As we turn our attention away from the quarterback position and towards running backs, we take a look at the running back position. It’s become a position that is increasingly difficult to draft and given the dearth of talent and fantasy football opportunity at the position; it’s easy to see why marginal players drift up draft boards. Be wary of this proposition, and take heed of three running backs whose draft slots and fantasy potential do not add up.
Mark Ingram (RB11, 20th overall)
Mark Ingram finally did it! He finally put together the season we all hoped for, playing all 16 games and justifying his boost to the RB1 ranks. Oh? He missed multiple games for the fourth time in his five-year career? In a position that’s notoriously difficult to fill off the waiver wire? When Ingram was healthy last year, he lived up to his draft slot, but he missed the last four weeks of the season. That’s easy for fantasy owners to forget, as the last month of the season has people turning off because they are out of the playoffs.
Ingram still hasn’t put together a full campaign with more than 175 touches. This is the type of player that people are pegging to be their top running back. If you want to do it, go for it, but I wouldn’t. If you do, Tim Hightower is a must. He filled in amazingly last season, averaging 0.4 points per game fewer than Mark Ingram.
There’s so much working against Matt Forte, it’s crazy. He’s going from a feature back role to a shared role. He’s older. He’s looked awful in preseason. Here’s the rub with Forte: every season there are a handful of backs that dogmatic “must get running back” approach vaults up draft boards. Last season the hype surrounding C.J. Anderson and the need to get a running back vaulted him up into the first round.
This year Forte, at the beginning of the fourth is that player (along with DeMarco Murray). He’s going ahead of high production timeshare backs like Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill because people assume he still has the role to himself and that he is still Matt Forte. He’s splitting a ton with Bilal Powell in preseason and Powell looks better. Forte isn’t going to absolutely crater this season, but he is unlikely to return his draft value. He’s being drafted as a middling RB2 and he’s likely to only return flex value.
Where to start? He’s not very good. He fumbles a ton. He’s hurt. He’s in a crowded backfield. He’s not going to be the third-down back. And he’s an RB2 by draft slot. Jones became the starter by default after Washington let Alfred Morris walk in free agency. This is after compiling an incredibly terrible 3.4 yards per attempt last season on 144 rushes.
The coaches in Washington have all but said that he needs to get his fumbling problem under control, and if he doesn’t, he’s out. By ADP, someone is drafting him to start for them. That’s insane. You can do better.
The running back landscape is a bleak affair. Teams are going to a running back by committee approach, which is limiting the targets and upside of many players. RB-needy fantasy owners are, in turn, pushing marginal players up their draft boards. Don’t fall victim to this trap, and don’t fall victim to the “Zero RB” theory. Simply get good players at good values and you will profit. Avoiding these three running backs is a good first start.