13 Running Backs to Avoid Based on Current Rankings (2020 Fantasy Football)
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We’ve asked our writers for running backs that they are most likely to avoid based on our current fantasy football expert consensus rankings. Here’s what they had to say.
Q: Which running back are you least likely to draft at their current ranking?
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC)
Kansas City spent a first-round pick on a running back, which naturally has the fantasy community salivating, but Damien Williams (a favorite “love to hate” fantasy player) is not dead yet, and he’ll retain a role in the offense. Last season, Williams ended the year on a high note with RB8, RB15, RB12, and RB3 numbers in his last four full games. Williams is plenty talented and versatile in his own right, and though Edwards-Helaire (ranked RB16) has supreme draft capital, expect Kansas City to deploy a committee this season. Williams, with his feature-back size, would figure to get more of the goal-line work, while Edwards-Helaire figures to see more of the passing-down work. However, neither will likely be a workhorse at any point in the season. As fantasy-friendly as the Chiefs are, I’d much rather wait and draft Williams late (ranked RB37) than pay up for Edwards-Helaire. There’s just much better value in CEH’s range — I could have true lead backs such as Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon (ranked as RB15 and RB18), a team’s alpha wide receiver such as D.J. Moore or A.J. Brown, or even a prolific offense’s secondary wideout in Calvin Ridley. Edwards-Helaire won’t end up on many of my teams if he maintains a third-round price tag.
– Mark Leipold (@LeipoldNFL)
Sure, CEH should usurp the starting job by season’s end, but at least to start the season, it seems that Damien Williams will be regularly involved in the offense. That certainly caps the value of a guy ranked RB15. There’s no clear indication of how the backfield workload will be divided this season in KC, and the fact that CEH was a first-round pick doesn’t automatically make him a starting fantasy back. It’s tough for me to spend up on Edwards-Helaire over proven commodities like Leonard Fournette, Mark Ingram II, and Le’Veon Bell, who will all have strangleholds on their respective team backfields. It’s a hard pass on the talented rookie at his current value.
– Zak Hanshew (@ZaktheMonster)
Chris Carson (SEA)
Good luck to anyone who thinks that they have the Seattle backfield figured out. Two years ago, Seattle spent a first-round pick on Rashaad Penny, only to give Carson nearly 250 carries in Penny’s rookie season. They gave him even more last year, as Penny struggled to stay on the field. We now enter 2020 with Penny in his junior season while Seattle just signed Carlos Hyde — WHO JUST RAN FOR 1,000 YARDS! Seattle also added ANOTHER back in the fourth round with DeeJay Dallas. Carson very well might be the top dog in Seattle next year, but it’ll be crowded, and taking Carson as the 16th running back isn’t worth the risk.
– Michael Moore (@DLF_Moore)
The Seahawks recently signed Carlos Hyde to a one-year deal this off-season. The team also declared that Chris Carson will be one of their primary offensive weapons, but I expect him to split the early downs with Hyde. Carson will also have to split work with fourth-rounder DeeJay Dallas and former first-rounder Rashaad Penny (Achilles) once he returns from injury. Carson is currently 16th among all running backs in the latest expert consensus rankings, but with Seattle’s crowded backfield, I would rather draft Melvin Gordon, Jonathan Taylor, or Leonard Fournette over the 25-year-old. His season was cut short due to a fracured hip, but he logged 278 carries for 1,230 yards and nine total touchdowns across 15 games. While Carson has the talent and is in a run-first offense, but injury question marks and a muddled backfield make him a risky pick at his current ADP.
– Brad Camara (@beerad30)
Aaron Jones (GB)
Jones rushed 19 times from inside the 10-yard line in 2019, and he scored on a staggering 11 of those carries, finishing the season tied with Christian McCaffrey for first among running backs in total touchdowns (19). The regression threat is real, and that’s before factoring in Green Bay’s selection of short-yardage specialist A.J. Dillon in the second round of April’s draft. Head coach Matt LaFleur has stated his intentions for a three-headed rushing attack that would also include Jamaal Williams, whose 2019 offensive snap percentage (34.9%) would’ve looked much more significant had he not missed three games (exited after one play in Week 4) to injury. I can’t justify Jones as the RB10 when there are several guys ranked behind him (Austin Ekeler, Kenyan Drake, Leonard Fournette, to name a few) with clear lead-back opportunities.
– Daniel Comer (@DanComer404)
Jones had a magical 2019, as he scored a league-high 16 rushing touchdowns as the Packers finally gave him more of a feature role. Matt LaFleur showcased Jones and his ample talents as he finished as a top-five fantasy running back. He also played 16 games for the first time in his career, answering questions about his durability. Most probably see Jones as a draft-day bargain at RB10, but he has a couple of red flags. He is almost certain to experience touchdown regression, which should push him down the board a bit. The Packers also drafted A.J. Dillon in the second round, and that which tells me they want to limit his work inside the 20. I wouldn’t take Jones in the latter part of the second round when guys like Le’Veon Bell, Leonard Fournette, and Devin Singletary will be available a round or two later.
– Jason Kamlowsky (@JasonKamlowsky)
Joe Mixon (CIN)
I want to preface this by saying this is not an indictment of Joe Mixon. Mixon is arguably one of the most talented running backs in the NFL, ranking in the top-five in evaded tackles, juke rate, and yards created last season. He can split out wide, run from the shotgun formation, and outrun any defender with his 4.5 speed. Yet, despite all of this, he will be held back by the dysfunctional franchise for which he plays. Mixon finished as the PPR RB17 last season while playing alongside two different quarterbacks and behind the worst-rated offensive line in the league according to PFF. Mixon faced seven or more men in the box on nearly 60 percent of his carries, and the Bengals ran the ball the eighth-fewest times in the NFL. His situation hasn’t gotten any better for 2020, as the Bengals failed to make any meaningful improvements to their offensive line. They replaced starting guard John Miller with former Cowboy Xavier Su’a-Filo, who only made four starts last season. Even though the Bengals spent the first overall pick on LSU’s Joe Burrow, I find it hard to believe that the rookie will be a major upgrade over the veteran Andy Dalton in his first season, especially since he’ll have to deal with a shortened training camp. Burrow may be the long-term answer in Cincinnati, but it’s rare for rookie quarterbacks to improve their offenses right away. With the Ravens, Browns, and Steelers in their division, the Bengals will once again be trailing early and often, setting the stage for Giovani Bernard to steal pass-catching opportunities from Mixon. As the RB7 with an overall ECR of 10, I’m unwilling to make Joe Mixon my team’s RB1. His ceiling is capped by his situation, and it’s doubtful that he can overcome his offense’s deficiencies more than he already has. With the threat of his holdout, I’m uncomfortable going near Mixon at his current price.
– Dan Ambrosino (@AmbrosinoNFL)
Kenyan Drake (ARI)
Kenyan Drake was an afterthought in October before he was traded to Arizona, where a change of scenery resulted in a seismic change in fortune. Drake benefitted from injuries to David Johnson and Chase Edmonds, and he exploded down the stretch to finish 18th among running backs in standard leagues. While his outburst might’ve won some people their fantasy leagues, it always felt fluky to me, and I have serious reservations about him as the 11th back in our consensus rankings. Drake rushed for 643 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games with the Cardinals last season, but keep in mind that he put up 413 of those yards and seven of those touchdowns came in just three games. I like to buy into players who were relatively consistent during a hot stretch, and Drake simply wasn’t. The Arizona offense has plenty of upside, but I think Edmonds and 2020 draft pick Eno Benjamin factor into the equation more than people might think. Let’s not forget that Edmonds rushed for 126 yards and three touchdowns just eight days before Drake was traded to Arizona. Drake’s ascension probably doesn’t happen if Edmonds didn’t get hurt in Week 8. I’ve always liked Kenyan Drake’s talent, but I’d rather take a shot on Miles Sanders, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chris Carson and Todd Gurley in that range.
– Matt Barbato (@RealMattBarbato)
Leonard Fournette (JAC)
Just two running backs accumulated more touches than Leonard Fournette in 2019, yet 50 of them scored more touchdowns. Additionally, Fournette received 100 targets in the passing game and hauled in 76 receptions, but he didn’t score a receiving touchdown. It was a maddening season for fantasy owners. The good news is that if the former fourth-overall pick sees the same workload this year, then he should be a near-lock for positive touchdown regression. The risk with Fournette at RB16 in our ECR is the workload, however. Not only did Jacksonville try and trade him before the draft, but the team brought in Chris Thompson and drafted Laviska Shenault. Thompson, a favorite of new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, could completely overtake Fournette’s third-down role. Shenault should also see some manufactured touches out of the backfield. His 76 catches last year kept him fantasy relevant, and expecting him to post similar receiving production in 2020 requires a leap of faith I’m not willing to take.
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)
Todd Gurley (ATL)
I like younger running backs. It’s hard for older running backs to play the entire season and still have the burst in the fantasy playoffs to bring home a championship. That doesn’t mean that I won’t own an older fantasy running back, but if I am going to own one, he must have a clean bill of health and the physical tools to be great. Gurley really isn’t that old, as he turns 26 in August. He just looked like an older player last year, thanks to his 4.2 yards per touch, and the fact that his longest play from scrimmage was only 25 yards. The Falcons only gave Gurley a one-year deal. so he must prove that his knee is good enough to handle the pounding of a lead back. I just cannot see going with Gurley as the 15th-ranked fantasy running back and 31st overall player. That ranking grossly ignores his knee issues and the damage the Rams did to their cap this year in order to release him. I feel like he’s much closer to an RB3 or RB4 rather than a RB2. While I do like him playing with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley in an explosive offense, I just don’t see him lasting the season or having the explosion to be a great fantasy player.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)
Nick Chubb (CLE)
In a fantasy football world dominated by half and full-PPR leagues, I tend to lean more toward running backs that provide value as a receiver. I want a guy that will be on the field on third downs, and when trailing in a game, a guy whose snaps don’t depend on game script. I also want a guy who won’t have to share the whole backfield with another very talented running back. That’s why I’ll be staying away from Cleveland’s Nick Chubb this season at his current Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR) of RB8. Admittedly, Chubb is a very good running back, and he’s one that’s more than capable of shouldering the load for the Browns. He showed that ability in the first part of last season, ranking as RB5 in half-PPR leagues for Weeks 1-9. In Week 10, however, Kareem Hunt returned from an eight-game suspension and was immediately thrown into the mix at running back. He complemented Chubb extremely well, which was great for Cleveland, but not so great for fantasy owners. With Hunt in the mix, Chubb saw his snap count drop from 73% to 64%. Compared to his RB5 ranking from Weeks 1-9, Chubb averaged 12.3 fantasy points per game in half-PPR leagues in Weeks 10-17, ranking as just RB15 during that span. Meanwhile, Hunt averaged 10.4 fantasy points per game in half-PPR leagues during that stretch, ranking as RB19. Hunt became involved both on the ground and in the passing game, seeing 5.4 rush attempts per game and 5.5 targets per game. While I believe Chubb is the superior running back in Cleveland, I’m not convinced that he warrants consideration as the RB8 with Hunt in the picture. At a similar ADP, I’m much more comfortable selecting guys like Joe Mixon, Kenyan Drake, Miles Sanders, and Austin Ekeler over Chubb this season.
– Adam Koffler (@AdamKoffler)
Matt Breida (MIA)
Pick a 2019 rushing stat and the Dolphins were the worst at it. To make matters worse, that same sentiment can also be used to describe the team’s offensive line performance. The team has absolutely added talent to that offensive line, but they’re still likely to start two rookies. No team in the NFL ran the ball less than the Dolphins last season, and while that should change, this is not going to be a team that vaults into the upper-tier of rushing attacks. The Dolphins landed Breida to complement new starter Jordan Howard, so Breida shouldn’t see a significant workload on the ground. While he has been efficient with his touches, Breida has also been unable to remain healthy consistently thus far in his career. Limited workload, questionable offensive line play, and injury risk combine to make Breida unlikely to live up to his current Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR) of 35th in PPR leagues. This notion becomes even more likely when you examine the running backs who are currently ranked behind Breida. Players such as Kerryon Johnson, Damien Williams, Ronald Jones II and even Jordan Howard are currently ranked lower than him, despite the fact that they enter the 2020 season with more opportunity for production. Tevin Coleman, in a similar position as Breida, offers more potential as the complementary option on a team that will run the ball much more often than the Dolphins. Looking further down the ECR, Buffalo Bills’ rookie runner Zack Moss should be in line for a similar workload to Breida, and he represents a notable alternative target for owners looking for a better value. While Breida is a talented running back, there are too many obstacles that have to be overcome to make him worth targeting at his current ranking.
– Mark McWhirter (@mmcw19)
Derrick Henry (TEN)
Fundamentally, during a fantasy draft, all we are looking to do is take the player most likely to outperform their draft position over the course of the season. Derrick Henry is by far the most likely running back to bust in the top-10 RBs, and it’s not even close. Last season, Henry benefited from a historically efficient passing attack that saw Tennessee lead early more often than not, which forced defenses to pay less attention to him than they wanted to. To his credit, Henry took full advantage of it. He made it easy for fantasy owners to ignore the fact that in only one game last season did he put up more than 40 yards receiving. I don’t need to be a fortune teller to tell you that the chances of Ryan Tannehill repeating his 2019 performance are astronomically low. Moreover, Tennessee’s defense doesn’t have to get much worse, and, suddenly, those late-game leads that netted Henry owners so many points will vanish. I am not saying that Henry has no chance to lead the league in rushing once again in 2020. However, in order for him to return RB4 value (which is where he is currently ranked), so much would have to go right for him that it’s nearly impossible.
– Ethan Summers (@AllSummersLong_)
Le’Veon Bell (NYJ)
Adam Gase, Sam Darnold, and the AFC East. Though I hope Bell can overcome the struggles that typically come with a Gase offense, last season showed why that’s unlikely. Gase is entering his fifth season as a head coach, and his system has only once produced a top-20 fantasy running back. In 2019, Bell averaged a disappointing 3.2 yards per carry. His volume in the passing game is a major boost to his fantasy value, and he recorded 66 receptions last season. However, on those 66 receptions and 245 attempts, he only produced just four total touchdowns. The Jets have already signaled that they plan to decrease Bell’s workload after signing Frank Gore and drafting Lamical Perine. Additionally, the Jets’ run-blocking ranked as the second-worst in the league that season, according to Football Outsiders. Lastly, in a division with elite secondaries in Buffalo, Miami, and New England, it’s likely that Bell will face many stacked boxes, daring Sam Darnold to make plays. I suggest leaving Bell on the board and taking higher-upside talent around his ADP, such as Calvin Ridley, Robert Woods, or David Johnson.
– Brandon Torricella (@Btorricella3)
Dalvin Cook (MIN)
Cook sits as the consensus RB4 in FantasyPros’ half-PPR ECR at the start of June. At this price, I won’t own him in a single league. I’m usually a firm believer that “someone is injury prone until they’re not,” but Cook’s case, the concern weighs heavier. He was always beat-up in college, and fast forward to the NFL, he’s averaged only nine games per season. Last year, in a relatively healthy campaign for Cook, he toted the rock 250 times and hauled in 53 receptions. His 1,135 rushing yards were basically what Nick Chubb gave you on fewer carries — before Kareem Hunt returned. I’m not only going to need another 300 touches, but another double-digit performance in the touchdown column as well if I’m drafting someone at fourth overall. The thing is, I think Cook will only score six or seven times next season. He’ll also need to improve his yardage total significantly to pay off this high price tag. To me, Cook is simply not worth the lofty investment, and I don’t know why more people aren’t baking in the injury risk to his rank. I’d much rather go with Michael Thomas in PPR leagues or Derrick Henry in standard leagues.
– Josh Dalley (@JoshDalley72)
Austin Ekeler (LAC)
Ekeler finished seventh overall in standard leagues (217.0), sixth in half-point PPR (263.0), and fourth in full-point PPR (309.0) last season for the Chargers. He was one of the few bright spots on the team, putting together 12 games with five targets or more and consistently evolving as a threat to score. That was all with Philip Rivers and unfortunately for Ekeler, his new quarterback doesn’t target running backs much. In Tyrod Taylor’s four games with the Browns during the 2018 season, his running backs combined for 13 targets and seven receptions. Ekeler did that in his first two weeks of 2019 and will have to split touches amongst Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry Justin Jackson, Mike Williams, and rookies K.J. Hill, Joshua Kelly, and Joe Reed. Taylor averaged 28.7 pass attempts per game in three years as the Bills’ starting quarterback (2015-2017) — good enough for 30th in 2019 final team rankings. The Chargers offense with Taylor won’t take much to figure out in 2020 even though the offensive line has improved. They added Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga but still faces inexperience along the left side with Dan Feeney and Sam Tevi. I’m not ready to commit to Ekeler repeating 92 receptions, 993 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns with Taylor. Taylor’s career-high in passing yards is 3,025 (2015), and I don’t see 25% or more coming from Ekeler alone. RB13 is too high for him in standard leagues and RB8 is a bit of a reach in full-point PPR formats based on an expected decrease in his shares coming in 2020.
– Vaughn Dalzell (@VaughnDalzell)