Risk management is fundamental to any fantasy football strategy. Hey, no one wants to endure heartbreak. Dodging potential potholes on the road to the virtual postseason is paramount to reaching title town. To help owners avoid pitfalls we’ll unveil our top bust candidates position-by-position throughout the week. Wednesday’s topic: Running backs.
Andy – JOE MIXON (23.2 ADP, RB14). The fantasy community seems pretty convinced that Mixon is close to a sure thing, that he’s guaranteed 18-24 touches per game, with goal-line dominance included. We’re drafting him as a rock-solid RB2. Let’s please remember that Cincy’s line was nothin’ special last season, and isn’t a lock to substantially improve. Mixon gained just 3.5 YPC running behind that group. He definitely showed flashes, but Giovani Bernard is still very much in this team’s backfield plans, likely to receive 150-180 touches. I’m not prepared to draft Mixon in a spot in which I need him to be a workhorse runner.
Brad – DERRICK HENRY (35.8 ADP, RB18). The Arnold Schwarzenegger in Tennessee’s “Twins 2” backfield won’t flex the competition compared to his DeVito complement. For the past two seasons, fantasy owners have waited with bated breath for Henry to arrive. His blend of brutish power/size and surprising dexterity conjure memories of former New York Giant Brandon Jacobs. Last year, his 18.7 missed tackle percentage and 3.2 YAC/att, which ranked No. 2 among all qualifying rushers according to Pro Football Focus, are precisely what he brings to the table. Behind a Titans offensive line most feel is a top-10 run-blocking unit, many within the fantasy community are convinced he’s top-15 material, at a minimum, a certifiable steal at his top-40 ADP.
With Dion Lewis in the fold, however, it’s unwise to bestow fantasy greatness on the former Heisman winner.
Little known fact, the 5-foot-8, 195-pound Lewis, then with New England, posted the same YAC/att as Henry and ranked No. 1 in elusive rating in 2017. He was highly effective inside the red-zone (20 atts inside the 10, six TDs scored) and notched a 56 percent success rate on rush attempts and 60 percent success rate on receiving plays (h/t Sharp Football Stats). In other words, there’s no guarantee Henry will dominate touches near the goal line. Toss in Lewis’ superior usage as a pass-catcher and it’s plausible he sets the fantasy pace among Titans RBs in .5 PPR. Circumventing Henry for Lewis or other options (e.g. Jay Ajayi, Rex Burkhead or Royce Freeman) 10-25 picks later is the recommended move.
Dalton – LESEAN MCCOY (27.3 ADP, RB16). He was on my overvalued list even before all the off-field concerns, which could prove significant, so let’s concentrate on the football problems with McCoy. He’s 30 years old, is approaching 2,200 career carries and has to deal with arguably the worst offensive unit in football, highlighted by a dire looking QB situation (but the dreadful O-line and wide receivers shouldn’t be overlooked either). McCoy has had durability concerns in the past, and he’s already expressed a desire to lessen his 2018 workload in an effort to prolong his career.
The Bills situation limits McCoy’s upside even if he somehow manages to stay healthy and in a workhorse role coming off a 370+ touch season (his first full one since 2014) and now on the wrong side of 30. There are too many red flags here (he finished 45th out of 53 RBs in elusive rating last season). I didn’t have McCoy as a top-12 fantasy RB even before the threat of a season-long suspension, so he’s not in my top-20 now.
Matt – RONALD JONES (ADP 50, RB25). Taking Ronald Jones at this fifth-round sticker price is a tough sell. Leading up to the NFL draft, there’s no doubt Tampa Bay was a dream landing spot for a rookie running back and Jones received a bump for his landing spot. The splendor of the situation deteriorated as the months wore on. The Buccaneers starting quarterback was suspended for the first three-games of the season, which may put them behind the eight-ball of already arduous slate. Warren Sharp assessed the Buccaneers’ schedule as the third-most difficult this coming season. A running back on a bad team constantly in negative game scripts is about the last thing you want on your fantasy team.
Jones doesn’t have the collegiate receiving pedigree to offset these concerns, with just 32 catches in three seasons at USC. He also received negative reviews in training camp for his pass protection and let a short throw clank off his hands in the Bucs preseason opener.
Making matters worse, Jones is something of an enigma as a runner. While he’s built like a supped up scatback, Graham Barfield detailed Jones’ struggles on runs out of the shotgun and from 11-personnel. Former undrafted free agent Peyton Barber enjoyed a strong end to the 2017 season, outplayed Jones in the preseason opener and appears to be in the mix for at least a slice of the carries this season. Perhaps Jones turns it on to negate all these concerns but the odds are against him and paying a high-fifth round price on that kind of bet is not wise.