Dynasty’s Most Overvalued & Undervalued Running Backs
Running backs are a position that seems to get the most attention in the fantasy community. It is a talented and shallow position that can make or break your team. Running backs come and go in the NFL so it is extremely important to choose your Running Backs wisely in your next startup, or if you are looking for trade targets. My last article was focused on Wide Receivers (Check it out here) and I will be doing Tight Ends and Quarterbacks next. Now let us get into which Running Backs are the most overvalued or undervalued based on current ADP.
Undervalued: Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers – ADP: RB14
Imagine living in a world where a running back who finished as the RB2 in 2019 and then came back as the RB5 the following year is being drafted as the RB14. That is the world we are currently living in, and that is what is happening to Aaron Jones. When you are at the beginning of a startup draft if you are already thinking about rebuilding you need to rethink your strategy because win now should be the strategy for every startup. He may be 26 years old but compared to other running backs he is being taken behind (see chart below), he has way fewer career touches. Age is an important factor when it comes to running backs, but so is the number of times you have been hit, and Jones has more tread left on the tires than the typical 26-year-old RB. There are currently five other running backs who are being drafted ahead of Jones in dynasty startups who have more career touches than him. If you can draft these other guys, I do not see any reason why Jones should not get the same treatment and be drafted as a top-ten RB.
(Data Source: Pro Football Reference)
Jones was expected to part ways with Green Bay this offseason, but the Packers had other plans and gave Jones a 2-year extension worth $48 million. The biggest question mark for Aaron Jones right now is his quarterback. Should Aaron Rodgers decide to leave, it will have a negative impact on Jones, but If I am drafting him at RB14 that is still great value and he is still going to receive plenty (if not more) volume it just might mean fewer red zone opportunities. For a guy like Jones, I don’t need to tell you that he’s talented you should already know that, what you need to know is that he is being undervalued. For a guy who has averaged over 5 yards per carry over his career, with a huge touchdown and reception upside you would be mistaken to overlook one of the best running backs in football.
Overvalued: Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams – ADP: RB7
(Photo Credit: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)
I can already hear the uproar of Cam Akers truthers as I write this article. I like Cam Akers and think he has a bright future, but I have never seen someone do so little and receive so much hype. Cam Akers was being drafted as RB24 in January, RB12 in February and now the RB7 in May. Despite having a good end of the season and a great playoff run, I still have not seen enough, and Akers has struggled with productivity.
(Picture Credit: Player Profiler)
117th in fantasy points per opportunity plus minimal receiving work leaves a lot to be desired. Darrel Henderson was more efficient with his touches than Akers was in 2020 averaging 4.5 YPC to Akers 4.3. Henderson is still there and although Akers will receive most of the work, I still see Henderson as a speed bump that can cap Akers’ upside. Akers was also bad in the red zone last year only getting 7 carries and averaging 2.6 yards per carry (63rd in NFL). With Todd Gurley II so close in the rearview mirror people are drooling at the opportunity to get a piece of the pie. But Cam Akers is not Todd Gurley just because he plays for the Rams. The icing on the cake is that the Sean Mcvay-led Rams have always been close to the bottom of the league when targeting running backs, which will limit Akers in PPR formats. The Rams were 30th, 23rd, 26th, 32nd, and 30th over the past 5 seasons in targets to the running back position. Gurley was just extremely efficient with his receptions, and Akers was not. Gurley was also better than Akers in just about every statistical figure his rookie year. The Rams also have an aging offensive line that has had a hard time staying healthy. The best pitch for Akers is also the reason I am not as high as everyone else, and that is unknown potential. Everyone is drafting based on his ceiling, which I will admit is high, and being that he will only be 22 years old next season, he could be worth it. But you are drafting a guy who has one career 100-yard game, over proven legitimate fantasy studs. I am willing to gamble and play upside, but not on my first or second pick of the draft when there is sure-fire talent available.
Undervalued: Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals – RB16
For some reason, there seems to be a false narrative about Joe Mixon being “Injury-Prone”. So, I will nip that in the bud early, Mixon has played in 50/64 games in his career which is not nearly as bad as people make it out to be. His ADP seems to be an over-correction since a lot of people drafted him high last year and his injury sidelined him most of the season. When Mixon got hurt in week 6 he was the RB9 up to that point. He was the RB13 in 2019 and the RB10 in 2018 (PPR). In 2019 the Bengals were 30th in scoring, which limited Mixon’s goal-line touches. Now that Giovani Bernard is gone this will only create pass-catching opportunities for Mixon. As far as pure talent goes, you do not get much better than Joe Mixon. In 2019 he finished 1st in evaded tackles, 4th in Juke rate, and 2nd in yards created. The talent is there, the offense is improving, he has the best run-blocking O-Line of his career which finished 11th in run block win rate in 2020. This one is just a no-brainer at this price. Mixon is a steal and a half, and I am looking to own him in every league I can.
Overvalued: Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys– ADP: RB10
This may come as a shock, as Zeke is cheaper now than he has ever been in his career. But his fade-in value is for good reason. Zeke has been regressing every single year of his career and has continued to regress in almost every statistical figure. For example, this is a graph of Zeke’s yards per game from his rookie year, until now.
As you can see, it has been a steady decline since his rookie year. This goes for many other stats including yards per attempt, total yards, attempts, attempts per game, yards per reception, receiving yards per game, etc. Every year we see another running back that hits a production wall and is never the same again. For me, all of this regression is a huge red flag and is showing enough warning signs for me to be nervous. Despite being 26 this next season, Zeke has seen nearly 1,700 career touches. The only active running backs with more are Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Leveon Bell, Mark Ingram, and Todd Gurley. Those hits start to catch up with running backs, and the name of the game in a dynasty is to buy before the rise and sell before the fall. The fall may not come this year, it might be next year, but it is coming none the less and I do not want to be on that wagon when the wheels fall off.
Undervalued: Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles – ADP: RB19
(Photo Credit: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)
I will not need to go into much detail here as @FFBallAllDay just wrote an article on Miles Sanders that sums up just about everything you need to know. Being drafted as the RB19 is a classic overcorrection, like what we are seeing with Mixon. He is being undervalued. Sanders was a former second-round pick in 2019 who just turned 24 this May. His second season (2020) was supposed to be a breakout season for Sanders as he became the lead man in the Eagles backfield. His sophomore campaign may have seemed like a slump, but he still had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in less than 12 games and was still an RB2. In the 7 games that Sanders saw 75% snap percentage, he averaged 18.04 points per game which would have made him THE RB4. The addition of Kenneth Gainwell in this year’s draft is not a great sign for Sanders as Gainwell is probably the best pass-catching back in this year’s draft. This just leads me to believe that Sanders will be getting all the early-down work, and with Sanders’ explosive ability any touch could turn into big points regardless of where they are at on the field.
Overvalued: Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers – ADP: RB11
Although Najee Harris is my (and the consensus) RB1 of his class, the 23-year-old rookie is being drafted too high for my taste. Despite an off-the-charts campaign at Alabama and a favorable landing spot I just do not advise drafting unknowns that early in your startup drafts. All Rookies are unknowns and according to a 25-year study done by Bleacher Report, 46.9% of first-round running backs are considered “busts” which is most among any position in football. So, to draft a rookie who is unproven and not even that young would be a gamble that is not worth taking. Granted, the sheer volume that Najee will receive in Pittsburgh will most likely bode well for him early on, but there are younger RBs who have just as much upside. He will most likely be good, but the risk you are taking is not worth what you are missing out on by taking Najee over guys like Antonio Gibson who is even younger and has shown on an NFL football field that he is legit.
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