We've finally reached August and that means Fantasy Football draft preparation is kicking into full gear. We won't go another Thursday without football from this point on until the end of Thursday Night Football, so we've got that going for us, which is nice. We'll be tackling different position groups in the coming weeks, and this week we are focusing on the running back position -- arguably the one group Fantasy managers spend the most time debating.
Today, we're tapping into the Fantasy Football Today team to find out which running backs they're avoiding drafting for the 2021 season. Without further ado, let's dive right into it.
Running back busts
Jamey Eisenberg's picks
I like Sanders a lot, but I'm concerned about his upside in what seems to be a crowded running back room for the Eagles this year. Philadelphia drafted Kenneth Gainwell this season and also signed veterans in Kerryon Johnson and Jordan Howard, with Boston Scott still on the team. While it's no guarantee all of these guys make the final roster, or that any of them play a significant role, it feels like Sanders is headed for a timeshare. Eagles running backs coach Jamel Singleton also hinted at a committee this season, saying in The Athletic that "I think the days of 'he's an every-down back,' that's a little skewed these days because of the speed, because of the contact." Sanders is worth drafting in Round 4, but even that could be a mistake if he's not featured in Philadelphia's offense.
Jacobs has been one of my favorite running backs since the Raiders drafted him in 2019, but I'm not overly optimistic for him this season. For starters, the Raiders adding Kenyan Drake in free agency will hurt Jacobs' workload. Drake is a better receiver than Jacobs, and Drake will certainly get his share of carries. This could be frustrating throughout the season for both running backs if the workload is even. The other concern is the Raiders offensive line, which lost three starters this offseason in right tackle Trent Brown, center Rodney Hudson and right guard Gabe Jackson. Jacobs is likely going to be drafted in Round 4 in most leagues, but I'm not sure I would even draft him then. While I still believe in his talent, his situation got worse for 2021. He's no longer someone I plan to target in most of my Fantasy leagues.
Fantasy Football Today Newsletter
Know What Your Friends Don't
Get tips, advice and news to win your league - all from the FFT podcast team.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Hunt proved to be a great handcuff for Nick Chubb in 2020, but Hunt struggled to produce when Chubb was active. Chubb suffered a knee injury in Week 4 against Dallas and missed four games. Including Week 4, Hunt averaged 14.0 PPR points per game over his next five outings with Chubb sidelined. But after Chubb returned in Week 10 against Houston, Hunt scored more than nine PPR points just three times over his final eight games. He also had 10 total touches or less three times over that span. Hunt can still be a potential flex option in tandem with Chubb, but he's being drafted as a low-end starter in most leagues. I don't plan to target Hunt as a Fantasy starter as long as Chubb is healthy heading into Week 1.
Dave Richard's picks
Josh Jacobs, Raiders
Ready for the truth about Jacobs' 2020 season? He finished with just over 1,300 total yards and 10 touchdowns, but he somehow had just five games with 15-plus PPR points and five with 100 total yards. He also failed to score on 11 of 16 carries from 3 yards or closer to the goal line and was shown 3.0 targets per game. The Raiders renovated three-fifths of their offensive line and added Kenyan Drake to their rushing offense. They also have a tough schedule, including the Ravens and Steelers in Weeks 1 and 2. Jacobs' outlook has never looked worse, which is why getting him in Round 4 might still be too soon.
This isn't about Etienne's talent -- he's a lightning-quick speedster with amazing pass-catching abilities. It is a little bit about his size -- he's not built strong and already floundered as a pass protector in college. And it's a little bit about his workload -- James Robinson is still on the roster (and looking good, according to early training camp reports), so the Jaguars don't have to press Etienne into a heavy workload anytime soon. It would be cool if you could draft Etienne in Round 6, or maybe even late Round 5 in PPR leagues. But his mid-Round 4 ADP means he's getting picked over safer starters at several different positions. Reaching is bad. Don't do it.
While it's encouraging that Edmonds had 850 total yards and five touchdowns last season despite playing just under 50% of the Cardinals snaps, the reality is that his ceiling is not much higher than that unless he completely takes over the backfield. Maybe Edmonds will see an uptick in playing time and prove to be much more than a passing-downs back. Or, maybe Edmonds will continue to be in that role while giving James Conner the harder work between the tackles and near the goal line. So if Edmonds' ceiling is so clearly defined, why is he going in early Round 6 when it should be at least one round later, if not two?
- With Quenton Nelson out 5-12 weeks, is Jonathan Taylor still a first-round pick? And what do we know about the Jaguars backfield? We cover that and more on the Fantasy Football Today in 5 podcast. Listen below and follow at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts:
Heath Cummings' picks
I hope Barkley is ready for Week 1 and stays healthy all season. But even the most optimistic person would admit his floor is hurt by the fact that he wasn't ready for the start of camp and the team is talking about him sharing more to start the year. That lower floor matters because I don't think Barkley has 2018-upside. His offensive line is still a mess, he's playing with a mobile quarterback, his offensive coordinator doesn't have any history of providing 100-plus targets to his running back, his team added multiple weapons in the passing game, and the Giants don't profile as a high-scoring offense. If he's not exceptionally efficient as a runner, doesn't command more than five targets per game and doesn't score a bunch of touchdowns, it's really hard to see him finishing as a top-five back. And if he doesn't have top-five upside he shouldn't be drafted in Round 1.
I'm really uncomfortable with calling Edwards-Helaire a bust. But I'm more uncomfortable drafting him in Round 2. The Chiefs gave him a workhorse role at the beginning of last year, then brought in Le'Veon Bell to share work with him. By the end of the year, Darrell Williams was playing more snaps. I'm just not sure he's going to be a three-down back and Patrick Mahomes doesn't throw to his backs all that often anyway. Edwards-Helaire is fine as a low-end No. 2 back, but you shouldn't draft him where he's being taken.
I can see a path where JaVonte Williams has a finish to the year like Swift, Akers or J.K. Dobbins did last year. But I expect him to start the year firmly behind Melvin Gordon, and if Gordon plays as well as he did last year, he's not going away. Williams is being drafted as a No. 2 back and I don't want my No. 2 running back to need an injury to be a Fantasy starter. Now, if Gordon gets hurt, that would change everything.
Chris Towers' picks
J.K. Dobbins, Ravens
How do you define "bust?" Is it simply a player who fails to live up to their cost? If so, Dobbins doesn't really belong here. He's RB16 in ADP and has a decent chance of living up to that value as a high-floor player in this offense. However, a player can live up to his ADP and still be a bad pick in the third round because of the opportunity cost involved in drafting them. At this point in the draft, you should still be looking for potential superstars, and I don't think Dobbins can be that kind of 20-PPR points per game player. Even during that unsustainable seven-touchdowns-in-six-games stretch last season, he averaged just 16.95 points per game. Joe Mixon averaged 16.93 in his six games despite only four touchdowns and averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Dobbins just won't catch enough passes or enough rushing volume in an offense that always wants to split carries three ways. Dobbins is a nice safe pick, but I'd rather have the upside of three-down guys like D'Andre Swift, Chris Carson, or David Montgomery at similar or even cheaper prices.
Javonte Williams, Broncos
This one is all about the price tag, as Williams is going off the board as RB22 since the start of July. Williams could end up being a very good Fantasy option at some point, but it's still a "when" question. Is it early on, like James Robinson a year ago? Is it midseason, like Dobbins? Or is it only for a few weeks, like Cam Akers? If you had Dobbins and Akers on your team, you got some excellent stretches from them, but it's worth remembering that a lot -- if not most -- of the people who drafted them dropped them before they ever made an impact. Williams is competing with Melvin Gordon for touches, and it's entirely possible Gordon sticks around all season as a major part of the Broncos offense. He's a pretty good player in his own right, and a better value three rounds later.
Davis is being drafted as a top-25 RB almost exclusively on the strength of his projected workload. Sure, he opened some eyes with his play early on for the Panthers last season, but over his final six games, Davis averaged 3.6 yards per carry and just 4.5 per target. He's pretty much the definition of a JAG -- Just A Guy -- a journeyman who was cut after just 11 carries with the Bears in 2019. The Falcons only have Qadree Ollison and Javian Hawkins behind him on the depth chart, so it's possible Davis holds on to the job. But there should be no expectation he'll elevate this offense, and that puts him in a very precarious position should one of the other backs show a spark. Running backs drafted in the fourth or fifth round over the past five seasons have scored fewer than 200 PPR points 77.1% of the time, and Davis seems like a pretty good bet to contribute to that record of futility.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.