Last summer, I introduced a simple but effective way to consider running back workloads. Right around three-quarters of all running back touches are rush attempts outside the red zone, and specifically outside the 10-yard line and in. Those low-value rush attempts are far less valuable for Fantasy than receptions and rushes near the goal line, which make up the remainder of running back touches.
Most Fantasy drafters are aware of the value of opportunity and specifically touches, so by isolating the touches that matter most for Fantasy there's an opportunity to find players who could be over- or undervalued. I called the combination of receptions and green zone rush attempts High-Value Touches (HVT), and the percentage of a running back's total touches that were not HVT is their Trivial Rush Attempt Percentage (TRAP). You can read all about the initial concept here and some examples of how I initially applied it in a follow-up piece.
I'll be doing more work around HVT and TRAP this summer, but as we rolled out our bust picks for 2020 today, I wanted to take a look at some running backs whose workloads indicate they may be a bit overvalued. Things can always change, and each situation should be considered independently, so I'll discuss some key names below. These are the top backs in NFC ADP since the NFL Draft alongside their 2019 high-value touches and 2019 TRAP.
Potential early-round fades
Henry totaled just 42 high-value touches in 2019, owing to his limited receiving role. During his monster stretch from Week 10 through Week 17, Henry averaged a ridiculous 6.5 yards per carry on 139 rushes. After the season, I wrote a longer piece about why, but I'm still unlikely to select him in the first round often.
Henry's 24 green zone rush attempts and 10 green zone rushing touchdowns were both top-10 figures, but he also scored a league-high eight touchdowns from outside 10 yards, and the combination of potential rushing yardage and touchdown regression makes his price too steep for me. It took an absolutely ridiculous rushing season to finish RB5 in PPR leagues thanks to his lack of receiving work, and now he's being drafted as the RB6, which feels close to his ceiling.
On top of holdout concerns, Mixon has simply never been trusted to play a full snap share. Giovani Bernard is still in Cincinnati, and he helped limit Mixon to fewer than 70% of the snaps in all but three games last year. More notably, Bernard also helped limit Mixon to just 35 receptions, and Mixon's big surge late in the season was largely due to a spike in rushing efficiency (as well as an increase in carries).
One silver lining for Mixon is he saw a whopping 29 green-zone touches. If he's more efficient in that area, or if the Cincinnati offense improves as expected and he maintains a similarly high share of their work in scoring range, he could see improvement on his eight total touchdowns.
Chubb's TRAP was far worse in the second half of the 2019 season after the return of Kareem Hunt, as Chubb fell from four targets per game in the first eight games to 2.25 after Hunt was activated. For Chubb to be worth a pick in the early second round, he'll either need to earn back some of the receiving work or be one of the most efficient rushers in the league. I'm not necessarily counting him out from doing either of those things, but it's not an easy bet to make that early in the draft.
Hunt, meanwhile, pops in this analysis. His TRAP makes him a clear target as the perfect type of No. 2 who could explode to a ceiling higher than the No. 1 should an injury occur.
The Fantasy community has been practically begging all offseason for Jacobs to see more receiving work, but the Raiders re-signed passing downs back Jalen Richard to a healthy free agent deal then drafted converted wide receiver/quarterback Lynn Bowden as a pass-catching running back option. Oh yeah, and they added Devontae Booker from the Broncos, another player with an extensive passing downs background. Jacobs is a phenomenal rushing talent who should see plenty of green zone work, but the Raiders' depth chart makes him look like a back who will continue to cede those valuable receptions.
Carson started to lose some work to Rashaad Penny before Penny's ACL tear, but he also had the best receiving season of his career in 2019. It's somewhat surprising then that his TRAP came out poor. Drafters have barely dinged Carson at all since the addition of Carlos Hyde, and it's worth noting that Hyde's TRAP in Houston was even worse than Carson's, and Hyde is not much of a receiver. It's possible Carson actually plays on more passing downs as a result, but he still feels like a big leap of faith in the early rounds given the number of backs on Seattle's roster.
Singletary totaled just three green zone rush attempts in 2019, but Frank Gore and his 18 are now gone. The question then becomes whether Singletary will see an uptick in usage in the scoring zone, or whether rookie Zack Moss takes over that role. Of course, Josh Allen is also a threat to steal some touchdowns with his legs, and his scrambling ability and the Bills' additions at wide receiver over the past few seasons might limit running back targets. Singletary looked explosive in Year 1 and has the makings of a productive player, but his team situation caps his ceiling to an extent.
Mostert was a revelation in 2019, blowing up in his age-27 season after just 41 career carries for 297 yards prior to last year. His 5.6 YPC is unsustainable, his touchdown rate was ridiculous and Kyle Shanahan used several different backs in a lead role throughout the season. Mostert should have a solid early season role, but Tevin Coleman and company should come knocking at some point — remember how Coleman started the Super Bowl despite Mostert rushing for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns in the NFC Championship game? That makes it hard to justify a player with Mostert's profile anywhere near the fourth round.
Montgomery's situation is not dissimilar to Josh Jacobs' in that drafters are hoping he'll play more on passing downs. But after an inefficient rookie season, Montgomery is still dealing with the dynamic Tarik Cohen in a locked-in role. Sure, Cohen's efficiency was down in 2019 as well, but the Bears clearly like him in the passing game, sending 104 targets his way compared to just 35 for Montgomery. Montgomery is yet another player with a locked-in role who feels safe on Draft Day — particularly as he comes off the board right when the running back position starts to get very thin — but isn't likely to move the needle toward a championship. There are too many potential wide receiver standouts in that range for me to call Monty's number.
Which players are poised for breakouts, which sleepers do you need to jump on, and which busts should you avoid at all costs in your Fantasy football league? Visit SportsLine now to get early rankings, plus see which WR is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.