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Fantasy Football Running Backs to Avoid Drafting (2024)

Fantasy Football Running Backs to Avoid Drafting (2024)

Projecting a player to repeat their previous season’s fantasy production is a lazy mistake gamers can make. With that in mind, after digging deeper into their underlying stats, a pair of running backs that had stellar fantasy seasons in 2023 are lousy selections at their respective average draft position (ADP).

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

Running Backs to Avoid

Travis Etienne (RB – JAC): 30.0 Underdog Fantasy ADP/RB9

Travis Etienne was sixth in half-PPR points per game (14.9) among running backs that played at least 10 games last season. The young running back’s value was primarily derived from being force-fed the ball. Etienne was fourth in rush attempts (267) and was tied for the sixth-most receptions (58) among running backs.

On the plus side, Etienne was a quality receiving weapon. He had Pro Football Focus’s (PFF’s) 13th-highest receiving grade among 51 running backs targeted at least 25 times last season and was 19th in yards per route run (1.17 Y/RR). Still, Etienne’s not a game-changing pass-catching weapon.

He’s also an inefficient runner. First, Etienne had the eighth-most lost yards (-61) on 30 tackles for a loss. Second, Etienne was tied for 42nd in yards per carry (3.8) among 59 running backs with at least 70 attempts in 2023.

Third, per Sumer Sports, Etienne was tied for 41st in expected points added (EPA) per rush attempt (-0.13 EPA/rush) among running backs with at least 70 rush attempts. He was also tied for 45th in success rate (34.8%) and had the eighth-highest tackled-for-a-loss percentage (11.5 TFL%).

The Jaguars picked Snoop Conner in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft and went back to the well in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, popping Tank Bigsby. Neither Conner (cut before the 2023 season) nor Bigsby succeeded in their rookie seasons, forcing the Jaguars to keep feeding Etienne.

They could take another crack at finding a complement for Etienne after another inefficient season on the ground. Even an average running back could siphon work from Etienne, making him a poor investment unless he falls at least an entire round beyond his ADP.

2024 NFL Draft Guide

Joe Mixon (RB – CIN): 79.5/RB24

It’s better to get out a year early than a year late. That adage applies to veteran running backs. Ezekiel Elliott was the RB12 in half-PPR points per game (13.4) among running backs who played in at least 10 games in 2021, Dalvin Cook was the RB12 in 2022 (12.8), and Joe Mixon (14.18) scored less than a tenth of a point fewer than RB12 David Montgomery (14.23) in 2023, ranking as the RB13.

Zeke had 11.8 half-PPR points per game in 2022, and Cook had 2.2 in 2023. A 2022 Zeke-like showing from Mixon in 2024 wouldn’t be horrible. Yet, a 2023 Cook-like season from Mixon would be a nightmare.

Cincinnati’s workhorse running back’s fantasy value came from his workload, not big-play ability or efficiency. He was PFF’s 35th-ranked runner among 59 running backs with at least 70 rush attempts in 2023, tied for 33rd in yards per carry (4.0), tied for 50th in yards after contact per attempt (2.51 YCO/A) and 50th in PFF’s elusiveness metric.

He was also tied for 27th in EPA per rush (-0.07), 25th in success rate (39.7%) and 34th in explosive run rate (6.2%).

The veteran running back had PFF’s 16th-highest receiving rank among running backs targeted at least 25 times. However, he was a mediocre 27th in yards per route run (1.01 Y/RR). Mixon’s fantasy value almost depends entirely on a hefty workload and touchdown potential, which is enhanced by playing in a Joe Burrow-led offense.

Unfortunately for Mixon, he could be a cap casualty. According to Over The Cap, the Bengals have the fourth-most effective cap space this offseason. Still, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, D.J. Reader and Chidobe Awuzie are notable free agents, and the Bengals could allocate some of their effective cap space to retain them.

Furthermore, per Over The Cap, Mixon has only a $2.75 million dead cap hit, and the team could save $5.75 million by cutting him before or after June 1. Landing in a less productive offense or a backfield with another quality running back would hurt Mixon’s fantasy value.

Moreover, even if the Bengals keep Mixon on the roster at his current salary or after restructuring his deal, Chase Brown threatens Mixon’s bell-cow gig. Brown has elite speed and flashed his potential down the stretch in his rookie campaign. In Cincinnati’s final six games in 2023, Mixon handled 68.1% of the club’s backfield’s rush attempts (96) for 413 rushing yards, 4.3 per carry, 2.46 YCO/A and 10 missed tackles forced versus 42 rush attempts (29.8%) for 173 rushing yards, 4.1 yards per carry, 3.36 YCO/A and eight missed tackles forced by Brown. The risk outweighs the upside for Mixon. So, he’s an ill-advised pick unless he falls into the 90s or later.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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