Alrighhhht, after breaking down WRs last week, it's time we turn to everyone's favorite position in fantasy football - running backs. Here are my top players to avoid in 2018 fantasy for the running back position.
Ronald Jones - Tampa Bay Buccanneers
Current ADP: 61, RB26
This isn't me tooting my horn. I did choose Royce Freeman over Ronald Jones in my previous #ITMM I did a month or two ago, but we're seeing most of the things I said come to fruition here. Jones' question marks included pass-blocking, pass-catching and competition with Peyton Barber.
The latter of the three seems to be by far and away the biggest issue for Jones. Looking just at the Bucs preseason week 1, we got a huge look at just where this running back competition is. McCown played a total of 14 snaps in their week 1 game - so the Bucs played their starters on 14 snaps, Peyton Barber played on 13-of-14. Jones came in for the one snap leftover and dropped a dump-off pass, something we were concerned about. I'm not saying he's a bad athlete, or that he's not capable of catching, we've just never seen it from him. He caught a total of 32 passes in his 40 collegiate games at USC. And now his first real live action he drops a pass, that's not good.
After the game, their HC Dirk Koetter came out and said "Barber is our starter" - no kidding we didn't need to hear it from the hefe's mouth, but it's time to really understand that as fantasy owners. Barber has nearly 20lbs on RoJo so there's no question who the GL back was, but now Barber is the clear starter. He also may very well be a better pass-catcher than Jones too. He proved his versatility last year when they used him as their horse over the last month and a half of the season, seeing 18 touches/game over their last 5, and catching multiple balls in 4-of-5 of them. It's hard to see how Jones returns any value as someone that primarily relies on his one-cut move then absolutely blasting through holes, something he may not see much of behind PFF's 22nd ranked line entering 2018. They did add Ryan Jensen to the line which is a big upgrade, but it doesn't make them great, they just won't be the shit show they were in 2017.
I'm sure Jones will get work this year, probably in between the 20's but those aren't very valuable touches in fantasy. We'll get more of a clue of what's going on with the backfield in Week's 2 and 3 of the preseason but taking Jones at his current 5th/6th round ADP is highly recommended NOT to do.
Rashaad Penny - Seattle Seahawks
Current ADP: 67, RB26
I'm a huge fan of Chris Carson. Have been since last preseason. I was never, (arguably) irrationally high on Penny, like a lot of people were after he was taken in the first round of this year's NFL Draft by Seattle. But, this summer has done nothing to show me Penny is in for a breakout year. Now, his ADP has moved down significantly over the past few months, even weeks. I think it started somewhere near picks 40-45.
Even now, at pick 67, that's far too high for a guy that is clearly 2nd in the pecking order behind a ratchet offensive line. My problem isn't necessarily with Penny's talent, although it's noteworthy that 1. He couldn't beat out Donnel Pumphrey as the full-time back as a junior while at San Diego State and 2. before getting injured didn't come close to separating himself from Chris Carson.
All summer Pete Carroll praised Chris Carson, all beat reports pegged Carson as the starter to enter the year, and that held true. In the first preseason game, the two backs split snaps, Carson started, getting 7 to Penny's 5. Penny ended up breaking a finger at practice a few days later. He would require surgery, initial reports gave him a 3-4 week return timetable, leaving his Week 1 and even Week 2 status in question, but he literally returned to practice about a week later - Pete Carroll confirmed he has no doubt Penny will be good to go for Week 1, and possibly this week's preseason game.
Regardless, it's always notable when a rookie misses training camp & practice time, they need all the reps they can get, especially one in a depth chart battle such as we have between Carson & Penny.
So, we have a murky backfield situation, and then.. the BIG and then - a report surfaced about a week ago that Penny just weighed in at Seahawks camp at 236lbs. He weighed 220lbs at the combine. A 16lb difference my friends. It is NEVER a good thing when a running back puts on that kind of weight. Not when you already have workhorse size. If he was 208 maybe and weighed in at 216-218, I honestly still don't like it, but I wouldn't be as concerned. Is this man too young to remember Eddie Lacy? Good lawd. I usually take weight loss notes with a grain of salt, but a 16lb increase is way too big to disregard. When you're in a backfield like Seattle's, behind this shaky offensive line, you're not getting a ton of holes to work with. You need to be able to move quickly and make guys miss. At 236lbs, it's going to be hard for him to be the shifty back he was at SDSU.
All around just a very, very bad summer for the rookie Penny. The whole first round draft capital will ensure they give him play time, but at this point - it's clearly Carson's job to lose - Penny is not a bad pick in the later rounds of drafts, but he has a lot of obstacles to be relevant in fantasy - Chris Carson being #1, being in shape #2, a bad offensive line #3 - there are far too many red flags to invest any noteworthy type of fantasy draft capital with this man.
****PLUG DRAFT GUIDE - find out all my top busts****
Marlon Mack - Indianapolis Colts
Current ADP: 89, RB31
Another player that suffered a multi-week injury in mid-August - a hamstring, most notably. There's no guarantee he's ready for the season opener, and there's no guarantee he's even the starting back here if he is. It's a super muddy backfield, between Mack, Christine Michael who's had his fair share of work with the 1's, hype rookie RB Jordan Wilkins who's skillset people say remind him of Matt Forte, he's my favorite pick in this backfield at his current RB55 (171 overall) price. There's the other rookie back Nyheim Hines, who's been absolutely terrible this preseason, but he's an athlete and could still carve out a pass-catching role. Robert Turbin is suspended for the first four games, but there's a real chance that he has a GL role in this offense when he does return. He played in just 6 games compared to Mack's 14 last year and only had one less GL carry. Turbin's also built like a little tank at 225lbs, so, there's that.
This is going to turn into a committee most likely - and it'll be nearly impossible to predict over the first half of the season.
The last thing is that Luck, of course, looked pretty bad in the Colts 2nd preseason game. He bounced back in Week 3, but we're still yet to see Luck really wind up his fastball and let loose down the field. There's always the possibility, now while I still expect him to be fine, the possibility remains that Luck just maybe doesn't return to his former form, which means maybe the starting RB in this offense actually isn't as valuable as we're making it out to be.
So, just way too many question marks for me to even consider drafting one of these backs until the double-digit rounds.
Mark Ingram - New Orleans Saints
Current ADP: 59, RB26
There are a lot of things I don't like about this situation.
Those thinking they're getting a steal with Ingram in the 5th/6th rounds of their drafts are getting far too cute for me.
This isn't a situation like Zeke in 2017. Where he serves his time, and he comes back to the unquestioned role he had in this offense.
Ingram, while certainly a very good NFL running back, has many things working against him.
Number one.... uhhh - he's suspended for 4 games y'all. That's nearly a third of your fantasy regular season. And the shitty part about it, for Ingram owners, is the matchups during that span are juiccccy. They play the Bucs at home, then the Browns @ home, the Falcons in Atlanta and the Giants away. They might not all be juicy matchups in terms of the opposite team being poor run defenses, but game script should be heavily in favor of the Saints, outside of the Falcons game on the road, but the Falcons are a team that consistently lets up the most Receiving fantasy points to opposing RBs, year over year.
He comes back in Week 5 and takes on a tough Washington run defense, who ranked top-5 in both ypc against them and in Football Outsiders DVOA last year. Then they're on the road @ BAL & @ MIN before getting a Rams team whose middle will be occupied my Ndomukong Suh dude and Aaron Donald hopefully. No easy matchups for Ingram.
The problems don't stop there though. By no means is Ingram's role cemented in this offense. Not that I think he's not going to get work, but I mean we have no idea what his role is - it's not defined at all. There is a clearly a rift between Ingram and some of the coaches and he's in the dog house here. There's not telling if he comes back and gets, idk 8 touches the first game and flirts with 8-10, maybe 12 touches a game for the rest of the year.
And the bad part about this easy SOS o start the year, is that what happens if/when Kamara balls tf out? Do you think the Saints coaching staff is going to take that mojo away from the team? And I can't see how Kamara doesn't, behind one of the top o-lines in the NFL and some juicy game scripts. We saw in their dress rehearsal, Kamara played the entire first series and rather than leaning on their bigger back, Ingram, on the GL, they gave it to Kamara on the 2-yard line to score.
I think down the stretch last year, we saw what the Saints plan was, and it was echoed in rumors all offseason, that their plan was to move towards Kamara as their featured back. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reports the Saints were planning to make Alvin Kamara their "featured" back even before Mark Ingram's four-game suspension. Over the last five games of 2017, including their two playoff games, Kamara out-touched Ingram 78-71. Graham Barfield also noted that Kamara out-snapped Ingram over their final combined 8 games. And in the most important games, the two playoff games, Kamara saw 21 carries to Ingram's 19, and 10 targets to Ingram's 2 and outgained him 138-63, scoring twice to Ingram's 0.
The other concerns I have, which are definitely more of reach concerns and are less likely to impact Ingram are who takes that role from Ingram during the first four games, and what happens if he performs well, similar to Tim Hightower in 2016. Right now, it's penciled in to be Jonathan Williams. Williams didn't play at all last year, but he was a good college producer and showed some promise as Shady's backup in Buffalo in 2016. It's a reach but if he plays well, we could see this role turn into a split between Will & Ingram. The other concern, again I say is a reach, but still lingering is Ingram using PED's lol - what if his performance over the last couple of years was bolstered by these - does he play at a slower speed now that he's off them? Does that turn him into a different player? We'll have to see.
I just think that the Saints will play really well to start the season, Kamara will eat and they don't have a ton of reason to just insert Ingram back into a 15, 13-touch role. He's pretty much going to be in a Tevin Coleman like situation, but getting drafted a round earlier and missing the first four games of the year.
C.J. Anderson - Carolina Panthers (113, RB41)
- Clearly running far behind C-Mac, he's even splitting time with Cameron Artis-Payne at this point, playing into the 3rd, 4th quarter of preseason games.
Doug Martin - Oakland Raiders (165, RB53)
- This is for newer fantasy guys, maybe you hear the name Doug Martin and get excited, but Lynch is the back to own in Oakland, it's not close. Martin is just bad, don't waste a pick on him please.
D'Onta Foreman - Houston Texans (180, RB57)
- Torn Achilles, likely settling up on the PUP and will miss 6 games. You don't come back from this injury with the same explosion as Dr. Jesse Morse eluded to.