Fantasy Running Backs to Avoid in 2018

The cycle’s in fantasy football are like clockwork. My first fantasy league was my senior year of high school during the 2005-06 season. Ladanian Tomlinson broke the touchdown record by hitting pay dirt 28 times, to go along with 1,800+ yards. Twenty-two running backs broke the 1,000-yard barrier that year. TWENTY-TWO! Willis McGahee missed two games and fell just short of that marker with 990 yards. You know what my favorite stat line is from that season? 312 Carries/1,695 yards/ 8 TDs…. Frank Gore. Running backs controlled and dominated fantasy football.

Fast forward ten years and you get a whole different story. Seven running backs hit the 1,000-yard threshold, compared to 23 Wide Receivers. How many times during a season do you hear lazy color commentators tell you “It’s a passing league.” In 2005-06 the leader in receptions was Andre Johnson with 103 catches. He was the only person to catch more than 100 passes that season. So as cliché as it sounds, with Julio Jones AND Antonio Brown each getting 136 receptions during the 2015-16 season, it’s pretty darn safe to say that the NFL is a hyper-aggressive passing league.

…At least for now. This past season evened things out in a hurry. Maybe this was a product of a few receiver injuries, like Odell Beckham Jr and Allen Robinson. It could just be the emergence of a well-stocked running back pool, but more than likely it was a combination of both. 13 receivers and 9 running backs hit 1,000 yards. The running back position wasn’t without its situations. What with Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension and the injury to David Johnson in week one against my beloved Detroit Lions. Running back has always been a catalyst for fantasy success.

In the early years of the new millennium, you could just pick whomever you wanted as you knew they were going to run for 1,400 yards and 12 TDs. Once you hit the 2nd term of the Obama administration, they became scarce, and the receivers started to dominate the core of fantasy teams. This was certainly aided by the stacked WR class of 2014. Now, we’ve got a nice balance of very strong, well-defined running backs in excellent situations, just with less overall production than their comrades from a decade prior. With the reemergence of the running back, a lot of people are starting to hype up players that may be the starter on their team, but are all bark and no bite.

The Zac Stacy, Matt Jones, and Paul Perkins’ of the world. They show a little promise. Start the year as the lead back going into the season. Get drafted way higher than they should because “they’re a starting running back”, and end up hurting your chances to drink from your leagues’ championship chalice.

Marlon Mack

This was the easiest choice for me. He was an avoid for me leading up to my Dynasty rookie drafts last year, and now he’s still an avoid even though he’ll get every opportunity to be the guy. Mack runs outside the tackles too much for my liking. He did it at South Florida, and I didn’t think that production would translate, due to the speed of NFL linebackers. He only had 93 carries last year, but he didn’t do a lot with them. Mack ended the year with 358 yards with 3.8 yards/carry. I’m also not sold on him being the lead back.

Even if he does end up getting the first opportunity, the two backs that were drafted by the Colts, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins, should each be good enough to steal some carries. If I were a betting man, I’d be placing my bets on Jordan Wilkins to emerge as the lead back before the end of the first month of 2018. Wilkins had 6.5yds/carry on an Ole Miss team that plays in the same division as Alabama, Auburn, and LSU.

Dion Lewis

The fantasy community has such short memories. Todd Gurley and DeAndre Hopkins fell into the 3rd round last year, with rumblings of ‘bust’ and ‘Trent Richardson’ whispered throughout leagues. One year later, they’re probably the first player being drafted at their respective positions. When the Titans signed Lewis, I was happy as a Derrick Henry dynasty owner. The Titans were always going to sign an RB. You can’t go into a season with just one. Lewis has played a full season exactly once in his career. In 2017. In fact, it was only the 2nd time in his career he hasn’t missed at least 8 games during the season, a 23-carry rookie campaign with the Philadelphia Eagles, in which, he also missed a game that season.

If you ignore his vast injury history, you’re still missing the fact the Derrick Henry was the most dominant running back in the history of American high school football. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2015, the other backs that made the top 10 in Heisman voting that year were: Ezekiel Elliot, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, and 2nd place finisher, Christian McCaffrey. Henry was drafted into a rough situation with DeMarco Murray getting the lion’s share of the workload. Henry struggled big time in the last game of the season against the Jaguars.

Since that was one of the last games anyone has seen him play recency bias has helped lower his value. This also ignores the fact he played the Jaguars earlier in the year and dominated. He ran 14 times for 92 yards and a TD. Between Derrick Henry and a vast injury history, taking Dion Lewis at his current 5th round ADP (Average Draft Position) is playing with fire.

Nick Chubb

Don’t get me wrong. I love me some Nick Chubb. I just hate where he was drafted and what he was drafted into. This is a backfield that just signed Carlos Hyde off his career year in carries, receptions, total yardage and touchdowns. Duke Johnson is coming off back to back seasons of at least 50 receptions, including in 2017 when he caught 74 passes. This is also a Cleveland offense that just lost their Hall of Fame anchor at Left Tackle, in Joe Thomas, to retirement.

Chubb is going later in drafts, which is a plus, as your risk will not be as high as some of the other guys on this list. In 2019, Chubb will be one of my Running Backs to draft everywhere. In 2018 though, his best shot at anything resembling consistent fantasy production will depend on the health of Carlos Hyde. Carlos Hyde does have an injury history. One that any of his previous fantasy owners will certainly grumble about, but as long as he is healthy, he will have a role in this offense. Duke Johnson will be the pass catching back, with a little Hyde mixed in. Carlos Hyde will have the early down work, with a little Chubb mixed in. That is not a recipe for fantasy championships.

Alex Collins

Let’s talk about 2017, the season that put Alex Collins on the map and why it seems pretty obvious it won’t be repeated. Collins started camp with the Seattle Seahawks. Collins was waived because the Seahawks preferred the likes of J.D. McKissic, Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Chris Carson, and oh yes, Eddie Lacy. Then, Collins was signed to the Ravens practice squad with Jeremy Langford, following the injury to Kenneth Dixon in training camp. That still didn’t get Collins promoted to the 53-man roster. Not until Dany Woodhead got hurt in the season opener did he get the call.

Collins didn’t find the end zone for the first eight games that he played but did manage 113 yards in a 40-0 blowout of the Dolphins on a Thursday night. The team scored 40, and he didn’t score any. Collins did manage five touchdowns in a four-game stretch near the end of the season, to bump him up to the mediocre flex option by seasons end.

This was all on a roster with absolutely nothing else offensively to take any looks away. The Ravens drafted two Tight ends, one in the first round. Signed Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead in the offseason. They drafted two productive receivers’ in Jordan Lasley out of UCLA, and a big body end zone threat in Jaleel Scott out of New Mexico State. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Ravens took a look at free agent Demarco Murray for a one-year deal before drafting an RB early in next year’s draft.

Alex Collins current ADP has him being drafted in the 4th round of fantasy drafts in 2018. If you want to gamble on a player that had all those breaks fall exactly his way, and still ran for less than 1,000 yards, then you are a braver person than I will ever be. I would much rather take guys going later, like Derrius Guice, Rashaad Penny, or even Lamar Miller.

First Round Guy That Gives Me Pause

Alvin Kamara

There were two people I was very wrong about last year, Alvin Kamara and Tyreek Hill. Tyreek with Alex Smith just didn’t seem like a duo that was going to be consistent. One Alex Smith career year later, I look like a bozo. As for Kamara, I just didn’t trust a guy coming into the NFL and being a productive fantasy asset, when they couldn’t even get a full workload in college. That was my main mistake with Kamara. That’s when he excels. He was never asked to be the Saints between the tackles banger, that’s what Mark Ingram is for. Mark Ingram is suspended the first four games of 2018. This alone is going to make him go sky high in fantasy drafts this fall.

Kamara was already a backend of the first-round type of pick, but Ingram’s suspension will push him into the middle of the first and potentially push elite WR’s down the draft board. Those are drafts I hope I am a part of. I’m not sold that Mark Ingram’s suspension is a good thing for Kamara. It’s like when the Lions kept trying to use Theo Riddick in that type of role with Ameer Abdullah struggling. I know Theo Riddick isn’t Alvin Kamara; you don’t have to blow my mentions up. I’m just saying, it’s a similar situation.

He’s never handled a full workload. Getting hit by the monsters that play linebacker in the NFL over and over is never good. Even for those that have adapted their play styles for it. If Kamara is there at the end of the first or early second, by all means, take him and be happy about it. If you think Ingram’s suspension makes Kamara more valuable than Ezekiel Elliot, well then I wish you good luck, and I hope I draft after you in the first round.

Thanks for reading. Who are you avoiding at their current redraft ADP? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @JerrySinDFF.

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Writer and Ranker for @DFF_Fantasy while also dabbling in @DFF_Dynasty. Born and Raised in Michigan. Detroit v. Everybody. If we're arguing, there's a good chance I'll reply to you with a Golden Girls quote.

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