Download any podcast, watch any sports-talk show or tune into any radio show in San Francisco, and all you'll hear about is the quarterback battle between Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. No one has really talked about Raheem Mostert and where he is in the running back pecking order.
And it's better off that way for Fantasy.
Mostert made his presence felt quickly in his preseason debut against the Raiders on Sunday. Playing all of one drive with the talented starting offensive line, Mostert played 10 snaps and got seven carries including gains of 5, 8, 16 and 17 yards. On three of those five runs, Trey Lance was the quarterback. His talent was obvious. On one misdirection play, two 49ers offensive linemen blocked in the opposite direction of Mostert's run to the right side, leaving him without blockers but with plenty of room to race to the sideline, breaking a couple of tackles on his way to gaining 17 yards.
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His other long run was so well blocked that he didn't get touched until he was 13 yards downfield and added three more yards after contact. Even his eight-yard run included a startling stiff-arm that bought him five more yards than a mere mortal would have had.
The 49ers open the season against the Lions, Eagles and Packers. At the very least, he should give those Fantasy managers who draft him an obvious starter to begin the year. Health has long been an issue with Mostert, but as long as he's active, he should be in most lineups.
By the way, this isn't a death-knell for Trey Sermon's value. Sermon himself looked solid against the Raiders and has proven to be ready for the NFL game. He just doesn't quite have the same juice as Mostert, and unfortunately, he has a lot of similar wear-and-tear concerns. That's why he's going a full round after Mostert. Chances are he will have a bunch of games where he'll be a reliable starter, but it won't be until Mostert is shelved.
The new guy in Baltimore
Life moves pretty fast in the NFL. One minute you're an undrafted running back buried behind two efficient players with pedigree, the next minute you're a popular late-round pick in Fantasy drafts. No one can say for sure that Ty'Son Williams will definitely be the backup running back behind Gus Edwards all season. John Harbaugh admitted this week that the team would consider anyone who "made sense" and became available if it meant making the team better.
But for now, Williams is next in line behind Edwards. After watching every preseason snap, the plus-sized Williams showed on film that he's a quick accelerator who can win on edge runs with solid balance, agility and legpower. You can see a lot of the latter on this play.
He's also sneaky good in the passing game, showing a good understanding of how to become a good target in a scramble drill (which doesn't always happen in Baltimore since Lamar Jackson typically runs when a play breaks down, but hey it's something). He's also a very capable pass protector, which is a humongous positive since Edwards ranked as Pro Football Focus' 39th-highest graded blocker among qualifiers last year. Sorry, had to post this:
So what's lacking? Williams' vision, decisiveness and tackle-breaking skills were on display on that first video, but they're not his most consistent traits. A second-quarter gain for 12 yards against Washington might have been a house call had he not run to contact and bounced outside to take advantage of two teammates creating green space for him.
And will Justice Hill be a factor? Hill is speedy but lean and small. He has two career games with over 10 touches, has two career touchdowns and has never had more than 51 total yards in a game. So figure Williams will be the No. 2 guy, especially since Harbaugh has suggested as much.
In Jackson's 41 career starts, a second running back has had at least eight carries in 21 games. That's pretty much what the expectation should be week in and week out for Williams. It's not good enough to make him a start-worthy Fantasy option, but he definitely warrants a draft pick near the range of priority backups. The only issue is whether or not he keeps the job for more than a few weeks, but the Round 12 price tag shouldn't be much of a deterrent.
Combing through the Sanders
There's worry over how the running back workload will be split in Philadelphia. Miles Sanders is their primary back, but his rough work in the passing game (53.8% catch rate last year) will mean roles for others. Rookie Kenneth Gainwell has drawn Fantasy attention, but Boston Scott is the one I like a little more.
Scott played the first five snaps for the Eagles against the Jets and had three touches including a short flat-area reception that he turned into a 49-yard touchdown complete with a broken tackle and a grade-A juke.
This isn't to say Gainwell is bad -- he's just not as accomplished or experienced. His pass protection this summer wasn't good, he didn't always follow his blocking and he didn't regularly make defenders miss. There's potential with Gainwell, but not enough to get overly excited about at this point.
Scott has a career 79% catch rate with 24-plus receptions in each of his past two seasons while sharing that passing-downs role with other running backs. Not only might he hog that role in 2021, but he figures to be a candidate to lead the Philadelphia backfield if Miles Sanders' struggles continue. He's an efficient, underrated running back who can play any down and distance. Given the uncertainty with Sanders, I've added him to the end of my deeper-league rosters.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.