Fantasy Football Don't Draft List: 4 running backs to fade in 2021

·4-min read

Risk management is fundamental to any fantasy football strategy. Let’s be honest: No one wants to endure heartbreak when a pick with high expectations doesn’t work out. To help fantasy gamers avoid disappointment this draft season, we’re unveiling our analysts' players to avoid, position-by-position. Today, running backs.

D'Andre Swift's situation screams fade

Liz Loza: Blurbs like these have been depressing D’ANDRE SWIFT’s ADP throughout the summer (currently at 41.1). If he falls outside of the top-20 and into RB3 territory, the value would be solid. Right now, though, I’m reluctant to invest. Sidelined with a groin injury for numerous weeks, Swift has given up significant reps to Jamaal Williams. The former Packer has impressed the coaching staff, causing both Anthony Lynn and Dan Campbell to refer to the backfield as a “one-two” punch. That means there’s going to be a lot of sharing in Detroit. And what they’re sharing doesn’t project to be that great. Not with a bottom-five defense, regularly stacked boxes, and a downgrade in QB talent. I’m out. 

Scott Pianowski: Sometimes you love the player but hate the situation. That's where I'm at with D'Andre Swift. He's on a team surely to be under .500, I don't trust his quarterback, and I'm worried his coaching staff seems enamored with Jamaal Williams. Swift is also dinged up right now. I think he's going to have a hard time justifying his current ADP. Maybe we'll meet again next year.

Josh Jacobs part of recipe for disaster

Dalton Del Don: Josh Jacobs led the NFL with 35 carries inside the five-yard line last season (15 games), which is certainly good news for fantasy value. But that volume still didn’t result in Jacobs being a top-10 RB in fantasy points per game, and his new teammate Kenyan Drake tied him with the same number of carries inside the five last season. While it’s reasonable to expect Jacobs to get more short-yardage work than the smaller Drake, he now has more competition at the goal line and should see even less work as a receiver. In fact, Jacobs is no longer setting any receiving goals with Drake in town (he has one career third-down target). Jacobs has been the most game-script dependent RB in football, averaging more than twice as many fantasy points during wins than losses. Las Vegas is currently favored in just five games this season.

The Raiders’ highly questionable recent draft history is also catching up to them, and the team’s “revamped” offensive line is a euphemism for “got much worse” during the offseason. Jacobs was never treated like a workhorse in college and has continued to battle durability concerns over his first two years in the NFL, so I’m passing.

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 08:  Josh Jacobs #28 of the Las Vegas Raiders during warm up before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on November 08, 2020 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Josh Jacobs has been a game-script dependent back, which could spell trouble on a Raiders team expected to struggle. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Myles Gaskin stuck in a committee

Andy Behrens: Pretty much everything about the Dolphins' preseason to this point—including comments from the team's head coach — suggests that Myles Gaskin will be involved in a backfield rotation. It's a sensible approach, because A) he's a smallish back, B) fundamentally different than Malcolm Brown, and C) Salvon Ahmed is sneaky-good. Early fantasy drafters have been paying a relatively steep price for Gaskin, but he's gonna have a tough time meeting those expectations. It seems unlikely he'll have the goal line all to himself, so you'd better hope he gets every last backfield reception (which won't happen). We all thought he dodged a bullet when Miami failed to sign Aaron Jones, then didn't draft any of the top first-year backs. But Gaskin's situation is still plenty murky.

Kareem Hunt needs too many breaks to deliver

Matt Harmon: I could make a case for just about any of the running backs between 20 and 27 in my rankings (outside of the players I have ahead of consensus). Luckily, several of my colleagues hit the names like Swift, Jacobs and Gaskin I’ve been proactively avoiding this summer. Let’s add one more notch here in the form of Kareem Hunt. While there’s not much difference in Hunt’s outlook this year as compared to 2020 when he finished as the RB10, he just doesn’t fit into my draft plans. You’ll need another Nick Chubb injury to comfortably project his ceiling outcome. His pass-catching role is greatly overstated as he had six-plus targets in just two games in 2020. Again, Hunt has plenty of appeal as a gifted player in one of the NFL’s best rushing ecosystems I just don’t want to be targeting backs in his range (ADP 58.1). I want my running back spots comfortably set so that I can hammer receivers in Rounds 3-7. Hunt and most of the guys in his cohort won’t find their way onto many of my teams.

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