Fantasy Football 2021: Running Backs to Avoid in Drafts

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 11, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Running Backs to Avoid in Drafts

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    In fantasy football, there's no such thing as a "Do Not Draft" list.

    Sure, you can plug that exact phrase into the Google machine and come up with pages and pages of results, but it's framed in a more extreme manner than it's implemented in reality. "Do Not Draft" really translates to "Be Careful About Drafting These Players at Their Current Costs."

    Really, it's no different than the exercise we're tackling here by identifying three running backs who don't pass the smell test at their current average draft position (ADP), accessed courtesy of FantasyPros.

Melvin Gordon III, Denver Broncos (ADP: 67)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The best wagers to place on fantasy running backs are those with good guarantees in the opportunity department.

    Melvin Gordon III lost that certainty this offseason, when the Broncos spent a second-round pick (No. 35 overall) on a different running back, Javonte Williams out of North Carolina.

    Williams already looks primed to be the Broncos' back of the future, as the 28-year-old Gordon is entering the final season of his contract. But Denver might want Williams to be the running back of the present (or at least near-future), too, to add some electricity to its offense.

    "With Javonte, he's an explosive runner," Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur told reporters. "He did a really nice job in the passing game with regard to protection. He displayed an ability to catch the ball, which are things that we've seen in training. ... He's a quick learner and he's got great instincts with regard to football. It shows up on the field."

David Johnson, Houston Texans (ADP: 88)

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    Justin Rex/Associated Press

    After a disastrous 2019 season, David Johnson had a mini-recovery in 2020 during his first season with the Texans. He wasn't a standout or anything, but he still packed 1,005 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns into 12 contests.

    He could have a hard time matching those numbers even if he stays healthy—which is never a given for him.

    Everything about this offense is worrisome. The running back room is crowded, as the team added Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay and Rex Burkhead in free agency. The quarterback situation is a mystery with Deshaun Watson's status unknown and a lack of inspiring options behind him on the depth chart. The offensive line is...well, let's just say not great.

    Fantasy managers aren't paying a heavy premium on Johnson anymore—he's 35th off the board at the position—but it still seems like too much given the substantial risk and insignificant reward.

Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 66)

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    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    Raheem Mostert might have the best burst of any running back, and his head coach, Kyle Shanahan, can scheme wide-open rushing lanes in his sleep. There's a chance Mostert makes us look really foolish for this.

    But there are just as many (if not more) chances that he'll fail to return value at his draft cost.

    First, he needs to stay healthy to do that, and it's been a challenge. Ankle issues limited him to eight games last season, and even when he suited up, he didn't look right. He never rushed for 100 yards and only cleared 70 rushing yards twice.

    That gets into the other issue: San Francisco's rushing attack has a ton of layers to it. They drafted Trey Sermon (third round) and Elijah Mitchell (sixth round), signed veteran Wayne Gallman and still roster the intriguing JaMycal Hasty, who got into eight games last season as an undrafted rookie. Not to mention rookie quarterback Trey Lance will be weaponized as a rusher, and Jeff Wilson Jr. should return at some point from a torn meniscus.

    It might be best for the real-world 49ers to mix and match at the running back position, which should drive fantasy managers away from Mostert.