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4 Running Back Bust Candidates

Jul 14, 2016

The underlying numbers give reason for worry to expect a repeat performance by Doug Martin

The underlying numbers give reason for worry to expect a repeat performance by Doug Martin

A year ago, Eddie Lacy was the consensus No. 2 running back, C.J. Anderson No. 5, DeMarco Murray No. 8… and the list goes on. The point is, none of them finished even close to their preseason ranking. Coincidentally, all of them had great seasons the year prior (2014) which led to the thought that they were locks atop the running back options. Unfortunately for many owners, they ended up getting stuck with dead weight for most of the season.

As with any position or player, there’s always a chance that they could be busts. It’s even more likely to hold true when you’re talking about the top-ranked players that are eating up your first, second or even third round picks. Then you factor in the running back position where players are more prone to injury and it’s a recipe for disaster. With that in mind, we wanted to know who the pundits feel are their bust candidates when looking at the consensus top 20 backs.

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Q. What RB in our consensus top 20 should fantasy owners fear the most as a bust candidate?

Doug Martin (TB)
Ranking: RB8
“When describing a “bust,” I tend to leave out players who are drafted outside of the top five rounds, so my pick would be Doug Martin. After lighting the world on fire his rookie year, fantasy owners were willing to sell the farm to acquire him in 2013, where he went off the draft boards right behind Adrian Peterson at No. 2. The issue is that he scored 32.2 percent of his points his rookie season in two games. Outside of those two games, Martin had been a disappointment over his first three seasons, averaging 9.7 fantasy points per game over his other 30 games. That led to him being taken as the 29th running back off the board in 2015. Whether it was Mike Evans‘ lack of touchdowns and catches, Vincent Jackson’s injury, Austin Seferian-Jenkins‘ injury, or the Bucs unwillingness to take the reigns off of Jameis Winston – everything that could have, did go in Martin’s favor last year. Charles Sims is not going away and Mike Evans is going to score more than three touchdowns in 2016. Martin is going to go back to the guy who is a 15-18 touch running back who struggles with efficiency, rather than the 20 touch back he was last year. He’s being overvalued at his current 2nd round ADP.”
Mike Tagliere (Pro Football Focus)

Devonta Freeman (ATL)
Ranking: #RB9
“Freeman is going to have value this year, especially in PPR leagues, but I’m not touching him anywhere near his current ADP as the 9th running back. Tevin Coleman is going to have a much larger role this season, as a recent comment by the Falcons’ running backs coach confirmed. It also seemed the Falcons were more excited about Colemen than Freeman heading into last season before he was injured. Freeman went on to an incredible season, but averaged just 3.07 yards per carry over his last seven games.”
Sablich Brothers (The NY Times)

Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)
Ranking: #RB5
“Okay, let me preface this by saying that I don’t think Ezekiel Elliott is going to be a bust per se, but rather the prevailing assumption is that he cannot bust, and that is a real concern. Yes Elliot was the clear No. 1 running back prospect in this year’s draft class, and yes he has landed in Dallas where he will have the benefit of running behind the league’s best run-blocking unit. But to consider any rookie a can’t miss prospect is a dangerous fantasy assumption. Hindsight on Trent Richardson, who was drafted 3rd overall in 2012 and considered a can’t miss prospect himself, tells us that no matter how solid a prospect looks, becoming a successful NFL player is about more than just talent. Elliott is set to be drafted as a top-five fantasy running back, but personally, I’d be wary of taking him inside the top-ten RBs because there is too much risk involved. Winning your fantasy championship if you mess up your round one pick is only really possible if you hit big on the year’s top sleepers, so my position on Elliott is that you HAVE to be right that he’s a fantasy stud from the get go, and that is too big a risk for me.”
Ross Miles (Pro Football Focus)

“There have been multiple rookie running backs to succeed at the level Ezekiel Elliott is currently being valued, but expecting a rookie to do so, even given the outstanding situation he has landed in, is a recipe for disaster. We are assuming Zeke will immediately soak up the Dallas system, be effective in it, and become the clear-cut starter. Given that Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris (former rookie extraordinaire himself) are quite capable backs in their own right, it’s hard to imagine Elliot as a workhorse back from day one no matter how quickly everything clicks. The typical requirement of a solid defense to fuel the rookie running back’s success doesn’t exist here either. The Cowboys’ already lacking defense will open 2016 with almost a third of its starters suspended. It’s easy to ignore all these red flags and rank Elliot on upside alone, but I promise you won’t see many experts drafting Elliot where they currently have him ranked.”
Sean Morris (Bruno Boys)

DeMarco Murray (TEN)
Ranking: RB18
“It’s fair to wonder if Murray’s best years are behind him after his disappointing season in Philadelphia (193 carries for 702 yards and six touchdowns). His 3.6 YPC was a full 1.1 YPC less than his 2014 average in his epic season with the Cowboys. Now he joins a Tennessee team that may have trouble staying in a run-heavy game script, and he’ll have to fend off 2nd-round pick Derrick Henry.”
John Paulsen (

More RB Busts:

Thank you to the experts for naming their running back bust candidates. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter for advice all season long.

Busts, Featured, Featured Pros, NFL