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Five Overvalued Running Backs

The Nerds Staff got together and identified five running backs who are overvalued and may be avoids at their cost!

James Cook, BUF

Cook is being overvalued as the RB29. First, let’s start with the fact that he finished as the RB44 last season. He was in the smaller half of a timeshare with Devin Singletary. He comes into the 2023 season, and some believe he is poised to be the main back.

Let’s not forget that the Bills brought in former Patriot Damien Harris during free agency. Even if Cook does have the Singletary role in this year’s timeshare, it doesn’t bode well for him. Singletary finished as the RB23. Singletary got more work due to Cook being a rookie. Now he has another year and training camp under his belt, and the carry split should be closer to 50/50. Even if it’s 60/40 and Cook is on the heavy side, he won’t have enough volume to be a top-30 running back.

The Bills are built for passing. Cook is a decent pass catcher, but other backs may also be involved in that role. The Bills have had around 300 carries split between the running backs in the past few seasons. 60% of that would give Cooks 180 carries. Even with his impressive 5.77 yards per carry, Cook would be looking at just over 1,000 yards. He would need another 59 points to get him to the RB29 spot in 2022. I don’t see him having touchdowns or receptions to get him there.

Javonte Williams, DEN

The Denver Broncos hope that Williams can return to his former self after tearing every CL (ACL, PCL, MCL) in his knee. Dynasty managers are hoping that he can pay dividends on his RB14 value. The last time we saw Williams play an entire season was his rookie year in 2021. He was splitting the backfield with Melvin Gordon. While he did finish as the RB17, he saw 209 carries and amassed 903 yards and four touchdowns. Most of his value came from his 43 receptions for 316 yards and three touchdowns.

The hope for him has been that he bell cow back for the Broncos. The injury derailed that last season, but there were some issues in the four games we did see him. He failed to score a touchdown and never saw more than 15 carries in a game. Williams was still losing work to Melvin Gordon, who was out of the league by Week 11. He now has to deal with the newly signed Samaje Perine. One of Perine’s selling points is his pass-catching. This will further eat into Williams’s opportunities and production. There is still an outside chance that Williams isn’t available in Week 1 or isn’t 100%. It was a devastating knee injury that took almost two years to recover from fully.

Williams is young, so there is value down the road, but if he can’t keep Perine on the sideline much like he couldn’t keep Gordon off the field, he may be destined as a rotational back for the rest of his career. Being drafted ahead of fully healthy backs with a clearer pathway to the lion’s share of the carries will cost owners.

Breece Hall, NYJ

Hall had an electric start to his rookie season. Unfortunately, it was short-lived, as he suffered a torn ACL. Through those seven weeks, Hall was able to amass 463 rushing yards and an impressive 19 receptions. His 17-game pace would have been: 1,124 rushing yards, ten rushing touchdowns, 46 receptions, 529 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns. This would have given him 283.3 full-PPR points and an RB1 overall finish. Then why is he overvalued at RB3 in dynasty?

Small sample traps are something that fantasy managers should try to avoid. Efficiency over a small sample will see regression as you scale up the volume. This concept can be seen in many areas, including mathematics, biomedical, and football. The idea is that as volume ramps up, it becomes more challenging to maintain the level of efficiency that you see in a small sample. 

Regardless of sample size traps and efficiency regression models, most people must consider how Hall will perform this season after returning from his ACL injury. I am not arguing that Hall will be ready for Week One of the 2023 season. There is a very real chance he is ready. However, running backs have repeatedly struggled to return to normal form for quite a while post-ACL injury. 

Austin Ekeler, LAC

Currently priced at RB7, Ekeler is overvalued in dynasty. Although an extremely talented bellcow running back, Ekeler is 28 years old. He will be an elite fantasy contributor for a couple more seasons, but it’s better to sell a year early than a year late. At Ekeler’s price tag, I would much rather invest in a younger player who is a safer long-term asset than a running back who has reached the age cliff and has an injury history.

Some options to pursue instead of Ekeler at a later ADP would include DK Metcalf, Travis Etienne, Christian Watson, and Rhamondre Stevenson. In a recent startup I was involved in, I saw Ekeler drafted in the early third round (as RB6) before Tee Higgins, Jaylen Waddle, Jahmyr Gibbs, Devonta Smith, and Chris Olave. I would much rather have any of those players’ full careers than a year or two of Ekeler. Could Ekeler help you win a championship? Maybe. Could he get hurt and cut next offseason and watch as his dynasty value tanks? Maybe. Ekeler is too risky to be the dynasty RB7.

Kenneth Walker, SEA

Walker is a good fantasy running back, but is he as good as the fantasy community thinks? Dynasty Nerds currently has Walker ranked at RB15, or 53 overall in Superflex, which is a respectable RB2. At 53, you’re looking at QB2s like Cousins and Goff or WR/RBs with some concerns, such as DJ Moore and JK Dobbins.

In 2022, he finished RB16 in PPR formats both overall and on a per-game basis. To get up to eighth, he would need to make a major leap either in volume or efficiency. It’s unlikely to come with volume as his competition with the newly drafted Zach Charbonnet is beefier this year. He also captured just 7.2% of targets last year, severely limiting his ceiling. To pay off at ADP, he needs to make major improvements in his rushing and receiving game, and exceeding ADP will be nearly impossible.

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3 Responses

    1. These were written before that injury and it definitely means Cook may get some of the receiving targets Hines would have gotten. His value is still varied and I’ve seen Cook go very high.

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