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Overvalued Players: Running Backs

Footballguys staff members examine the running back position for overvalued players

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 under perform their draft position.

Player with 4 Votes

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals

Andrew Garda: Green-Ellis has never been a special back who you build an offense around-something which it seems the Bengals felt too since they picked Giovani Bernard early in the 2013 NFL draft. Bernard is a much more versatile threat with big play ability who will have stolen a lot of Green-Ellis' carries by mid-season.

Will Grant: Last Season, Green-Ellis had a nice season in his first turn as Cincinnati's lead back. However, by the end of the season, Cedric Peerman, Brian Leonard and Bernard Scott were all sharing carries. In the draft, the Bengals drafted Giovani Bernard in the second round. Bernard will push for carries early and Green-Ellis will certainly be buried in a running back by committee for most of the season. Spending a 6th round pick on him is a big risk.

Adam Harstad: Green-Ellis was RB19 last year because he got more than seven times as many carries as Cincinnati's #2 running back. With the addition of Giovani Bernard in the second round, there's no way Green-Ellis repeats that workload in 2013.

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.

Players with 3 Votes

Andre Brown, Giants

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.

Will Grant: Andrew Brown defines journeyman, having played with five different NFL teams during his short career. His 450 yards and 8 TDS as Ahmed Bradshaw's backup were career bests for Brown. Yet second year guy David Wilson will be the #1 back by the time the season starts and Brown will be just a backup again. Brown may be the proper handcuff to Wilson, but spending a 7th round pick on him if you don't have Wilson could be a big waste of a pick.

Jason Wood: I think fantasy owners are too enamored with Andre Brown's feel good 2012 season. Sure, he fought back from injuries and dancing around four different teams to find a role as an emergency starter for the Giants, but suddenly expecting him to be in a full committee role this year is lost on me. Brown will be David Wilson's backup, pure and simple. As long as Wilson doesn't keep fumbling, Brown will see 80-100 carries and be a fantasy non-factor for most of the season.

Ryan Mathews, Chargers

Sigmund Bloom: How many more disappointing seasons do we need to see from Mathews before we give up on him? Mark Ingram has created more positive buzz than Mathews this offseason after a similarly depressing start to his career (in fantasy terms at least), and he is available more than 30 picks after Mathews. Mathews commented that he needs take fewer hits and fight for more yards less often to avoid injures, which is not the mindset you want out of a running back that you are taking in the fourth or fifth round. His ADP hasn't dropped nearly enough to justify betting on the trend of his career reversing on a team with probably the worst offensive line in the league.

Andrew Garda: Mathews has shown flashes of what made him a high pick for the Chargers, but injuries and poor pass protection skills have limited his impact and will do so again. Even when healthy in 2012, Mathews didn't play as well as he had before, with his yards per carry diving a full yard.

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.

Darren McFadden, Raiders

James Brimacombe: I get it, that McFadden has all the talent in the world and has showed glimpses of elite fantasy production. It is just too hard to trust him and drafting him in the first three rounds has been a recipe for disaster over the past few seasons.

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.”

Alfred Morris, Redskins

Jeff Haseley: Alfred Morris is not sneaking up on anyone this year like he did as a rookie in 2012. That's not to say he isn't capable of putting up solid yards, but now he's expected to do it based on the spot where he's being drafted. I would feel more confident about Morris as a perennial fantasy threat if he caught more passes. If the touchdown numbers decrease, so will his production. He doesn't have reception totals to propel him back into a RB1 fantasy role.

Jeff Tefertiller: Alfred Morris is coming off an impressive rookie campaign. But, with an ADP of the 13th overall pick, it is too risky to depend on him duplicating the feat. Morris is a solid fantasy option, just not worth the price to be a RB1 over Jones-Drew, Jackson, etc.

Matt Waldman: This take is due to lingering distrust of Mike Shanahan has a tinkerer. I can see him trying to add a speedy back like Chris Thompson to the mix and it hurting Morris' upside. I'm also leery of Robert Griffin's injury and how it may impact the running game. Will Griffin be ready like Adrian Peterson? I hear this a lot, but all joking aside about Purple Santa Claus I still have to be skeptical another year about the Beltway Easter Bunny until I see it. As it stands, I think defenses will, too and it means focusing more on the running back.

DeMarco Murray, Cowboys

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 or two later.

Stephen Holloway: The Cowboys seem content to focus their offensive attack on the passing game, depending primarily on Tony Romo and their talented receivers. That approach combined with Murray's inability to stay on the field, as well as the fact that the team added Joseph Randle, who has many of the same strengths as Murray leaves me ranking Murray consistently lower than most others.

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.

Players with 2 Votes

Matt Forte, Bears

Mark Wimer: Matt Forte is being drafted as the 11th-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.

Stephen Holloway: BenJarvus Green-Ellis has a career average 4.0 ypc, but has seen that slide to 3.8 ypc for his two seasons in Cincinnati. For his career, he has only caught 48 passes in his five years in the NFL. He finished as the 19th running back (non-ppr) last season, but needed 278 carries (77%) to meet that mark. This year the Bengals added rookie Giovani Bernard who should get well over a third, if not more of the carries and most of the targets out of the backfield, which will severely limit Green-Ellis's chances to finish anywhere near last year's rank.

Arian Foster, Texans

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 the #2 overall pick.

Jeff Haseley: Two big factors have me concerned about Arian Foster being a Top 3 running back this year. The wear and tear that he has endured over the last few years is starting to catch up to him, plus his compatriot Ben Tate is entering a contract year. You can bet he'll be on top of his game, doing what is necessary to garner more snaps. Houston knows they can't ride Foster as much as they have in the past. As a result, I don't think we'll see him have many high carry games as he likely will share duties with Tate.

Chris Johnson, Titans

Jeff Tefertiller: Chris Johnson has not been a consistent fantasy starter for a while. With an ADP of RB12, and the 19th overall pick, there is simply too much risk for the expected outcome. There are too many better – and cheaper – options.

Mark Wimer: Chris Johnson is currently the 12th 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.

Mikel Leshoure, Lions

Sigmund Bloom: Taking a goal line back in the seventh round is a bad idea, and that might be all Leshoure is this year. He is already banged up with a hamstring that is keeping him out of OTAs. Leshoure was decisively outperformed by Joique Bell last year, and any strides he makes another year removed from his achilles tear could be offset by Bell's development. It would probably take both Bell and Reggie Bush being out for Leshoure to be startable, and that is too tenuous of a path to value for a mid-round pick that should either have high upside or a high floor.

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.

Trent Richardson, Browns

Andy Hicks: Trent 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 already ahead of camp 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.

Players with 1 Vote

Fred Jackson, Bills

Stephen Holloway: Fred Jackson enters this season at the age of 32. He is coming off back to back years where he managed to only play 10 games each and had a career low of 3.8 ypc last season. On top of all that, the Bills offensive line play is expected to be worse than last year and they will be starting a new quarterback, possibly a rookie. I expect Jackson to have limited opportunities and decreased production per touch in 2012, likely his last year in the NFL.

Steven Jackson, Falcons

Andy Hicks: Steven 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.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars

Ryan Hester: Last year brought a nasty contract dispute and an injury that kept him out of the team's final 10 games. This year, the contract situation is still unsettled; Jones-Drew showed up to OTA's out of shape (not shocking due to his recent surgery and ongoing rehab); and he was arrested in May for his involvement in a bar fight. On the field, Jones-Drew's offensive unit is wholly uninspiring. While that hasn't stopped him from having great seasons before, it's still not an attractive situation for fantasy owners. I'd take my chances with Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles, or Stevan Ridley – all of whom are going later in drafts.

Eddie Lacy, Packers

Andrew Garda: Eddie Lacy can be a tremendous back in this league but is stuck in what appears to be a full on RBBC and had some conditioning concerns as well. Taking Jonathan Franklin a few rounds later isn't exactly a full on vote of confidence and DuJuan Harris is also still in Green Bay. This might be an effective run game, but everyone is likely to cancel each other's value out.

Rashard Mendenhall, Cardinals

Sigmund Bloom: Even if you pencil Mendenhall in as the starter because he is reunited with old offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, why would you want to spend a seventh round pick on a back who could be in a committee on one of the worst running teams in the league? Six games against Seattle, San Francisco, and St. Louis don't help matters for Mendenhall. It's hard to see the upside of Mendenhall over backs like Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, and Giovani Bernard.

Lamar Miller, Dolphins

Andy Hicks: Lamar 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, Ravens

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, Rams

Matt Waldman: Zac Stacy is the best running back talent on the roster and I won't be surprised if he wins the job outright. I also wouldn't be surprised if a more prepared Isaiah Pead also passes Richardson on the depth chart. Richardson is a high-effort guy with straight-line speed, but lacks the nuance of a starter that Stacy has and Pead has the talent to acquire.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons

Chad Parsons: Drafting Rodgers as a RB4 is a throwaway selection. That area of the 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.

C.J. Spiller, Bills

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.

Darren Sproles, Saints

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.

Jonathan Stewart, Panthers

Will Grant: The Carolina running game is a giant question mark, and between Jonathan Stewart, DeAngello Williams, Mike Tolber and even quarterback Cam Newton, everyone will cut into everyone else's time. If Stewart would be named the main back, or a crystal ball could tell you he'll have the bulk of the carries, he might be worth a 6th round pick. However, since there's no guarantee at this point, you'd be smarter to look at someone else at that point.

Ben Tate, Texans

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.