Look, we all want good players on our fantasy teams. But we need to avoid selling the farm for a player that underdelivers. The writers here at Dynasty Nerds take a look at five running backs to avoid at their current ADP.
Javonte Williams – Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos are hoping that running back Javonte 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 Javonte play a full season was his rookie year, 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 4 touchdowns. Most of his value came from his 43 receptions for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns. The hope for him has been that he is the bell cow back for the Broncos. The injury derailed that ascension, but in the four games we did see him, there were some issues. 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 takes almost two years to recover fully. He 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.
Dustin Ludke @TheDunit13
Breece Hall – New York Jets
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 form for quite a while post-ACL injury.
Dan Toomey @DanT_NFL
Kenneth Walker, Seattle Seahawks
Kenneth 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. His ADP, however, has him marked as RB8, or 38th overall. That difference is a middle-of-the-5th to the early third, which is a massive opportunity cost.
At 53, you’re looking at QB2s like Cousins and Goff or WR/RBs with some concerns, such as DJ Moore and JK Dobbins. At 38, you’re looking at Tyreek Hill, Mark Andrews, and Javonte Williams—a clear step above the previously mentioned players.
In 2022 he finished RB16 in PPR formats both overall and points-per-game. To get up to eighth, he would need to make a significant leap either in volume or efficiency. It’s unlikely to come with volume as his competition is beefier this year with the newly drafted Zach Charbonnet. 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.
Brad Custer @MonCalFF
Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Currently priced at RB7, Austin Ekeler is overvalued in dynasty. Although an extremely talented bell cow 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 that 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 the likes of Tee Higgins, Jaylen Waddle, Jahmyr Gibbs, Devonta Smith, and Chris Olave. I would much rather have any of those players’ careers than a year or two of Austin 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.
Bobby Bishop @ImBobbyBish
James Cook – Buffalo Bills
James 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 primary 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; 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 with Nyhiem Hines there to fill that role, there isn’t the PPR upside for Cook. 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 1000 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.