Fantasy Football Do Not Draft List: Running Backs
To be a great player in fantasy football, you’re going to need to learn a few things. One being your fandom, put it aside. Just because I’m from Chicago and a Bears fan doesn’t mean that I can’t own any Packers players. In fact, I want a lot more of them than I do Bears players. Second, put your hatred for a player aside. Just because he’s hurt you in the past doesn’t mean he will in the future. We’re not talking about ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends here. So many people hang on to stuff like this and it’ll negatively affect your chances of winning that coveted fantasy football trophy.
You also need to know that just because you don’t love a player, it doesn’t mean you can’t draft him. There’ve been times where I’ve had someone say, “Uh, Mike, you said that you didn’t like that player on a podcast, so why did you just draft him?” This is when you know that you’ve become a good fantasy football player. Why? Because you’ve become smart enough to know that every player has value, regardless of whether or not you like him.
Earlier this week, we posted the Do Not Draft list for quarterbacks (read here), so it’s only natural that we’d do the same for all other positions, right? This is my fantasy football “black list” of players at the running back position. Again, does it mean that you absolutely do not draft them? No, but it means that you shouldn’t even consider them at their current price.
Demarco Murray (TEN) Current Positional ADP: 7
This is a great example to lead off the players, as Murray still has plenty of value in fantasy football, just not at No. 7 among running backs. This time last year, many were concerned about Derrick Henry stealing almost half the work. I was the one saying that it Murray’s job and that Henry was just a rookie with some time to grow into his role. As the year went on, that happened, as the now 29-year-old Murray averaged just 9.9 standard fantasy points per game from Week 11-17 after averaging 18.1 points per game in Weeks 1-10. Henry came on as the season went on, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and scoring four touchdowns over the final five games, while Murray averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and scored just one touchdown in the final six games. Not one single running back has more miles on their frame since 2013 than Murray (1,095 carries), and as shown in my Age Matters series (read here), running backs tend to fall off at age-29. Again, Murray has value in fantasy leagues, but he’s being drafted at or above his ceiling.
LeGarrette Blount (PHI) Current Positional ADP: 26
This is the point in the rankings where most people are torn, so why not go with the guy who scored 18 touchdowns last year, right? Well let’s talk about the misconception that Blount is a power-back. His 2.5 yards after contact last year was the same as the newly-replaced Jeremy Hill. Was he great on the goal-line last year? Yeah, there is no disputing that, but he’s going from an offense that scored 29 points per game to one that was just short of 23 points per game. His 299 carries was the second-most in the NFL last year, something that won’t happen in Philadelphia. In fact, Blount himself said a few weeks ago that he’s “unsure of what his role is in the offense.” If you recall the start of last season, the more versatile Ryan Mathews had fewer than 10 carries in six of the first 10 games (before he was hurt) in this exact offense. Some players being drafted after him that I’d much rather have: Paul Perkins, Mike Gillislee, Doug Martin, Ameer Abdullah… I don’t think it’s necessary to go on any more.
Frank Gore (IND) Current Positional ADP: 30
Some may go to my rankings after this and see that Gore is ranked as No. 31 running back, and while that’s true, I wouldn’t draft him there. Our job is to project where a player will finish at the end of the season, and Gore will likely finish around that area. But here’s my issue – Gore may have finished as the No. 12 running back last year, but if you look at how he did it, it’s very hollow. Over the final seven games of the season, Gore totaled just 434 rushing yards on 118 carries (3.68 yards per carry) with no touchdowns, as Robert Turbin started to get goal-line work for the incapable Gore. Over his two seasons with the Colts, Gore has scored just 10 touchdowns on 523 carries, while Turbin scored seven touchdowns on just 47 carries in 2016. While Gore was a phenomenal player in this league for a long time, that time has passed and he offers your team zero upside at this point in his career.
Rob Kelley (WAS) Current Positional ADP: 34
If you’ve listened to any of the FantasyPros podcasts, you’ve probably heard the reasoning as to why Kelley is on my do not draft list. He’s a running back that almost runs into contact, creating the illusion that he’s solid at breaking tackles, but in reality, he’s just not elusive or fast enough to escape contact. Most remember his 100-plus yard, three touchdown performance against the Packers on prime-time television last year, but after that game Kelley totaled just 280 yards on his next 84 carries (3.3 yards per carry), leading the Redskins to use a mid-round draft pick on Samaje Perine who can do what Kelley does, but much better. He may start the season as the “veteran,” but should be overtaken by Perine sooner rather than later. Another player who needs to fall into the RB40-RB45 range for me to consider him.
Latavius Murray (MIN) Current Positional ADP: 39
It’s been somewhat of a roller coaster for Murray’s ADP throughout the offseason, as he went from being on the Raiders and running behind the league’s best offensive line that produced a combined 4.7 yards per carry, to the Vikings and their bottom-five offensive line that produced zero running backs with more than 3.38 yards per carry. Then it was announced that Murray needed ankle surgery to remove a bone spur, which is far from ideal. As if those things weren’t enough of a hit to his value, the Vikings traded up to draft Dalvin Cook in the second-round. While the Vikings did attempt to reinvigorate their offensive line this offseason, they didn’t add someone like Alex Mack (who the Falcons did last year) who can dramatically change the unit. Some are expecting Murray to still be the goal-line back, but do you really want to rely on the next Matt Asiata at this point in drafts?
Jonathan Stewart (CAR) Current Positional ADP: 41
There has been some buzz surrounding Stewart the last week or so, with mentions that he may actually lead the team in carries, not rookie Christian McCaffrey. I wouldn’t call that a hot take, but it’s one that doesn’t make much of a difference to me as someone who’s faded Stewart throughout his career. Did you know that Joique Bell has as many top-18 finishes as Stewart does in his career? Here’s another fun fact: Jeremy Langford has as many 25 point PPR games in his career as Stewart does in his career. Now you’re adding McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel into the backfield? Both of them offer much more game-breaking potential than Stewart and that’s a fact. Players being drafted in his range or after that you should take instead: C.J. Prosise, Kenneth Dixon, James White, Duke Johnson