Some big names headline my 2012 list of running back busts or overvalued options for draft day. Despite a weak running class, we still need to have caution of some high-rolling talents at the position. While I can’t fault you for succumbing to the temptation of drafting a player because of his past history, it’s at least a good idea to have realistic expectations.
The first tier of running backs (The Great Pretenders) are those I feel are overvalued or could bust based on where they are going. In the second tier of runners (Fringe Prospects) are those options I feel aren’t quite a full-on bust but could prove to be overvalued soon.
Please Note: ADP numbers below are from Fantasy Football Calculator as of July 26th.
The Great Pretenders
Adrian Peterson (11th, 2.07)
Maybe some of the optimism for Peterson as a a possible RB1 selection will fall away now that he’s been placed on the PUP to begin camp (per CBS Sports). Many fantasy owners seemed to fall victim to the media hype about how good Peterson looked running up a hill against Percy Harvin and Peterson’s own positive talk in the spring.
An exception to the rule, Peterson landed a monster contract (especially for a running back) last offseason. Vikings fans and ownership would be devastated if he should re-injure himself, especially if it results from working him back too fast.
We should view Peterson as an early RB3 at this point. It’s nice to think you can hold him for the first four weeks and hope he can return to full strength, but we should expect a committee approach for most of this season with Toby Gerhart in the mix.
Reggie Bush (21st, 5.07)
Maybe Bush’s success in the second half wasn’t a fluke, but the Dolphins have a new coaching staff and are running a new blocking scheme.
They actually have quality depth behind Bush, and we should expect to see more of a committee in the backfield with Bush lining up up as a receiver more often. At this, point Bush is a low-end RB2, and, while it’s hard to rank him much lower, I will be passing on him.
Chris Johnson (4th, 1.07)
Those of you that have followed my blog this summer know I’m not a big Chris Johnson fan, but apparently I’m not the only one. Rotoworld.com’s own Evan Silva recently wrote a terrific article on Johnson with analysis backed by astute film work. Before you go out on a leap of faith and take Johnson, read up on what Silva has to say.
Maybe Johnson will be motivated to bounce back, but we can’t forget about last season and the lack of effort he showed. This was clearly more than an issue of offensive line problems and conditioning.
If you’re the type of person that believes he can bounce back like Randy Moss has done when motivated, great. Just remember, even Moss went around the fifth round in fantasy drafts in his first year with the Patriots.
There was a drop in his value, and his upside was solid at that point. Johnson is going as if almost no value has dropped from last year.
Even if he’s motivated, the guy still hasn’t been a consistent fantasy option without Vince Young on the field to draw a linebacker away because of his running ability. Don’t expect steady RB1 production from Johnson, no matter how motivated he is.
Beanie Wells (27th, 7.07)
Wells benefited from the loss of Ryan Williams in camp last summer and had the backfield all to his lonesome. That won’t happen this year, and while Wells maintains he will be ready for the start of the season, fantasy owners should be concerned about his knee.
Not to mention that Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic tweeted that Williams is already back on the field getting quality reps with the first team at the start of training camp.
Jahvid Best (29th, 8.02)
The fact that Best was still looking for the green light for contact to begin training camp (seven months removed from his last concussion) is a big red flag.
Some have shown optimism about a possible hot start. While that may happen, I’m not sold on Best and will be avoiding him in drafts. Look to other options like Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith as late-round additions.
In fact, Leshoure (despite a two-game suspension to start the season) may pass Best on draft boards, as he’s already practicing again.
Maurice Jones-Drew (6th, 1.09)
Maybe this is jumping the gun on Maurice Jones-Drew, but it’s time to be concerned about his fantasy prospect. Another year of tread on the tires, what appears to be a lengthy holdout and the re-emergence of Rashad Jennings are all negatives to the veteran's value.
If Jones-Drew should come to camp at any point, he is to be considered the feature back and a top-10 fantasy option. However, I still have concerns about the long-term health of his knee, which he had microfracture surgery on last offseason.
Because of the lackluster talent at the running back position (in fantasy terms), it’s hard to rank Jones-Drew outside of the top 12 options, even if he has a holdout into September.
Still, he’s a name I will hopefully avoid in the early rounds, unless he falls into the third round. If you select him, make sure you have Jennings as a backup. This makes Jones-Drew a better selection in auction leagues, as you have more control to add Jennings later in your draft.
Michael Turner (18th, 4.04)
Not ready to be a full-on hater of Turner’s abilities, but his time as an RB2 option is likely to run out at some point this season. Jacquizz Rodgers' skill set fits what the Falcons want to do on offense, but Turner will remain as the starter to begin the season and will be the goal-line option.
In a time with so much uncertainty at the running back position, we should still view Turner as a respectable RB2 selection.
Ahmad Bradshaw (17th, 4.03)
Bradshaw missed valuable games in the second half of last season because of continued foot problems. His solution this offseason was to go without surgery and take an injection instead. While Bradshaw says he feels great, I’m not sold his bone problems will hold up throughout the season.
As long as the veteran is showing good signs heading into Week 1, we should expect a solid first half, but David Wilson is waiting in the wings and may un-seat him by November.
Roy Helu (26th, 6.08)
Only in a Mike Shanahan offense will you find a player that actually makes my sleepers and busts lists in the same year. Evan Royster was taking snaps with the first team to begin camp, but I believe this was more to test and push Helu.
Helu is the top talent in the Redskins' ground attack. While he will likely fall in and out of favor, his upside when starting is solid with RGIII under center, and he is a firm RB2. The running quarterback will draw attention from the defense, as they are probable to use a linebacker to spy on him at all times as a running threat.
This will make things even easier in the running game, and, when Helu is in, he will be a great start. When he’s out, he won’t be worth much, but a mid-round pick is a fair value for this risky option.