Do Not Draft List: RB (Fantasy Football)

Jul 7, 2018

Derrick Henry’s (pictured) upside is capped by Dion Lewis’ presence

When it comes to redraft leagues for fantasy football, running backs are king. This year is no exception, as the position is shaping out to be reasonably thin. Once you get past the top 12-15 backs, there is a significant dropoff.

Getting a high volume running back like Le’Veon Bell or Todd Gurley can propel you through a winning season, and push you through a deep playoff run. Hitting on the right running backs is huge since the position is much thinner than the wide receiver position is, where you can find viable WR3 options on the waiver, even in some 12-team leagues. The running back position has gotten pretty thin in recent years, and there are many options, including some players I name here, that I believe aren’t worth their draft capital.

As always, everyone can be had for the right price in fantasy football. If some of these names fall to an absurd value, I have no problem taking them. The players I cover are ones that I probably wasn’t too high on in the first place. At their current ADP, I’m perfectly fine passing on them.

As the football season approaches, ADP values begin to change thanks to injuries or pre-season hype. At this point, these are some running backs that I’m avoiding at their current price. This doesn’t mean I’m fully avoiding these guys, but based on their price, I likely won’t be owning any shares. I also shed some light on other options that I prefer.

Based on their current price, here are some names that are on my “Do Not Draft List.”

Note: This list is geared towards PPR leagues.

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Derrick Henry (TEN) RB17 – 38 Overall
For some time now, I’ve been someone that isn’t crazy about Henry. Despite having a nice opportunity with DeMarco Murray leaving Tennessee, bringing in Dion Lewis severely limits his upside and, in my opinion, the possibility of a major breakout. I still believe that Henry can breakout to an extent, but the lack of involvement in the passing game puts a cap on that ceiling.

Coming off the board as the RB17, this just screams “avoid” to me. I expect that Henry will get the bulk of the carries, and while he should take a step forward simply due to the increase in volume, I’m not ready to pay this price for him.

Coming off the board as the 26th running back is Dion Lewis, the other half of that Titans backfield. The current ADP that I’m using has Lewis coming off in roughly the fifth round, while Henry is going at the end of the third. There is a good chance that someone you’re drafting with is banking on a Henry breakout out. Let your leaguemates pay up for Henry, and grab Lewis a couple rounds later, who I believe will outscore him in PPR.

Derrius Guice (WAS) RB19 – 39 Overall
Coming in just one spot after Henry is Washington Redskins rookie, Guice. Not only is this price far too high for me, but I don’t even think Guice should be the second rookie off the board in redraft leagues. If you’re one to go a little overboard with banking on rookies, I would much rather wait and grab a guy like Rashaad Penny (RB22) or Royce Freeman (RB31).

Both of these RBs have the potential to exceed Guice’s projected volume this year, not to mention, offer PPR upside in the passing game. Guice will have a limited passing role thanks to the PPR stud Chris Thompson, and Freeman has little to no competition in Denver, I’ll touch on that more in depth later. While Guice did show that he is capable of catching passes out of the backfield at LSU, the sample size was small, and Thompson should still be their third down and pass catching back.

This range of RB17 through RB21 is a total mess. Henry, Guice, Kenyan Drake, Jay Ajayi, and Alex Collins are some of the names. Many fantasy owners are excited about these RBs and there being a potential breakout, but they all are pretty similar in my opinion.

I’ve voiced my concerns on Henry, Drake, Ajayi, and Collins in several of my other pieces for FantasyPros. I wouldn’t mind having one of these backs as my RB2, but with the cluster of guys in similar situations, I’m avoiding this group of RBs and likely targetting a wide receiver. I’d be fine grabbing whoever falls the furthest of these guys, but I’m not paying up to grab any of them in particular. I don’t mind taking a shot on Guice in redraft leagues, but the price is too steep for me.

Marlon Mack (IND) RB32 – 82 Overall
Mack is someone that I’m fairly excited about for dynasty leagues, but isn’t someone I’m crazy about in redraft leagues. Coming as the 32nd RB off the board is a little too optimistic for me. I don’t mind taking a later round flier on Mack for redraft, but based on his current ADP, I likely won’t be owning many shares this year.

Anyway, it is assumed that leagues are PPR, not standard scoring. As the 30th RB off the board, there are several other options later who offer more upside for PPR leagues. A few notable names that I’d pass on Mack for are Royce Freeman (RB29) and Duke Johnson (RB36). I’d feel much better about those two RBs or target a wide receiver in this price range.

Coming off the board almost five rounds later is rookie Nyheim Hines (RB46). If you’re interested in grabbing part of the Colts backfield in redraft leagues, I would go this route.

The reports so far this offseason have been that Indianapolis is using Hines all over the field. He was someone I loved as a prospect and has some very nice versatility and explosiveness. I could see him putting up numbers comparable to Tarik Cohen or even Duke Johnson. That pass-catching back with the ability to play out of the slot is something that we have been seeing more and more of in the NFL in recent years, and Hines fits that mold very well. Let your leaguemates grab Mack earlier, and feel good about getting someone with just as much, potentially more, upside in Hines.

Nick Chubb (CLE) RB41 – 114 Overall
At this point in your draft, you’re likely either looking at high upside running backs, or PPR running backs. If there is a back that I am excited about, I’ll happily take the one with upside over the one with a nice PPR value. When it comes to upside, Chubb isn’t the first guy I think about for this year.

With what looks to be a very crowded and unproven offense, I won’t be grabbing Chubb at this price. I believe that Cleveland, who currently has Carlos Hyde on a one-year deal, will use him primarily this year. Chubb should get eased into the offense, and I do like his talent a lot. Don’t be surprised if the Browns get all they can out of Hyde this year, then let him walk after the season.

The third and final piece of this backfield is one of my favorite pass-catching backs in Duke Johnson (RB36), who is coming off the board just a few spots before Chubb. He’s someone I’ll likely have a good amount of shares this year, as he’ll have his continued pass-catching role along with a nice floor. I don’t expect to get another year like we saw out of Johnson last year, but I really wouldn’t mind him as a flex option, potentially even as an RB2 again.

With all the mouths to feed in Cleveland, I have no interest in investing a higher pick in Chubb this year. Don’t be surprised if you see one of your leaguemates take Chubb before Johnson with the hype that rookies tend to get. Take the best value that you can get out of this backfield, and I’d recommend taking the best value, with Johnson as the one with the safest floor.

Devontae Booker (DEN) RB45 – 129 Overall
When you start getting into the running backs in the 30-50 range, there are so many questions surrounding them, that everyone has reasons you can name to avoid them. When we get this late, I’m almost always going after the backs with the most upside in the passing game. Devontae Booker has had a fair amount of opportunity to prove himself when C.J. Anderson has gone down in the past, and he just hasn’t shown us much.

Rookie Royce Freeman getting drafted by Denver has the potential to be one of the most productive rookie backs this year thanks to the opportunity and departure of Anderson. I have no interest at all in owning Booker, even at this price.

Give me a guy like Corey Clement (RB47) or Giovani Bernard (RB50) who I at least know will offer me that upside in the passing game over Booker. The volume isn’t always there with picks like this, but when I see that they’ll be catching passes, these late round backs with PPR upside are the ones I tend to target. Not to mention, an injury to either Joe Mixon or Ajayi offers even more potential for Clement or Bernard.

Let’s not get confused, though these backs are much more than just handcuffs. No, you won’t be starting these guys very often, but as bye week replacements and for those of you who like to draft wide receiver heavy, stocking up on these late round PPR guys is a nice strategy.

Other RBs on my ‘Do Not Draft’ list at their current price:
Kerryon Johnson, Ronald Jones II, and Jay Ajayi


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Aaron Schillinger is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Aaron, check out his profile and follow him @aaron_schill.

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