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Overvalued Running Backs (2023 Fantasy Football)

by Bradley Stalder | Featured Writer
Feb 8, 2023
Travis Etienne

The 2023 fantasy football season is just around the corner, and as always, the running back position is one of the most important to get right in your draft. With so many talented options, it’s crucial to avoid overvaluing players that could end up being busts.

In this article, I’ll take a closer look at some of the running backs who are being drafted too early and could end up disappointing their managers come the season’s end. By analyzing factors such as past performance, injury history and offensive changes, I’ll help you identify which players to steer clear of in your way too early 2023 fantasy drafts.

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

2023 Early Overvalued RBs

The ADP used is from Underdog Fantasy’s Way-Too-Early 2023 draft ADP (2/6/23)

Travis Etienne (RB – JAX) | ADP RB10

While Travis Etienne had a successful college career at Clemson and was drafted to the NFL with high expectations, his performance in the 2022 season showed some shortcomings in his game. Firstly, Etienne struggled as a receiving back, posting the fifth-worst PFF receiving grade among all RBs with 25 or more targets and averaging less than three targets per game. His 30th of 50 ranking in yards per route run among RBs further highlights his struggles in this aspect of his game.

Etienne’s effectiveness in the red zone is also a concern, with only five rush touchdowns and 35th most RZ fantasy points per game among RBs despite the eighth most rush attempts in the red zone and a low 3.4 yards per carry average. He only recorded three receiving yards in the red zone all season, again showing limited upside as a receiver.

Etienne’s lack of production is reflected most starkly in his upside metrics, ranking as RB15 in the rate of top-five weeks, RB15 in rate of top-10 weeks and RB24 in rate of scoring 12.5 points in half-PPR scoring during 2022. The crowded nature of the Jaguars’ offense is also a factor to consider, with the expected reinstatement of Calvin Ridley, the strong performances of Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, and interest from Evan Engram and the Jaguars to re-sign him. With all these factors considered, Etienne’s role in the offense may be limited, with his work only expected to come between the 20s.

Javonte Williams (RB – DEN) |ADP RB17

Several factors suggest Javonte Williams may not live up to this ranking. Firstly, Williams suffered a knee injury similar to that of JK Dobbins, which cost Dobbins all of 2021 and the majority of the 2022 season. With Williams having played only four games into the season before his injury, there is a real possibility that he may miss a significant part of the 2023 season. Even if he is cleared to play, there are questions about his effectiveness immediately following such a serious injury.

Additionally, Williams’ performance in the 2022 season was not impressive. He was ranked 62nd of 71 RBs in PFF’s RUSH grade among those with at least 47 carries and only achieved 12.5 points in half-PPR scoring in about 11.3% of his games. This suggests that even before his injury, his production was not at the level expected of a top-tier running back.

To make matters worse, Williams is being drafted ahead of Dobbins and Aaron Jones on Underdog Fantasy, projecting swift recovery in favor of higher upside options with fewer questions. Until more information is available about his injury and how he will perform upon his return, it is best to approach Williams cautiously and view him as an overvalued RB heading into the 2023 season.

Check out all of our 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports & Prospect Profiles >>

Dameon Pierce (RB – HOU) | ADP RB18

Despite having some solid numbers, Dameon Pierce’s overall performance raises questions about his ability to produce consistent, top-tier fantasy results. In terms of receiving, Pierce was only 23rd in target share and 47th in yards per touch, indicating that he is not a particularly exceptional receiver out of the backfield. Furthermore, his 23rd ranking in yards created per touch and 36th in breakaway run rate suggests that he is not creating significant yardage on his own.

Despite facing an average of the 43rd most defenders in the box, Pierce only managed to average 4.3 yards per carry and ranks ninth in stuffed runs. While he did perform well in terms of achieving at least 12.5 points in half PPR, ranking RB16 in that category, he was only RB31 in terms of the rate of top-10 weeks. This suggests that while he could produce some solid fantasy results, he was not consistently among the best of the best at his position.

Additionally, there are several questions surrounding the Texans’ offense, such as the quarterback situation and the impact of a new head coach, which may negatively impact Pierce’s performance. It is also possible that the Texans could choose to draft a running back to compete with or replace Pierce, which would further harm his fantasy value. Pierce’s 67th ranking in fantasy points per opportunity raises questions about whether he has done enough to secure his starting RB job for the upcoming season.

While Pierce has some solid numbers, his lack of exceptional upside in any area, along with the questions surrounding the Texans’ offense and the possibility of being replaced in the draft, make him an overvalued RB heading into the 2023 season. Until more information is available about his role in the Texans’ offense, it is best to approach Pierce cautiously.

Brian Robinson (RB – WAS) | ADP RB28

Brian Robinson’s comeback story after being shot in the preseason was nothing short of remarkable. However, when it comes to 2023 fantasy football, he’s simply not worth the investment. Despite logging a solid 10 games with 15 or more touches, Robinson failed to deliver consistent elite fantasy production with only a single top-10 weekly finish to his name. This lack of efficiency is reflected in his stats, as he ranks outside the top 50 in yards created, yards created per touch, true yards per carry, yards per touch and breakaway run rate.

His 3.9 yards per carry average only adds to concerns about his future viability in the NFL. Regarding fantasy production, Robinson barely cracks the top 50 in both top-10 weeks rate and scoring at least 12.5 points in half-PPR scoring. He also faces potential competition for playing time from teammate Antonio Gibson, who possesses a higher upside. With uncertainties surrounding the Texans’ offense and questions about Robinson’s ability to hold down a starting job, it may be best to avoid the risk and limit exposure to shares of Robinson.

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