Today we’re going to look at several top fantasy running backs who I don’t think are going to justify their current average draft position (ADP). Keep in mind that I don’t necessarily dislike any of these guys – my stance is simply that you can get better value elsewhere in your draft. The 2014 fantasy football mock draft season is still young, but enough overall trends have emerged that we can begin to speculate on overall player value. All references to ADP are provided via 12-team results from FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
So if I’m down on Russell Wilson and Percy Harvin because Seattle is a run-first team, how am I also down on Beast Mode? For me, it’s all a question of value. If you examine the first 10 picks based on ADP, there are 6 RBs taken, including Lynch (1.09 overall). The others are Charles, McCoy, AP, Forte, and Lacy, all of which have massive upside and obvious first-round appeal. Lynch, on the other hand, is already unhappy with his contract, has a ton of miles on the tires at age 28, and is probably heading into his final year with the Seahawks. His backup and eventual replacement is already in place in the form of mega-talented Christine Michael, who figures to siphon off a few carries per game as well as some third-down work. In my mind, Lynch is a volume and TD dependent back who wears down defenses, so any decrease in his workload is a huge concern. I think he’ll still be an excellent RB2, but I just don’t think he’s going to finish with a stat line worthy of his lofty draft status.
There’s more buzz around Gerhart than a nest of angry hornets, but I’m not buying it. First off, he’s checking in ADP-wise at 3.12, which places him as the 18th RB off the board. This is a rather expectant price for a guy that’s never started 16 games in an NFL season, never scored more than 4 TD in any season, and never carried the ball more than 109 times. He’s tied to one of the worst teams, and specifically one of the worst offenses, in the league. The Jags are going to be down early and often – this isn’t a team that’s going to be able to feed Gerhart 30 carries a game and run the clock down. Their offensive line? Consensus bottom 5 in the NFL. He had college success, and success in a very limited role behind AP, but I’m not paying my 3rd round pick to find out of he’s a true bellcow back. I’d rather have Matthews, Sankey, Gore, and Vereen, all of which are ADP ranked lower than Gerhart.
I’m pretty concerned about Morris’ fantasy value this year. Gone is the zone-blocking scheme of the Shanahan regime, which fit Morris so well, and lead to his 1600 yard breakout rookie season. In is the quick-hitting, West Coast style offense that Jay Gruden favors, which lead of trending down of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the ascension of Giovani Bernard in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, Morris is more like BGE and less like Bernard, as HC Gruden is already quoted as saying he lacks ‘natural hands’. This will limit him to early down and goal line work, and is an obvious downgrade to his overall touches. Currently sporting an ADP of 2.09, there’s no way I would touch Morris, even with my rampant Redskins hometown bias. At that price, he’s going to have to score 10+ touchdowns to even come close to repaying his owner’s draft day faith, and it just doesn’t seem likely.
This is another guy that I think will be productive, but will fail to justify his draft day price. The Muscle Hamster is currently racking up an ADP of 2.11, which would be a steal if he was the only horse in the stable. The trouble is, not only is he not the only back, he’s one of three, and the Bucs intend to use them all. OC Jeff Tedford has already expressed his desire to use a rotation at RB. Tampa Bay just used a fairly high pick on passing-down back Charles Sims, and Mike James is returning from his ankle injury. It seems likely that all three will get some usage, and this seems like bad news for Martin. On top of all that, while he’s rumored to be 100% healthy, this is also a guy that’s coming back from a season-ending injury. With difference-making guys like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers right before him (ADP-wise) and explosive plays like Julius Thomas, Gronk, and Randall Cobb right after him, I just can’t justify spending a 2nd rounder on a Martin.
Since we’re all well aware of the offseason activities Ray Rice put on his resume (knocking out his fiancé-turned-wife on camera) let’s focus on the impact those activities will have on his fantasy value. The NFL has suspended him for the first two games of the season, so we’re looking at 14 possible games of production from a guy who is currently rolling out an ADP of 6.02. Now, the price isn’t terrible, until you consider his performance in 2013. Terrible is probably an overly generous way to summarize his 981 total yard, 4 TD return for owners how invested a high draft pick only to watch him run like he was stuck in the mud. Rice looked like he had zero burst, couldn’t evade tacklers, and went down at first contact often. Basically, he didn’t look like Ray Rice. Bernard Pierce should be the starter while Rice is suspended, and if he gets off to a fast start, Rice could be looking at a timeshare. I’ll admit that if you’re willing to scoop Rice in the 6th, and wait out the suspension, the rewards could be massive if he reverts to his old form, but I just can’t count on him as my RB2 / 3. I’ll let someone else take that risk, and instead take fellow Raven Torrey Smith at ADP 6.04.