RISKIEST Early Round RBs

RISKIEST Early Round RBs

Dalvin Cook - Minnesota Vikings
Current ADP: RB5, 1.06

Cook is an all-world talent, but it feels like we caught that lightning in a bottle season we all wanted from him last year. There are a lot of things working against him relative to where you have to take him. He is your messiah, your top-7 pick, your RB1 to lead you to salvation.

But we have these contract talks - he's looking to hold out. Someone brought a very, very interesting point up in our Discord - if the NFL players give players the option to opt-out of the season because of health concerns, that could be a loophole for players like Cook. What we call finesse. I have no idea if that's actually a leverage point or not, but maybe.

So we have the whole contract situation looming. 

And of course we have the injury concerns with Cook. Missed 12 games his rookie year, 5 his second season, 2 last year.

I won't list all of the injuries - PP has most of them listed here, in our BDGE draft guide Dr. Morse goes into extensive detail on all of his injuries dating byke to high school and rates him a 5/10 for an injury rating this year - SportsInjuryPredictor has him projected to miss about 2 games this year.

It just feels like a guy I'm okay saying, big time hat tip to those who drafted and got to reep the benefits last year, but Idk if it's wise to double down on him this year. There's a good chance all the flags start to push Cook into the 2nd round and at that point you can't let him fall further. It's a matter of risk/reward and more often than not I tend to go risk-averse early on in my drafts I want those first four or so rounds to be the staple of my team for the entirety of the year.



Kenyan Drake - Arizona Cardinals
Current ADP: RB10, 2.01

Drake is fun because anyone who was going nuts about his talent for like 17 years finally got an injection of dopamine last year as we saw Drake get traded to Arizona and immediately explode in his first game, against a stout SF 49ers defense, Drake pops off for 162 total yards and a tug on 19 touches. That was followed by four more or less dud game, before popping off with a ridiculous 4-touchdown game against CLV, a 184-yard, 2 TD against SEA in Weeks 15-16. 

Drake was really good for fantasy last year, but he wasn't actually a really good running back when you look at the numbers. The breakaway run rate was 25th, evaded tackles/attempt was 49th, yards created per carry was 49th, but the run-blocking efficiency that he actually enjoyed was 4th best among all running backs in the NFL. Despite the OL as a whole being poor. This is a cool metric on player profiler, they show you how the OLine was when it's just that individual player running the ball. So, he enjoyed a lot of great things, that didn't coincide with him being great if we're being honest.

The problem that I have with Drake, of course, is that we have yet to see him do it over the course of a season. Four years at Bama, never more than 106 touches in a season. Comes into the NFL. Three years in Miami, maxed out at 173 touches.

It was encouraging to see Arizona give Drake the tag and pay him $8.4M - that says a lot. They trade for him in-season, then give him that. They like him, a lot. They didn't address running back outside of Eno Benjamin in the 7th round. That was after trading away David Johnson. So, no free agent, and objectively, yes we like Eno - but a 7th round rookie. That's all they brought in and they gave away last year's "starter".

It's worth noting how they transitioned over the second half of the year too, once Drake took over.

They did bring in Hopkins, so the offense could be drastically different from what we saw 2H of last year, too.

Overall, my biggest concern is lack of showing us that he can stay on the field for the volume we need him to, in order to be a good pick as the 12-14th overall player.


Clyde Edwards-Helaire - Kansas City Chiefs
Current ADP: RB14, 2.11

I was as high on CEH in redraft following the NFL draft as anyone. But I'd be shit at what I do if I wasn't able to acknowledge the fact that this team won't stop talking about Damien Williams. 

I was relatively sure it was CEH's backfield entirely, but when there is smoke, there is fire homies.

It's the reason we're nervous about JT - Marlon Mack talk. J.K. Dobbins - Mark Ingram is there, Swift - Kerryon. I'd be irresponsible at this point not to acknowledge that the Chiefs seem to still love Damien Williams and there's a strong chance that the first half of the season is a committee.

That and the Chiefs wont stfu about him this off-season man.

It's entirely possible that this is just coach-speak to keep Damien's head in the game, but I think the Chiefs really like him, and they have good fuckin reason to:




He's wildly efficient anytime he sniffs normal starter numbers and he balled out for KC in the playoffs.

Again, could be coach speak, but you look byke to last offseason and....

This is where my problem lies. I'm certainly of the belief that if Williams didn't get hurt last summer he would've been incredible in fantasy, but im not here for that, my issue is this: if they felt like CEH was going to be the workhorse, they would be talking about him in similar fashion this summer as they were Williams last summer, not Williams again the same as last summer.

So, like with many rookies - we might see a sizable timeshare in this backfield for a sizable portion of the year. Especially given the funky off-season we have and lack thereof. If there's one rookie I'm starting to cool on given how high I was on him to start the offseason for redraft, it's CEH.

Does he have the upside to be the RB1 in this committee and take hold of 17 touches/game which would be wildly valuable in this offense, yes, but drafting someone in the 2nd round almost knowing they're going to be in a committee, is risky. 


James Conner - Pittsburgh Steelers
Current ADP: RB15, 2.12

Conner's injury risk is similar to snacks' when running a 40. Inevitable. The single highest injury probability and 8th highest fragility rating amongst RBs per PlayerProfiler.

Dr. Morse already rated him as a 7.5/10 for the injury risk which is very high for him.

There are a few other concerns I think worth noting past Conner's injury status.

One, the team overall. We don't know what we're getting from Big Ben. Yes we want this to be the Steelers of 2015-2017, explosive, potent, fun to watch, but Ben is also 38 years old coming off of a serious elbow injury. 

Their o-line, while still good, not like it was. A few of their guys started to decline a bit last year including Pouncey, and the guys remaining graded far far better in pass-blocking then run-blocking, and they lost last year's starting LG. So do they open up holes for a back that's not particularly elusive.

They also bring in this rookie Anthony McFarland who brings an explosive element to this backfield that they haven't had in a while. He's going to get on the field this year and it's going to be hard to bring him off of it once he does.

We like to remember James Conner as this awesome 3-down back, but realistically, he might be like the 3rd best pass-catching back on the team behind Jaylen Samuels and McFarland. We remember that 71-target season in 2018, but to put that in perspective, yes the volume was high, but that's because Ben threw the ball 675, far and away the highest total in the NFL. Conner's target share was only 12% - so while he ranked highly among RBs in raw volume, that 12% target share, meaning how good he was at actually commanding targets and how involved he was to his team in that aspect, his target share ranked 16th among RBs so middle of the pack. He was simply 2018's version of Carlos Hyde in 2017 who saw 88 targets in Kyle Shanahan's offense, Hyde has a combined 96 targets in his 5 other NFL seasons.

There are just too many things that can go wrong, not get the volume we're looking for, the offense could not be great, the o-line could not be great, he might lose passing-down work on top of the injury concern here. Yet to play more than 13 games in a season.

His ADP is getting too high given the red flags.


Todd Gurley - Los Angeles Rams
Current ADP: RB16, 3.02

This is a pick I just won't get behind. I understand that Gurley played in 15 games last year despite all the injury buzz about his knee going into 2019, but there's also a reason he played on 70% of the Rams snaps last year after playing on nearly 85% of the snaps the previous two years. That knee.

Gurley had never been a particularly explosive back in the NFL but he looked like a slug last year. 12 rushing scores kept him relevant last year. Anything efficiency-wise you look at from 2019 was brutal.

  • Breakaway run rate - 2.7% (42nd)
  • Juke Rate - 40th
  • Production Premium - 50th
  • Yards Created/Touch - 68th
  • Elusive rating PFF - 28th
  • YAC/attempt - 36th

So, we chalk it up to bad offensive-line play in LA I guess right. Well, listen, Atlanta's offensive line ain't it either folks.

We ranked 24th in RBing per FO's last year. The two rookies we drafted in the first round that were supposed to save us, Lindstrom 14th overall pick only played 5 games, but was really bad in them, McGary the tackled was really bad too. Neither flashed hope - they can obviously get better - but I'm not about to tell you that's a reason to draft Gurley here. Our o-line is not good.

Gurley's knee is still very much an issue. 

The kid is 25 years old, if they thought he was about to be a big piece of this team, they wouldn't have given him a one-year $5M deal.

The team came out and said they don't even know about the knee. Literally the team after signing him said this. I know Dirk Koetter's a moron, but this was another level of documenting my journey away from being a Falcons fan:


He's got the 4th highest injury probability rating per PP:

I know everyone is just excited about Gurley stepping into Freeman's role but Freeman was buoyed by so much garbage time and a handful of okay receiving games, 4 receiving TDs, he had 3 total REC tds in the 3 years prior. I'm sorry, Gurley might see 50+ targets, but he's not explosive enough to do much with those at this point.


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