Fantasy Football: RB Busts and Disappointments

Disappointments

This is a group of players I expect to still have good seasons and I would still aim to draft. However, I think their current ADP is too high and I am lower on them than most others are. I also like some options around them a lot more than them specifically. I wouldn’t reach for these players and consider other options before them.

Ezekiel Elliott

Zeke is going to have a good season. It is pretty much a guarantee that he posts top 8 numbers in standard scoring. However, I’d honestly consider putting a few running backs before him that have a lower ADP. He has been grouped together with other can’t miss prospects including Gurley, Bell and DJ but I would argue he is a step below those players. I would honestly consider Fournette, Kamara, Barkley and Gordon at the same level as Zeke. I would not necessarily take all those guys ahead of Zeke but they would all be in the conversation and I might honestly take Fournette or Kamara over him. A few reasons for that. First off, Dallas does not have receivers that will make a major difference or even stretch the field. Hurns is a solid player but Terrance Williams is as inconsistent as they come and Beasley is primarily a between the numbers player. The tight end position lacks a difference maker as well. This receiving group is really poor and as a result I think Elliott’s rushing suffers. Second off, gone are the days of the Cowboys having an invincible offensive line. Doug Free and Ronald Leary are both gone. Travis Frederick is likely out for the year battling an autoimmune disease and Zach Martin and Tyron Smith have recently been injured. I expect Smith and Martin to be back to their elite selves in a few weeks but the rest of the line remains more of a projection than the OL has been in a long time. Conor Williams and La’el Collins can be good players but they haven’t yet showed it consistently. Many people also don’t realize how truly amazing of a run blocker Frederick is, possibly the best run blocking center in the entire league. The Cowboys will really miss his presence as a leader and as a blocker. Zeke will really have to create for himself more so than in the past. Zeke is still a great talent and I expect his receiving numbers to go up due to game script and lack of receiving options. Regardless, I don’t see Zeke as in the same tier as the elite three and I wouldn’t be opposed to taking a few other options before him.

 

Kareem Hunt

Hunt had an incredible rookie year and I like him as a player. I suspect some considerable regression however. First off, Hunt now has Spencer Ware to compete with for carries and Ware was actually really impressive as the leading rusher the year prior. Ware is a talented pass catcher and has big play ability. This offense in general also has more unpredictability than last year. Alex Smith had not been the franchise QB that the Chiefs hoped for but for much of last year he was consistently great. You don’t really know what you are getting with Mahomes this year and I would expect some growing pains. Even if he will eventually be a great player, it’s hard to say how good he will be in only his first year as a starter, especially after largely being redshirted the prior year. Hunt also seemed to disappoint fantasy owners in the middle of the season bookended by an incredible start and end to the season. Andy Reid seemed to have spurts of forgetting Hunt existed towards the middle of the year. I don’t expect that to continue but it wouldn’t surprise me if it did. Hunt is too talented to be anything less than a second round pick but I would personally prefer Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Melvin Gordon or an elite receiver over Hunt. I think he has the lowest ceiling and will probably face the most regression out of these second year runners. I could see a pre-Nagy Jordan Howard-like career path from here on out. A consistent high end RB2 but not the leading rusher in the NFL that scores 40 points multiple weeks. Hunt’s great balance and lower body power will keep him as a consistently good rusher but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hunt regress a bit in 2018.

 

Joe Mixon

Joe Mixon is a very talented player but a few things in Cincinnati worry me. The Bengals had a terrible OL last year. A truly awful offensive line. It was literally an offensive line to put out on the field. This year they added a few key pieces that will definitely help but are only truly upgrades on paper. We still have to see the improvement on the field. I will admit their pass blocking looked better in the dress rehearsal but Mixon was finding very little room to run. The pieces they added are no sure things, as Glenn was injured last year, is injured right now and had a relative down year last season when healthy. Price is also still a relative projection at this point as he is a rookie, although I will say he looks to be a strong run blocker. This line will be better, but considering how bad this OL was last year, better might still be bad. I see another troubling sign with Mixon too, particularly his running style. Mixon employs the Bell style of running, waiting for holes to present themselves and then bursting through those holes. With an offensive line that isn’t a guarantee to open many holes, this is a style that is very dangerous and could often result in getting bottled up in the backfield. It is hard to kick the habit of running with that patient style and that could severely harm Mixon if the OL does not improve on last year. Mixon is a great receiver and will get plenty of carries but I am starting to get concerned about his efficiency. If he is not particularly efficient then that does put a cap on his upside. The talent is there but the offensive line coupled with his running style is concerning. The talent is there but the offensive line coupled with his running style scares me. He is still an RB2 but I would keep him from creeping too high up your draft boards and I would consider other running back and receiver options before him. Don’t fall for the upside until he has a better offensive line.

 

Jerick McKinnon

McKinnon is in a great position to succeed. He was hand picked as the #1 rusher in a Shanahan offense. He was paid a LOT of money this offseason. He is a great receiver on a promising young offense. However, I just don’t see the rushing talent. Whenever McKinnon has been given the chance as a lead rusher he has either gotten injured or been inefficient with his carries. He doesn’t strike me as a particularly talented runner in any category except speed and occasional elusiveness. He hasn’t put it all together as a runner and for that reason I am more pessimistic about his rushing ability than most. I also have doubts about his ability to score TDs and his ability to handle a major workload. He isn’t the largest back so that could become an issue, especially with competition in Matt Breida. What I worry about more than his size is his current price. The greatest concern I have about McKinnon is his ADP is very rich for a player that is at least somewhat a projection, since he has not remained efficient or taken full control of a job an entire year so far in his career. I think McKinnon has a certain floor as at least a mid to low end RB2 (Shanahan offense) but people drafting him in round 2 or early round 3 have made a mistake. He’s my RB18. Don’t be afraid to draft him, but he should not be drafted in the RB13/RB14 range, unless you play in a PPR league. If you play in PPR, I would not be worried in the slightest since I expect a great receiving year from him. In standard scoring, be careful of drafting him too high.

 

[UPDATE: Jerick McKinnon unfortunately tore his ACL in practice and is expected to be out for the year.]

 

Derrick Henry

Henry is not worth his current price and I would honestly prefer drafting Dion Lewis over him. In my opinion, Dion Lewis is both a better and more dynamic player. Lewis deserves all of the passing down work and should get a good amount of carries too. With Lewis in town, I don’t think Henry has the upside or consistency to warrant a high draft pick. Henry would have to bank on getting a large amount of TDs for me to see him as more valuable than some options around him. Henry is pretty limited as a runner and relies on breaking tackles at the second level to be effective. He had a 4.2 YPC last year which is decent but that was probably helped by the fact that he had a propensity for long runs. I expect some regression in that department and as a result I see him being average in terms of efficiency as well. I think Henry underperforms his draft position as long as Dion Lewis stays healthy. Someone that will only get at most half of the carries and little to no receiving work seems like a risk both in terms of floor and ceiling. He won’t be able to get the touches needed to produce RB2 numbers unless he really turns up his efficiency and consistently scores TDs. I will pass on him at his current ADP. The only thing to factor in is if Dion Lewis goes down with an injury then Henry has a lot of value. I wouldn’t draft him based on that fact, however. 

 

Jay Ajayi

I’ve always been rooting for Ajayi. However, he is one of the biggest injury risks in all of fantasy. He routinely finds himself injured and his knees aren’t expected to hold up much longer. Sometimes often injured players are worth the risk but for Ajayi, I don’t see the upside to warrant risking a major blow to my fantasy football roster. The Eagles liked to use committees last year and Clement looked really good and was very effective in the red zone. Ajayi also is not a giant factor in the passing game, where I figure Clement and Sproles to be handling much of the work. I’m not sure Ajayi is worth the injury risk. I’ve always liked Ajayi but I really wouldn’t trust making him my RB2 without a very clear insurance plan. He is in one of the better situations in the league in terms of offensive line and offense in general but his injuries really scare me. I wouldn’t pick Ajayi unless he falls in the draft and you can get him at a good value.

 

Busts

This is a group of players that I would avoid drafting altogether. Whether it be injury risk, depth chart worries or other situational factors, I would not waste draft capital on any of these players unless they really fall in drafts. Don’t ignore them altogether, but keep an eye on them rather than drafting them.

LeSean McCoy

LeSean McCoy has been great almost the entirety of his career but I finally expect him to start slowing down. The Bills offense is still lacking difference makers on the offensive side of the ball other than McCoy and I think defenses will be able to focus on McCoy more so than in years past. With mediocre talent and a downgrade at QB from Tyrod Taylor to Josh Allen, defenses simply have little else to worry about. The offensive line also looks very very bad. Dion Dawkins looks like a budding star but besides that I’m not sure I can name an even average lineman on their roster. McCoy is going to have to entirely create for himself and a back hitting the age of 30 should not be asked to do that. That seems like a recipe for disaster and potential injury. Add in the fact that he is going through legal troubles too and I don’t think I even want to draft him. If you feel comfortable drafting him, McCoy is more of a late 4th/ early 5th rounder.  With his risk, I can see him disappointing fantasy owners this year and potentially ruining someone’s fantasy season if he is picked too early and then misses a significant portion of the year.

 

Jamaal Williams

Jamaal WIlliams is a great flex play these first two weeks of Aaron Jones’ suspension. After that, I expect Jamaal Williams to fail to reach his draft value. Jamaal Williams isn’t a bad player by any means but I see Aaron Jones as a clearly superior talent. Jones has better quickness, speed, elusiveness, vision and big play ability. Williams uses his blockers well and is a good shortage back, so he has draftable value but I wouldn’t draft him anywhere close to his ADP currently. Aaron Jones is simply a better runner. Jamaal Williams has showcased more receiving ability than Aaron Jones but that probably won’t salvage his value with Montgomery in the mix too. The only way I see Williams being a success is if he performs very well in Jones’ absence and forces himself into the lead role. If I am wrong and Jamaal Williams does better than I expected, I can see Jones and Williams at the least splitting carries. Jones has more upside and I believe in his talent more so than Williams. Aaron Jones also has seemed to be available later on in the draft than Jamaal Williams which makes him a much better value with his upside.

 

Rex Burkhead

I like Rex Burkhead as a player but his situation doesn’t seem very enjoyable to me. As a Pats fan, I have watched Bill over the years screw over fantasy owners left and right. I’m not so sure why people are taking this year in a different light. The most likely reason is that Dion Lewis had a great year in the Patriots offense. Owners should keep in mind that the depth chart looked a lot different last year. The four main backs last year were Lewis, Burkhead, White and Gillislee. This year, the Patriots replaced Lewis and Gillislee with Sony Michel and Jeremy Hill. Burkhead will have more of a competition for goal line carries with Jeremy Hill and probably the same amount of competition for carries in general. Sony Michel was a first round pick and possibly the second best back behind Barkley in the draft class. Michel will be used and he has more rushing talent. Burkhead could be a solid flex some weeks but you are really rolling the dice on him if you are drafting him at his current ADP, which seems to be slowly creeping upwards (seen him picked as early as the 6th). Jeremy Hill could be a TD vulture, Michel is a first round pick and a great overall back and lastly James White is a great receiver. I don’t see the upside or consistency to draft Burkhead that early. I would honestly rather go with Sony Michel, who has more upside and is being drafted later. Burkhead could be a solid flex some weeks but you are really rolling the dice if you draft him at his current ADP, which seems to be slowly creeping upwards (seen him picked as early as the 6th). Burkhead just doesn’t seem worth the headache or the price.

Isaiah Crowell

I think it’s time Crowell enters the ambiguous world of NFL backups instead of getting chances as a starter. Crowell makes himself difficult to trust due to his inconsistency. Sometimes he looks great and sometimes he looks terrible. You never really know what version you are getting on a weekly basis. He also really struggled to score touchdowns last year, only scoring twice all year. Lastly, he seems to currently be injured which isn’t a good thing for his chances to impress as a starter. I expect a good year from Bilal Powell, who is both a talented receiver and rusher. I honestly think Powell is the more talented player and I think he is more capable of creating out of nothing more so than Crowell can. Crowell can struggle behind poor blocking and has not been as efficient with his opportunities as Powell has. I prefer Powell and you can probably get Powell at a cheaper price. Crowell isn’t worth the frustration or the draft price.

 

Devontae Booker

Booker might be the most inefficient running back in football. Besides being a decent pass catcher and pass blocker, he really doesn’t have many redeeming qualities. His vision and burst are both mediocre and he rarely takes a carry for more than 3 yards. Don’t be swayed by him being named the starter in the Broncos offense, Freeman is the back to own and will be one of the better running back options in fantasy football by seasons’ end. If Booker ends up being good, Vance Joseph might be a genius. More likely however, Booker is irrelevant by Week 5 and Royce Freeman has a hold on the job. I think Joseph is making a major mistake not putting a potential difference maker on the field to start the season. Regardless, avoid Booker, he really is not very good and won’t be a difference maker at all.

 

Ronald Jones

Ronald Jones is the first of three rookies I will be staying away from. A trend this year has been a rookie RB craze due to the fantastic season many rookie rushers had last year. I would take rookies based off their own merits however and not basing this class on the success of last class. I think that class was just truly special. Ronald Jones has been very bad so far in his NFL career. Players bounce back from rough starts but for the time being I am going no where near Ronald Jones. He has gotten very bad reviews in training camp, has consistently showcased poor rushing ability and has really struggled in pass protection, even in preseason too. Tampa Bay has a below average offensive line as well which hurts Ronald Jones even further in terms of running the ball and helping in pass protection. If Tampa Bay wants to keep Winston alive, then blocking from a running back must be a priority. The one saving grace for Ronald Jones is he has showcased adequate receiving and big play ability, which could help him see the field occasionally since Peyton Barber is not known as being a great receiver or a very flashy runner. I don’t have much high hopes for him once he is ready to reach the field either. He is a rather weak player which is not a good combination with a poor offensive line. He will really struggle to even get back to the line with poor blocking ahead of him because he is not great at breaking tackles. I would monitor Jones as the season progresses but for the time being, I don’t expect any meaningful production from Jones and I would advise staying away.

 

Rashaad Penny

Another rookie RB I am not particularly high on. I find Penny to be a bit overrated as a player. He is talented but certainly not worthy of a first round pick. I prefer Kerryon Johnson and Sony Michel by quite a margin over Penny in terms of talent and also Freeman in terms of fantasy value.  On top of not being as talented as his pedigree might suggest, Penny finds himself in a less than desirable situation in Seattle. The Seahawks offense will probably be average but that is mainly because Russell Wilson is a magician and perennially one of the most underappreciated players in the NFL. The offensive line remains dreadful. The offense lacks weapons on the perimeter. On top of a terrible OL and a lack of difference makers on the receiving end, Penny has some significant competition in Chris Carson. Carson looked like the better back from what I’ve seen. Carson is also a very big man which helps him in terms of breaking tackles at or before the line of scrimmage. Penny is big as well but hasn’t shown the same ability to break tackles. As long as Carson is around, I see him being the starter or at least splitting the carries evenly with Penny. Seattle running backs get hurt often, mainly because they have to break 5 tackles to get back to the line of scrimmage, so there is always a possibility that Carson gets injured. Regardless, this poor situation doesn’t have the upside to warrant a significant draft pick for Rashaad Penny.

 

Nick Chubb

Chubb is another talented running back but he finds himself behind Carlos Hyde in the pecking order. Hyde has looked really good this preseason and he is one of the players I would be targeting as a RB3/RB4. Chubb doesn’t seem to have much receiving ability and I genuinely believe Hyde is the more talented running back at this given time. That largely means the only hope of significant Chubb production will be an injury to Hyde or the hope of Chubb vulturing touchdowns. I would stay away from Chubb unless there are signs of Hyde being inefficient and Chubb gaining carries. I wouldn’t draft him but I’d keep an eye on him if something happens with Hyde. Chubb is talented, I just think Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson will adequately produce for the time being.