Biggest Bust Candidates At Running Back In Fantasy Football
Bust is the dirtiest four-letter word in the fantasy football dictionary. Before you skip down and read the names in this article, please remember that a bust does not necessarily mean that the player will not play well. It means that the player’s performance will be less than his expected value. Fantasy football managers seem to have a “what have you done for me lately” mentality. Instead of thinking about busts from last season, it is important to pinpoint specific players to avoid so that you spend your draft capital on players who will outperform their current Average Draft Position (ADP). The following running backs won’t necessarily have horrible seasons, however, they will fail to provide a solid return on your investment.
Bust RB: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Saquon Barkley is one of the most talented and electrifying players in the entire NFL. Not just at his position, but the entire league. Barkley was a stud in college and dominated the competition in his rookie year, totaling 2,000+ yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. However, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy since. After gaining 275 total yards in his first two games of the 2019 season, Barkley has not produced elite stats when on the field. He’s been even worse since the G-Men transitioned from veteran Eli Manning to the product out of Duke University, Daniel Jones.
Barkley has only been able to suit up for nine games with Jones and he has seen about a 20% decrease in targets since the Giants moved on from Manning. This hurts big time, especially in PPR leagues where every single reception is vital. Even worse, Barkley has only managed five touchdowns in those nine contests with Jones under center. That is a huge dip from when he averaged just about a touchdown per game with the two-time Super Bowl MVP. Plus, Barkley averaged 5.19 yards per carry with Manning versus 3.81 yards with Jones. All of these facts point to the fact that Barkley simply isn’t as valuable a fantasy asset now that Manning has retired.
And we haven’t even gotten to the fact that we don’t know if Barkley will be ready for Week 1 of the regular season. The Giants added Devontae Booker, who is a much more formidable back than the recently departed Wayne Gallman. Booker could eat into Barkley’s touches as Joe Judge and Jason Garrett hope to keep Barkley healthy enough for a potential postseason run. Almost everybody is drafting Barkley in the first round. I would much prefer Ezekiel Eliott, Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb or even Austin Ekeler in PPR leagues. There is too much about Barkley’s situation that points to a bust season in 2021.
Bust RB: Ronald Jones & Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay is the new “Title City” after winning the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup. However, fantasy football managers should avoid drafting either of the Bucs’ top options out of the backfield. Perhaps no position group on this Bucs’ roster will draw more differing opinions than the running backs. On one hand, Jones looked like the superior back during the 2020 regular season. He was the more efficient runner (5.07 yards per carry to Fournette's 3.78) on nearly 100 more carries.
However, the script was completely flipped in the postseason, where Fournette was brilliant. The former Jaguar thoroughly outplayed and out-touched Jones (82 total touches to Jones' 35). Now factor in the newly acquired Giovani Bernard, the best option on passing-down situations of all three backs, and what do you make of this position battle?
This backfield has running-back-by-committee written all over it. Fantasy owners should stay away from this volatile and ever-changing situation. The Bucs are a pass-heavy team with Tom Brady coming off yet another Super Bowl ring and Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski all still on the roster. Yes, there will be weeks when Jones or Fournette go off, however, neither one is a consistent enough option to start this season. Fantasy managers should beware.
Bust RB: James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Robinson was fantastic in his rookie season with the Jags despite being an undrafted free agent. He eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards, caught 49 passes for an additional 344 yards and found the end zone 10 times. However, the Jaguars have reshaped their offense after adding quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick of the 2021 NFL Draft and Travis Etienne, both of whom player together at Clemson. Robinson is not going to be utalized on third downs, as Etienne’s greatest strength is his route running and receiving skills out of the backfield. This will kill Robinson’s value in PPR leagues. However, Etienne is not just a dynamic pass catcher; he is also very capable of moving the chains on the ground. Many fantasy owners are using a late sixth-round or early seventh-round pick on Robinson. Unfortunately for those owners, Robinson is not going to even be a top-30 running back this season.
Robinson was phenomenal last season, however, this backfield now belongs to Etienne, who already has tremendous chemistry and rapport with the Jaguars’ starting quarterback. If you are going to draft a running back on the Jaguars, steer clear of Robinson and take your chances on the rookie, particularly if you participate in a PPR format.