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 Receiving 6 Votes

Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers

Alexander: Hyde should see enough volume to post cumulative RB2 totals by the end of the season, but he’ll be tough to rely on from week-to-week. The 49ers’ offensive line is in shambles, their coaching staff is a question mark, and their defense has suffered significant losses from last season. San Francisco might be awful this year, making it tough to envision Hyde pounding the ball late in games to preserve leads, or enjoying lots of scoring opportunities. Reggie Bush was brought in as the passing down back, so Hyde won’t be padding his numbers as a receiver. And it’s also concerning several metrics (yards per attempt, stuff rate, breakaway percentage to name a few) suggest 32 year old Frank Gore was a superior back to the 23 year old Hyde last season. If you want Hyde’s production, wait four rounds and draft Chris Ivory instead.

Gray: The 49ers are going to be awful. While awful teams sometimes produce good fantasy options, betting on that to happen is a losing proposition. Hyde is going around other backs such as Joseph Randle and Andre Ellington, who are each in far better situations.

Haseley: San Francisco may struggle to win five games this year with so much turnover on offense and defense. Their offensive line was stripped by other teams in the offseason which is going to make matters worse for Carlos Hyde. If San Francisco has a difficult time keeping pace, expect them to pass the ball more often, especially in the second halves of games, which will limit Hyde's carries. Let someone else deal with that headache. You don't want to have a starting running back on a team that can't score. I'm afraid that's what's in store for the 49ers this year.

Hester: Hyde projects to be the starting running back in San Francisco this season, which is obviously a plus for his fantasy outlook. However, San Francisco’s outlook appears bleak this season. Colin Kaepernick hasn’t proven to be an effective enough passer to sustain drives, and the defense lost a lot of talent as well. Hyde’s skill set suggests that his best fantasy environment would be on a team that possessed the ball a lot and was ahead in games so that Hyde could be used to run out clock. He isn’t an incredibly dynamic player, and he struggles to get more than what is blocked for him. There will be many game scripts that favor the usage of newly-acquired Reggie Bush over Hyde as the team plays “comeback mode.”

Holloway: Carlos Hyde had limited success as a rookie, but expectations are high for him with Frank Gore moving to Indianapolis. The 49ers defense has been decimated by players retiring and they also lost a key offensive lineman in free agency. They have been shifting their offensive focus to the passing game and they should be forced to continue that focus this year because they likely will be behind on the scoreboard more often and need to move the ball quicker to keep up. They also drafted Mike Davis in the 4th round and he should have an opportunity to play in his rookie season.

Pasquino: San Francisco is working on who they will use to replace Frank Gore, and Hyde is just one of a few candidates to take over that role. Reggie Bush is pushing hard for touches and carries, and Hyde has not yet stepped up to prove his worth as a feature tailback. Drafting him as a Top 20 tailback is far too expensive for me and I will be looking at other options for my RB2 – and even considering Reggie Bush as a value pick later in drafts.

Player Receiving 5 Votes

Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams

Brown: Gurley has a very promising career ahead of him, and there’s seemingly nothing he can’t do on the field. But let’s not forget, this is still a kid with zero NFL experience coming off a torn ACL. I know that Adrian Peterson has sort of raised the bar for ACL returns, but let’s keep in mind that he was the exception and not the rule. Gurley is being taken as RB17 despite coming off the serious injury as well as the fact that Tre Mason still remains. On top of that, there are some proven 1,000-yard rushers being taken right after him (Alfred Morris, Frank Gore) and others with just as much upside but with much less risk (Latavius Murray, Andre Ellington). It’s exciting to go get the next big thing, but it might be wise to wait until he actually shows something before expecting it.

Gray: People seem to fall all over themselves to get the next great rookie running back. While Gurley was electric in college, the NFL is a different game and he isn't fully healthy. Taking an injured player with no NFL track record around the 4th/5th turn, is insanely risky. If you want to take a shot on a back who won't be at 100% to start the season, take Arian Foster two rounds later.

Hicks: Todd Gurley tore his ACL in the middle of November and he is being drafted as if he will be a 100% to start this season. He is not Adrian Peterson, he is a rookie. The Rams have a perfectly fine back in Tre Mason to start until Gurley is fully fit. Not only will Gurley need to be fit, he will have the usual rookie issues of pass protection, speed of the game and much better defenses to contend with. Let someone else think he is going to be a fantasy starter this year and use your 4th rounder on someone who will contribute immediately.

Pasquino: Every fantasy season, rookie running backs get overdrafted in August and September in fantasy drafts across the country. Why? They are new, they are young, and they have name recognition from the NFL draft (and college). Plus, they also have a low barrier to entry – all they have to do is win the starting job, and they have a direct path towards fantasy production. That’s the working theory, at least. The reality often is in today’s NFL that rookie running backs get worked in slowly, usually as part of a committee, and maybe contribute more in the back half of their first year if they do not hit the rookie wall. Gurley faces that exact scenario in St. Louis with Tre Mason as the lead back for the Rams, and Gurley still has to recover from his injury that will likely keep him sidelined for weeks. I would love Gurley on my team, but not for a Top 20 running back pick.

Waldman: The Rams rookie is Eddie George with top-end speed. He's the best all-around skill prospect among the rookies. He's also still rehabbing and unlikely to play for at least the first three weeks. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't play for the first 4-6 weeks. The Rams said they were going to be cautious with Gurley and cited their depth at the position. No one wants to believe they're telling the truth.

Player Receiving 4 Votes

LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills

Brown: Nobody wants to admit it when an exciting player has lost a step. As a Charger fan, LaDainian Tomlinson was given every benefit of the doubt when he began to lose it. He was injured. The offensive line was bad. But there has to be some explanation as to why McCoy’s YPC dropped by nearly a full yard, his touchdowns were halved, his receptions were nearly halved, and a guy who challenged for MVP a year ago was traded to Buffalo. With the Bills, there is some very shaky quarterback play, which means teams will be keying on the run game. And finally, six of his games are going to come against the Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots – no slouches in stuffing the run. McCoy will have a tough time living up to RB7 status.

Haseley: LeSean McCoy will be hard-pressed to reach 40 receptions this year and it could possibly be less. New Bills Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman took over the coordinator duties for the 49ers in 2011, which was the same year Frank Gore went from a 40-50 reception running back to a 15-25 reception back. Gore averaged 51 receptions per year from 2006 - 2011 and 18 per year from 2012 - present, when Roman was the team's OC. McCoy will still have plenty of carries, but the running back screens and flat routes will be greatly reduced. I have a hard time keeping McCoy in my Top 10. I see more of a Top 15-20 finish at best.

Hester: McCoy has been one the elite running backs in football for the past five years, but 2014 was far from his best work. On just two fewer attempts than his 2013 total, McCoy had nearly 300 fewer rushing yards. In 2015, McCoy will join a new team in Buffalo whose current quarterback battle consists of Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor, and EJ Manuel. Regardless of who wins that “battle,” Buffalo’s offense projects to be one of the league’s least potent. This will lead to fewer chances for McCoy, who also had just five touchdowns last season. There are too many players on better offenses who will offer better and more consistent production at the position in drafts where McCoy is going right now.

Pasquino: Everyone is going to be all over LeSean McCoy this year, and I totally understand that rationale. Rex Ryan traded for him, and Ryan wants to run the ball all day and all night in Buffalo. That screams “McCoy is a value” at first glance – but is anyone asking why the Eagles let him go? Sure, McCoy and Chip Kelly did not get along, but Kelly loves talent and can tolerate some friction if the player has enough to offer on game day. McCoy is 27 years old but has over 1,700 touches already in his career and may start to lose a step (if he has not already). Having watched many of his games throughout his NFL career, I do not see the top end speed that he once had, and for him to be selected as a Top 10 running back in drafts leaves virtually no room for upside but a lot for downside. Buffalo is a risky team that could be facing a lot of “eight in the box, stuff the run” defenses this year. I will likely be passing on McCoy in drafts this season.

Player Receiving 3 Votes

Melvin Gordon III, San Diego Chargers

Parsons: I question Gordon as a pass catcher (especially with Danny Woodhead and Brandon Oliver in the mix) and as a goal line runner in the NFL. Gordon also is not the Jamaal Charles-like athlete many were holding onto early in the NFL Draft process. As a fringe RB1 selection by ADP, Gordon would need to overcome both of those early-career road blocks to approach his rookie pricing.

Waldman: The recent report on Gordon where Philip Rivers discusses the running back's play matches what his college tape shows: Natural hands, but not proven with reading the defense as a receiver and still learning how to pass protect. Gordon is a two-down back right now. Most two-down backs don't earn RB1 production these days. Gordon will have moments that impress as a runner, but he's not ready for the feature role and his ranking is too high.

Wimer: Gordon had a fine collegiate career, but he hasn't proven anything at this level yet. I think he'll be a respectable fantasy running back #2 (I rank him 21st among all available running backs), but his current ADP of 15th running back selected is too rich for my taste. He's at 20th on my running back board.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons

Simpkins: Many are drafting Coleman with the idea that he will be a feature back in the Kyle Shanahan system. What they do not realize is that the best case scenario is that Coleman is the 1A in a full-fledged RBBC with Devonta Freeman. Both Freeman and Coleman are dealing with hamstring issues in camp, which is taking valuable learning time and reps away from Coleman. Owners would be better off taking Ameer Abdullah in that range, or wait and take a guy who has three down potential like Chris Ivory a couple of rounds later.

Waldman: The Falcons rookie will earn time and make big plays. He'll also have a lot of minimal gains, losses, and frustrating plays where he doesn't push a pile or avoid penetration. His running style has bio-mechanical flaws and it inhibits him from translating his natural strength and quickness to the football field in tight spaces. Get him in space and he wins big. Ask him to create space in tight areas and he struggles.

Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals

Brown: When a player publicly offers up sharing the rushing workload, you can be sure that the ”committee” thought process is already well underway with the coaching staff. Ellington was injured early on last year and is a bit undersized, so Arizona was likely going to find a complementary back anyway. But the fact that they added David Johnson in the third round suggests a higher priority on finding someone to work in tandem with Ellington. Johnson should at least be the short yardage runner, and could see a larger share of the workload if Ellington misses time with injury (he has missed five of the first 32 games of his career). Add in the fact that Ellington is coming off a season in which he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, and I think you can find a much safer pick right around the same spot in the draft.

Hicks: There is a big difference between being a contributor and a starting running back in the NFL. The perfect example is Andre Ellington. In his rookie year he had a yards per rush of 5.5. That plummeted to 3.3 as the starter. Even worse, in his final 4 games he had 52 carries for 101 yards before his body gave up. Backs with a 1.94 yards a carry record aren’t long for the NFL. The drafting of David Johnson allows the Cardinals to give Ellington the key duties of 3rd down and receiving back. This drop in workload will make for a more effective Ellington, but it will come at the cost of fantasy stats. Don’t be fooled into thinking he sees anywhere near 250 touches this year.

Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts

Hicks: Fantasy owners appear to have learnt nothing from the Steven Jackson move to Atlanta. Aging backs with lots of carries, moving teams, have very poor records in the NFL. Only 23 players have more carries than Frank Gore in the last 55 years. There are 15 instances of a player moving teams after the age of 30. Only 4 finished as an RB2 or better in the first year at a new club. There are only 2 cases of a 32 year old or older moving teams and finishing as an RB2 in their first year. Marcus Allen and Thomas Jones. Jones finished 24th. Of course Gore will be different say the defenders, but I feel that 2443 carries, on a new offense, is too much for a player you’ll need to draft in the first 3 rounds.

Holloway: Frank Gore signed a three-year contract with the Colts in March for $12 Million, with $7.5 Million guaranteed. Since he turns 32 this summer, the length and amount was a little surprising. Gore has been extremely productive running for over 1,100 yards in each of the previous four seasons and not missing a single game. However, since 2000 there have been only three running backs at age of 32 or greater that topped 1,000 rushing yards, with Ricky Williams being the last six years ago in 2009. Since Andrew Luck has been with the Colts, their rushing attack has been pathetic, with running back rushing attempts dropping each year to 337 last year and all three years averaging under 4.0 ypc.

Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys

Brimacombe: McFadden’s yards per carry of the last 3 years have been 3.3, 3.3, and 3.4. This all coming when he was the only guy in Oakland and he still couldn’t produce. Now he comes to the Cowboys who might just have one of the top Offensive Lines in all of football but after 7 season in Oakland where he only had one quality season it is going to be hard to trust him as even a bench spot type of player on your team. At this point it is easier to go all in on an upside guy like Joseph Randle and not worry about a handcuff in the Cowboys backfield.

Wood: Darren McFadden shouldn’t be drafted in 12-team (or smaller) leagues. The ONLY thing going for him is the Dallas Cowboys’ stellar offensive line. Unfortunately that’s being given far too much weight by fantasy owners. Did you realize that McFadden has less guaranteed money than Ryan Williams (who was already cut)? It’s no guarantee McFadden even makes the final 53-man roster. Joseph Randle is the starter, and Lance Dunbar is guaranteed a role in passing downs. People still view McFadden as an elite talent held back only by injury. Yet, he’s averaged 3.3, 3.3 and 3.4 yards per rush in his last three years! And we can’t blame that on the Raiders offensive line, because Latavius Murray, Rashad Jennings and Marcel Reece fared better. McFadden is a has-been (or a never was), let someone else chase his failed potential.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins

Brimacombe: Health issues are Ajayi’s big concern as he has had several knee issues and that has been the rumor why he slipped to the 5th round in the NFL Draft. It is hard to see the Dolphins pushing Ajayi too much this season with the history of knee problems and he could have been one of those guys that they drafted based on long term potential and have little expectations of him in year one. Better to let someone else draft Ajayi late in the draft, than to have him sitting on your bench all season long.

Joiqe Bell, Detroit Lions

Wood: Bell finished as a Top 20 back in PPR formats in each of the last two seasons, so I can see his current ADP (RB26) as being attractive to some. But let's call Bell "Pyrite" this year because he's fool's gold. He's got some ability, but he's dealing with lingering Achilles and knee injuries in camp. Meanwhile rookie Ameer Abdullah has answered every question. I see a non-zero chance for Bell to fall into fantasy obscurity this year and, even if he does stay on the field, I see him playing second fiddle to the more talented and more explosive Abdullah.

Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

Wimer: Confirmed on July 28, 2015 by commissioner Goodell, Bell will miss two (instead of three) games of the 2015 schedule (about 14% of a standard 14-game fantasy football regular season) - taking him with an early pick will also cost you another pick during the draft to acquire either DeAngelo Williams or another running back to cover that two-week gap. Also, Bell missed practice sessions in April due to his lingering (mysterious) knee injury that hampered him at the end of regular season. He's overvalued given what we know about his near-term future.

LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots

Simpkins: We know someone is going to have value as the lead back in the New England system. We just don’t know who that will be from week to week due to changes in gameplan. Blount will certainly have some big games, but he’ll also lay some eggs. That kind of weekly inconsistency will drive owners crazy. Also, Belichick tends to be a harsh taskmaster. As evidenced last year with Jonas Gray, a missed meeting can result in riding the pine for a while. Blount isn’t exactly Mr. Responsible, as we’ve seen throughout his tumultuous career. One wrong move and Blount could find himself on the outs with The Hoodie. Recently, he went down in practice with a leg injury that was later revealed to be an MCL sprain. It is estimated that Blount will be recovered in about a month. He was already slated to miss the season opener due to a violation of the NFL’s Conduct Policy. All the signs say it is best to avoid Blount this year at his current mid-round ADP.

Mark Ingram II, New Orleans Saints

Holloway: Mark Ingram II had an outstanding season a year ago for the Saints setting career highs for carries (226) rushing yards (964), receptions (29) receiving yards (145) and TDs (9). The Saints then awarded him with a four-year $16 Million contract and seem set to increase their focus on the running game. Yet, the Saints also signed C. J. Spiller and game him a similar contract, except with more guaranteed money. Spiller should be involved in the running game and be the primary receiver out of the backfield. The Saints also still have Khiry Robinson, who has been productive in limited touches.

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants

Simpkins: Jennings is a fine back in terms of skill, but he’s also a perpetual injury disappointment each and every year. He has had a whopping five seasons (three of them being in the last three years) where he has not played all sixteen games. It really isn’t a question of if, but when will he be hurt. If he was going in the double digit rounds, owners probably wouldn’t have a problem with taking him. Currently, they to take Jennings at about the end of round six or the beginning of round seven. That’s too hefty of a price to pay for someone who won’t be available for the whole season.

DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles

Haseley: I'm staying away from DeMarco Murray this year. His 450 touches in 2014 plus being on a different team is enough for me to exercise caution. He had 1,000 yards rushing before contact last year behind the Cowboys remarkable offensive line. Philadelphia has a decent line, but not as good as what he had in Dallas. Plus Darren Sproles will vulture his targets which lowers his value even more. Again, I'm likely staying clear of Murray unless he drops into the late second round, which I doubt happens

Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders

Wood: Fantasy owners LOVE to project the running back position, and no one evidences that more in 2015 drafts than Latavius Murray. The 3rd year runner is being drafted as an RB2 in spite of a frighteningly limited sample size. Yes, it’s true that Darren McFadden is now in Dallas. But who cares? McFadden wasn’t keeping Murray off the field last year; McFadden was ineffective for years in Oakland. Meanwhile why are we excited by Murray? He had one memorable game…in Week 11 he ran for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Chiefs. But that game was a fluke (112 yards on FOUR carries) and Murray was woeful in the final four games as the starter. In four games, Murray had 68 carries for 258 yards (3.8 yards per rush) and ZERO touchdowns. Unless you expect the Raiders to take a huge leap offensively, Murray simply isn’t worth the risk at his current ADP.

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Wimer: I'm concerned about Peterson's level of commitment to the Vikings after last year's switching/suspension incidents. He wasn't thrilled with the way the team handled the aftermath of the PR disaster that was Peterson's 2014 season, and reportedly isn't happy there. Peterson played through some very painful injuries earlier in his career, making him a fantasy favorite/star, but I don't know if he'll be willing to pay the price in pain this season if he is injured AND stuck in a place he doesn't want to be. Also, the team has been saying that they will limit Peterson's touches during 2015 in view of his advancing age. He is overvalued at third running back taken according to ADP.

T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars

Hester: Jacksonville drafted Yeldon in the second round and seems to have plans for him to be the workhorse. But I prefer running backs who play on teams that will be leading or close in most of their games and whose offenses can get them inside the red zone with regularity. Even if Yeldon is very efficient in the red zone, getting eight or more touchdowns seems unlikely in Jacksonville.