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14 Best Ball Running Back Busts (2022 Fantasy Football)

Aug 17, 2022
James Conner

Several factors go into building a winning best ball team. One of those factors is identifying which players will let your team down and bust. Another is knowing which players have league-winning upside, especially in the later rounds. Today, we’ll focus on the former and identify the top best ball busts.

The average draft position (ADP) used for this article comes from Underdog Fantasy.

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CTA

James Conner (RB – ARI): ADP 33.1

Last year in his first season with the Cardinals, James Conner had arguably his best fantasy season ever. He was the RB5, averaging 15.9 fantasy points per game. However, 45.2% of his fantasy points came on his 18 touchdowns. Conner averaged 1.2 touchdowns per game last season, 16.7% higher than his previous career-high in 2018. While he averaged 15.9 fantasy points per game last year, Conner’s production dropped when Chase Edmonds played. He averaged only 11.7 fantasy points per game in the seven contests Edmonds played over 40% of the snaps, a 26.4% drop from his season average. While Edmonds left in free agency, the Cardinals signed Darrel Williams and drafted Keaontay Ingram. Connor will have touchdown regression this year and bust at his current ADP.

J.K. Dobbins (RB – BAL): ADP 56.3

Dobbins missed last year after tearing his ACL in the preseason. While he should be ready to start the year, there have been reports that Dobbins could begin the season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP). Even if he starts Week 1, who knows how healthy he is coming off the injury? Furthermore, Dobbins was only the RB21 as a rookie despite averaging six yards per rushing attempt. He also had a limited role in the passing game, seeing 24 targets in 15 games. More importantly, Dobbins will split the backfield work with Gus Edwards and Lamar JacksonJosh JacobsAJ Dillon and Tony Pollard have a later ADP than Dobbins, and I would draft all three over him.

Christian McCaffrey (RB – CAR): ADP 2.3

When he is on the field, McCaffrey is arguably the best running back in the NFL. He averaged over 20 fantasy points per game in 2018 and 2019. However, McCaffrey has played only 10 of the last 33 games because of injuries. In those 10 games, he has averaged 19.1 fantasy points per game. While McCaffrey remains one of the top running backs in the NFL, the injuries over the past two years can’t be ignored. If he stays healthy, McCaffrey is worth a top-three pick. However, what are the odds of that happening in 2022? Instead, fantasy players should pick either Cooper Kupp or Justin Jefferson with their top-three selection. Both wide receivers offer similar upside to McCaffrey but come with less downside.

Ezekiel Elliott (RB – DAL): ADP 40.9

While Elliott ended last year as the RB6, that doesn’t tell the entire story. Part of the reason he finished that high was because he played all 17 games. On a points-per-game basis, Elliott was the RB15, averaging 13.4 fantasy points per contest. Furthermore, Elliott was hard to trust each week throughout the season. He scored under 10 fantasy points in nearly half the games last year despite averaging 15 touches per game in those contests. More importantly, Tony Pollard earned more of a role last season, and his role will continue to grow this year. Zeke’s days as an elite RB1 are over.

Javonte Williams (RB – DEN): ADP 25.1

Everyone was extremely excited to draft Williams a few months ago. However, the return of Melvin Gordon has thrown a wet blanket on the Williams hype. Despite the return of Gordon, Williams is currently getting drafted as the RB12 on average and ahead of Nick Chubb. While his ADP isn’t ridiculous, it’s too high for a running back that finished as the RB23 in points per game last year. Furthermore, the addition of Russell Wilson will give the Broncos a reliable and explosive passing attack. While Williams will reportedly earn more of a workload this year, the return of Gordon is a concern. Until Williams’ ADP slides closer to the end of the third round, I would avoid drafting him.

Aaron Jones (RB – GB): ADP 17.3

After the Packers lost their top two wide receivers from last year’s team, many are excited to draft Jones this season. While Jones is not a traditional bust, his ADP is too high given the presence of AJ Dillon. Jones averaged 3.6 fantasy points per game more than Dillon last year. However, that was a result of his six receiving touchdowns. Dillon had more rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns than Jones. He also ate into Jones’ work in the passing game. Jones will be a reliable fantasy running back this season. However, his upside is limited, thanks to Dillon.

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Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS): ADP 73.3

Gibson was the RB10 last year, averaging 13 fantasy points per game. However, he averaged 14.5 fantasy points per game in the five games J.D. McKissic missed with a concussion. Unfortunately, Gibson’s situation dramatically changed this offseason with the return of McKissic and the drafting of Brian Robinson Jr. There are reports that Robinson will take over as the short-yardage back. Last year, Gibson had 52 red-zone touches, the fourth most in the NFL. He also had six goal-line rushing attempts. If those touches go to Robinson, Gibson’s fantasy value takes a massive hit. Furthermore, he won’t have much work in the passing game with McKissic healthy. Unless something changes, Gibson should be on your do not draft list.

CTAs

Marlon Mack (RB – HOU): ADP 175.6

Given the lack of proven players on the Houston offense, it’s hard to find a clear bust candidate. However, Mack is someone I refuse to draft. He has played only seven games the past two years because of a torn achilles and several healthy game-day inactive scratches. Furthermore, he has averaged over 12.5 fantasy points per game only once in his career. More importantly, Mack won’t have a featured role in the backfield with Rex Burkhead and rookie Dameon Pierce on the roster. If you are targeting late-round running backs with upside, draft Mark IngramBrian Robinson, or Sony Michel instead. All three have a later ADP than Mack.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB – KC): ADP 84.3

Last year, the hype around Edwards-Helaire caused many to move him up in their rankings. Unfortunately, those fantasy players regretted the move as Edwards-Helaire was the RB40 last year, averaging 10.8 fantasy points per game. He averaged only 2.3 targets per game last season after averaging 4.2 targets per game as a rookie. While the loss of Darrel Williams could open up more targets for Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs recently re-signed Jerick McKinnon. He had 27 touches compared to only 15 for Edwards-Helaire in the two playoff games both running backs were active. Fantasy players should avoid using a top-100 pick on anyone in this backfield.

Austin Ekeler (RB – LAC): ADP 6.4

Barring an injury, Ekeler should have a top-10 season. However, taking him as the third running back off the board and as a top-seven pick is too high. Last year, Ekeler averaged a career-high 19.3 fantasy points per game. His average last year was 29% higher than his average in 2020 and 15% higher than his previous career-high in 2019. The reason for his jump in fantasy production was the touchdowns. Ekeler scored 20 touchdowns last season after scoring 25 in the first four years of his career. The addition of Isaiah Spiller will cut into Ekeler’s workload, especially around the goal line. Last year, Ekeler had 10 goal-line rushing attempts and a 7.2% touchdown rate. Expect Ekeler to regress this season.

Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG): ADP 17.9

I am 100% on board with drafting Barkley at the right price. A few weeks ago, he was an early third-round pick and a value at that ADP. However, Barkley’s ADP has shot up recently. He has become a mid-second-round pick and the RB10 drafted on average. The last time fantasy players saw the elite Barkley form was in 2019 when he averaged 29.8 fantasy points per game over the final three weeks of the year. Since then, Barkley has averaged 3.5 yards per rushing attempt, 9.4 fantasy points per game, and has missed 55% of his potential games because of injury. If his ADP returns to the third round, I will get back on the Barkley hype train.

Najee Harris (RB – PIT): ADP 9.4

Despite ending last year as the RB4, averaging 15.2 fantasy points, Harris averaged only 0.7 fantasy points per touch and 3.9 yards per rushing attempt as a rookie. With the change at quarterback, Harris won’t see the same number of dump-off passes he did last year with Ben Roethlisberger. Furthermore, he averaged 3.8 receptions and 15.2 fantasy points per game last season if you remove the Week 3 game where Harris had 14 receptions. By comparison, his next highest reception total last year was six. The Steelers have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and now have a quarterback who can run. Expect regression from Harris this season.

Rashaad Penny (RB – SEA): ADP 93.3

Rashaad Penny is arguably the most polarizing running back in fantasy football. After scoring only 140.6 fantasy points in his first three years in the NFL, Penny scored 118.7 fantasy points in 10 games last season. However, 107.7 (90.7 percent) of his fantasy points from last season came over the final five weeks of the year. Furthermore, the Seahawks used a second-round pick on Kenneth Walker. While Penny will reportedly get most of the work on the ground, it’s only a matter of time till he suffers an injury and is on the sidelines. Don’t waste a top-100 pick on a player who has scored under seven fantasy points in 73% of his career games. Pass on Penny and grab Walker a full round later.

Leonard Fournette (RB – TB): ADP 21.7

Last year Fournette was the RB7, averaging 15.8 fantasy points per game. It was his highest average since his rookie season. Furthermore, he averaged a career-high 0.89 fantasy points per touch in 2022. However, Fournette is reportedly up to 260 pounds, and the coaching staff isn’t happy about it. While he has rebutted those reports, it’s still a concern. More importantly, the Buccaneers used a third-round pick on Rachaad White. He will have a role on third down and in the passing game. Last year, Fournette had 69 receptions for 454 receiving yards and a career-high two receiving touchdowns. If he loses touches to White on early downs, Fournette will bust at his current ADP.


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