Fantasy RB Busts 2017: The Jay Ajayi hype train may soon derail

Jay Ajayi’s unsteady play in 2016 is one reason why owners should pump the brakes in Round 1. (AP)
Jay Ajayi’s unsteady play in 2016 is one reason why owners should pump the brakes in Round 1. (AP)

The road to title town is full of potholes. How many wheel-displacing hazards one avoids ultimately determines success. Below we list candidates, drafted often inside the top-60 overall, who we believe drive off a cliff in 2017. To ensure full accountability, we also included our biggest hits/misses from 2016. Tuesday’s topic: RBs.

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Ty Montgomery, GB (56.42 ADP, RB18)

The source of much debate in 2016, Montgomery continues to exist as a powder keg for fantasy enthusiasts. Wowing after contact, the RB/WR racked up the second best breakaway run rate of the season with an impressive 9.1 percent. While that’s an eye-popping stat, he also faced a light front nearly 90 percent of the time. Yeah, having Aaron Rodgers as a QB certainly has its perks.

But I still don’t see a clear path to touches for Montgomery. Sure, he was promoted to the top of the depth chart after Eddie Lacy went down. But from Weeks 7 through 17 he averaged fewer than 10 total touches per game. And if the team were confident in his abilities to carry the load, they wouldn’t have added Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones via the draft. Furthermore, Montgomery’s struggles in pass protection may keep him off the field. He’s a fine athlete, but you won’t find me overpaying for last year’s darling. (Liz Loza)

Liz’s big bust RB hit in ’16: Thomas Rawls; Big whiff: LeGarrette Blount

Marshawn Lynch, Oak (38.1 ADP, RB15)

There’s a lot to like about Lynch’s situation heading into 2017. He’s tied to a productive offense, he’ll do his running behind an excellent O-line and he’s the presumptive goal-line back for Oakland. But let’s all just try to recall that when we last saw Lynch on the field, he was averaging 3.8 YPC for the Seahawks, during a season in which injury limited him to seven games. He’s a high-mileage player entering his age-31 season, and he’s coming off a long layoff. This appears to be one of those cases in which early drafters are focused only on the player’s ceiling and not the floor. (Andy Behrens)

Andy’s big bust RB hit in ’16: Thomas Rawls; Big whiff: DeMarco Murray

Carlos Hyde, SF (48.4 ADP, RB17)

Hyde got a career-best 4.6 YPC last season when he also made big strides as a receiver. Despite running behind a poor offensive line, he really flashes at times, and he’s still just 25 years old. However, Hyde has missed 14 games over his three seasons in the league, as his punishing rushing style invites contact, making him one of the bigger injury risks among all backs entering 2017. There’s an entirely new regime in San Francisco with no ties to Hyde, and new coach Kyle Shanahan fought hard to draft Joe Williams in round four. Hyde’s never reached 1,000 rushing yards or ran for more than six scores in a season during his career, has major durability issues, plays for a team that projects to be among the lowest scoring in the NFL and isn’t even guaranteed to make the final roster at this point. That seems like an awful lot of question marks for someone who’ll cost you a fourth round pick. (Dalton Del Don)

Dalton’s big bust RB hit in ’16: Matt Forte; Big whiff: Frank Gore

Jay Ajayi, Mia (13.9 ADP, RB7)

Long runs are wonderful when they come, but are they a sustainable way to live? Can Ajayi get away with what he did last year?

Three monster games — all over 200 yards — carried Ajayi last year, and to be fair, there could be signature significance to that. The list of players who have recorded three 200-yard games, period, is an impressive one. But where was Ajayi in his other 12 games? He topped 80 yards rushing just once in that sample (stumbling to 3.6 yards per carry), and the Dolphins used him modestly as a receiver (27 catches). Ajayi was also bottled up (16-33-0) in the playoff loss to the Steelers.

I am not opposed to using first or second-round picks on running backs, but I want to be sure of those picks; I need a high floor. There’s some regression risk to Ajayi that makes me nervous; heck, there’s one-year wonder risk, too. (Don’t like the Ajayi call? Pivot to the Lynch fade instead.) (Scott Pianowski)

Scott’s big bust RB hit in ’16: Jamaal Charles; Big whiff: Tevin Coleman

Lamar Miller, Hou (28.8 ADP, RB12)

Last year at this time, I was willing to prostitute myself, most certainly unsuccessfully, to acquire Miller. Seduced by volume potential, I vigorously ranked him top-five overall. In hindsight, that was a slight miscalculation. Save for a handful of games, he left owners mostly destitute. His yards after contact per touch (RB69), total evaded tackles (RB25) and juke rate (RB73) were eyesores. If not for his strenuous workload (69.5% opportunity share), he would’ve landed well outside the position’s top-20. The dude was horribly inefficient. It explains why Houston snagged D’Onte Foreman in Round 3 of the NFL Draft. If the rookie performs well in camp/Preseason, a dreaded hot-hand situation may develop, which would push the veteran to the outer RB2 fringes. And let’s not forget about the QB situation and potentially dreadful offensive line(Brad Evans)

Brad’s big bust RB hit in ’16: Jamaal Charles; Big whiff: Devonta Freeman

Follow the Yahoo fantasy gang on Twitter: Brad (@YahooNoise), Andy (@andybehrens), Scott (@scott_pianowski), Dalton (@DaltonDelDon) and Liz (@LizLoza_FF)

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