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.
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Player Receiving 10 Votes
Thomas Rawls, Seattle
Mike Brown: Rawls was everyone's favorite player late last season, but the injury he suffered is still having repercussions today. While we've been teased by Christine Michael's talents before, it appears that this time he means it. And that's bad news for Rawls, who may not quite measure up to Michael in terms of pure football talent. Throw in the injury and the high price tag for Rawls, and it's a guy I'm steering clear of entirely.
Ryan Hester: Rawls burst on to the scene last season in the wake of Marshawn Lynch’s injury. With Lynch’s retirement, it seemed as though Rawls would easily hold on to the team’s feature back job. But a late season ankle injury and the team drafting three other running backs made Rawls’ prospects look bleak. But it’s another back – Christine Michael – who looks to cut into Rawls’ workload. Michael, a player with incredible measureables and metrics, seems to have finally gotten his act together. He’s running hot in the preseason so far. Between Michael’s emergence and Rawls’ injury still potentially limiting him from being the 2015 version of himself, he’s not worth a pick at his current RB13 position.
Andy Hicks: Most will be all over Thomas Rawls as a borderline RB1 choice this year. I feel he will be overvalued for a number of reasons. First of all the Seahawks were more than comfortable passing the ball once Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls went down last year. A more balanced offense will result in fewer carries, especially with Rawls likely to have to share with Christine Michael and possibly 3 rookies as well. There is no guarantee that Rawls will be the number 1 back and even if he is there are many options to go to for a variety of situations. Rawls has been out the entire preseason with various ailments allowing Michael to run and impress with the ones. I'd rather take a shot in a much later round on Michael than a 3rd rounder on Rawls.
Stephen Holloway: Rawls, the undrafted free agent sensation for the Seahawks a year ago fractured his ankle in December and could be hindered in the early part of the season. Expectations are high for Russell Wilson to be unleashed in the passing attack this season, which should reduce the running back carries. The Seahawks drafted three running backs this year and odds are good that one or more could have opportunities in 2016, particularly if Rawls starts off slowly.
Devin Knotts: Thomas Rawls is currently being drafted as a top 15 running back and being drafted ahead of players such as Carlos Hyde, Demarco Murray, and Latavius Murray which is overvalued. While all signs point to Rawls recovering for the season from his broken ankle, he won’t play in the Preseason which is always a concern. The question isn’t whether or not he will be ready for Week 1, as most signs show that he will be active, but the question is whether or not he will see the workload that made him so valuable last year. The Seahawks drafted two running backs in Alex Collins and C.J. Prosise and have brought back Christine Michael so the Seahawks have tremendous depth. Rawls likely won’t be threatened for his starting position, but there could be more of a committee than you would like for a top 15 running back.
Chris Kuczynski: Earlier in the off season, I didn't have a lot of confidence in Rawls to be the every down back for the Seahawks, first and foremost because of his serious ankle injury at the end of last season, as well as his deceiving stats that were mostly accumulated in two games (while starting 7 games and gaining over 800 yards, 209 came in one game against the 49ers). My initial concern about competition in the Seattle backfield revolved around the RBs that were selected in the draft this year, namely 3rd round pick CJ Prosise. During preseason however, there are talks that Christine Michael will have a defined role in the offense that will cut into Rawl’s touches. All things considered and the fact that he is still recovering from injury, his ADP seems far too high for such an unknown commodity.
John Mamula: Thomas Rawls current ADP of 38 overall is too rich for my blood. Rawls has yet to practice after his offseason ankle surgery. Expect for the Seahawks to ease him into action as Rawls competes for touches in a RBBC with Christine Michael as well as rookie C.J. Prosise. If Rawls falls to the 5th round, he is worth the risk at that point. In the third round, no thank you.
Chad Parsons: Thomas Rawls at RB15 is a risky investment. Rawls rarely caught a pass last season, relying on high volume and touchdowns for his production. Christine Michael has glowing reports this offseason and few argue his physical talent. C.J. Prosise was drafted as a receiving threat (at least at first) with upside for a larger role. Paying high-RB2 prices for a two-down back returning from injury and not the most talented back on his depth chart is not an investment I can make with Rawls.
Jeff Pasquino: I do believe that Seattle wants to run the ball again this year, but the retirement of Marshawn Lynch does not mean that they will immediately go to a feature tailback plan this season. If you think Thomas Rawls will inherit Lynch’s touches, think again. There are many indications that Rawls is not as healthy as you might think, and even if he is, Seattle drafted two running backs in the draft this May. Rawls could easily face competition for the offensive workload and a timeshare or committee could be on the horizon. Couple that with Russell Wilson’s strong passing game in the second half of 2015 and I would steer clear of Rawls as a Top 15 back in your fantasy drafts this year.
Mark Wimer: I am waiting for clarity on Rawls' recovery from a gruesome ankle/leg injury that occurred near the end of last season. It appears he may have had a least one ankle surgery during the offseason, and the team is being reticent about discussing Rawls' progress. I am leary of investing a premium pick on a guy with this many question marks. Even though he has started practicing again, he has an insurgency from Christine Michael challenging Rawls for playing time, and Rawls has not shown us anything on the field as of late August. I'm passing on Rawls this year unless he comes at a great discount in any given draft.
Players Receiving 4 Votes
Matt Forte, NY Jets
Sigmund Bloom: Forte got nine million guaranteed dollars to Bilal Powell's six million, which doesn't scream "bell cow" and "backup". The play of the two down the stretch was at close to the same level - if Powell wasn't higher, and Powell has been a long-time favorite of the organization. Add in Forte's hamstring injury costing him a good part of the summer as a possible preview of his late career decline and there are too many things working in his direction to spend a premium third or fourth round pick on a back who could be in a committee - and was in a timeshare last year.
Mike Brown: Forte's inefficiencies of the last two seasons have been somewhat masked by the huge receiving totals he put up and the fact that he missed time in 2015 (giving him a benefit of the doubt). But he's 30 years old, going to a new offensive system, sharing the workload in both the running AND the passing game, and may give up goal line duties to Khiry Robinson. Not a lot to love here, as I see only downside.
Daniel Simpkins: Forte is inexplicably being drafted at the beginning of the fourth round, despite warning signs of decline. The 30-year-old back is currently dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. The Jets have also shown more willingness to add the younger Bilal Powell to the mix, meaning that Forte won’t see the volume that he once commanded in Chicago. Forte has historically been a poor option at the goal line. Powell managed to reach the end zone three times last year, in spite of ex-Jet Chris Ivory getting the bulk of those opportunities. Forte presents as one of the “steer clear” options in your fantasy draft.
Jeff Tefertiller: When surveying the top 15 fantasy RBs, one sticks out as severely overvalued. Matt Forte – at RB13 – is sandwiched between two potential fantasy RB1s, C.J. Anderson and Thomas Rawls. A 30-year old Forte switching teams has little chance to outplay his draft position. The Jets have struggled to run the ball the past couple of seasons and Forte is on the downside of his career. This is not a great mix for a player to exceed expectations. We much prefer Anderson or Rawls for similar cost.
Matt Jones, Washington
Sigmund Bloom: Taking a running back who will touches by default can work if the team's running game is strong and the back will get a lot of scoring opportunities. Washington has neither, as the running game has looked flat in the preseason and Kirk Cousins had more rushing touchdowns last year (5) than all Washington backs combined (4). Jones also suffered an AC sprain in his shoulder in the preseason. While he could be ready for the season opener against Pittsburgh, it's a bad sign for his durability as a feature back.
Stephen Holloway: Jones was drafted by Washington in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He played second fiddle a year ago to Alfred Morris, who signed with division rival Dallas in free agency. Many anticipate a potential three-down role for Jones, but his play last year does not inspire additional work this season. Jones quite simply underperformed averaging only 3.4 ypc, having some fumbling problems and not being used often as a receiver, having only 19 catches.
Devin Knotts: Matt Jones as the 23rd overall running back is the most overvalued player of any position, while this has become even more complicated due to a shoulder injury. While he is expected to be back for the regular season, you should avoid him at all costs this season. Last year in his rookie season he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and was largely given the job due to limited competition around him. He has never shown that he can handle a full workload, as the most carries he has had dating back to his high school career is 174 carries. Do not expect him to be able to handle a full NFL workload, as if he was able to he would have in either high school or in college. If he isn’t going to have a big workload and only average 3.4 yards per carry he should not be on your draft board let alone be drafted as a top 25 running back.
Jason Wood: Fantasy success comes down to ability and opportunity. It's clear Jones has the opportunity, but does he have the ability? With Alfred Morris moving on, and Washington only adding 7th round rookie Keith Marshall to the depth chart, fantasy owners are salivating at Jones' potential. Yet, I find it very hard to get excited about what I saw from the player based on last year's film. Jones "emerged" last year in Week Two against the Rams – 19 carries for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. That's where the good news ends. In 12 other games, Jones ran 125 times for 367 yards (2.9 per carry) and one touchdown. He also finished 2nd among running backs with 4 lost fumbles. I realize players can improve – sometimes dramatically – from Year One to Year Two, but Jones was abysmal for the vast majority of his rookie season. No thanks.
Ryan Mathews, Philadelphia
James Brimacombe: The Eagles are going to be a bad offensive team this season and usually when you are a bad team to start the season you don’t always have the same RB starting in the second half of the season. This will be Mathews 7th season in the NFL and he has played a full 16 games only once. Mathews is currently being drafted as RB26 ahead of the likes of Jonathan Stewart and Chris Ivory who I feel offer much more upside.
Jeff Haseley: I am not targeting Ryan Mathews at all. I am not confident in the Eagles offense and Mathews is a big reason behind that. He averages four missed games per year, he has a low ceiling and his upside is minimal. If you are ok with a back who gets 180-200 carries and average stats, then by all means, draft Mathews as your RB3. I'll be staying away from him.
Justin Howe: Mathews is getting the benefit of the doubt in the fantasy community, which makes sense. He's a two-down workhorse with little competition, so he appeals in the middle rounds. But don't lose sight of three key points: Mathews' massive history of injury, his relative ineffectiveness over his career, and the fact that the Eagles' typical game scripts likely won't be very RB-friendly. Their offensive pace should slow to a crawl in the Chip Kelly/Doug Pedersen trade-off, so Mathews – if he's on the field – could be looking at a very ho-hum two-down season.
Daniel Simpkins: Mathews is a back many are touting as a mid-round value. Though talented, the reality is that Mathews can’t stay healthy. In six years of playing in the league, he has only played a full season of games once. His injuries have ranged from concussions to broken clavicles to ankle and MCL sprains. His latest injury was a sprained ankle from a simple offseason jog. The suspension of offensive lineman Lane Johnson for 10 games of the regular season also puts the hurt on a unit that would have preferred to rely on the run under Andy Reid disciple and Head Coach Doug Pederson. The deck is stacked against owners who turn to Mathews as their second or third running back on their fantasy rosters.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City
Mike Brown: I generally steer clear of players coming off of a torn ACL. Sure, I missed out on Adrian Peterson's 2,000 yard season. But I also avoided many of the pitfalls of the guys NOT named Adrian Peterson who didn't nearly enjoy as much success. The fact that this is the second torn ACL for Charles, the Kansas City running back stable is full, and Andy Reid will be calling plays again (he's never met a pass attempt he didn't like), I'm given a lot of pause on Charles in the second round.
Cian Fahey: Jamaal Charles is being drafted like a fully healthy, every-down back. After a second ACL tear in an offense that continued to produce without him last season, that is illogical. Charles can come back and still be a good player but he's likely to be tentative cutting and have stamina issues if relied upon too much. If Alex Smith carries over the increased aggressiveness throwing downfield that was seemingly created by Charles' injury, then his value in the passing game will take a hit also. There are too many concerns with Charles for him to be a top-20 player.
John Mamula: Jamaal Charles has too many question marks for his current second-round ADP. After suffering his 2nd ACL tear, how hard will the Chiefs push him? How will his knee respond? Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware proved last season that they can help carry the load when called upon. In the second-round, I want to target a RB with a safe floor. Charles is much too risky for my rosters.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas
Justin Bonnema: We’ve seen hype push rookie running backs to early draft positions in the past, but Ezekiel Elliott’s 1.09 ADP is unprecedented. Even last year, when Todd Gurley was dubbed the next Adrian Peterson, the hype leveled off in the fifth round (which also priced in his injury and offense). In fact, this might be the most hyped any rookie running back has been in fantasy football since Ryan Mathews in 2010. Keep in mind that a rookie running back has never been drafted, per historical ADP, in the first round. What makes Elliott different? He’s basically Gurley on a much better offense behind the best offensive line in football. So there’s some merit to the hype. But under no circumstances is he worth a first round draft pick. The Cowboys are making a push for the Super Bowl. It stands to reason they won’t smash their No. 4 overall pick into defensive lines 300 times this season. He’ll likely be eased in on a balanced offense. Keep in mind the Cowboys have plenty of talent at running back and revitalized Darren McFadden’s career last season. With Alfred Morris in the fold and likely to get goal line carries, and Lance Dunbar making his way back from injury and likely to play the Darren Sproles role, it stands to reason that Elliott’s usage won’t match the preseason hype, especially at his cost.
Andy Hicks: Everything points to Ezekiel Elliott being the most successful rookie running back, expected to do well, almost ever. That leaves no room at all for downside, which tends to happen to all rookies, especially running backs. He has a good reputation as a pass blocker, excels as a receiver and is a natural runner. All positives. Rookie running backs however rarely have an ADP in the first round, let alone the top 6 though. The only rookie running backs drafted in the first 2 rounds of fantasy drafts in the last 10 years were Reggie Bush in 2006 and Ryan Mathews in 2010. Both failed to get anywhere near their ADP. Alfred Morris has looked great in preseason and Darren McFadden did well last year. The Cowboys could therefore easily take their time with Elliott and the high first round fantasy grade is too steep.
Justin Howe: I just can't get on board with this first-round price point. We've yet to see Elliott play a snap, but we're crowning him a can't-miss top-five RB option and, in most drafts, a top-12 pick. In order to return on that investment, Elliott would need a season for the ages. Since 2000, only three first-round rookie backs have finished RB6 or higher, so Elliott would have to equal the best rookie seasons in recent memory just to hit his value point. There's no way I'm investing this much in the hopes that literally everything breaks perfectly for a moderately athletic rookie. Pull out one brick – say Tony Romo is hurt again, or Elliott fails to fully master pass protection – and Elliott is treading water in the third or fourth tier of fantasy RBs.
Jeremy Langford, Chicago
Will Grant: Everyone’s thinking that since the Bears let Matt Forte go to free agency, Langford will logically step into Forte’s numbers. And they are drafting accordingly. To get Langford this season, you’re going to have to spend a late 5th round or a high 6th rounder to get him. The problem is that that Langford is probably going to be part of a committee. Jodan Howard was drafted to help out and he will certainly pressure Langford for more playing time this season. Add in that Langford has been walking around with a boot and missing practice and you have to wonder if it’s more than just precaution. Langford will get his touches, but he’s going to be part of a committee. Draft him accordingly.
Daniel Simpkins: Though many are treating Langford as a feature back, this situation has “timeshare” written all over it. John Fox’s tendency seems to be using all his runners during the course of a game rather than relying solely on one to tote the load. The Bears have already announced their intent to have Ka'Deem Carey, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Jordan Howard split work with Langford. Even if Langford had all the work to himself, he lacks the elusiveness and between-the-tackles acumen that a lead back needs to posses. An offensive line that lost its starting center to injury and struggled mightily in preseason also does not bode well for Langford. There are much better bets than Langford going after his fifth-round average draft position, such as Giovani Bernard, Frank Gore, Jay Ajayi, Isaiah Crowell, and others.
Jason Wood: Langford struggled at times in his role as Matt Forte's backup/injury replacement. He averaged just 3.6 yards per rush and failed to break 100 yards in any game. The film shows a stiff runner lacking vision. On the positive front, he scored 6 rushing touchdowns and was a productive receiver (22 receptions for 279 yards and a touchdown). So the jury is out on whether Langford can improve enough to be a reliable, every week fantasy starter. I'm skeptical he'll live up to his ADP for a number of reasons. One, I didn't see a lot of special ability on last year's tape. Two, I believe rookie Jordan Howard is a better player and should push for a starting role quickly although John Fox does have a thing against rookies. Three, the Bears replaced Adam Gase with Dowell Loggains as play caller. Too much risk versus some of the other players going at the same spot in drafts.
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee
Cian Fahey: When the Titans traded for DeMarco Murray, it looked like the perfect situation for him. Murray was in the scheme he needed to be in, he was playing with a mobile quarterback to draw attention away from him and he was playing for a head coach who desperately wants to run the ball. Since then, Mularkey has assured Dexter McCluster of the third-down role and drafted Derrick Henry. Henry will eat into Murray's touchdowns, Mariota too, while McCluster will make him essentially irrelevant as a receiver. The older Murray will become less appealing than the younger Henry as the season wears on also.
Stephen Holloway: Murray disappointed a year ago in Philadelphia, averaging a career low 3.6 ypc and disappearing in some games altogether. In his last seven games, he averaged less than 10 carries per game. He moves on to Tennessee where the potential of a heavy rushing offense is expected, but he is joined there by rookie Derrick Henry, a second round pick by the Titans. The Titans defense may insure that the team passes more than they plan and running back by committee is again possible for Murray.
Chris Kuczynski: Murray was traded after one disappointing season with Philadelphia where he signed a huge free agent contract and failed to meet expectations after his great 2014 season. Despite getting many opportunities to prove his worth, he was much less effective than his counterpart Ryan Mathews and only accumulated the stats he did because of being forced the ball to justify his massive contract. Now in Tennessee, it will be interesting to see how he will be used in the offense with so many other backs competing for touches. In 5 seasons he's hovered around 200 carries, aside from the outlier 2014 season, and this year might not be any higher with 2nd round pick Derrick Henry eating into carries and Dexter McCluster used on passing downs.
C.J. Prosise, Seattle
Dan Hindery: After being drafted in the third round and generating some David Johnson comparisons, it made sense for Prosise to be a mid-round fantasy pick. However, Prosise has disappointed in training camp and currently is sitting third or fourth on the Seahawks depth chart. He has had issues staying healthy and has not been particularly impressive when he has seen the field. Prosise is undraftable in all but the deepest redraft leagues. Instead, Christine Michael is the Seattle back to target in this part of the draft. The former second-round pick is well ahead of Prosise on the depth-chart and has flashed in a big way in early preseason action.
Ari Ingel: Big (6'1" 220lbs), fast (4.48 forty) and productive his final year in college, he has been a popular sleeper. However, he has missed most of the pre-season with injury and he needs to work on his game after only playing one year of running back in college. While injured, Christine Michael seems to have stolen his job and it's not like the passing down back in this offense has ever held much fantasy value, as we have seen with Robert Turbin and Fred Jackson in previous season.
Matt Waldman: Christine Michael has played his way into a 1-2 punch with Thomas Rawls, according to Pete Carroll. Prosise is raw, recovering from injury, and behind the curve with the offense. The only way Prosise sees the field consistently is if one of Rawls or Michael gets hurt and I'd still bet more on fellow rookie Alex Collins. I'm joking, but the person who picks Prosise might be the one with the magazine published in early June as his guide.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Ameer Abdullah, Detroit
Jeff Haseley: My dislike for Ameer Abdullah is more due to my interest in Dwayne Washington or Zach Zenner as the back who could supplant Abdullah as the team's primary rusher. I'm not high on the Detroit running game to begin with, but there is definitely competition at the position that isn't fully determined yet. I would rather pass on Abdullah and target Giovani Bernard, Jonathan Stewart or DeMarco Murray instead.
Ryan Hester: Generally, a running back with a clearly defined role of early-downs work being drafted as RB29 would be a very attractive asset. But when that player is on a pass-first (and perhaps pass-second and pass-third) team that has an excellent receiving running back, it’s harder to get on board. In addition to Theo Riddick taking the bulk of the receiving load from Abdullah, Zach Zenner is could end up being the team’s goal line back. If so, Abdullah would lose the high-value scoring chances and the “bonus” of receptions and receiving yards that makes pedestrian fantasy backs turn into must-haves. He’s a “starter,” but the committee is too strong and the offense too pass-centric to invest.
Jay Ajayi, Miami
Dan Hindery: Ajayi is too unproven and in too murky of a situation to justify his current ADP, which puts him ahead of more proven backs with much clearer paths to significant playing time. When the Dolphins signed Arian Foster, it was almost certainly with the intention of getting him on the field often. The Dolphins have a young group of skill players who are all trying to learn a new offense and struggling with inconsistency. With that in mind, it may make sense for the team to lean on the more veteran runner (Foster) early in the season. This is most likely shaping up as a committee backfield for a poor offense. There are better options at 83rd overall.
Chris Kuczynski: Earlier in the offseason, Ajayi looked like a value pick because he was in line to be the lead back in Miami and showed some potential when relieving Lamar Miller last season. Things have changed with the Dolphins signing Arian Foster and the heaps of praise Foster has been getting related to his injury recovery and his potential to receive a large workload in the offense, particularly the pass game. Even as a change of pace back or replacement if Foster gets injured, Ajayi has not really impressed in the offseason and he would probably split carries with rookie Kenyan Drake.
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles
Jeff Haseley: Todd Gurley's knee should be more structurally sound in his second year and I fully expect Los Angeles to lean on him as their main offensive threat. He has proven that he can handle the load and score at this level, finishing 5th among fantasy running backs in 2015. The Rams offense is a question mark though. Rookie Jared Goff hasn't shown much in camp or preseason, which means Case Keenum could be the team's signal caller to start the year. I'm hesitant to make Gurley my first round pick until I see some promise from the Rams offense, which could be in worse shape than their 32nd ranked offense that mustered only 297 total yards of offense per game in 2015.
Jeff Pasquino: First off, I do like how Freeman performed last year, but it was in the ideal circumstances for him to be a top producer at tailback last year in Atlanta. First, Tevin Coleman was hurt, so there was not the threat of splitting time with him in the Falcon backfield. Second, the passing game struggled with just Julio Jones as a true threat, leaving Freeman as the second-most targeted player on offense behind Jones. That’s pretty rare for a running back, and Atlanta has addressed both issues this offseason by adding Mohamed Sanu at wide receiver and getting Coleman back to health. I still expect good things from Freeman, but a lower-end RB1 value is more likely. That tells me that Freeman’s present ADP of RB6 is too high.
Carlos Hyde, San Francisco
Ryan Hester: We all know that Chip Kelly makes offenses better by scheme and pace, but that notion seems to be overstated in the case of Hyde. Kelly does bring magic, but it probably won’t overcome the game scripts that occur due to a dearth of talent in San Francisco. Hyde stands to get the overwhelming majority of carries on first and second downs in close games, but when it comes time to be pass-heavy due to “catch-up mode,” he might be removed in favor of Shaun Draughn. San Francisco’s passing downs back had success last season in the same role, and he could keep Hyde from being a three-down player, which is as assumption his drafters are making by based on his current draft position.
Jason Wood: Buying into Carlos Hyde is buying into Chip Kelly, and that's not something I'm inclined to do after seeing firsthand how things can go wrong for three years in Philadelphia. Hyde has missed 11 games in his first two seasons, averaged just 4.1 yards per rush and managed only 7 rushing touchdowns in 21 games. The 49ers offense has question marks up and down the roster, and the defense is going to be terrible. How often will the 49ers have a game script that allows them to lean on the rushing attack? Hyde needs to have volume to have value since he's neither a prolific TD-producer nor is he capable of getting big chunks of yardage via one or two big plays. This is a guy that has averaged just 5.3 yards per reception – it's the very antithesis of explosive. I want no part of the 49ers rushing attack and neither should you.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay
Chris Feery: To say that the 2015 season was underwhelming for Eddie Lacy may be an understatement. He looked out of shape and out of sorts at various times during the season, and the Packers offense actually seemed to hum along better while James Starks was handling the running back duties. That information is being swept under the carpet in current drafts, and Lacy is hovering around the Top 10 RB level. An offseason that was dedicated to improving his conditioning is an outstanding sign, and he’s looked pretty solid in preseason action. I’m not sold on that carrying over into a full season of on-field production, and would lean towards some of the other backs in Lacy’s tier if the choice presents itself.
Jeff Pasquino: Please tell me why you would draft Eddie Lacy as a Top 10 running back this year, because I just do not get it. He had his worst season as a pro in 2015, failing to get 1,000 yards on the ground by quite a bit (only 758 yards rushing on 187 carries) and either split time with James Starks or fell behind him on the depth chart at several points last season. It could be that Lacy was out of shape or that Starks was just better at times or that the coaching staff liked the committee approach, or some of all three of those reasons. It doesn’t matter for me – Lacy and Starks screams running back by committee to me, so I am not drafting Lacy as a feature back this year.
Lamar Miller, Houston
Andy Hicks: Miami let Lamar Miller walk in the off season. This is the same Dolphins offense that will be choosing between Jay Ajayi, rookie Kenyan Drake or a past his best Arian Foster. That immediately puts up a red flag on the prospects of Miller in Houston this year. Previous to last year Miller couldn't beat out Daniel Thomas in Miami. On paper Miller was underused in Miami and walks into a great situation where his potential will finally be unleashed on to the NFL. Either the Dolphins don't know what they are doing or they know something we don't. I have to trust the latter until he can prove he is a legitimate full time back in the NFL. He is one of the riskier first round picks out there this year.
Mark Wimer: Miller was not utilized as well as he should have been in Miami, as he has featured-running-back level skills. Houston runs the ball A LOT and he'll be able to fulfill his full, fantasy running back number one potential as a Texan. I see him as challenging for top-ten status this year, and then moving on to top-five contention in year two (2017) as a Texan. I think fantasy owners are over-optimistic about his status as an instant superstar in Houston - he's overvalued for 2016.
Latavius Murray, Oakland
Phil Alexander: Jack Del Rio's recent comments about getting Murray more carries this season caused a half round spike in his ADP. The only problem is Murray already had the fourth-highest market share of his team's total backfield touches last year (72%) and still only reached 12 fantasy points in five out of 16 games, and at least 16 fantasy points just twice. Buzzy rookie DeAndre Washington might already be a better back than Murray, and at the very least appears to be a threat on passing downs. Murray's height and upright running style also leave him exposed to big hits, making him an under-the-radar injury risk. You could have gotten Murray's cumulative numbers and weekly ceiling from Frank Gore last season, and chances are you'll be able to again this year too -- only this year Gore is available three full rounds later.
Matt Waldman: He was among the worst backs on first down in the NFL last year. He's inconsistent as a decision maker and the Raiders' front five isn't consistently doing him favors. Murray is more athlete than refined running back even at this stage. I wish Central Florida kept him as a tight end. He might have had a better career in hindsight. Harsh? I suppose but I don't believe Murray will be the feature back in Oakland in 2017 and this year will be the last straw.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
Sigmund Bloom: Peterson is not worth a first round pick in a year when ascendent young backs like David Johnson, Lamar Miller, and Ezekiel Elliott in plum situations are available as cornerstones. While Peterson should be among the league leaders in carries, he also will see little work in the passing game, and the team could use more shotgun to keep Teddy Bridgewater more comfortable - Peterson struggles running out of shotgun, while backup Jerick McKinnon excels. McKinnon could see more work over the course of the season if the team wants to see what he has as a potential feature back for the post-Peterson era. Pass on Peterson in the first.
Will Grant: I don’t know if Peterson is the 9th best fantasy running back, much less the #9 overall. There are few other offensive options in Minnesota, but I think this is the year that Peterson takes a step back. His 1700 yards from scrimmage last season were almost unbelievable given the fact that he missed so much of the 2014 season, but a repeat this season seems very unlikely. If Peterson puts up an ‘above average’ year for a 31 year old running back, he’ll have a solid fantasy year. But if you take him at the end of the 1st round, you’re overpaying for that year.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh
Mark Wimer: Bell has been productive - when on the field - but he's hardly a model of durability. With a proven-effective DeAngelo Williams on board in Pittsburgh, I expect a small but consequential number of touches flowing to Williams each game, knocking Bell off the presumptive #1-fantasy-running-back perch for 2016. The Steelers will spice their running back mix with enough Williams to keep Bell from eye-popping numbers during 2016. Pittsburgh will want Bell healthy for post-season, and Williams provides a solid #2 option at running back for late-game blowout duty (and etc). Other fantasy prospects have a clearer path to elite production, especially true considering that Bell will sit out the first three games of the season due to another drugs-related violation of the NFL's substance abuse policies.
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore
Dan Hindery: Dixon was a popular sleeper pick early in the offseason and a favorite of many draft analysts. He seemed to have a real shot to compete for the starting job in Baltimore as a rookie. However, Dixon has been unable to make a move and currently finds himself sitting fourth on the Ravens depth chart at running back. At best, he is worth a late-round redraft pick. But he looks undraftable in leagues with shallow benches. At an ADP of 129th, he is way overvalued.
Justin Forsett, Baltimore
Dan Hindery: We still have very little clarity in the Ravens backfield. Forsett is the solid veteran at age-30 (31-years old in October) and is at least temporarily listed as the starter. However, Terrance West has generated the most buzz in camp and shined in preseason action. Even if West does not overtake Forsett for the starting job, he is likely to steal carries (especially around the goal line). Javorius Allen also continues to look polished as a pass-catching back and is probably going to be a major part of the running back rotation for the Ravens also. Rookie Kenneth Dixon is also lurking as a potential contributor in this backfield. At this point, a running back by committee approach seems most likely. Thus, if you are going to target any of these backs, it makes more sense to use a late-round pick on West or Allen than it does to invest a premium, top-100 pick on Justin Forsett.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta
Ari Ingel: Freeman did most of his damage (and serious damage it was) over only four games last year and I wouldn't be surprised if Coleman got the ball more than people are expecting. As ESPN's Matthew Berry recently pointed out, from Weeks 9 through 17 last season, Tim Hightower and Ameer Abdullah were among the 27 NFL running backs who had more rushing yards than Freeman who averaged a pathetic 3.1 yards per carry over that time frame. Berry went on to add that 46 different players had at least one run of 40-plus yards last season, while Freeman have zero. Both the teams Head Coach and General Manager have mentioned that the two backs form a great tandem and Coleman provides long speed that Freeman just doesn't have.
Mark Ingram II, New Orleans
Andy Hicks: Last year Mark Ingram II finally looked like the back the Saints drafted in the first round of 2011 until a shoulder injury cut short his 2015 season. He unexpectedly went from 24 receptions in his first 3 years to 50 in 12 games last season, ran the ball well and was on target for a 1000 rushing season. The problem with Ingram though is that he always misses games. He has played 10 to 13 games in 4 of his 5 seasons and other backs the Saints throw in always seem to do as well or better. Chris Ivory, Khiry Robinson, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Tim Hightower have all filled in for Ingram and the Saints offense hasn't missed a beat. Others will see the upside that Ingram has, but I've seen enough to be wary that he will be a choice fantasy owners will regret spending a 2nd round pick on.
David Johnson, Arizona
Cian Fahey: The hope for David Johnson is that he can sustain his big plays while feasting on a huge number of touches in the Arizona Cardinals offense. Johnson is an inconsistent player, someone who isn't on the same level as a Todd Gurley or Le'Veon Bell, so he is going to be reliant on those big plays to be effective. With a stacked group of receivers and Chris Johnson still lingering behind David on the depth chart, not to mention Andre Ellington, Johnson isn't going to get as long of a leash as his peers.
Duke Johnson Jr, Cleveland
Matt Waldman: I'm a fan of Johnson's game. I'm a bigger fan of Isaiah Crowell's talent, fit within the system, and red zone prowess. Hue Jackson knows Crowell is a better talent than Jeremy Hill, it is just a matter of Crowell maturing and I believe he's a lot closer than he was. Johnson's injury history at Miami concerns me and I think Johnson is not as sturdy or as skilled as Giovani Bernard. So in this case, folks are comparing Crowell and Johnson to Hill and Bernard but are thinking the dynamic will be the exact same and it's overrating one and underrating the other.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay
Chad Parsons: Doug Martin at RB10 prices represents his ceiling and matching his perfect storm campaign of 2015. Martin was finally healthy and logged a high yards-per-carry compared to his career profile. Charles Sims will sap away any PPR upside and Tampa Bay has three prototypical red zone targets in Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (not to mention Jameis Winston’s legs) to limit Martin’s cracks at short-range touchdowns.
DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh
John Mamula: DeAngelo Williams current ADP is 84 overall in the 7th round. I am not interested in drafting a backup RB at a point where I should be focusing on my every week starters. Yes, Williams will start the first three games of the season, but after that point he will be relegated to your fantasy bench unless Le’Veon Bell suffers another injury. I prefer to hold off drafting my backup RB until the double digit rounds.
Danny Woodhead, San Diego
James Brimacombe: Woodhead has been a huge asset for the Chargers in his three seasons with the team. In 2013 and 2015 he played full 16 games and finished as the 19th and 12th rated RB those seasons. His value comes in the receiving game as he caught 81 passes last year alone for 756 yards and 6 touchdowns. I feel like the injury to Keenan Allen really helped Woodhead’s numbers last year and with a healthy Allen in 2016, and Melvin Gordon III looking to get on track in his second season, Woodhead is going to be overdrafted this season.
T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville
Devin Knotts: Yeldon is currently being taken as the 33rd overall running back, which is overvalued. During the offseason, the Jaguars signed Chris Ivory who will likely share time with Yeldon in the backfield. This wouldn’t be a problem for most teams however the Jaguars ran the ball the second least amount of times last season with 354 attempts. The initial reports have Ivory carrying the ball slightly more than Yeldon which puts Yeldon’s carries in the 150-160 range, which means that he will have to play a significant role in the passing game. Yeldon only had 36 receptions even though the Jaguars threw the ball 607 times. Yeldon has a significant amount of things working against him which limit him from contributing this season as he will have to see a large increase in receptions to pay off his draft position.
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