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Running Backs to Avoid (2024 Fantasy Football)

The NFL offseason is the time for optimism for fanbases, teams and players. Yet, when the regular season begins, things won’t go swimmingly for everyone. It’s not just critical to avoid busts in the early rounds of fantasy football drafts. Gamers must be on the lookout for them throughout the entire draft, and a pair of mid-round running backs stand out as landmines. Here are two running backs to avoid at their current fantasy football draft-day cost.

2024 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

Fantasy Football Running Backs To Avoid at ADP

Javonte Williams (DEN – RB): 87.0 ADP/RB26

Last year, Javonte Williams was returning from reconstructive knee surgery. It was understandable he had an underwhelming campaign. Still, Williams’s season was genuinely dreadful, and this is the final season of his rookie contract.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), among 50 running backs with at least 100 rush attempts last season (including the postseason), Williams was 46th in PFF’s run grade (64.9), 42nd in yards per attempt (3.6), 36th in yards after contact per attempt (2.71 YCO/A) and 40th in PFF’s elusiveness rating (40.0). The poor rankings didn’t stop there. Per Sumer Sports, Williams was tied for 38th in Expected Points Added (EPA) per rush (-0.17 EPA/Rush), 42nd in tackles-for-loss rate (11.4 TFL%), 31st in explosive run rate (6.4%) and 40th in first down rate (18.7%) among 49 running backs with at least 100 rush attempts in the regular season.

Williams’s receiving work was mixed. According to Fantasy Life, Williams was tied for 41st in route rate (28%), tied for 50th in long-down-and-distance rate (9%) and 51st in two-minute rate (3%) among 51 running backs with at least 300 snaps last season. Williams’s limited receiving role undercut his 32% targets per route run rate.

Furthermore, among 51 running backs with at least 25 targets (including the playoffs), Williams was 29th in PFF’s receiving grade (61.9), 46th in PFF’s pass-blocking grade (27.8) and ninth in yards per route run (1.34 Y/RR). While Williams’s yards per route run were stellar, Jaleel McLaughlin had 1.63 Y/RR, and Samaje Perine had 2.09 Y/RR. Both running backs, while also pitiful pass blockers, had better PFF pass-blocking grades than Williams.

As a result, Williams is likely to remain in an early-down role. He also has competition for that role after the Broncos used a fifth-round pick on Audric Estime, and McLaughlin’s efficiency and explosiveness as a runner could allow him to usurp Williams on the depth chart. Even if Williams can recapture most of his pre-surgery form, he’s an unexciting pick in a multi-back committee in an offense projected to be one of the worst in the NFL this year.

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

Jerome Ford (CLE – RB): 125.3 ADP/RB41

As a rookie in 2022, Jerome Ford played only 14 snaps. He didn’t have a high bar to clear in 2023 to be more useful than he was as a rookie, and he did so. Ford opened the season as a change-of-pace back behind Nick Chubb and was thrust into a more prominent role when Chubb blew out his knee in Week 2.

However, Ford didn’t light the world on fire. Instead, he was 37th in PFF’s run grade (71.5), tied for 32nd in yards per attempt (3.9), tied for 25th in yards after contact per attempt (2.87 YCO/A), 21st in elusiveness rating (59.3), tied for 42nd in EPA per rush (-0.18 EPA/Rush), 49th in TFL rate (16.5 TFL%), tied for 19th in explosive run rate (7.3%), 47th in first down rate (16%) and tied for 44th in short-down-and-distance rate (30%).

The Browns signed D’Onta Foreman in free agency, and the bruising runner had a higher PFF run grade (77.4), more EPA per rush (-0.04 EPA/Rush), an identical explosive run rate and a higher first down rate (22%) than Ford despite facing an average of 6.95 defenders in the box versus 6.78 for Ford.

Unfortunately, Ford was also an unimpressive pass-catching weapon. He was 39th in PFF’s receiving grade (55.3) and 28th in yards per route run (0.96 Y/RR). According to Spotrac, the Browns guaranteed Nyheim Hines $1.35 million when they signed him to a one-year deal in free agency. He’s not a shoo-in to make the roster, and the team might be more interested in Hines’s return ability than his receiving chops. Yet, Foreman is arguably a better runner than Ford, and Hines might be better than Ford as a receiver. Thus, Ford doesn’t have a high ceiling even if Chubb’s recovery from reconstructive knee surgery sidelines him early in the season or hampers his performance. And, of course, if Chubb returns to even 75% of what he was before blowing out his knee last year, Ford’s value will plummet.

So, what do gamers who roll the dice on Ford get if things break ideally for him? They might get a passing-down back who also splits early-down work but probably doesn’t have a goal-line role. Moreover, if Chubb shakes off the rust as the season progresses, Ford’s early-season role will diminish during the fantasy season’s most crucial weeks. The worst-case scenario for Ford’s outlook is an Adrian Peterson-like return from reconstructive knee surgery by Chubb and somewhere between the best-case and worst-case scenarios is Ford toiling in a multi-back committee. The range of outcomes for Ford in 2024 makes him a terrible selection with a high-risk, low-to-medium-reward profile.

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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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