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Updated Overvalued Players: Running Backs

Footballguys staff members discuss running backs who are overvalued

The flip side of succeeding with value players is failing with overvalued players. These are players that will not put up stats commensurate to their draft spot, and avoiding them is another of the important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out these players, we asked our staff to look through the top 150 players and identify players that should underperform their draft position.

Player with 5 Votes

Montee Ball, Den

Sigmund Bloom: Ball may rack up double-digit touchdowns this year, but good luck knowing which games he will be better than a flex play. His mediocre performance in camp to this point is one of many signs pointing to a full-blown RBBC in Denver, and one of the top beat writers has already warned that the situation will frustrate fantasy owners all year. Save yourself the indigestion and take a wide receiver or different rookie running back in the fifth.

Heath Cummings: I’m not a huge fan of anyone in the Broncos RBBC, so I’m certainly not a fan of Ball as the 25th running back off the board. I don’t trust john Fox with rookies, and think this situation could look a lot like it did last season for Ronnie Hillman. The best case scenario I see for Ball is that he eventually turns into the lead back in a RBBC, and that’s not even guaranteed.

Jeff Haseley: The Broncos rookie running back is being selected as the 25th RB off the board, however he has not been named the starter and John Fox has a history of going slow with rookie running backs. Protecting Peyton Manning is a big factor in reaching the field as a running back with the Broncos and it does not look like Ball has earned that distinction yet. Ronnie Hillman is doing and saying all of the right things which is prolonging Ball's arrival. There are at least four other RBs I'd rather draft ahead of where Ball is being selected.

Aaron Rudnicki: I’m a Montee Ball fan, but even with the departure of Willis McGahee this looks like a crowded backfield in a pass-oriented offense. The addition of Wes Welker suggests they are planning to go with 3 WR as their base formation and that may make Ronnie Hillman a better fit at times. I’m just not sure there will be enough touches this year for Ball to reach this level and I’d rather pass on him at his current ADP.

Matt Waldman: There’s a big media-analyst push in some corners to say Ball is going to earn the starting job sooner than later. I’m not sold, because I think Ronnie Hillman is a better overall talent. I’m also not sold because I think this could be a committee situation in Denver. Further, I would rather take the likes of Vereen, Eddie Lacy, and Deangelo Williams than Ball, who is leaving boards earlier than this trio I just mentioned.

Players with 3 Votes

Steven Jackson, Atl

Mike Brown: Every year, I talk myself into THIS being the year that Jackson puts it all together and busts out for 1,500 yards and ten touchdowns. But it never happens. And this year, a lot of people are blaming it on him being a Ram. Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but elite talents have posted huge seasons despite playing for bad teams in the past (See Barry Sanders, LaDainian Tomlinson, etc). Now granted, there's nothing wrong with not being as good as those guys...but it just goes to show that he is not a transcendent talent. And now he's going to a team that, while better overall, has a very poor offensive line. I'm not seeing the improvements in stats that will be needed to move Jackson from the level he's been at, to a higher tier...not at this age.

David Dodds: Jackson has not topped 6 combined TDs in any of his last 4 seasons. He likely is an improvement over a broken down and overweight Michael Turner, but who isn't. The Falcons have a suspect OL and a very good receiving back in Jacquizz Rodgers. I don't see a big enough role for this 30 year old back to justify his lofty ADP.

Andy Hicks: Jackson arriving in Atlanta looks like a dream matchup. Unfortunately Jackson has a lot of wear and tear in his 9 years with the Rams. 30 year old running backs moving to new teams have an appalling record, especially when they have had 2397 or more career carries before they move. Now if Michael Turner can rank 18th when he was clearly finished, then surely Jackson should do better? I wouldn’t count on it.

Ryan Mathews, SD

Sigmund Bloom: Mathews is talented, but he also can’t stay healthy, is sharing with Danny Woodhead, is on a team with one of the worst offensive lines in the league, and playing for a regime that has no previous investment in him. A top beat writer that has covered Mathews for his whole career insinuated that Mathews has been partying too much anyway after a false rumor of his involvement in a barfight circulated this summer. He’s not worth a fifth, or even a sixth round pick.

Ryan Hester: Mathews continues to disappoint in San Diego. With offseason reports questioning his work ethic and a new head coach who has been an advocate of using a committee of running backs, Mathews’ prospects continue to look more and more bleak. Danny Woodhead is generating a lot of buzz, and rightfully so. Woodhead should play nearly all passing downs – a situation with which this mediocre team will likely become familiar.

Jason Wood: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Ryan Mathews has had EVERY opportunity be an every down, focal point for the Chargers and yet has failed to live up to his billing in three seasons. If a runner can’t thrive under Norv Turner, why would we think he’ll success under another coach? Mathews is soft and regressed last year in every category. I need to see him actually produce for a full year before I’ll bet my fantasy season on him.

Rashard Mendenhall, Ari

Ryan Hester: Although the buzz on Mendenhall seems to be cooling, I still don’t see him being a fantasy asset this season. Head Coach Bruce Arians is familiar with Mendenhall from their days in Pittsburgh, but Arians’ offense has always been predicated upon a vertical passing game. His offense also yields very few receptions for its running backs. Arians’ schemes also led to Pittsburgh’s offensive line being mediocre at best throughout his time there. Arizona’s line can most generously be described as “under construction.” It’s certainly not an asset for the team. Mendenhall isn’t the kind of back who can excel behind a less-than-average offensive line.

Aaron Rudnicki: The Cardinals haven’t really been able to solve their running game problems in recent years and I have serious doubts that Mendenhall is the solution. He fell out of favor pretty quickly in Pittsburgh and has some strong competition in Phoenix that could eat into his touches if he doesn’t get off to a great start.

Kyle Wachtel: Quite frankly, Mendenhall was entirely unimpressive last season after rehabbing from a torn ACL. He rushed for a paltry 3.56 YPC and will now attempt to run behind a very poor offensive line. He has already experience knee tendonitis in his surgically-repaired knee and may very well be the third or fourth most talented back on the Cardinals roster.

DeMarco Murray, Dal

Will Grant: As much as it pains me to put a Cowboy on the overvalued list, I think DeMarco Murray almost defines the distinction. Murray has only one game with more than 100 yards rushing since week 10 of his rookie season. Furthermore, last year he only played in 10 games last season, and only reached the end-zone one time before week 13. He’s a giant risk both from an injury and a performance prospective, even though he most certainly will score well when he’s in the game. It’s just very hard to spend a 3rd round pick on a guy that you know is going to miss several games this season.

Ryan Hester: He’s only two seasons into his career, but Murray needs to play a full season before I invest a top-30 pick in him. He’s also part of an offense that makes its big plays in the passing game when it’s clicking. This offense is Tony Romo’s and Dez Bryant’s. Murray is very talented, but he’s not the go-to guy. I’d rather roll the dice with a wide receiver at this draft position (such as Larry Fitzgerald or Roddy White) and then grab a running back like LeVeon Bell or Lamar Miller a round later.

Jeff Pasquino: The Dallas Cowboys want to become a Super Bowl contender, and a featured tailback would be a huge boost to that effort. DeMarco Murray has proven to be an effective tailback when healthy. Dallas has struggled on the offensive line and protecting both Murray and QB Tony Romo, leading to Murray missing nine games over the past two seasons. I like Murray much more as a RB2 with upside than as a fantasy RB1 this year, and his long term prospects are not that stable - nor do I expect him to have a very long and productive career. Murray’s current draft position as a RB2 leaves very little room for upside and lots for downside – not exactly a recipe for a value fantasy draft pick.

C.J. Spiller, Buf

Heath Cummings: I know this won't be popular, but there's no way I'd take Spiller in the first round of any draft this season. The Bills offense scares me to death with no proven quarterback and an unproven scheme. Spiller is talented enough to excel regardless of the plan, but he'll definitely have some stinkers this season. I'm also not completely ready to bury Fred Jackson yet. The team has kept him around, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if he still cuts into Spiller's production.

Will Grant: I’m sure I’m in the minority with this pick, but I think Spiller is a guy that could disappoint people this season. I have absolutely zero confidence in Kevin Kolb as an NFL quarterback and I think E.J. Manuel is not going to progress enough to keep the Buffalo Offense moving like it was last season. Add in the flood of rookie wide receivers and I see Spiller facing a lot of staked boxes and many short, slant passes trying to move the offense. Maybe some of that still comes Spiller’s way but I think there are a lot of safer options in the back half of the first round.

Steve Holloway: Buffalo is an offense in transition, with a new quarterback (either Manuel or Kolb) replacing Fitzgerald and a couple of rookie wide receivers added to the mix. Spiller should lead the offense, but the loss of Andy Levitre in free agency should have a negative impact on the running game in 2013. Spiller could also share some carries with Fred Jackson. Spiller’s yard per carry should fall well below the 6.0 he posted last year. Although he will remain fairly productive, he will not produce to expectations as the Buffalo running game slows considerably.

Players with 2 Votes

Bryce Brown, Phi

Kyle Wachtel: The Eagles will run the football a lot this season, which makes their #2 RB an intriguing option. However, with a brand new coach, it’s a new ballgame and Brown must earn his playing time. There is news bubbling from the Eagles’ training camp that Chris Polk is pushing Brown for his role and I won’t be spending a top-100 draft pick on a running back who may not even be the backup.

Jason Wood: Fantasy owners overpay for backup RBs year in, year out and Brown appears to be one of the clear backups that’s being over drafted. One, he’s not ACTUALLY the clear backup. Chris Polk has outplayed him throughout the preseason and during training camp. Two, Brown has fumbling issues. Three, Chip Kelly is not Andy Reid – he’s looking for different things and won’t give Brown an incumbent’s benefit of the doubt. If McCoy gets hurt, you can’t be sure Brown won’t be in a committee situation or even sitting behind a resurgent Polk. In no way do I spend an 8th round pick on a guy like that.

Matt Forte, Chi

Cian Fahey: Forte took a beating early on in his career and there have been times during the past two seasons when it looked like that beating was taking an effect on his explosion. While Marc Trestman's emphasis on the quarterback position may make Forte an even better receiving threat, his limitations as a runner should keep him out of the ranks of the best running backs in the league. Furthermore, Cutler has never shied away from focusing on his better targets and with the arrival of Martellus Bennett and the expected improvement of Alshon Jeffery, Forte could fall too far down the pecking order for his volatile quarterback.

Mark Wimer: Matt Forte is being drafted as the 10th-best fantasy back despite the fact that Michael Bush handled half of the team's rushing TDs last year (five for Forte, five for Bush) and that Forte was outscored six rushing TDs to three by Marion Barber two years ago. Forte doesn't get enough TDs to be among the top-12 fantasy running backs, and he won't this year, either.

Mikel Leshoure, Det

Heath Cummings: A large majority of Leshoure's fantasy value last season was derived from his success in the red zone. In 2013 it looks like that may be all of his value. Reggie Bush will receive the lion's share of the carries, and Joique Bell is far from out of the equation. I have a hard time seeing Leshoure top 100 carries, and I'm not going to draft anyone that's essentially a short yardage back on a pass happy team as a RB3.

David Dodds: He looks to be behind the more talented Joique Bell on the RB depth chart to back up Reggie Bush. With Detroit logging under 350 attempts for running backs in each of the last three seasons, I find little to get excited about in Leshoure.

Darren McFadden, Oak

Mark Wimer: Darren McFadden can flash gaudy statistics, but the ever-transitioning Raiders' offense seems to always be on the way to respectability, but they never arrive. This year, they let Carson Palmer go and will conduct a training camp battle between Matt Flynn and Tyler Wilson at quarterback. There simply isn't enough stability on this offense for me to trust any of the players as fantasy starters, and that goes for McFadden, too (in addition, he has trouble staying healthy).

Jason Wood: For only the second time in five years, Darren McFadden managed to eclipse the 115 carry mark – but that’s about the only good thing that can be said about his 2012 season. McFadden managed 216 carries yet missed another four games, averaged just 3.3 yards per rush, averaged just 6.1 yards per reception, and scored a whopping 3 touchdowns. Why fantasy owners can’t quit this guy is beyond me, but I’ll keep avoiding him and smiling as someone else deludes themself into thinking “this is the year.”

Trent Richardson, Cle

Andy Hicks: Richardson is going to need a lot of the ball to produce the fantasy stats required of his ADP. His yards per carry of 3.56 was disappointing and unless Cleveland get him some help, the Browns offense will be far too easy to defend, limiting Richardson’s upside. Brandon Weeden doesn’t appeal as the man to help and injury worries wellinto preseason are not helping confidence in Richardson.

Jeff Pasquino: I get that Trent Richardson is a great running back, but I just cannot get past the idea of tying my first pick to a Cleveland Brown. I know that sounds harsh, but if I am going to take a running back in Round 1, he better have a good shot at double-digit touchdowns, and I just do not see that coming from Richardson this season with Cleveland still learning how to put their young offense together. Long term in Keeper and Dynasty leagues, I can see it better - but running backs don't last forever. Even the Cleveland management has recently voiced concerns over his health and they have been adding more backup running backs just in case he gets hurt again.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Atl

Cian Fahey: Steven Jackson talked a lot about finding a home that would be willing to put a massive workload on his back this off-season. In Atlanta, he appeared to find that home. An understated aspect of Jackson's ability is his all-around ability. He can catch passes out of the backfield and protect Matt Ryan in the pocket. In other words, he makes Jacquizz Rodgers redundant.

Chad Parsons: Drafting Rodgers is a throwaway selection in my opinion. Late in a draft is for upside plays that will flash early in the season when rosters are in constant motion snagging unexpected performers from the waiver wire. Steven Jackson is the clear lead back in Atlanta and Rodgers will be nothing more than backup seeing time when Jackson needs a breather. There are plenty of other backup running backs with more upside with or without an injury in front of them on the depth chart.

Darren Sproles, NO

Adam Harstad: History has not been kind to receiving backs once they hit age 30. In fact, they age about as poorly as their run-heavy counterparts. Darren Sproles has averaged fewer than 150 touches per season over the last two years, and at his age, this ADP represents far too much downside and far too little upside for my tastes.

Steve Holloway: Sproles turned 30 this summer and could soon be losing a little of his best feature, his explosiveness. The Saints will try to establish the run better in 2013 and Sproles is generally not featured much in the running game, averaging only 67 carries per season since joining the Saints two years ago. Sproles will continue to be used in the passing game, but possibly less than the two previous seasons, when he caught 161 passes.

Jonathan Stewart, Car

Sigmund Bloom: Our Dr. Jene Bramel let our audience know back in mid-July that something didn’t add up in the reporting about Stewart’s ankle surgeries and recovery. The reality is that no one knows when he’ll back on the field. With the depth at wide receiver and upside plays at running back available in the ninth round, you won’t want to be spending your pick there on such a shaky commodity.

Mike Brown: Stewart is being selected just after DeAngelo Williams, and still being taken as if he will be a viable part of people's fantasy plans this season. He won't be. Even when healthy, Stewart has proven to be little more than a guy you plug in on bye weeks and hope for the best. He has never truly taken that leap forward to fantasy stardom, and now he's entering the season more banged-up than ever before. I'll pass.

Players with 1 Vote

Ahmad Bradshaw, Ind

James Brimacombe: Bradshaw looks very good on paper and it seems as if he is an instant plug and play RB that the Colts lacked in 2012, but it seems as if he is only getting drafted as high as he is because of his name sake. He has been a frustrating player to own over the past couple of seasons and when you draft him you are taking on a huge risk week to week. I feel there are better options around Bradshaw’s ADP and even taking a stab at teammate Vick Ballard a round or two later could be more beneficial than playing the waiting game on Bradshaw each week. The one nice thing about Bradshaw is that he will push and compete with Ballard and will create a true competition at the RB position in Indy.

Andre Brown, NYG

James Brimacombe: Although not the same type of player, Andre Brown reminds me of two years ago when everyone was on the Felix Jones bandwagon. The theory of Brown getting all the goal line touches is nice, but that is also a big ‘if’ and comes with no guarantees.

Reggie Bush, Det

Matt Waldman: I love Bush’s potential as an individual player, but if there were a fourth player I’d recommend as an underrated player it would be his teammate Joique Bell. The third-year Lions runner is tough, versatile, and capable of earning a big enough split in the offense to put a ceiling on Bush’s touches. Right now some of my colleagues have Bush at 18-19 touches per game, but even in Jahvid Best’s “best” year, he only earned 14-15. I have Bush at 14 touches per game in my projections and it caps his upside. It makes him a good flex play, but at his current ADP I think he’s slightly overrated. Considering that my peers often find him underrated and capable of top-12 production this is a big swing the opposite direction because the ADP might be closer to my thoughts, but folks reaching a little to get him will be increasing that likelihood of overrated him.

Arian Foster, Hou

Adam Harstad: Over the last three years, Arian Foster's yards from scrimmage have fallen from 2220 to 1841 to 1641. His yards per carry have fallen from 4.9 to 4.4 to 4.1. His receiving yards plummeted from 600+ a year to just 217, and his yards per reception fell from 11.6 to 5.4. Foster has held his value because he is the biggest TD producer around, but touchdowns are notoriously fickle, and Foster is too risky for me to consider with a top-5 pick.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cin

Chad Parsons: Green-Ellis was already an uninspiring RB2 option. Now, Giovani Bernard was drafted to siphon away at a minimum quite a bit of passing down work and change-of-pace snaps. In addition, the moves of the Cincinnati franchise lay the groundwork for a more pass-happy attack, something that does not mesh well with the plodding style of Green-Ellis. Drafting Green-Ellis in the middle rounds is giving up an opportunity at a player with far more upside in hopes that he merely paces some of the other teams in the league as a second running back.

Chris Johnson, Ten

Mark Wimer: Chris Johnson is currently the 13th fantasy running back coming off the board, and that is too early, friends. Shonn Greene was brought in to be the 'Thunder' to Johnson's 'Lightning', and that means Johnson will get less goal line opportunities. The Titans averaged an anemic 105.4 rushing yards per game last year - there isn't a lot of room for workload sharing here, but that's the direction the Titans are heading. Johnson will disappoint fantasy owners expecting RB #1 numbers from him this year.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac

Mike Brown: I know that the rehab has gone well, and I know that he's being cleared to do more and more and hitting all of his milestones. And I know that he has made a career out of proving people wrong. But there is so much to dislike about Jones-Drew and his situation this year that I can't understand how someone can spend such a high pick on the assumption that none of it will come into play. This is a serious injury he is returning from, with a bad team around him, and very little chance for it to be any good. And that's just the start of it. Give me a guy with a higher floor or another position altogether.

Eddie Lacy, GB

Aaron Rudnicki: Something just doesn’t seem right with Lacy to me as he was expected to be the clear #1 RB in this year’s draft class but not many teams seemed to think he was worth a high pick. I’m sure he has the ability to be a top-30 RB in the NFL but I’m less enamored with his situation right now. The Packers generally go as far as Aaron Rodgers will take them with both his arm and legs so that could leave very few touches for a between-the-tackles, ball control type of RB like Lacy. Throw in competition from rookie Jonathan Franklin and DuJuan Harris and I’m expecting to see a committee approach used in Green Bay this year.

LeSean McCoy, Phi

Jeff Haseley: Last year LeSean McCoy suffered two fairly serious concussions, which raises a yellow flag regarding his outlook in 2013. If he suffers another concussion, it could mean he is forced to miss multiple games, thus giving Bryce Brown and/or Chris Polk more opportunities. I'll let someone else take a gamble on that chance.

Lamar Miller, Mia

Andy Hicks: Miller is the favourite to win the starting job in Miami, but it’s hardly a foregone conclusion. 51 carries for the former 4th round pick in his debut season is hardly the resume of a certainty for the job. This situation smells like a committee, where you are not going to see any standout and instead Miller, Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee and whoever else the Dolphins can cough up will rotate until the Dolphins can find a back that can outshine his competition. That is unlikely to happen in 2013.

Ray Rice, Bal

Jeff Pasquino: I used to be a little higher on Ray Rice, but now I am a little hesitant to earmark him for another Top 3-5 fantasy RB season. Part of that reasoning is the threat of lost touches, not to Willis McGahee from when Rice first entered the league, but now due to a younger RB2 on the Ravens in Bernard Pierce. Baltimore will need Rice more in the passing game with the loss of Anquan Boldin, but Pierce threatens to see more and more of the field to keep Rice fresh and healthy for the postseason - which is great for Baltimore's playoff hopes but not such great news for Ray Rice owners in fantasy.

Daryl Richardson, StL

Steve Holloway: The Rams have acquired a lot of speed with their wide receivers and will undoubtedly throw more often to utilize that speed. Couple that offensive play calling with expectations that the running game will likely be shared by three players (Richardson, Pead, and Stacy), there will be too few opportunities for any of the running backs to consistently be productive.

Zac Stacy, StL

David Dodds: The talented rookie is log-jammed at the moment behind Richardson and Pead. I don't believe he is going to get enough rushing attempts this season to justify drafting him at any price.

Ben Tate, Hou

James Brimacombe: His number in 2011 were outstanding (for a backup), but 2012 he came back to earth with an injury driven season. A lot of better RB fliers to be had around the same ADP. If you want to count on an Arian Foster injury, then maybe Tate is worth the draft pick.