Drafting players who exceed their value in average draft position often separates the good teams from the truly great ones.
So how do you give yourself the best chance of finding talent in the later rounds at the running back position? You have to find one that fits several categories.
One guy with the potential is Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II.
So what do we like about this second-year back out of USC?
Steady producer in college
When it comes to predicting success, there's no greater indicator than college film. Specifically consistent, strong production over several years at the Division-I level.
Jones has this quality in spades. He burst onto the scene hard as a freshman at USC, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and 987 rush yards. He finished 2016 with 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns that year. He finished strong in 2017, rushing for 1,550 yards and 19 touchdowns. And this was despite USC being a pass-heavy offense.
I know it seems like an obvious strategy, but a lot of people end up reaching on an unproven back early because he has 'talent.' Sure, you're throwing some darts in the later rounds and not every player is going to fill every possible hole. But why not draft a guy who has talent but also showed he could produce at the college level?
Not much competition to deal with
The Buccaneers went extremely defensive heavy in the draft. They didn't take a running back and didn't even draft a skill position player until the sixth round, taking WR Scott Miller out of Bowling Green.
Because of this, all Jones is competing with is ho-hum back Peyton Barber. Barber only averaged 3.7 yards per carry last season, so he didn't exactly blow the doors off the place. Plus he's on a one-year deal for a little over $2 million, so it's not like the Bucs are heavily invested in him.
When it comes to finding running backs who will produce fantasy points, you want to find a guy who the coach likes and will look to get the ball to. Volume is one of the most effective ways of predicting fantasy success. Even a mediocre running back getting 25 carries a game is better than a great running back getting 12 carries a game.
Has the speed for big plays
There's a lot of speed here with Jones. He's an explosive player. He was one of the faster guys at the 2018 combine, running a 4.48 40. He can stretch the field with his speed.
When it comes to running backs, talent isn't the most important thing, volume is. However, the ability to rip off big runs at the second level is still very helpful. Often times a big 56-run will mitigate 10 runs of 3 yards or less. You want a running back with the capability of hitting a home run, and Jones has that.
He's a dual threat
Jones is a good route runner, has soft hands and catches the ball well. He wasn't asked to catch the ball a ton at USC, but he made the most of it when he did.
Key tip: Receiving running backs are deadly. If you look at the top running backs from last season like Christian McCaffery, Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley, they all racked up a ton of targets.
His current ADP is juicy
Jones is going in the 9th-10th round in most fantasy drafts. Meaning you can get him at a steal. He's going around the likes of Adrian Peterson and Austin Ekeler. Now, his ADP will likely rise, especially if he shows out during preseason.
Overall, Jones is a worthy dart throw running back this season because of his speed and opportunity.