but the Falcons might want to see what Smith can do now if he is a big part of their future. Freeman also missed two games in 2017 because of injuries, and Coleman has yet to play 16 games in his three-year career. There could be a time in 2018 where Smith becomes a popular waiver-wire addition in the majority of leagues.