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5 Running Backs to Avoid Drafting (2024 Fantasy Football)

5 Running Backs to Avoid Drafting (2024 Fantasy Football)

The NFL Draft is just around the corner and while this isn’t the best running back class, a group of usable rookies will no doubt muddy some running back rooms around the league even further than they already are.

With a matter of days left before ADP changes significantly, here are five running backs worth avoiding in drafts.

Running Backs to Avoid (2024 Fantasy Football)

Austin Ekeler (RB – WAS)

Perhaps the easiest fade of the entire draft board currently, Austin Ekeler is going at pick 99.6, ahead of Zamir White, Zack Moss and Commanders teammate, Brian Robinson Jr. . Ekeler is coming off an awful year by his standards where PFF graded him at a career-low 60.2, a massive drop from his career average of 79.6. Ekeler also saw his missed tackles forced per game drop from 4.2 in 2022 to 2.9 in 2023, along with setting a career-low in yards after contact per attempt, a number that has fallen for Ekeler for six straight seasons.

Where Ekeler has typically made up for a lack of efficiency on the ground through pass-catching, but that will be harder now that he finds himself sharing a backfield with Robinson Jr., whom the Commanders are apparently very keen on. If Ekeler is a pass-catching-only back, it doesn’t bode well for him that in 2023, he posted career lows in yards per route run (1.25) and PFF elusive rating (49.4). He also might be paired with the dual-threat ability of Jayden Daniels who is less likely to check the ball down, rather than trust his own ability to run.

D’Andre Swift (RB – CHI)

Since March, D’Andre Swift’s ADP has steadily risen from pick 105 to 86.1, where he currently sits. This is despite Swift being engrained in a three-way committee for the Bears. Swift had the second-highest rushing success rate of his career in 2023, but the Eagles’ offensive line was clearly a big part of that. While the Bears are steadily improving, they likely won’t be in the same range as the Eagles were last year.

Swift also set career-highs in rushing yards per game (65), attempts per game (14.3) and games played (16). Still, none of that will matter if the Bears go into the season looking to use Roschon Johnson in the passing game, where he excels as a blocker and also mix in Khalil Herbert, who has shined at times. The Bears are doing a fantastic job of surrounding Caleb Williams with the talent to make his acclimation to the NFL easier than Justin Fields‘s was. However, for fantasy, they’re muddying the water somewhat, and there are safer picks to make.

Tony Pollard (RB – TEN)

Another backfield that is far muddier than what we yearn for is the Tennessee Titans, who, after losing Derrick Henry, decided to replace him with a player similar to what they already had in Tyjae Spears. With Spears putting up solid numbers in his rookie year, ranking third among rookie RBs in catches (49), second in team target-share (14.9%) and fourth in total yardage, it seems clear that Spears could take a further step in year two. The Titans showed they trusted Spears in all areas of the game, spelling Henry at times with the rookie. If Tennessee trusted Spears to cover for Henry, then they likely see him as able to share the load with Pollard.

The former Cowboy is coming off a career-low 22% rate for breakaway yards, a significant drop from every other year where he’s been above 30%. His yards after contact per attempt also dropped to a career-low 2.92. Pollard is a fine player still and might bounce back in a new offense. However, being drafted 30 spots ahead of Spears seems like a market inefficiency, and when backfields are ambiguous, then it can often pay off to take the cheaper and younger option.

Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND)

The 2023 season started off difficult for Jonathan Taylor, as he and the Colts had a very public contract dispute. It thankfully was resolved with the former Wisconsin Badger getting a three-year $42-million deal. Taylor was recovering from an injury during that process that kept him out of the first four games of the year.

Those missed games opened the door for Moss, who shined and then proceeded to outproduce Taylor across the course of the season in yards per carry (4.3 vs. 4.0), evaded tackles per game (3.0 vs. 2.8), Big Run Rate (3.95% vs. 2.88%) and rushing yards before contact (1.5 vs. 1.1). Moss dominated in the games without Taylor, scoring 17.9, 20.7, 22.5 and 33.5 PPR points, which made it tough for Taylor to resume three-down duties upon his return, averaging a 61.7% opportunity share, compared to 67% in 2022 and 69% in 2021. This difference might not sound massive, but going from 22 touches per game to 17 makes it much harder to dominate.

The last knock against Taylor is that he spent only 22 snaps on the field at the same time as Anthony Richardson, making it hard to predict how the pairing will work together. It doesn’t seem likely that Richardson will be checking the ball down to Taylor often enough to open up his ceiling outcomes.

JK Dobbins (RB – LAC)

In a parallel universe, JK Dobbins followed up his rookie season, where he set a Ravens franchise record for touchdowns scored by becoming the fantasy stud we all expected when he left college. Sadly, in our universe, Dobbins has played only nine games since his rookie season (2020), rushing for 542 yards on 100 attempts, dealing with a multi-ligament knee injury that required multiple surgeries and then a torn Achilles.

The Chargers had a completely empty backfield apart from Gus Edwards. Still, the opportunities could be limited for Dobbins. He’s again teaming up with Greg Roman, whom Dobbins used to be unhappy with due to him being subbed out at times for Edwards. If Dobbins’s ADP stays in the 180 or higher range, then it’ll be fair to take some sentimental shots on him and hope he turns a corner. yet, the likelihood is that he’ll not be fantasy-relevant any time soon, and there could be players in that range with far more upside.

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