Links to similar discussions on other positions:
The flip side of succeeding with value players is failing with overvalued players. These players will not put up stats commensurate to their draft spot, and avoiding them is another important key to a successful fantasy team. Therefore, we asked our staff to look through the Top 150 and identify players that should underperform their draft position.
Here are the players who received the most votes:
And here are all of the payers mentioned and the reasons why.
Players Receiving 4 Votes
Sigmund Bloom: One year after the signing of Gordon indicated a lack of faith in Phillip Lindsay -- that bore out with Lindsay being allowed to leave in free agency this offseason -- the Broncos moved up in the second round to take Javonte Williams, indicating a lack of faith in Gordon. Unlike Lindsay, Williams can supplant Gordon at the goal line, and there's some possibility that Williams takes over the backfield right away. Gordon's arrow is pointing down for 2021, and he could be marginalized as the season goes on because the team also likes free agent signing Mike Boone.
James Brimacombe: I view Melvin Gordon III this season a lot like I viewed Leonard Fournette in Jacksonville last offseason. That's right, Fournette was cut by the Jaguars, and I think the same could happen with Gordon entering this season. I feel like most drafting Gordon right now are doing it on name value, but he now has plenty of competition with Javonte Williams and Mike Boone as priority adds this offseason.
Drew Davenport: Gordon hasn't been a special player for a while now, and at times last year looked completely ineffective. The additions of Mike Boone and Javonte Williams haven't done anything to dispel this idea. Gordon caught only 32 passes last year, and outside of three games where he scored two touchdowns, he was a mediocre fantasy back. Adding another trip around the sun and competition from two young, capable running backs is the recipe for the bottom to fall out for Gordon. It is also quite possible that Gordon isn't even on the team by the time Week 1 rolls around. Gordon is a massive red flag at his ADP.
Andy Hicks: The Broncos don’t seem overly excited to use Melvin Gordon III this year. They traded up in the draft to select Javonte Williams and, without the large contract, may have already released the former Charger. Gordon was adequate last year, but that was almost purely on volume. If he is still on the opening day roster, his workload will be usurped by the rookie when the coaching staff trusts him. Gordon has always been a runner that needs a large workload to produce fantasy stats. Without the volume, he is hard to use.
Sigmund Bloom: Johnson was still in line to start after he took a pay cut to stay with the Texans, but then the team added Phillip Lindsay after he and the Broncos parted ways, which embroils Johnson in a frustrating committee backfield in an offense that is likely to be among the league's worst. There's just not enough upside here to justify taking Johnson anywhere near his ADP and no expectation of consistency in Johnson's usage or the Texans' ability to move the ball week to week.
James Brimacombe: Johnson has been a fantasy hero for us in the past, but now entering Year 7, his best days are behind him. Worst of all, he is now playing on the Houston Texans, who have no identity on offense heading into the season. Johnson was once a big name at the running back position and is still getting drafted based on that name and past production.
Drew Davenport: The memories of Johnson dominating in Arizona are still following him into this offseason. There is no other way to explain a mid-range RB3 price when he is in one of the worst possible situations in Houston. The only reason Johnson had fantasy value last year was a superhuman effort from Deshaun Watson to move the offense and produce points. Heading into this season, their offensive line is mediocre, their quarterback situation is a mess, they have a new coach, and the rest of the skill position players are uninspiring. On top of these issues, the Texans added Rex Burkhead, Mark Ingram II, and Philip Lindsay to compete for touches. Drafting running backs on the downside of their career, on bad offenses, in a platoon situation, is fraught with peril. Avoid.
Pat Fitzmaurice: The appeal is that he's an inexpensive lead back. But, man, there are all sorts of asterisks to add to that description. First, Johnson turns 30 in December, and considering all the injuries he's dealt with in his NFL career, it's hard to see him aging well. The more problematic issue is that the Texans are a train wreck. They might be lucky to win three games, which means limited touchdown potential for Johnson and a shortage of run-friendly game scripts. And while Johnson sits atop the Houston depth chart, Phillip Lindsay, Mark Ingram II, and perhaps Rex Burkhead will factor in as well.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Anthony Amico: Dobbins is being drafted as if he has a far greater stranglehold on this Ravens backfield than he likely will. In five games without Mark Ingram II in 2020, Dobbins only out-carried Gus Edwards 13 to 11.6. He’s the favorite for running back targets, but the offense doesn’t really throw to the running backs.
Victoria Geary: The Ravens have "made it a point of emphasis" to get Dobbins more looks in the passing game for 2021, but we know coach speak isn't very trustworthy during the offseason. The Ravens have had the #1 rushing offense in the league for the last two years straight but have finished 31st overall in total running back targets in that same time span. Ten different running backs had more targets alone than the entire Ravens backfield in 2020. Unfortunately, Dobbins is on a team with an elite rushing quarterback in Lamar Jackson, who will always cap Dobbins' upside in total carries and goal-line looks. The Ravens have also continued to trust Gus Edwards and have kept the backfield intact as a true timeshare. You are better off investing in a more consistent player for your RB2 when you get to the late second or early third round of drafts.
Jason Wood: We all want Dobbins to be an every-down workhorse. He has the ability to handle that role and thrive in the process. But the Ravens are a Super Bowl contender and won't veer from the system that's gotten them to the peak. The Ravens view Gus Edwards and Dobbins as co-starters who are both vital cogs, and the front office rewarded Edwards with a new contract supporting his role. Combine a true committee situation with a quarterback who racks up 1,000 yards and a handful of scores, and you have a ceiling on Dobbins that won't be unlocked without a rash of injuries.
Drew Davenport: McKissic's price isn't super high, so anyone who believes in him isn't making a grave error where he's being drafted. But just like Logan Thomas, McKissic benefitted from a perfect storm of low average depth of target throws from the quarterbacks last year and the lack of receivers outside of Terry McLaurin. In addition, Antonio Gibson finished the year banged up and ceding snaps to McKissic. The additions of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, and a healthy Antonio Gibson should blunt his numbers and make his season look more like 2020's first half when he averaged 4.7 targets and 3.6 receptions per game instead of his second half when he saw 8.6 targets and 6.1 catches an outing. Unless his ADP falls a bit, he's a pass where he's being drafted right now.
Dave Kluge: Sure, you’re not giving up any crazy draft capital to get J.D. McKissic on your fantasy squad, but his outlier of a 2020 season is going to cause some to reach for him heading into 2021. Before his 2020 campaign, McKissic had never rushed for more than 205 yards in a season. His fantasy value was bolstered late in the year due to an insane usage rate in the passing game, seeing a whopping 8.6 targets per game when Alex Smith started. However, with Smith out of town, gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick now under center, and sophomore running back Antonio Gibson expected to step up, McKissic isn’t someone that will have much value in most fantasy leagues.
Chad Parsons: McKissic is priced reasonably with an implied drop in targets. However, I would ask - where is the upside to tilt a league here? McKissic is not your traditional committee back or injury-away dart throw for a big ceiling. Instead, McKissic is a receiving-centric option where targets will be at a premium considering the competition in Washington, which was not present in the 2020 version with notable wide receiver additions Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries, and Dyami Brown.
Sigmund Bloom: Anthony Lynn basically told us that he will run a committee of Swift and free agent pick Jamaal Williams when he called Williams his "A" back. Lynn will also rely on the hot hand approach - and Swift is more likely to run hot than Williams - but how often will this offense and team play well enough to give Swift a favorable game script. Lynn's mauling offensive line and run-first mentality give Swift a chance to make good on his ADP, but he is being drafted at his ceiling. If you're optimistic about the Lions running game, take Williams at a deep discount from Swift's highly aspirational price tag.
Andy Hicks: D'Andre Swift had a patchy rookie season. At times he looked like the future back Detroit has been looking for this century. At others, he made mistakes and was underused. His lack of use as a runner has to be a concern. Detroit signed Jamaal Williams to take the heavy work and kicked the tires on Todd Gurley before declining his addition. Swift relied heavily on touchdown production for his fantasy numbers. With an almost entirely new coaching staff, quarterback and receivers, it is difficult to trust that Swift will be worth his asking price.
Matt Waldman: After studying Swift's best weeks in 2020, the Lions' offseason acquisitions, and Coach Lynn's analysis of his backs, I'm less enthusiastic about Swift. He has lapses in vision and decision-making. He has good hands, but his route running hurt his opportunities to make clean catches against man-to-man coverage. Swift also picked up bad footwork habits working alongside a different style of back in Adrian Peterson last year, opting for inefficient jump cuts that hurt his game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was used as a space player last year, and his lack of a red-zone presence placed a ceiling on his fantasy value. Jamaal Williams is a fine receiver, route runner, and red-zone back who will limit Swift's upside to a low-end fantasy RB2, at best.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Sigmund Bloom: There are too many forces that Barkley has to swim upstream again to justify taking Barkley at his lofty ADP. His knee injury involved multiple ligament tears, and the Giants are likely to bring him along slowly. The team didn't improve a problem defensive line. Jason Garrett was one of the most uninspiring play-callers in the league last year. Daniel Jones was one of the most uninspiring quarterbacks in the league last year. Even when Barkley was a big fantasy hit, it took big plays that can be very mercurial from year to year to make it happen. He's not a player to build your team around if you pick in the top half of the first round.
Jeff Haseley: We know what Saquon Barkley is capable of, but we haven't seen him perform much in Jason Garrett's offense under Joe Judge's rule. There is also the slight concern that he will need some ramp-up time to fully be healed from his ACL tear from a season ago.
Pat Fitzmaurice: This is the type of player I won't draft at any cost. At 5-foot-6 and 191 pounds, Cohen is too small and one-dimensional to be used as a lead back even if David Montgomery gets hurt. Cohen is strictly limited to passing-down work, and the numbers suggest that he isn't outstanding in that role either. In 2019, his last full season, Cohen averaged 5.8 yards per catch and 4.4 yards per target -- terrible numbers for a third-down back. There's zero appeal here.
Chad Parsons: Cohen is coming off an injury, and Damien Williams is a notable veteran addition to the depth chart. David Montgomery looked the part of a workhorse profile after Cohen left the lineup, and Khalil Herbert is a rookie to watch for upward mobility on the depth chart. Cohen is not even a projected injury-away auto-start fantasy option heading into training camp.
James Brimacombe: Once Kenyan Drake was out of the picture, we shot Edmonds up the draft board naturally. The problem is it never really felt like we stopped moving Edmonds up the board even after the signing of James Conner. Edmonds is a great player who offers a ton of talent on the field to help win games, but he will never be the high volume type of player that we are all desperately looking for each year.
Jeff Haseley: Chase Edmonds scored in five different games in 2020, exceeding eight carries in a game only twice in 15 qualifying games. The 2021 season will either change from the norm of what we have seen from Edmonds in the past or a new role where he flourishes with an increase in volume. The addition of James Conner, plus the knowledge that Kyler Murray could steal goal-line carries, also adds a bit of skepticism. Murray scored 11 rushing touchdowns in 9 different games in 2020. Scoring at least once in 9 games (16 gms total) yields a 56% chance of a score in each game. That, plus the uncertainty of Edmond's role, leaves me more concerned than excited.
Andy Hicks: Austin Ekeler isn’t going to rush anyone to a fantasy title. His primary use has been as an excellent pass-catching back. Whenever a new coaching group comes in, especially an inexperienced one, there is always the risk that players with a high fantasy price underachieve. The depth behind Ekeler is average, but there are enough players to steal touches. It all depends on who works best in the new scheme and if the scheme works. His current draft price is almost his upside.
Jason Wood: Ekeler can single-handedly carry a fantasy team for a week or two. He's as gifted a receiver as he is a runner, which allows him to have huge games regardless of game script. So what's the concern? Durability is atop the list after missing six games last year. He's never carried the ball more than 132 times in a season. He also is a touchdown liability -- he's scored 5, 6, and 4 touchdowns in three of his four seasons (11 the other season), which had led to finishing outside the Top 25 each of those years. He also has a new coaching staff, a new play-caller, and a new system to learn. There are too many risk factors to comfortably draft Ekeler as a No. 1 cornerstone.
Victoria Geary: We should not steer clear of Harris completely for the 2021 season, but we should lower our expectations for a locked-and-loaded RB1 finish. Harris stayed an extra year in college to improve his draft capital, and rightfully so, as the 2020 class was filled with elite running back talent. The Steelers were 23rd in red zone attempts per game in 2020 and were recently ranked as having the fourth-worst offensive line ahead of the 2021 season by Pro Football Focus. Though volume is important in fantasy football, Harris will likely struggle behind his offensive line and may not garner an elite share of red zone touches. History has shown us that Harris's ADP will likely move into Round 2 or 3 as the next few months pass. Harris has the potential to be this year's Clyde Edwards-Helaire, as he may end up burning us relative to his climbing ADP.
Ryan Hester: This isn’t a knock on Harris, whose athletic profile and projected workload are things fantasy players dream of. It’s a knock on his offensive line. Pittsburgh’s front five looks nothing like last year’s group. Even the best backs need help, and Harris is less likely to have consistent holes to run through than any of the backs going around him. A new offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh also adds uncertainty to the situation.
Phil Alexander: The epic stretch-run that led Montgomery to an RB4 finish in 2020 came with Tarik Cohen sidelined and against the defenses of Green Bay, Detroit, Houston, Minnesota, and Jacksonville, respectively. The only defense in that group to finish above the bottom quartile in Football Outsiders' rush defense DVOA metric was Green Bay, who allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to enemy running backs last season. Montgomery hasn't turned a corner in his career arc. He feasted on unsustainable opportunities and a soft schedule.
Drew Davenport: Through nine games last year, Montgomery was the 26th ranked PPR running back in points per game at 12.2 a contest. This was largely in line with his previous year's 10.7 per game which allowed him to plod his way to an uninspiring RB24 finish. But then he missed a game, the Bears had a bye, and he finished at a torrid pace of 25.7 points per game as the overall RB1 from Weeks 12 to 17. As everyone knows by now, Montgomery faced some of the worst run defenses in the league over that finishing stretch to put up those huge numbers. So should drafters trust the first 25 games of his career where he was a compiler with minimal ceiling or the final six games against bad defenses in 2020? His ADP says drafters are aware of the easy schedule down the stretch, but he's still being overvalued at his current price.
Pat Fitzmaurice: First, a hat tip: For a guy who was a nonfactor in Purdue's offense for four years and was mostly a special-teamer in his first four NFL seasons, Mostert turned out to be a pretty good running back. But he's 29, he's undersized, he had a hard time staying healthy last year, he adds little as a pass catcher, and the San Francisco backfield is awfully crowded now. The 49ers traded up to draft Trey Sermon, they brought in Wayne Gallman as a free agent, and Jeff Wilson is still around. I can't see Mostert getting enough work to justify his current ADP.
Dave Kluge: The 49ers drafted Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell and signed free agent Wayne Gallman. It appears as if there’s a change of guard happening in San Fransisco. We’ve seen flashes of Raheem Mostert over the last couple of years feasting in this offense, but it’s sporadic and challenging to predict. Mostert is now 29 years old and has the highest draft position of anyone in this stable of capable running backs. While he can certainly put up some strong fantasy weeks, the savvier move would be to wait for the younger backs later in the draft.
Andy Hicks: It is hard for an undrafted rookie running back to succeed in the NFL. Kudos to James Robinson. Unfortunately for him, the team replaced the coaching staff that he impressed and signed veteran Carlos Hyde and drafted Travis Etienne in the first round. Robinson can be successful this year, but he will need luck and to earn the trust of the new coaching staff. I just see way too much downside to take a risk on lightning striking twice.
Chad Parsons: Travis Etienne and Carlos Hyde were both chosen additions by the new Jaguars regime with either Round 1 pedigree (Etienne) or a productive NFL profile (Hyde). The current regime did not select Robinson. This is a major factor in any expectation that Robinson would be fantasy lineup-relevant without an injury to one of the other options, especially beyond the early weeks of the season.
Victoria Geary: Sanders had the second-worst catch rate in the league last year among running backs, catching only 56% of his targets and dropping eight passes along the way (tied for most with Ezekiel Elliot). The coaching staff did not ignore this, as they selected the best pass-catching running back in the fifth round of the NFL Draft in Kenneth Gainwell. The Eagles also resigned Jordan Howard and added Kerryon Johnson to the backfield, exhibiting their lack of trust in Sanders as an every-down back. Jalen Hurts will inevitably take away carries and goal-line rushes from the backfield, capping any true remaining upside Sanders may have been clinging to. Investing in Sanders as your RB2 is likely to leave you feeling disappointed.
Jason Wood: Sanders is talented, and when healthy, was productive under former head coach Doug Pederson. But drafting him as a high-upside No. 2 fantasy back this year is a dubious decision. The new coaching staff is inexperienced (second-youngest in the NFL), the system is unproven, the quarterback is going to gobble up a ton of rushing yards and touchdowns, and the front office has added running back depth aggressively in the offseason.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Dave Kluge: To close out the 2020 season, Cam Akers saw 21, 29, 15, and 21 carries over his last four games. With the second-year back getting selected in the early second round of most drafts, fantasy managers must be expecting that trend to continue in 2021. Although the rookie saw an uptick in usage throughout his first season, he managed to eclipse 66% of his team’s snaps just once. It’s easy and lazy to make comparisons to "Todd Gurley under Sean McVay," but that hope is pushing him into a tier of running backs that he does not belong.
Ryan Hester: Chubb shares his backfield with a very talented player in Kareem Hunt, and Hunt is the one who gets the lion’s share of the passing game work. For both Cleveland backs to be values, the team would have to produce vintage New Orleans-level production for its backs, or one of them would have to get injured to allow the other to see an increased workload. There are backs going after Chubb who will receive bigger shares of their team’s usage.
Jeff Haseley: Clyde Edwards-Helaire has all of the tools and skills to be a successful fantasy back but failing to finish runs in the end zone has slowed his progress. Kansas City had 40 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing scores. They will be pass-dominant inside the five-yard line, which doesn't help Edwards-Helaire's fantasy stock. Can he still be fantasy-relevant? Yes, but it doesn't feel like he'll be a top-10 type of running back, even in the Chiefs' potent offense.
Matt Waldman: Many of my peers at Footballguys are worshippers of draft capital as a predictor of talent. I am a heretic in that regard. Draft capital is not a predictor of talent as much as a predictor of opportunity. Etienne's selection early in the late first signals he should have an immediate opportunity, especially with a new coaching staff in place. However, James Robinson is a better runner than Etienne at this point. He's more powerful and understands how to work between the tackles. By the end of the year, that may change, but Etienne will be a change-of-pace and gadget player who might earn flex value this year until then. Expect some early-season force-feeding of Etienne until there's a realization that the usage is predictable and inefficient. He's a strong talent with some flaws with a better all-around back ahead of him. Wait until next year.
Pat Fitzmaurice: The Buccaneers' playoff run was the best four-game stretch for Fournette since the early part of the 2019 season. As well as he played in the postseason, Fournette is still an inefficient committee back ticketed to share work with Ronald Jones II and Giovani Bernard. Jones was the better, more efficient runner during the 2020 regular season, and Bernard seems destined to be Tampa's primary passing-down back. The uncertainty of Fournette's touch volume will make it hard to start him with confidence throughout the season, so a late-sixth-round ADP seems steep.
Matt Waldman: Gaskin displayed underrated skills last year and has become a favorite sleeper in the fantasy community. Malcolm Brown has also been an underrated commodity for some time now and gets a shot to compete with Gaskin for significant playing time. This should be a fair competition, considering that Miami is changing its scheme this year. Brown has more power and better acceleration and change-of-direction quickness than Gaskin, who is the better receiver. Expect a more even split in touches than many are forecasting and potentially for Brown to earn the lead role. Gaskin has an RB2 ceiling, but an RB3 value is a much stronger likelihood than many realize, whether it's Brown or a summer free-agent acquisition like Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson, or a recent starter a team lets go to make room for an emerging force.
Phil Alexander: Hunt finished last season as the RB10 in PPR scoring, but his cumulative stats were buoyed by a four-game stint as Cleveland's starter when Nick Chubb was out with an MCL sprain. While Hunt has moderate standalone value playing alongside Chubb, he'll need to either break a long run, vulture a touchdown at the goal-line, or catch a score to help you win a weekly matchup -- all things that are difficult to bank on. Barring an injury to Chubb, Hunt will drive you crazy trying to figure out when to start him as anything other than a flex option.
Ryan Hester: If Aaron Rodgers leaves Green Bay, no Green Bay players will see their output exceed their price tag. But even if he doesn’t, this backfield could be a closer split than many think. Green Bay seems to like A.J. Dillon a lot, and reports from OTAs have been promising. Dillon is maturing as a receiver and might be used in that facet of the game despite his size profile suggesting he’s a bruiser.
Phil Alexander: Drew Brees is arguably the best screen game quarterback in NFL history. His retirement all but guarantees some drop-off in Kamara's receiving numbers regardless of whether Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill is named the Saints starting quarterback. Even if Winston wins the competition and keeps the New Orleans passing game afloat, Kamara will have a hard time repeating last year's 21 total touchdowns. Taysom Hill had nine carries from inside the opponent's five-yard line to Kamara's 15 in 2021 and won't be removed from the Saints' red-zone plans any time soon.
Chad Parsons: As much as Taylor is an overt talent and a potentially elite RB1 in a best-case scenario. However, the floor is lower than the surrounding running backs in cost. Nyheim Hines is one of the premier pass-catching options, and Marlon Mack's health is a wildcard in the Colts' backfield rotation. Taylor can be a rock-solid option and still be pecked away with Hines and Mack enough to be more in the RB10-15 range.