Fantasy owners got good news Tuesday when the Broncos decided to match the Dolphins offer sheet to restricted free agent C.J. Anderson and keep him in Denver. We now have more running back options to choose from with this move.
Anderson, who now has a new four-year, $18 million contract, remains the starter for the Broncos, and we also get to see if Jay Ajayi can be a productive running back for the Dolphins. Miami isn't done adding to its backfield, but Ajayi does have potential if he's the starter in 2016.
Fantasy owners were understandably frustrated with Anderson last season, who was a first-round pick in the majority of leagues based on Average Draft Position on CBS Sports. He was awful to start the season with one game with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league through 10 games, and he shared playing time with Ronnie Hillman while also battling ankle and toe injuries.
But he closed the season strong with double digits in Fantasy points in three of his final five regular-season games and two of three playoff outings, including Super Bowl 50 against the Panthers with 23 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown. For the season, Anderson had 152 carries for 720 yards and five touchdowns and 25 catches for 183 yards, and he added 54 carries for 234 yards and two touchdowns and nine catches for 39 yards in the playoffs.
This season, Anderson will be the focal point of Denver's offense, especially after his performance in the playoffs when he had at least 17 touches in all three games. The Broncos are still unsettled at quarterback with Peyton Manning (retired) and Brock Osweiler (signed with Houston) gone, and Mark Sanchez the only proven passer on the roster. Hillman is also currently a free agent.
We'll see what happens with the rest of free agency and the draft -- and who the Broncos end up with at quarterback will be a factor -- but Anderson should be considered a low-end No. 1 Fantasy running back following this move. He's worth drafting as early as Round 3 or 4.
As for the Dolphins, their depth chart at running back currently has Ajayi on top after Lamar Miller signed with the Texans as a free agent. It's clear Miami isn't settled with Ajayi as a featured option after trying to sign Anderson, but the Dolphins could still make him the starter this season.
Ajayi was a talented running back coming out of Boise State last year, but concerns about his knee and long-term health made him fall to the fifth round of the NFL Draft. He started his rookie season on short-term injured reserve with a broken rib, but he played the final nine games in 2015 and finished with 49 carries for 187 yards and one touchdown and seven catches for 90 yards as the backup to Miller.
Miami failed to utilize Miller the right way, but here's hoping new coach Adam Gase will lean on his starter. Gase has done that as offensive coordinator with the Broncos and Bears. In 2014 in Denver, Gase gave his primary running back at least 17 touches 12 times in 16 games, and he did that with the Bears 11 times in 2015. By comparison, Miller did that just seven times for the Dolphins last year.
Ajayi could be a low-end No. 2 Fantasy running back this season, and he's worth drafting with a mid-round pick if he's the starter. Miami seems to have missed on all the big-name free agent options (Arian Foster and Alfred Morris are likely the best of what's left), but the Dolphins could add a running back in the draft to compete with Ajayi.
We'll see what develops the rest of the offseason, but for now we're glad Anderson stayed with the Broncos to keep his value intact, which allows Ajayi the chance to start. Sure, we could have had a scenario of Anderson as the starter for the Dolphins, which would have opened the door for a new running back with the Broncos.
But I'm hopeful Anderson can build off the way he finished 2015, and I like the upside for Ajayi. The running back position needs help, and this move was good for Fantasy owners.