5 Running Back Busts (2018 Fantasy Football)

by Jody Smith | @JodySmithNFL | Featured Writer
Aug 20, 2018

Don’t be surprised if Jay Ajayi takes a step backward

Most people would rather gloss right over bad news to get to the positives–the good stuff. That’s why reading about fantasy football sleepers tends to be much more popular than focusing on the players that are overvalued. The thing is, knowing what players are unlikely to meet their current value is just as, if not more important, than finding those coveted sleepers.

Players become busts for a variety of reasons. Recency bias, coaching or scheme changes, injuries, and failure to account for positional value are just some of the many factors that cause a player to be over-drafted during the fantasy football roster building process.

It’s necessary to take some chances to separate yourself from the general consensus, but knowing which players are currently being overrated and have a chance to bust is vital to drafting the best fantasy football roster.

Here are the 2018 fantasy football running back busts and don’t forget to check out my RB sleepers, QB busts, and QB sleepers.

View real time recommendations for each pick with our Draft Assistant >>

PPR ADP data can be found here

Christian McCaffrey (CAR): RB11 – I actually love McCaffrey as a pass-catcher, where he exceeded expectations as a rookie, leading all NFL running backs with 113 targets and finishing third with 80 receptions. He also scored seven touchdowns and finished as an RB1 in PPR scoring formats.

It’s as a runner where I have concerns. McCaffrey played the sixth-highest snap share of any running back but finished 50th with a lowly 3.7 yards-per-carry figure and didn’t receive a single goal-line carry all season. Now the Panthers just added C.J. Anderson to replace Jonathan Stewart as the team’s main ball-carrier. Anderson is a significant upgrade over the plodding Stewart and far better in the passing game.

Anderson can catch, but the return of TE Greg Olsen and addition of first-round WR D.J. Moore will also potentially take targets away from McCaffrey. Only three times last season did McCaffrey command double-digit carries and any significant reduction in targets is going to make it very difficult for the sophomore running back to return RB1 value.

LeSean McCoy (BUF): RB15 – At some point in your draft, LeSean McCoy’s history of excellent production will become a bargain, but with numerous red flags, targeting McCoy as anything other than a high-upside flex play in Round 5 or 6 is a risky proposition.

At 30-years old and with over 2,600 career touches, McCoy has entered dangerous territory for a running back, especially when you consider that he just posted the lowest yards-per-carry figure of his career and will be running behind one of the three worst offensive lines in football.

The Bills also have a completely unsettled quarterback situation that will allow the opposition to stack the line and key solely on shutting down McCoy and the running game.

On top of that, McCoy could still be facing discipline after being accused of domestic abuse and possibly orchestrating a robbery. McCoy has been an elite fantasy runner for a long time, but the track record for aging veterans with McCoy’s career usage is not encouraging. I’d let somebody else take their chances on him being capable of one last RB1-2 campaign.

Derrick Henry (TEN): RB18 – Henry has the exact opposite concerns that are attached to McCaffrey. Henry is a powerful and accomplished runner but has limited experience in the passing game and the arrival of pass-catcher extraordinaire Dion Lewis is unlikely to lead to Henry elevating his PPR value enough to pay off his inflated ADP.

Despite playing in the antiquated “exotic smashmouth” offense last season, Henry could never take control of Tennessee’s backfield from DeMarco Murray. While he looked like a star in the Titan’s wildcard win, Henry surpassed 14 carries only twice during the regular season. He might see an uptick in carries, but Lewis himself also fared well as a runner and is far better in the passing game.

I see Lewis as a better fit in Matt LaFleur’s offense, especially as a receiver. Despite his size, Henry has only scored five touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. With a limited role in the passing game, Henry is more of a touchdown-dependent flex play for me than a locked-in RB2, which is what you’re expecting when you spend a third or fourth-round pick on a player.

Jay Ajayi (PHI): RB20 – After a slow start, Ajayi’s usage started to ramp up as the Eagles made their Super Bowl run. From Week 14 thru the NFC Championship, Ajayi averaged 15 rushes for 62 yards and took the lead role in Philadelphia’s committee backfield.

Now many are expecting that lead status to carry over into 2018, but I think Doug Pedersen has every intention of continuing to use multiple backs. Corey Clement scored six touchdowns on only 84 touches and Darren Sproles returns for change-of-pace carries and as a pass-catching weapon.

Speaking of Clement’s scoring prowess, Ajayi was sorely lacking in that area. Ajayi hit pay dirt just two times last season and did not register a single goal-line carry for either Miami or Philadelphia. He’s ok as a receiver, but with Clement and Sproles there, Ajayi isn’t likely to jump up over 30 receptions. Without those valuable catches and with limited touchdown upside, it’s going to be difficult for Ajayi to yield a positive return on a fourth-round investment.

Rookie Running Backs Rounds 5-7 – With the exception of Saquon Barkley and Royce Freeman, the talented RB Class of 2018 is off to a rough start. Injuries and timeshares have been a brutal 1-2 punch that has torpedoes their values before the season has even started.

After fantastic first-year showings from Ezekiel ElliottLeonard FournetteAlvin Kamara, and Kareem Hunt, rookie runners were already being pushed up higher than they probably belonged as fantasy owners made the mistake of being reactive, rather than proactive.

Now, Rashaad Penny (RB24) has been outplayed by Chris Carson (RB41) and a broken finger will keep him out, possibly into the regular season. Ronald Jones (RB25) has struggled to hold onto the ball and in pass protection. Sony Michel (RB27) has yet to practice at all. Kerryon Johnson (RB31) hasn’t been hit by the injury bug yet but is firmly in a committee with Theo Riddick and LeGarrette BlountNick Chubb (RB39) also has stayed healthy, but is in an ugly three-man rotation and let’s not forget Derrius Guice has already been lost for the entire 2018 season.

While it’s a necessary evil to take some chances on guys, and chances are at least one of these rookie rushers will emerge as an RB2 or better, just be cautious and don’t pass on too many proven veterans as you attempt to find the next freshman sensation.

D’Onta Foreman (HOU): RB46 – Right at the time I mentioned recency bias as a top reason that players end up being fantasy busts. Foreman hadn’t done much last season until Week 11 when he busted loose for 65 yards and a pair of scores against the Cardinals. One of those TDs came on his final run of the year when Foreman tore his Achilles and missed the rest of the season.

Achilles injuries are notoriously difficult for linebackers and running backs to recover from, typically taking a full year and often those players are never able to fully regain their pre-injury speed and lateral agility. Since Foreman was hurt in late November, he’s a candidate to open the season on Houston’s PUP list, meaning he’d be out the first six games, at a minimum.

There have been no updates on Foreman’s health, positive or negative and he’s nowhere near ready to take the practice field. With Lamar Miller fully capable of playing a three-down role, it’s unlikely that the Texans will rush Foreman back. I don’t think he’ll be able to make much of a fantasy contribution any time soon, so I’d rather avoid drafting him altogether and take my chances on the waiver wire.


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Jody Smith is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jody, check out his archive and follow him @JodySmithNFL.

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