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 and identify players that should underperform their draft position.

Player Receiving 4 Votes

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville

Ryan Hester: Many are making a comparison of Fournette to Ezekiel Elliott because both were drafted fourth overall. That’s unfair to Fournette (and to your fantasy team if it’s the main reason you draft him). First, Jacksonville’s offensive line is not Dallas’. Second, Fournette isn’t as dynamic a playmaker as Elliott. The biggest similarity is that Fournette won’t play on all three downs. With T.J. Yeldon and his 50 receptions returning, Jacksonville has a capable receiver who is two years ahead of Fournette in terms of NFL pass-blocking skill. Elliott didn’t dominate the field on all three downs, but he dominated volume because his team gave him great game scripts. Drafting Fournette at this price is asking Jacksonville to do the same. That’s too big of a gamble.

Jeff Pasquino: Rookie running backs are always viewed as the shiny, new toy in the fantasy store each year. The question is, how likely are they to meet or exceed lofty expectations for their first year at the top level of football? Fournette has talent, no question, but he is not the only option in the Jaguars backfield with T.J. Yeldon also back this year. Jacksonville has a history of falling behind in contests and then having to throw their way back into the game, which leads towards more action for Blake Bortles and a receiver-friendly backfield with Yeldon. Fournette could become a three-down back and prove me wrong, but given his lofty pricetag on most draft boards, I will be looking elsewhere unless Fournette starts to slip into the lower RB2 range of the draft.

Matt Waldman: I’m a fan of Fournette’s long-term outlook. I have also touted his receiving skills well before the “pleasant surprise” reports from OTAs that the rookie has better hands than reported in many outlets. However, I would be surprised if T.J. Yeldon doesn’t earn passing down responsibilities and shocked if the Jaguars make significant strides with its offensive line this year. I’m hopeful that new offensive line coach Pat Flaherty will remain as flexible to matching scheme to players and run more gap plays for Fournette with its current personnel that seems well-suited to the switch. However, Fournette will have to run more from shotgun and that will require some acclimation on his part that doesn’t play to his strengths. He’s a boom-bust pick this year due to his stylistic fit and surrounding talent.

Mark Wimer: Fournette was drafted by a 3-13 team that ranked 24th in the NFL in rushing attempts last season, and 29th in rushing scores punched in as a team. Neither of their main running backs, T.J. Yeldon (3.6 yards per carry on average) or Chris Ivory (3.8) cracked 4.0 yards per carry playing behind the Jaguars' line. There is a lot of potential for improvement from this lowly place, yes, but I think it is overly optimistic for Fournette to be drafted before guys like Spencer Ware, Isaiah Crowell, and even fellow rookies Christian McCaffrey and Joe Mixon (who are in much better situations on their respective offenses, in my opinion). Fournette is much too expensive at his current ADP.

Players Receiving 3 Votes

Carlos Hyde, San Francisco

Andy Hicks: Carlos Hyde had a good season considering the chaos in San Francisco last year. Hyde should start the season as an established starter, but the early noise is that Hyde isn't suited to the Shanahan offense. That is a big concern. It will be easier for the team to move on if Hyde doesn't perform and his long term NFL future would be severely clouded if that is the case. You have to take what you saw in 2016 on face value though and assume that Hyde is a genuine NFL back with fantasy relevance in 2017, but you would be wise to be cautious as he appears to be a square peg in a round hole this year. There is far too much smoke to risk a high round draft pick.

Jeff Pasquino: The 49ers made a change at head coach, bringing in Atlanta’s offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, to improve upon the beleaguered San Francisco offense. Early reports have Hyde struggling to pick up the new offense, and it certainly does not help that the 49ers just drafted Joe Williams to push Hyde this season. Hyde may have value before Halloween, but it could prove quite likely that he is just holding the lead spot in the backfield until Williams is ready to take over.

Jason Wood: Carlos Hyde is the easiest fade in fantasy drafts this year. The 4th year runner is the perennial tease who never meets expectations. Last season – his best – ended with an RB14 ranking because he missed three games. Hyde is no stranger to missing games; he's only played in 34 of 48 regular season games so far. With a new coach (Kyle Shanahan) and GM (John Lynch), changes are afoot in San Francisco including a transition to the zone-blocking scheme. New coaches are full of empty praise for incumbent veterans, which makes Shanahan’s unabashed skepticism about Hyde’s role with the team particularly damning. Even if you think Hyde can finally stay healthy, he’s an ill fit on a team that owes him no loyalty with a roster in complete rebuilding mode. Stay far, far away.

Christian McCaffrey, Carolina

Ari Ingel: McCaffrey plays bigger than his size, standing 5’11” 202lbs with 4.48 jets. He runs as tough up the middle as he does outside. He’s also elusive in open field, has great patience and could easily play receiver in the league if he wanted to. As you can see, I love the talent, but he is destined to be over drafted this year in season long leagues. Perhaps I even have him ranked too high here. Cam Newton is not great at checking down balls, loves to take it in himself near the end-zone and Jonathan Stewart is still a living human being. There is lots of talk that they want to turn Cam into more of a pocket passer and to check down the ball more. While I think that is the team's goal, Cam has been playing one way his whole life and coming off of shoulder surgery, he won’t even be able to start throwing until mid-June. Oh, and per Pat Thorman of PFF, Cam had the worst passer rating in the league last year on passes going 5 yards or less. All of this means that the great Cam change will probably take 2 or three years, and not a few months. Once again, I love McCaffery in dynasty leagues, but people are going to take him too high, as they do every year with a rookie or two.

Chris Kuczynski: The landing spot for McCaffery is an interesting one, because it seems like the Panthers will have to change their offensive identity if they want to fully utilize his skill set or catching out of the backfield and at times lining up at wide receiver. Jonathan Stewart is an effective between-the-tackles runner and Cam Newton has had a lot of success running himself. In the last 3 seasons, the team has not been known to throw to players out of the backfield, averaging only about 50 catches and 400 yards for all running backs combined, with no individual running back surpassing 25 catches or 250 receiving yards. The team also just drafted Curtis Samuel who has very similar slot receiver/running back characteristics as McCaffery, which further complicates how all of these pieces will fit into the game plan. The level of hype of this year’s rookie running back class has reached just feels way too high for me, with everyone expecting an Ezekiel Elliot or Jordan Howard breakout star. McCaffery is being ranked just outside the RB1 range, but drafting him here would be setting yourself up for disappointment because of the unknown workload.

Chad Parsons: Jonathan Stewart has been the preferred power back option for Carolina in recent seasons and little would suggestion a strong interior workload is projected from the outset for McCaffrey. Paying his inflated ADP provides little upside for McCaffrey, banking on elite receiving numbers (something Carolina as struggled to produce of late) and optimal red zone touches as an all-around weapon.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

C.J. Anderson, Denver

Justin Howe: There's no way I'm even sniffing around Anderson as a top-15 back. To me, he's looking more like a dart throw in the RB25-30 range - and even that may prove too high. Post-Peyton Manning, he's looked more like a rotational back: dating to Week 10 of the 2015 season, he's averaged a ho-hum 14.2 touches and 74.6 scrimmage yards per game. Those are borderline RB2 numbers, but even they don't factor in the presence of three-down prospect Devontae Booker and end-of-the-line Jamaal Charles. It doesn't help that new RB coach Vance Joseph is already touting a committee approach, which probably fits Anderson's talent level better. Anderson is generally ranked near his absolute ceiling, though the downside is enormous and could cripple a roster that invests in him as a RB2.

Matt Waldman: If Anderson was in the same blocking scheme as last year and the Broncos weren’t openly stating the offense will operate with a committee approach, I’d be much higher on the talented, but oft-injured Anderson. However, Devontae Booker’s strengths are better-suited to a gap scheme and the circumstances surrounding Anderson’s re-signing in 2015 gave a lot of us the impression that John Elway had a significant case of “stink face” when making the offer to its UDFA-turned-starter. I’m not as concerned about Jamaal Charles until he proves his knees are truly right—and I’m unfortunately betting they won’t ever be again. I am concerned about Anderson staying healthy and earning enough touches to deliver top-20 RB production.

Mike Gillislee, New England

Stephen Holloway: Gillislee is getting far more attention this pre-season than he deserves. He may be the lead running back in short yardage situations for the Patriots, but they have James White, Rex Burkhead, and Dion Lewis, three excellent receivers on their running back depth chart that will all have opportunities to run as well as catch passes. There simply will not be enough chances for Gillislee in the three or perhaps four man RBBC to justify his current ADP.

Jeff Pasquino: I find it hard to believe that a backup from Buffalo is going to take over the backfield for the Patriots. New England has four viable options now that can line up behind Tom Brady – Gillislee, James White, and even third down options Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis. LeGarrette Blount is now in Philadelphia, which will open up goal line opportunities, but it remains to be seen if Gillislee will get the majority of those chances – or if Brady will just decide to use their multiple options in the passing game instead.

Todd Gurley, LA Rams

Ryan Hester: The same cons still exist for Gurley that hindered him from fulfilling his preseason potential last season. He’s still mired in what looks like one of the worst offenses in the league. And he’s still not likely to be used on all three downs. The team acquired Lance Dunbar in the offseason, who is known for his passing down acumen. On what looks to be one of the league’s worst teams, game script will also continue to be an issue for Gurley.

Mark Wimer: Gurley is currently valued as a contender for top-ten status - that is a wildly optimistic ADP for a player who finished near the bottom of the top-20 running backs last season (while averaging a pathetic 3.2 yards per carry). Yes, there has been a coaching change, but in my opinion Jared Goff (who didn't look remotely ready for the NFL stage last season) has to present at least a credible threat to pass the football or Gurley is doomed to another season of frustration while facing stacked boxes all the while. I am letting other owners roll the dice on Gurley this season - I like the offenses/situations of many other running backs much better. It is not unusual to see teams transitioning to wholly new coaching staffs struggle in Year One.

Lamar Miller, Houston

Andy Hicks: Fully expecting to be the number one ball carrier in Houston, it has to be said that Lamar Miller proved why Miami were reluctant to let him be their full time back. He wasn’t poor, but you would expect more from a player who touched the ball 300 times last season. Only one player, Todd Gurley, had more touches and did less with them. Ten of the backs listed ahead of him in fantasy rankings had less, some significantly, touches than Miller. The drafting of D’Onta Foreman has to be a warning to Miller to up his game or be passed by. The Texans can get out of their free agent contract with Miller after this season with little damage. Beware of using an early pick on Miller this season.

Daniel Simpkins: Miller has not been one to show he can hold up to the rigors of a full load. Last year, Miller missed two full games and played through many more with limited effectiveness. He’s being selected before backs that can take the majority of carries for their teams, such as Isaiah Crowell, Leonard Fournette, and Frank Gore. Also consider the fact that Houston added D’Onta Foreman in the Draft to help spell Miller and take some of the load off his shoulders. All these things in mind, it’s best to leave Miller on the shelf at his current price point.

Adrian Peterson, New Orleans

Chris Kuczynski: Peterson may seem like someone who has been able recover from injuries quicker than most, but the fact of the matter is he is now 32 years old and coming off another serious injury that cost him most of last season. His role and usage in his new offense is certainly murky at best, considering the Saints are known to pass the ball over 50 times a game, and they already have a very good starting running back in Mark Ingram II whom they already under-utilize. Peterson has never been known for catching passes even in his prime as a bell cow for Minnesota, so he would be limited to a two-down role, despite this offseason mentioning he thinks he can gain 500 yards receiving (I’m not sure anyone believes that, even himself). He might pick up the carries of departed Tim Hightower, but that was only 550 rushing yards if you exclude his receiving. Overall, I’m not sure I’d want to take the chance on drafting Peterson because of age, injuries and questions on just what it is he would do in this offense.

Jason Wood: Stop the insanity. Adrian Peterson is 32 years old. He’s had a massive career workload. He looked awful in his spot duties last year. He’s joining a team that perennially ranks near the bottom of the league in run/pass ratio. He has to contend with Mark Ingram II as the starter and powerhouse rookie Alvin Kamara for backup touches. Last, but not least, Peterson was never an above average receiving back even at his prime, which makes his current ADP in PPR leagues all the more bewildering.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia

Justin Howe: In a less-crowded backfield, Blount would look like a boring-yet-shrewd back-end RB2 pick. Unfortunately, he's mired in a timeshare in Philadelphia, an offense that didn't run much last year and didn't create many scoring chances for its backs. Blount has virtually no chance at even sniffing last year's 18 touchdowns; his ceiling looks like 8-10. The fact that he's devoid of even a shred of receiving-game help bumps him down even further in PPR formats. All told, there's virtually no upside to this pick, yet plenty of downside - Smallwood flashed a bit as a rookie and could eat more and more into the 30-year-old Blount's workload as the season wears on.

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota

Phil Alexander: Even if his primary competition for early down and goal line work -- Latavius Murray -- is hurt, terrible, or both, Dalvin Cook remains a two-down back attached to Sam Bradford and a terrible offensive line. Cook will not play on third downs. Pass blocking was perhaps his biggest weakness in college, and Jerick McKinnon isn't going away. McKinnon averaged 4.4 receptions per game in the final eight games of 2016 after Pat Shurmur took over for Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Fumbling issues and a poor NFL scouting combine performance raise additional questions about Cook's readiness. And if Murray does get fully healthy, the Vikings backfield devolves into a three-way platoon, which is scary for a team that combined for only two weekly top-10 running back performances last season.

Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland

Andy Hicks: Every year there is a running back or two who looks better in retrospect from a fantasy point of view. This year that guy is Isaiah Crowell. His numbers received a significant boost by including a 150 yard game in a week 17 game against Pittsburgh. His early game against them saw 8 carries for 10 yards. Crowell benefitted by actually playing all 16 games, no small feat sure, but it elevates his performance above what he will be worth this year. He had less than 200 carries and had multiple games where he did almost literally nothing due to the ineptness of the Browns team as a whole. Expecting Crowell to perform to the level of an RB1 is his maximum upside ceiling. He will more than likely provide a poor return on a fantasy owners investment this year.

Devonta Freeman, Atlanta

Jeff Haseley: Steve Sarkisian is replacing Kyle Shanahan as the Falcons Offensive Coordinator. While Shanahan was known for his successful play calling of outside runs, Sarkisian is the opposite, with a tendency to run inside. The Falcons offensive line is one of the better lines in the league, so it may not be that much of a challenge to alter their style. Even so, Freeman thrived as a back who could get around the corner and get into space. He's not an ideal between the tackles grinder which Sarkisian is known for. It's possible that Sarkisian will adjust his plays to cater to the strengths of the Falcons runinng game, including Freeman. Change often comes with growing pains, so there's still that piece of uncertainty that keeps me away from Freeman, at least not at his current high ADP.

Melvin Gordon III, LA Chargers

Mark Wimer: Gordon is a solid NFL back playing on a powerful NFL offense - but there is a plethora of talent competing for touches on the football on the Chargers' offense entering 2017. I think he'll be on the cusp of top-ten production this season, but his current ADP around the top-five makes him too expensive in my book - he's being priced at his ceiling of production and could easily fall short.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee

Ryan Hester: Henry has one of the highest possible upsides of any handcuff running back in the league, but his draft price is far too high for a lottery ticket player who has little standalone value and all “conditional” value. Drafting Henry means occupying a bench spot just waiting for an injury to DeMarco Murray. Worse yet, it means doing so at the opportunity cost of drafting other running backs with both “conditional” RB1 upside and standalone flex value. At other positions, a low-end QB1 or TE1 could be had around the time Henry is being selected as well.

Mark Ingram II, New Orleans

Jeff Pasquino: I just cannot trust Mark Ingram II to be a fantasy starter at this point. Drew Brees is the key to this offense, and the running backs in New Orleans are going to be a total committee now that Adrian Peterson is in the mix. With rookie Alvin Kamara added to a crowded backfield, Ingram will struggle to get consistent touches (and thus production) on a weekly basis, so he is off the table for me.

Eddie Lacy, Seattle

Matt Waldman: There are too many reasons to bet against Lacy even if he meets each incentive-laden step of his contract with Seattle that focuses a lot on his physical conditioning. Thomas Rawls is capable of top-12 fantasy production when healthy and C.J. Prosise had a 3-game stretch last year where he showed that he’s a big-play, every-down weapon in development. Seattle encourages competition for starting jobs, which means that Lacy could have the best name on the depth chart but not necessarily the best game. Expect a committee approach where Lacy’s current ranking is based more on his realistic ceiling than his mid-point or floor.

Marshawn Lynch, Oakland

Stephen Holloway: Lynch has been out of football for almost two years and returns as a 31-year old that has not played in over a year and a half. Oakland already has two talented running backs with familiarity with the offense. The allure of a Beast Mode Return is strong and has elevated his expectations too high. The combination of his long layoff, his age and the potential for injury is too much for him to overcome to meet his expectations this year.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati

Chris Feery: There’s no question that Joe Mixon brings a world of talent to the table, but he also carries some tremendous baggage with him as he begins his NFL career. While we sincerely hope that his problems are a thing of the past, there’s plenty to be said for waiting to see how that plays out. Optimism is high that Mixon will hit the ground running and make his red flags an afterthought, but we’ll let someone else take the risk this season.

Ty Montgomery, Green Bay

Jason Wood: Montgomery was a feel-good story last year. After Eddie Lacy ate his way out of productivity, and the Packers appeared lost offensively, the team turned toward little-used receiver Ty Montgomery as its primary running back and he acquitted himself well. The former Stanford Cardinal demonstrated great hands and, more importantly, an ability to make tacklers miss in the open field. It’s entirely possible we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg of Montgomery’s abilities as a runner, since he’s just now dedicating himself to the role. However, the Packers used not one, but two rookie draft picks on incredibly talented runners: Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. Both Williams and Jones have the all-around game to eventually earn starting roles in the league. There’s no reason to think Green Bay is committed to Montgomery as anything more than a committee contributor. That’s not worth the current price tag.

Paul Perkins, NY Giants

Ari Ingel: Perkins stands 5’10” 208 pounds with 4.54 forty speed. At the combine last year he finished as the 67th rated running back in SPARQ score, which is a metric that measures a players athleticism. He just isn't a gifted athlete for someone his size. Opportunity is key in fantasy football though and Giant’s running back coach Craig Johnson mentioned that he thought Perkins could be a three-down back, while head coach Ben McAdoo stated that he is their starting running back. Perkins is a bit of a lower case Frank Gore at his best, in that he has good balance and body control, in order to get out of tight situations, and good vision to find the right hole. However, he is not very big or fast, which makes it tough in the pros to run over people or out run them to get into the open field. There are also questions of whether or not he can withstand the pounding of an every down workload, especially given the holes of the teams offensive line, which is ranked 28th in the league and has glaring weaknesses at both tackle positions and at right guard. This is a team that is also built on spreading things out and throwing the ball, passing on around 63% of their downs last year. Perkins is a decent pass catcher, despite having small hands (only 9”), but Shane Vereen is fully healthy coming off of a broken wrist injury that sidelined him most of last year. The Giants also have a slew of new redzone targets in Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram. He was PFF's 40th graded running back last year, which sounds about right. With an ADP in the 7th round, he’s not a horrible value, but I have a feeling he might just be this year's Matt Jones, and I'd rather take Vereen 10 rounds later.

Theo Riddick, Detroit

Jeff Haseley: Riddick had a top-25 finish in 2016, but that was mainly due to the early season injury to Ameer Abdullah and later injury to Dwayne Washington. Both are healthy now, most notably Abdullah who should see the majority of touches this year. Abdullah's development and usage will mean less snaps and touches for Riddick. Unless another barage of injuries strikes the Lions backs, I don't see Riddick reaching top-30 numbers.

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