Friday - Feb 15, 2019

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5 UP 5 DOWN: Running Backs

We all know that Ezekiel ElliottDavid Johnson and LeVeon Bell are the Big-3 of the fantasy running backs, but after them there can be some questions as to who to draft. We all have to make our own choice as to who we like and who we don’t but getting the best value for our pick is the biggest consideration for drafters. It’s not always about who you draft but where you get them. You don’t want to reach on a guy like a Jeremy Hill while leaving Melvin Gordon on the board like some of us did last year. So these are five guys to target and five guys to avoid. Let’s start with five running backs to avoid.

Five Running Backs to AVOID

Jay Ajayi, Miami: Ajayi was a guy who many of us rode to fantasy glory last season. He had a true breakout season. This has led to him being a Top 10 drafted back and in some cases to him being drafted in the first round. This is understandable considering he put up more than 1,400 combined yards and eight touchdowns last season. He was fourth in the league in rushing yards last year (1,272). So why would I put him on my running backs to avoid list? As impressive as his stats were last year, when you look closer you see something very concerning. Ajayi had 624 of his 1272 yards for the entire season in only three games. Those games came against Buffalo twice and Pittsburgh, two of the worst defenses in the NFL. That means over the other 13 games he ran for only 648 yards, or an even scarier 49 yards per game average. He also scored half of his touchdowns in those three games. Now when you add in the fact that he only had 21 receptions for 151 yards for the entire season you can see the concern. You are drafting him as a Top 10 running back when he only had three Top 10 running back games last year. He was below average in the rest of his games and a guy I am avoiding. I would much rather have Jordan Howard, who is going right before him in average draft position, or even Isaiah Crowell, who is going four spots later in average draft position.

Todd Gurley, L.A. Rams: Todd Gurley was a B-U-S-T last year but for some reason some people still consider him a Top 10 running back. My question is, why? What has changed to lead anyone to believe he will be better? Los Angeles still has a below-average offensive line. Jared Goff isn’t going to suddenly turn into a quarterback who coordinators plan for so he will still be facing eight in the box. The team has the worst receiving group in the league, which means even if Goff improves substantially teams still have no reason to not load up on the run. Added to all of this is the fact that most of the time they will be playing from behind. All of this tells me to expect another year of Gurley being a disappointment.

Carlos Hyde, San Francisco: Carlos Hyde was good last year, when he played. That second part is the key for Hyde. He is always hurt and you just can’t trust him to be healthy. I usually like the guys who owners are staying away from because of injury concerns. This can sometimes lead to getting a good value player. Unfortunately this isn’t true in the Hyde’s case. He has an average draft position of 14, which is in the RB2 territory. I would much rather draft him in the RB3 area and not have to rely on him as a starter every week. Add to this the fact that the talk surrounding Joe Williams unseating him as starter is very real. If he is there late take a shot on him but if you have to draft him in the Top 3 rounds my advice is to stay away.

Lamar Miller, Houston: Since 2012 I’ve been hearing this is the year Lamar Miller becomes an elite fantasy running back. Remember last year it was supposed to be the move to Houston that was supposed to be what leads to a great season. As usual he was just an average fantasy producer. I think we all need to finally accept the fact that he is actually just that, average. He isn’t going to turn into a superstar and the shine has finally wore off on Miller. I think the team know that also. Look at who it drafted at running back this year. D’onta Foreman is a bruising running back who is primed to be a touchdown vulture at worst. At best, he can take the lead back role on first and second downs. Leaving Miller back to the time share, big-play dependent back he was in Miami. No thank you!

Mike Gillislee, New England: The fact that Gillislee has an average draft position of 28 tells me people are treating him like a low-end starting running back. People are drafting him as a third running back or flex starter. I guess when you consider that the investment is probably just a flier on a late-round guy it isn’t asking too much. Here is my word of caution – good luck knowing when to play him. New England quite literally has four people who could lead the running backs in points from week to week that we know of. Given that this is New England there may be another name who may sneak in that we don’t know about. The team will use its backs differently from play-to-play, never mind from game-to-game. I am not drafting a New England running back at all this year because it is impossible to predict when any of them will be used. I don’t want to start the wrong one and have them lose me a week. I’d rather take Bilal Powell, Paul Perkins or Danny Woodhead who are all going after Gillislee as my third guy or flex. At least I am confident I will get something close to consistent from one of them.

About Michael Carline

Mike is an avid fantasy football player and competes in keeper leagues that are open year round. He is an elementary school teacher by trade so we can only assume that he must also have the patience of a Saint. We hope you enjoy his viewpoint.