Risk management is fundamental to any fantasy football strategy. Let’s be honest: No one wants to endure heartbreak with an early pick. To help fantasy gamers avoid disappointment this draft season, we’re unveiling our top bust candidates, position-by-position. Today, running backs.
Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets
Andy Behrens: Yeah, sure, we’ve all read the stories. Bell is a new man, best shape of his life and whatnot. And still, I am not even slightly tempted by Bell in drafts to this point. I don’t trust his line or his team’s coaching staff, and, if I’m gonna draft an inefficient back, I’d prefer he be tied to an upper-tier offense. Let’s remember that Bell wasn’t merely a disappointment last year, he was historically ineffective. He became one of just five running backs since the merger to rush for less than 800 yards on at least 240 carries. None of the others bounced back to do anything notable. For me, Bell is an easy fade; his appeal is limited to full-PPR. I can’t see a path for him to recapture his Pittsburgh peak.
Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons
Dalton Del Don: Gurley has an NFL-high 54 touchdowns over the last three seasons and joins an Atlanta team with an incredibly favorable setup with elite skill position players aside from an otherwise totally thin backfield (and also getting two 2019 first-round offensive linemen back from injury). But Gurley has an arthritic knee that’s never going to get better, and it’s not only at risk of sidelining him at any time, but it’s an injury that clearly compromises his performance. Gurley still helped fantasy teams last year thanks to playing in Sean McVay’s system that resulted in a bunch of touchdowns. This was Gurley’s “best play” from last season, when he ranked 40th in Juke Rate and finished last in yards per route run by a wide margin.
Moreover, after offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter openly questioned Gurley’s health status throughout summer, the back was reportedly recently walking “with a noticeable limp,” no longer possesses the ability to “put his foot in the dirt and go like the old Todd Gurley” and is already requiring “load management.” All this seems suboptimal for someone being drafted in the third round. Grab Judge Ito Smith at the end of drafts instead.
Matt Harmon: To be clear, I won’t call for Jacobs as an outright flop here in 2020, but I do think he’s a candidate to disappoint at his ADP (18.7) beyond the obvious risky guys. Jacobs comes with a second-round ADP and is a consensus Top-10 ranked running back. That’s aggressive for a running back who had a miserable passing game role as a rookie. Jacobs maintained a seven percent share of the team targets when he was on the field and averaged a measly 1.5 catches per game. Among the top-24 scorers at the position in 2019, only Derrick Henry, Marlon Mack and Raheem Mostert averaged fewer. Henry (RB3) was the only one to outscore Jacobs (RB18)
Josh Jacobs, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock can honk all they want about how they want about how the running back is going to get more passing volume in 2020. Their moves suggest otherwise. Las Vegas retaining receiving specialist Jalen Richard, immediately called college gadget player Lynn Bowden after drafting him in Round 3 and then just signed pass-catcher first, runner (maybe) second Theo Riddick off the street. With all these guys siphoning off reps in the passing game, it’s hard to project Jacobs for anything more than 30 catches on a slow-paced offense. Nevermind that the Raiders have a tough schedule in the first eight weeks, drawing matchups with the Chiefs, Bills, Patriots, Saints, Bucs and Panthers. It would not be a surprise at all to see Jacobs finish as a mid-range RB2 this year.
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
Scott Pianowski: Let me start by saluting the Yahoo draft population; Fournette isn’t a Top 40 pick in Yahoo ADP. Many of you see the pitfalls here and are running away. But there are some holdouts, and perhaps I can sway you.
The first thing to recognize is that the Jaguars aren’t in love with Fournette. Heck, they might not like him at all. Jacksonville refused to sign Fournette to a second contract, and it tried — in vain — to trade him in the offseason. Zero offers.
Fournette’s 2019 season was marked by two things — a ton of volume and absurdly-bad luck in the touchdown column. That second thing should correct somewhat, but remember what you’re latching onto — a running back on the team with the lowest win projection in the league. Game flow is unlikely to be Fournette’s friend this season. When teams trail in the fourth quarter, they don’t run the ball much.
So what about those 76 catches from last year? They’re extremely unlikely to repeat. Fournette wasn’t actually a good receiver in 2019, just a busy one — he averaged a mediocre 5.2 yards per target. New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden tends to funnel his backfield passes to several players, and he’s also coming over with a favorite player of his, satellite back Chris Thompson. There’s a strong chance Fournette’s receiving volume will collapse.
Let me be clear, I’m excited about Gardner Minshew, D.J. Chark, and some elements of this offense. The 2020 Jaguars might put the fun in dysfunctional. But Leonard Part V is not your friend.
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
Liz Loza: Fitting given his style of play, Singletary burst onto the fantasy scene at the top of 2019, managing 98 total yards in Week 1 and scoring in Week 2. However, a hamstring injury shelved that momentum until the second half of the season. Over the last eight games of the year, “Motor” demonstrated his rare elusiveness, evading an average of 5.7 tackles per contest and recording a top-three breakaway run rate (7.3%).
It seemed that Frank Gore’s departure would result in a bigger workload for the former Owl. However, the addition of Stefon Diggs as well as the selection of camp standout Zack Moss (3.22, Utah), figures to cut into Singletary’s targets and attempts. Whether it’s his stature (5-foot-7, 203 pounds) or his lack of straight-line speed (4.66), there’s certainly a reluctance to embrace Singletary as an every-down option. He’s ranked outside of my top-30 players at the position.