5 Running Backs to Avoid at Current ADP (2019 Fantasy Football)

May 30, 2019

Last week we looked at a few wide receivers to avoid at their current average draft position, or ADP. This week, we’re turning our attention to running backs, asking our writers the same question.

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Which running back is most overvalued based on our consensus ADP?

Dalvin Cook (MIN): ADP RB11
On average, Dalvin Cook is currently the 11th running back selected in PPR leagues. At first glance that ADP is understandable; the talent, explosiveness, role in the offense, flashes of stardom — it’s all there. But a reasonable projection of risk versus reward yields doubt above all else. Two torn labrums, an ankle sprain, a torn ACL, a Grade 1 hamstring strain followed by a Grade 2 hamstring strain — those are the known injuries Cook has suffered since 2014. That’s a list that would even make Tyler Eifert cringe. As a result, the 23-year-old has played in a mere 15 of 32 possible games since entering the NFL. Furthermore, if you take his production from 2018 and project it out to the full season, Cook would have finished as the RB15. A huge part of fantasy is predicting which players will have a breakout season. Correctly hitting on those forecasts can lead your team to the Promised Land. But those predictions are so valuable because you are drafting the player at a value spot rather than paying a premium. Based on his history, there’s a realistic chance Cook will miss a chunk of the season due to injury. And should he stay healthy, his past production suggests that he’ll finish right around or even below his current ADP. Where’s the value in that?
– Elisha Twerski (@ElishaTwerski)

Dalvin Cook is currently the 11th RB coming off the board with an ADP in the second-round, making him a low-end RB1. Despite what many ex-girlfriends would say about me, I’m not oblivious — I understand the logic behind such a lofty draft position. In his second NFL season, Cook’s points-per-touch average of .88 would have earned him the RB9 designation if you projected it over a full 300-touch season. In games in which Cook hasn’t left early due to injury, he’s received a healthy RB1 workload with roughly 14 carries and nearly five targets per outing. The promotion of the run-oriented Kevin Stefanski to offensive coordinator, Minnesota’s offseason investments into its offensive line, and Cook’s positive strength of schedule all point to a third-year breakout for the young and talented rusher. But we’re still talking about a Minnesota offense that badly underperformed (19th in PPG, 20th in YPG) in 2018. We’re still talking about a player who has appeared in just 15 games through two seasons. The flag doesn’t get much redder than that. Until Cook can definitively prove he’s not made of glass, he is too much of a risk at his current price. You can’t win your league in the first two rounds, but you most certainly can lose it. Give me Joe Mixon or Nick Chubb over Cook at a relatively equal cost.
– Brandon Katz (@great_katzby)

Tarik Cohen (CHI): ADP RB23
At this moment, Tarik Cohen is listed as RB23. In 2018, Cohen finished as RB18 in fantasy, according to FantasyPros. Therefore, it seems that he is currently being undervalued, but I disagree. Cohen had a very productive year but I do think he will not be as heavily relied upon this year. He was basically the only passing option out of the backfield when he was playing with Jordan Howard. We all know Howard is a one-dimensional grinder, but now he’s gone. He has been replaced by rookie David Montgomery, a player the Bears traded up to get. Montgomery was also a bell cow during his years at Iowa State. He is simply an upgrade over Howard and will take away touches from Cohen. The Bears also got a solid third option in Mike Davis. Davis is much bigger than Cohen and is essentially a jack of all trades. And don’t forget that Chicago also drafted the athletic Kerrith Whyte in the seventh round. Whyte ran the same 4.42 40-yard dash as Cohen did but is three inches taller and almost twenty pounds heavier. He was the pass-catching back at Florida Atlantic and looks to be Cohen’s replacement. Cohen had the most fumbles (7) and fumbles lost (3) out of any running back in 2018. Ezekiel Elliot was second with six fumbles and one lost. Cohen had a total of 170 touches compared to Elliot’s 381. Most of these fumbles came in the second half of the season. After his third fumble lost in Week 15, Cohen only had 14 touches in his final two regular season games. More alarming, he only had four total touches in Chicago’s playoff defeat to the Eagles. To put things into perspective, Cohen is currently the R23, Montgomery is the RB44, Davis is the RB53 and Whyte is not even ranked in the top 125. Montgomery will outscore Cohen easily and it isn’t far fetched to think that both Davis and Whyte have a chance to leapfrog Cohen as well.
– Marc Mathyk (@masterjune70)

Marlon Mack (IND): ADP RB14 (Standard)
Colts RB Marlon Mack is currently coming off the board at 31 (RB14) in standard leagues, ahead of guys like Aaron Jones, Leonard Fournette, and Derrick Henry. He’s a good player (when healthy) but that’s still a bit too high for me. He finished the 2018 season as the 19th best RB in fantasy, albeit only playing in 12 games. That may seem like an impressive stat, but considering he missed four games due to injury, it is really more concerning than anything. Injuries have been a constant issue for Mack throughout his young career. Early in the 2017 season, he tore his labrum and then the following year he suffered multiple concussions and had a recurring hamstring problem which is never an injury you want to see an RB deal with. Another big factor in why you should avoid Mack at such a high cost is the competition he faces in the Colts RB room. In last year’s draft, the Colts spent fourth and fifth round picks on Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins respectively. In his rookie season, Hines proved to be a difference-maker as a receiver coming out of the backfield which is going to force Mack off the field on third downs. In PPR, the last thing you want to see is your third-round RB sitting on the bench while a backup racks up catches. Meanwhile, Wilkins did not make as much of an impact as a rookie but still showed real promise after averaging over 5.6 yards per carry. Even if Wilkins doesn’t win the starting job, just having him there taking precious carries away from Mack on a weekly basis could be a killer. What it really comes down to is risk vs reward and in the case of Marlon Mack. There is a lot more to be lost than gained. He’s a part of a very pass-heavy offense (61.6% passing plays in 2018), has had constant injury issues, and now has two rising backs competing with him for touches. All that being said, if he manages to stay healthy, he should be productive, but with Hines stealing most of the passing down work, spending a third-round pick on him could turn ugly. I’d look to target him around the fourth or fifth-round as more of a flex option rather than a weekly starter.
– Eli Berkovits (@PTTF_Eli)

Damien Williams (KC): ADP RB14 (PPR)
The 2019 running back rankings are loaded with plenty of dominant players who could make a push for the overall RB1. James Connor was on a 1,800 total yard and 16 TD pace in 13 games and is only the RB9 based on ADP. In a deep running back class like this, every owner should be able to find at least 2 RBs they are confident will be heavily featured within their offense. As either a third or fourth-round draft pick, Damien Williams just doesn’t give me enough confidence to warrant a selection. Kareem Hunt is gone, the Chiefs are one of the best offenses in the league, and Andy Reid’s RBs have always seen volume in the passing game. These points are the argument for Damien Williams, and I can not dispute any of them. But Williams has been in the league for five seasons already and has yet to prove that he can consistently contribute to an offense. There were numerous openings at the top of the RB depth chart in Miami during his four years there and he never showed that he deserved an increased workload. A decent three-game stretch to finish the season in Kansas City raised his career YPC from 3.6 to 4.0. This figure is now equal to Carlos Hyde’s career average, but Hyde has at least had numerous seasons in which he looked like an above-average No. 1 back. They’re both five years into their career, but Hyde has about 2,400 more total yards to his name. In Hyde’s last three years in San Francisco, he averaged 1,300 total yards and 9 TDs per 16 games and occasionally flashed the ability that made him a feared runner in college and a second-round pick. From just watching their gameplay, to comparing their numbers, a strong argument can be made for Carlos Hyde being the better player. Williams took over for Hunt last season, so many project Reid to continue that usage. Hyde doesn’t have to prove himself to be better than Williams, he just has to prove that their talent is close enough that Reid decides to roll with a timeshare in the backfield. Just the possibility of Hyde earning some carries on an offense that was 23rd in carries is enough for me to pass on Williams for most of the names directly behind him. I walk away from my draft with far less anxiety and angst if I take Devonta Freeman, Kerryon Johnson, Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones, or Sony Michel. If I’m taking a shot on the upside of an Andy Reid RB give me Hyde at 118th overall.
– James Esposito (@PropZillaa)

There are a lot of backs who qualify here, but no back stands out as much as Damien Williams. There are other backs that should be under consideration because there may be a few backs being drafted behind them who will likely outproduce them. Williams, on the other hand, will not only be outplayed by a large number of the names behind him, but he may be outproduced by one or more of his own teammates. His current ADP as the 14th running back off of the board seems ludicrous and reeks of recency bias. Remember this is the same Damien Williams that could not even beat out Kenyan Drake for the lead back role in Miami. The Chiefs not only added a superior early-down runner in Hyde to the roster, but they added explosive receiving backs in Darwin Thompson and James Williams. There may be some size concerns with Thompson, but he is just as big as former Andy Reid star Brian Westbrook. At best, Damien will be the lead back in a four running back committee. At worst he is Carlos Hyde’s direct backup and the fourth option in the backfield on passing downs. Damien Williams will not be making any of my fantasy teams this year.
– Raju Byfield (@FantasyContext)

Devonta Freeman (ATL): ADP RB15
Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman was one of the best fantasy running backs from 2015 to 2017 when he accumulated 4,357 yards from scrimmage and 35 total touchdowns in those three seasons. He was also a PPR monster, tallying 165 receptions over those three years. Last year was not a good year for Freeman, as he played only two games before missing 14 with a groin injury. The concern I have about Freeman is that he has declined in each of the last four years. His career year was in 2015 when he had 1,634 yards from scrimmage and a league-high 14 touchdowns. His yards have decreased from that total to 1,541 to 1,182 to 91 yards. His touchdowns have decreased since 2015 to 13, eight and zero. There is a lot of hope that Freeman will suddenly go back to 250-275 carries, 1,500 or more yards and 10 or more touchdowns with RB Tevin Coleman in San Francisco. That could happen behind a good offensive line and QB Matt Ryan, but what could also happen is the 27-year-old running back could continue to be injury prone. He is 27 years old and he is only 5’8″ and only 206 pounds. I think it is going to be tough for him at that size and his age to return to being a bell-cow running back. I think the more likely scenario is that he loses more carries than expected to RB Ito Smith or Freeman breaks down later in the season with too much work early in the year. Freeman is the 15th ranked fantasy running back in PPR leagues and there are too many questions around his health and whether he can play 16 games at a high level. I am high on Freeman’s upside as an RB3 but not as an RB2. There is not enough discount at that spot to ease my concerns about age, usage, and injury history.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)

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