3 Overvalued Running Backs
The fantasy season is a minefield of weekly usage, defensive matchups, and injuries owners have to navigate. So, while the ‘you can’t win your league in the first two rounds, but you can lose it’ mantra remains a bitter truth, the early rounds set the tone for your draft. Busts are always a concern. With so much expected production at the top, players who fall short can cost owners their season. A quick look at the past few seasons highlight some of the more painful busts at running back.
|David Johnson||1||113||-112||Adrian Peterson||5||125||-120||Marshawn Lynch||5||60||-55|
|Jay Ajayi||7||36||-29||Jamaal Charles||8||115||-107||Jamaal Charles||4||51||-47|
|DeMarco Murray||8||20||-12||Eddie Lacy||10||75||-65||LeVeon Bell||2||47||-45|
|Ezekiel Elliott||3||12||-9||Doug Martin||12||54||-42||Justin Forsett||10||41||-31|
|Devonta Freeman||4||13||-9||Lamar Miller||4||20||-16||Eddie Lacy||3||32||-29|
|Jordan Howard||9||14||-5||Todd Gurley||2||15||-13||C.J. Anderson||6||31||-25|
|LeSean McCoy||5||7||-2||David Johnson||1||1||0||Jeremy Hill||8||20||-12|
|LeVeon Bell||2||2||0||Ezekiel Elliott||3||2||1||LeSean McCoy||12||19||-7|
|Melvin Gordon||6||5||1||Devonta Freeman||7||6||1||DeMarco Murray||9||15||-6|
|Christian McCaffrey||12||10||2||LeVeon Bell||6||3||3||Adrian Peterson||1||2||-1|
|Kareem Hunt||10||4||6||Mark Ingram||11||8||3||Matt Forte||7||7||0|
|Todd Gurley||11||1||10||LeSean McCoy||9||4||5||Lamar Miller||11||6||5|
Busts due to injury or suspensions are impossible to predict. However, poor seasonal performance does have some commonalities. 4for4 Senior Writer Jennifer Eakins noted that the lack of passing game usage and poor offensive line play as reasons for previous busts. DeMarco Murray’s targets and rushes decreased in 2017, as Derrick Henry began to take over. Lamar Miller’s targets decreased by 31.6 percent in 2016 from his last season in Miami. These historical markers are there, so let’s look at any potential busts for 2018.
Running backs drafted in the first round of 2017 scored an average of 18.38 points per game (294.1 total). Second-round backs yielded an average of 15.33 points per game (245.3 total). These values will serve as benchmarks for identifying busts. While three specific players are mentioned here, the key is to identify similar situations that can cause a significant decrease in touches thus reducing their fantasy output.
Kareem Hunt (Current ADP: 1.09)
Prior to the 2017 season, Kareen Hunt was drafted as the RB10 in 12-team leagues and finished as the RB4. After Spencer Ware was placed on IR, the narratives around Hunt’s fantasy season couldn’t be ignored. Primary running backs under Andy Reid have captured over 50 percent of the team’s rushing attempts most of Reid’s coaching career. Kansas City had an above-average offensive line and a top-10 defense. This combination was expected to create more positive game scripts for Hunt, securing his weekly floor.
*Chart courtesy of FF Statistics.
Hunt’s 1,327 rush yards from a season ago earned him the NFL rushing title, with 455 yards added in the passing game. His rush attempt market share was the highest of any of Reid’s previous teams (67.2%). But as great as his season was, there are some concerning factors upon a closer look.
Kareem Hunt’s production was significantly buoyed by large runs. Of his 1,327 rush yards, 319 were gained on rushes that went for over 20 yards—24 percent of his rushing production. For context, LeVeon Bell and Todd Gurley gained 5.4 percent and 16.9 percent of their production on similar plays, respectively. With such a large discrepancy from established players, a reduction in this area is expected to cap Hunt’s future upside. His usage in negative game scripts was also an issue. In Kansas City losses, Hunt’s targets weren’t affected, but the Chiefs completely abandoned the running game. His average rush attempts decreased from 21.9 to 12.3 attempts per game.
The Kansas City defense is ranked in the bottom half of the league even with the addition of Kendall Fuller and Xavier Williams. The number of positive game scripts will likely be reduced, and little is known about how new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy will deploy the running backs. That’s the other problem. He’s not alone. Spencer Ware is back along with Kerwynn Williams, Damien Williams, and Charcandrick West. Both Kerwynn Williams and Damien Williams profile as pass-catching backs, while Ware saw over 40 percent of his runs within the red zone.
This is not to say Hunt won’t remain as the No. 1 RB on his team. However, the indicators for both reduced production and touches are present. It makes it difficult to draft him at cost, but any drop in price could make him a value.
Christian McCaffrey (Current ADP: 2.09)
Continue reading to see why Chris believes Christian McCaffrey is being overdrafted at his current ADP, and to see which other running back has made his overvalued list for the 2018 fantasy season...