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PLAYERS TO AVOID: Running Backs

Statistics prove that players who score the most points are often on high-scoring offenses. After a down 2015, running backs made a comeback last season, and whether it’s a standard or points per reception (PPR) league, those in the backfield should be a focal point in roster construction. However, don’t feel pressured to take a running back early to just fill a roster spot.

Remembering that a mediocre offense generally means fewer yards from scrimmage and fewer touchdowns is helpful. The following list currently has an average draft position (ADP), per FantasyPros, that’s too steep for their supporting cast.

Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
Don’t be fooled by Jordan Howard‘s breakout rookie campaign. No doubt he was solid in 2016, finishing as RB9 (PPR) and RB10 (standard). But the problem isn’t Howard. In a Charles Barkley terrible move, Chicago traded up to select North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky No. 2 overall in April’s NFL draft. That move sends ripple effects down to the team’s workhorse.

Trubisky only started 13 games in college out of a spread system, meaning picking up a pro-style system will take time. If Chicago’s passing game regresses, expect opponents to stack the box even more to stop the run and make Trubisky (or veteran Mike Glennon?) defeat them. Last year, Chicago was 17th in rushing yards and tied for 28th in points per game. On the bright side, FantasyPros ranks Chicago as the eighth-easiest schedule for running backs. That might not matter if the quarterback isn’t an upgrade from the likes of Brian Hoyer.

Howard’s current ADP is RB9, No. 16 overall. If putting faith in the Chicago offense sounds scary, it should. Anyone who takes him that high will do so begrudgingly.

Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Following an 1,106-yard, 10-touchdown rookie season in 13 games, Todd Gurley suffered a sophomore slump by gaining 885 yards (3.2 yards per carry average) despite 49 more attempts over a full season. It wasn’t his fault. The Rams offense ranked last in almost every category including total yards (32nd), rushing yards (31st), rush yards per game (31st) and points per game (32nd).

The additions of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and 31-year-old head coach Sean McVay are commendable. Whitworth, 35, is one of the game’s best offensive linemen. Washington promoted McVay to offensive coordinator in January 2014 and he coached the team to the 12th-most points in 2016. Rams quarterback Jared Goff looked lost at times last year, which is common for rookie signal-callers. McVay and Whitworth will improve a porous offense. They won’t help enough to allow Gurley to flourish.

Gurley’s current ADP is RB11, No. 21 overall. Say this out loud: beginning of the third round in a standard 10-team league. Middle-to-late third round? Yes. At his current ADP? Meh.

Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49’ers
Leading up to training camp is when almost every player receives adulation from coaches, teammates and the media. Carlos Hyde is an exception. San Francisco is in disarray and new head coach Kyle Shanahan cannot fix an inept offense in one year. The team gained the second-fewest total yards in 2016 yet had the fourth-most rushing yards. What gives?

Perhaps Hyde, who has never had a 1,000-yard rushing season, would have low-end RB1 talent if he was on another team or healthy. In the last year of his rookie contract, general manager John Lynch is noncommittal, in part, because of Hyde’s unknown fit in Shanahan’s offensive scheme that primarily runs outside the tackles. The biggest concern might be his injury risk. He has nine injuries in three seasons, including a torn MCL in Week 16 last year. In April, Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline said San Francisco is “ready to give up” on Hyde due to his struggles with injuries, per Rotoworld. It may only be a matter of time before Joe Williams, a fourth-round pick from Utah, surpasses him on the depth chart.

Hyde’s current ADP is RB16, No. 35 overall. Go ahead, select him there. Everyone makes mistakes.

About Tyler Huey

A journalist for almost 10 years, he's won many sports writing awards including news articles and opinion columns, and has played fantasy football for more than a decade. He hopes you enjoy his point of view.