Potential RB1 Busts (2019 Fantasy Football)

May 2, 2019

We know of Gurley’s immense upside, but he carries several red flags into 2019.

We’ve recently examined players that could provide significant return on investment at running back and wide receiver. We also looked at the opposite end of the spectrum, WR1s entering the season that are most likely to bust.

Next up, RB1s based on current experts rankings that could fail to deliver in 2019. Here’s who are writers are looking out for as potential early-round landmines.

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Which current RB1 do you think has the biggest bust potential?

Todd Gurley (LAR)
Count me as someone who was willing to take the risk on Gurley in drafts pre-NFL Draft. However, after watching the Rams match the offer sheet on Malcolm Brown and then draft Darrell Henderson in the third round, I’m concerned. The Rams had other holes on their roster, so it wasn’t a convenience pick, either. His knee is clearly more of an issue than they’ve led us to believe. While I do believe Gurley finishes as an RB1, he presents the most bust potential and is now someone I’ll be avoiding in the first round because you can’t win your fantasy league in the first round, but you can definitely help yourself lose it.
– Mike Tagliere (@MikeTagliereNFL)

I would have laughed so hard six months ago if you told me this was even a possibility, but here we are and Todd Gurley is the easy answer for me. It was concerning enough that C.J. Anderson stole touches in the playoffs. Then they went out and made sure to keep Malcolm Brown via an offer sheet match. As if that weren’t enough reason for panic, the Rams then traded up for a top running back in this draft class. Yikes! There is a chance Gurley returns to form and eclipses 20 touchdowns and 2,000 yards from scrimmage, but he is also the most likely to bust.
– Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)

Le’Veon Bell (NYJ)
Bell has not played a meaningful game of football since the 2017 season, due to a contract dispute with his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. There is no guarantee that a year away from football at 27 years old will leave him with the same physical gifts he had before the layoff, especially when he reportedly gained a bunch of weight and he is now skipping voluntary OTAs. Bell also played behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and he had a Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger and a Hall of Fame wide receiver in Antonio Brown. In New York, it’s second-year QB Sam Darnold, the top receiver is Robby Anderson, and the offensive line was ranked 25th by Pro Football Focus in 2018. An ECR of seven means that he is going to need to have around 250 fantasy points, which I think is a lot to expect given his long layoff and the lack of proven talent on the New York Jets’ offense. I think fantasy owners could have regrets using a first-round pick on a player that is probably going to be closer to a mid-tier RB2 with 190 to 200 fantasy points. That projection also assumes there is no injury issues or rust from a long layoff. He is a major candidate to be a bust on a Jets team that usually overpays in free agency for players past their prime that do not live up to expectations.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)

James Conner (PIT)
Conner is the RB1 based on ECR that will fail to meet his ranking. I would have chosen Conner even before the NFL Draft, but now with Benny Snell in town it is a done deal. Conner was fantastic behind a motivated Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line but ranked 38th in league with only 1.12 yards created per carry. Snell is sure to better that mark, and he has the talent to force a time split at the very least and to outright steal the lead back job at most. Conner has much better hands which would have made him the safer PPR play, but Jaylen Samuels proved a superior receiving option when he got a chance to start. This is a messy backfield and while Conner will in all likelihood open the season as the lead back, it is Snell who will likely end the season in that role. Avoid Conner at his price tag and throw a dart at Snell. He will come at a steep discount in drafts that take place before the preseason.
– Raju Byfield (@FantasyContext)

The name to jump out at me is James Conner. When I spend a first-round pick on a running back to anchor my fantasy team, I want to know that player is not only an elite producer but a secure one. The test for me is to ask this question: “Can this player miss a chunk of time and, under no circumstances, lose his job?” We know that guys like Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, and Saquon Barkley can miss a month or two and regardless of how well their replacement performs, they will come back to their jobs. I do not think that is the case with James Conner. For one, I think Jaylen Samuels is a better player. He’s certainly a better pass catcher, and I would be surprised if he didn’t open the season with a role. Conner could conceivably play all 16 games and be an RB1 even with Samuels in the picture. He also could get hurt in September, miss a few weeks, and come back on the wrong side of a timeshare. That type of risk is something I am not willing to accept with my RB1. The only silver lining is the Steelers didn’t draft a runnning back until day three and then took Benny Snell, who is one of the worst RB prospects in recent memory with absolutely no chance of ever being anything relevant in the NFL. But Samuels alone is enough to scare me off of Conner in the first or second round.
– Jason Katz (@jasonkatz13)

David Johnson (ARI)
I love Johnson as a player. He’s dynamic out of the backfield. He can make plays in space. He can catch the ball. He’s an all-around talented and elite back who went for 2,118 scrimmage yards and 20 total TDs just a few short years ago. I think he’ll be successful in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, but Arizona’s offensive line wasn’t addressed much in the draft. I have major concerns about the blocking DJ will be running behind. Call me crazy, but I also have concerns about Arizona’s offense in general. Kingsbury will implement a pass-happy approach, but a player of Kyler Murray’s size has yet to prove he can lead an offense in the NFL. I’m curious to see where Johnson fits into the offense and how he’ll be used. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him fall out of the RB1 ranks if Arizona’s experiment doesn’t pan out immediately.
– Zak Hanshew (@ZaktheMonster)

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