Rushing Yards Props12 Weeks of 2019 NFL Futures Predictions
There is just a month left to go with no NFL action on the slate, as that 2019 Hall of Fame game is scheduled for Thursday August 1st, and from there, everything in the sports handicapping world gets chaotic for months. So for as slow as this time of year can feel when you are looking for action, a little patience and embracing the slow time is never a bad thing.
It's this slower time of year that allows you to use the extra time to get prepared for all the action fall brings, and it's now been a two-month journey here with preseason predictions and futures wagers and there is still a third of them to come. And after three straight weeks of individual props regarding Rookie of the Year, QB passing yards leaders, and WR receiving yards leaders, the only one left is for the running backs and that's where today's piece goes.
Historically, six of the past seven years the league's leading rusher has come from the NFC, with two guys – Adrian Peterson and Ezekiel Elliott – each winning the crown twice. Peterson isn't a guy I'd be looking to back here at his age now, but Elliott is the defending champion of this award and enters this season as the favorite (+260) to win it again. Oddly enough, no RB has repeated as the league's leading rusher since LaDainian Tomlinson did it with the Chargers back in 2006 and 2007, but historically this is a title that tends to see repeat winners.
If you look back in the day, you'll find it where guys like Jim Brown ripped off five in a row and eight in nine years, O.J. Simpson had the most rushing yards in two consecutive years, two different times, Earl Campbell won three in a row after that, or for eight straight years in the 90's this crown was either going to Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders with each of them splitting things down the middle with four reigns apiece.
So shying away from Elliott to repeat may not be the best move there, especially when you also consider that RB's from Dallas have won this title three of the past five years. That speaks to the schematics and roster construction elements the Jason Garrett/Jerry Jones duo prefers to build their football team around, and barring Elliott getting worn into the ground or getting injured, you know he'll be constantly fed the ball in this offense. It's not like long shots come out of the blue and win this award as it is, although there was Kareem Hunt in 2017 for the Chiefs, but even then, all it took was a few weeks of seeing him before we all knew he'd be leading that Chiefs backfield that year.
Finally, in terms of a team profile you want from the RB who ends up on top in this category, and similar to the receiving props category you generally want to start with the good, but not good enough teams and then go from there. Isolating the ones that will likely be run-heavy through scheme (Dallas) is one way to go from there, but you can also look at teams that could be one of those fringe playoff teams that could surprise many with a big early leap. You generally want to end up as a playoff team if you are a RB looking for this title, because more wins to get into the playoffs tend to come with plenty of RB carries to bleed clocks down with the lead. Keep that in mind as well as you go deeper with your handicapping.
After all of that, there is no getting away from Elliott at +260 to repeat here as league's leading rusher, but there are two other names a little further down the odds board that I like nearly as much.
Regular Season Rushing Yards Bet #1
Dalvin Cook (+2000)
Cook appears to be the man in Minnesota's backfield this year and all in all, that should be a quality decision for this Vikings franchise. Last year started to become all about the Kirk Cousins addition and whether or not he could live up to the big contract, or if he's actually an upgrade for a team that was off an NFC Championship loss. Well, those questions probably still remain unanswered, but what they did do is probably have Cousins put a little too much pressure on himself as he forced things a lot. The Vikings became a predictable offense to contain last year, and when you forced them to play from behind, that's where games got out of hand for Minnesota because that's when the mistakes would happen.
After a down year in 2018, the Vikings had to have taken a step back, realized they still have a phenomenal defense when everyone's healthy, and to ride that defense and a consistent ground game to confidently close out more games. Last year there was no clear #1 in the backfield with Latavius Murray splitting carries with Cook, and while it probably helped Murray land that contract with New Orleans, it did slow Cook's growth down a bit. From all reports, 2019 sounds like the governor will be off Cook's wheels this year and that's only going to help this already-talented Vikings offense become more balanced. From there, Cousins will have more freedom to put up numbers in the passing game, and a balanced attack is when every NFL team is at their best.
Injuries are a concern with this guy as he's yet to start a complete season in this league, but he was coming off that nasty injury a year ago which played a part in the decision to split time with Murray. That was probably the right decision then, as is giving Cooks the reigns now, as a big season from him likely does get the Vikings back to the playoffs.
Regular Season Rushing Yards Bet #2
Leonard Fournette (+3300)
Backing Fournette doesn't come without some red flags as well, as injuries and motivation can be an issue with him. But like an AFC version of the Dallas Cowboys, the Jaguars offense is always going to be dominated by the run, even with QB Nick Foles under center. Defense and ball control is what this team is built around, and that's not going to change this year.
From a big picture perspective, the Jags, to a man, will be out to prove that last year was the anomaly and not their 2017 campaign that was almost capped off with a Super Bowl berth. That year the Jags rode a then-rookie Leonard Fournette to 1,040 rushing yards for the year in only 13 games played. Those numbers came when opposing defenses would stack the box as well knowing Fournette was a Top 10 draft pick and it was still Blake Bortles back there – I mean, really, who would you focus your efforts on stopping first.
No matter if Foles lives up to the lofty expectations that come with a Super Bowl MVP or not during his time in Jacksonville, he's at least a much more legitimate threat defensively for teams that Fournette gets more room to run the ball just on that alone. Foles spreads out a few deep ones and then all of a sudden huge rushing lanes are available for the Jags RB.
If Jacksonville does live up to their own expectations and resembles that 2017 club, then they'll end up playing with a lot of leads late in games, asking their defense and ground game to shut things down. That's obviously another plus for Fournette's yardage numbers, and that never hurts.
Finally, Fournette's not had the best relationship with Jaguars brass and with contract discussions coming up in the near future, he's a guy with money on his mind and will be running like it from Week 1. Whether Jacksonville ends up being the team to pay him or not, Fournette needs to have a big year in 2019 to likely get the dollar figure he's looking for, and sometimes for pro athletes, money is by far the biggest motivator. At this price, he's definitely worth a look.
NFL Win Total Predictions
1) Baltimore Ravens
2) Indianapolis Colts
3) Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers
4 Atlanta Falcons
5) NFL ROY
6) Passing Yards
7) Receiving Yards