Overvalued 2019 NFL Draft Targets: RB (Fantasy Football)
In my most recent article, I listed a few running backs from this year’s NFL Draft class who I felt were being undervalued. Today I’m going to cover some of the overvalued running back prospects. I find that the closer we get to draft season, the bigger the hype gets around all of the impending rookies, and in order to get a real idea of how to value a player, you need to step off the hype train.
In 2019 we do not have a consensus number one running back like Saquon Barkley, who was given a first-round draft grade by anyone who watched him play. In fact, for the first time since 2014, we may not even see a running back taken in the first round. The closer we get to draft day, though, the higher the hype is going to get on these players, so here are a few that I feel are already being overvalued.
*When I say “overvalued,” I don’t mean that they will be a complete bust and won’t succeed in the NFL. I just feel like many people are currently valuing them a bit higher than what they’re actually worth.
Josh Jacobs (Alabama)
Don’t get me wrong, Josh Jacobs ranks second on my list of running backs in this draft, but I’m worried about how his expectations have grown over the past month. Jacobs wasn’t an extremely productive back at Alabama, and he was a relatively unknown until January. Once everyone started digging into his tape, though, they saw a future NFL star.
It’s definitely there. He’s a pretty complete package as a running back. He excels in all of the technical and fundamental parts of the game. His vision, footwork, and change of direction let him navigate through the defense on all levels of the field, and he has incredible contact balance to blow by defenders who can’t lay down a perfect tackle. Jacobs’ ability to lower his pads into contact and then pull up and burst by (or through) the defender is picture perfect. At 5’10 and 216 pounds, he has the ideal frame for a guy who can mix agility with power.
My issue is that he’s not the athletic freak that Saquon Barkley was. He doesn’t have that top-end speed, andIi fear that given the recent whirlwind of hype and attention he’s received, people are expecting him to be a bit more than he is.
He certainly possesses favorable traits, but his college production cannot be overlooked. Jacobs only had one 100+ yard game (of 40 total) in his college career, and that was back when he was a freshman in 2016. To put that into perspective, the running backs drafted over the last two years that have had success so far in the NFL — Barkley, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Phillip Lindsay, Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, Christian McCaffrey, and Dalvin Cook — all had at least 11 100+ yard games in college (with the exception of Alvin Kamara who only played two college seasons). Jacobs was also only given double-digit carries in seven career college games so we haven’t really seen how he handles a full workload.
When watching Josh Jacobs’ game film you will fall in love with what you see, but college production does play a part in projecting a rookie so I have to pump the breaks just a bit.
Benny Snell (Kentucky)
I’ve seen Snell inside the top five on a few different lists, but I really don’t see the upside. Snell is a bowling ball back at 5’11, 223 pounds. He has good vision and decision making in that he follows his blocks efficiently and almost always picks up what’s there for him. He can cut, but he’s not extremely agile. He breaks most of his tackles with his physicality, but he often gets taken down from behind due to his lack of long speed and acceleration.
One area Snell excels is pass protection. Usually, that’s a huge plus for projecting the fantasy value of running back prospects because it means they can be on the field all three downs. With Snell, though, while he can protect well, he’s a non-factor as a receiver. At Kentucky, he only caught a total of 29 passes in 39 career games. He doesn’t have the speed to outrun linebackers, and he won’t be used in anything more than an occasional screen or swing pass. The team that drafts Snell will probably also have a Tarik Cohen/Nyheim Hines type player to come in and take the receiving work.
I like what Snell offers as a smart, decisive early-down back and someone who can pick up short third downs on the ground, but his lack of acceleration and long speed coupled with his ineffectiveness as a pass catcher puts a cap on his ceiling.
Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M)
Williams had an incredible junior season, piling up 1,760 yards and a whopping 18 touchdowns on 271 carries (6.5 ypc). When I watched his tape, however, I thought his stats were a bit deceiving. Most of his big runs in 2018 came on plays that were perfectly blocked and Williams had a wide open hole to run through. Once in the open field, sometimes he was able to weave through the defense at the second and third level and hit the home run, but his change of direction skills are slower than you’d like, and many times he wound up getting tackled because of it. His contact balance is decent but not elite, and with his 5’9, 200-pound frame, he doesn’t regularly wriggle out of or slip through tackles.
When his offensive line doesn’t provide him with a gaping hole, Williams is inconsistent at creating for himself. He’ll run right into the defense if he can’t diagnose the proper gap, and I’ve watched him run into blockers on more than one occasion. It seems like he tries to be a patient runner and wait for his blocks to develop, but sometimes he waits too long and the play ends up collapsing on him.
Williams has plenty of positive traits, and he usually gets what’s blocked for him, but he struggles to create on his own and I fear he’ll have a tough time with zone blocking schemes in the NFL.