2017 Fantasy Football Busts

2017 Fantasy Football Running Back Busts: Fool’s Gold


The old saying goes, “You can’t win your fantasy league on draft day.” That is, for the most part, very true. However, you can definitely lose your league on draft day. Ask anyone who drafted DeAndre Hopkins in the 1st round last season where they finished. You think you are getting the cornerstone piece of your roster, and they turn out to be total fools gold.

This philosophy is even truer when you talk about running backs. The turnover at the position is so great that grabbing a running back who is consistent week to week is almost like finding a unicorn. Sure, that turnover also lends itself to more waiver wire options becoming viable, but if you aren’t at the top of the waiver order, good luck.

That is why avoiding the pitfalls of drafting busts at the running back position is so vital. A bust is being defined here as someone who is likely to fall well short of the production expected from their ADP.

2017 Fantasy Football Running Back Busts

Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons

Last season, I predicted that Devonta Freeman was going to be the bust of the year and that Tevin Coleman would have his job by the halfway point. Well, that was wrong. I severely underestimated the capacity of the Falcons’ offense to support all of the weapons they boast. Coleman definitely had a great year, but Freeman was even more of a stud.

I obviously didn’t learn my lesson, because here we are again. Freeman well outperformed his ADP last year, and it seems to me like the market has overcorrected. Freeman is a late first round pick, and anyone taking him there is expecting him to replicate his 2016 campaign.

My main reasoning in fading Freeman this season is the loss of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Everywhere Shanahan goes, the offense flourishes. Then when he leaves, the offense seems to go with him.

Matt Ryan has never been the quarterback he was with Shanahan. I am sure everyone in Atlanta retained a lot of the Shanahan wisdom, but with his departure and the installation of the new offense, this screams regression. That regression will trickle down from Ryan to the running backs and receivers.

Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins

After a long preseason battle with Arian Foster, Jay Ajayi eventually wrestled the starting job away with the help of an injury that prompted Foster to hang up the cleats. After struggling out of the gate, Ajayi rewarded those who stuck with him with a 200-yard explosion in Week 5 and followed it up with another in Week 6. Ajayi would only top 100 yards two times after this, however, with a 100-yard performance in Week 8 and a 200-yard outing in Week 15.

Ajayi finished 4th in the NFL in rushing yards last season but did over half of his damage in just four games. While it is great to see that he is capable of such performances, it is quite discouraging to have him underperform in the other twelve. If you take out the four triple-digit rushing games, Ajayi averaged only 3.5 YPC.

At a second round draft price, I am looking for someone who is going to come with consistent production every week. Jay Ajayi has yet to prove that he can do this.

Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders

The return of Beast Mode to the NFL was met with much fanfare and excitement. And why wouldn’t it be? Marshawn Lynch has been everywhere since his retirement in 2015, putting quite the mark on pop culture despite no longer playing. Lynch returns to football to almost the perfect situation. The Oakland offensive line is top 3 in the league, with a quarterback who is a rising star.

Lynch’s ADP currently has him going in the 2nd or 3rd round, seemingly not a bad price for a running back with Lynch’s situation and pedigree. With that being said, Lynch’s return might be a bit romanticized. Looking back at the last time we saw Beast Mode, the results were not pretty. Lynch battled injuries all season, appearing in only seven games and struggling in those appearances. Add on the fact that Lynch is almost 31 years old and a year removed from live action, and you have a recipe for a big bust.

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard Fournette dominated college football in 2016, running through some of nation’s best defenses in the SEC. Now, Fournette finds himself in a much different situation as the starting running back for the Jags. Jacksonville has been a graveyard for running backs, most recently highlighted in the struggles of Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon.

The Jags are hoping Fournette’s transcendent talent can buck the recent trends in their backfield. Fantasy owners must be buying in as well, as his ADP is at 24, making him a late second or early third rounder. You will hear a lot of people ask if he is the next Zeke Elliot. This type of pressure is really unfair to Fournette, as most draft classes don’t have rookie running backs that lead the league in rushing. Jacksonville’s offensive line can’t hold a candle to Dallas’, so to compare their situations is kind of foolish.

Fournette’s current ADP is a little too rich for my blood. Until the Jaguars prove they can have an offense that can compliment a running back, I will be passing here.

Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

Christian McCaffrey is another electrifying college player making the jump this season. He was one of my favorite players to watch and was robbed of the Heisman Trophy in his junior year if you ask me. With that being said, the fact that people are actually drafting him in the 5th round of drafts is mind-boggling to me.

There has been no indication that McCaffrey will be the starter in Carolina. Jonathan Stewart is still there people! Stewart is now that dreaded age of thirty, but by all indications is still the RB1 for the Panthers. McCaffrey will probably come in and get touches and maybe even take the job at some point, but this is not a player who will get the touches to justify a 5th round pick.

McCaffery is absolutely someone to draft in dynasty leagues. However, if you are in a non-keeper redraft league you should consider other options this early in the draft.

Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers

Wide receiver turned running back Ty Montgomery stepped in and did a sufficient job for the Packers in 2016. In the offseason, Montgomery has been trying to put on weight to become more of a between the tackles runner. The fact that the Packers drafted three running backs is not exactly a vote of confidence, however.

The fact of the matter is, the Packers don’t view Montgomery as a three-down, between the tackles running back. This showed itself in the fact that Green Bay only gave him double digit carries one time in 2016. It is clear that he was simply a placeholder for the position.

Mike McCarthy has said Ty Montgomery is the starter at running back as of now, but in my opinion, it is only a matter of time before Jamaal Williams steps in and takes over the starting job. Montgomery is currently going in roughly the 5th round of drafts, with his likely successor going in double digit rounds.

2017 Fantasy Football Position Previews
QuarterbacksRunning BacksWide ReceiversTight Ends

For more F6P preseason coverage please visit our 2017 Draft Kit section.

About Chris Wright

Chris is a self-diagnosed, non-recovering Fantasy addict. Balances stats on paper with actual on field evidence when making projections. Check him out on Twitter @ChrisWright_F6P

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