Welcome everybody to my 2022 Fantasy Football Best Ball Overrated Running Backs article!
This is my third segment of underrated and overrated players in Best Ball formats. My last two segments were the Quarterback and Wide Receiver Positions, and I will now be covering the Running Back position.
I am a big proponent of Fantasy Football Best Ball tournaments. I do all my championship drafts/tournaments on Underdog Fantasy and RTSports. Unfortunately, I will not have an average ADP for RTsports in this segment as Superflex is currently ongoing.
Now that has been explained, let's start with what you are here for. I will give you some 2022 Fantasy Football Best Ball Overrated Running Backs that I feel are over-drafted.
2022 Fantasy Football Best Ball Overrated Running Backs
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Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Underdog ADP - 24.8 (RB13)
Leonard Fournette was a colossal value pickup for the 2021 NFL season and a PPR monster. He finished as RB5 in PPR formats while missing three games. A borderline league winner and barely missed that title due to being unavailable for the fantasy playoffs.
He is now on my 2022 overrated running back list, which will probably not sit well with many others' rankings. I will point out that I do believe that there is a likely outcome that Fournette will pay off ADP. At the same time, I think he is someone that I would keep my exposure rates in the 10% or less range versus going heavy on him.
Why I'm Hesitant On Buying Fournette
Looking at Fournette's stats from 2021, at a glance, it looks incredible. He was on pace for 200 carries and 100 targets on the season. Assuming he made at least his average six receptions per game and ten rushing attempts, "he would have finished with 280+ touches on the season."
This leads me to my first issue with Fournette. He has only finished a season one time in his career. In four of his five seasons in the league, he has only played most of his seasons one time, on average missing three games or more per season. This also gives me a cause for concern if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are way ahead in their division, they could rest Fournette in the fantasy playoffs.
Regression and Touch Efficiency
Secondly, although Fournette's touches had an excellent outcome, they are pretty misleading. Fournette was RB5 on the season with 180 carries at 4.5 YPC and 69 receptions at 6.6 YPR. This resulted in 1266 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns. But Fournettte's actual efficiency numbers are far from RB5. His rushing grade was RB16 on the season, receiving grade was RB68 on the season, and overall efficiency on the ground was RB19. So Fournette wasn't particularly good, but his pieces around him opened him up for success. This includes the wide receivers, offensive line, and Tom Brady.
Luckily for Fournette, most of the 2021 success pieces stayed, but one thing I believe that will not work in his favor is the free yardage Fournette was getting from running flats and curl routes out of the backfield uncovered.
Fournette was the third most targeted running back in the league and led the league with the second-lowest contested catches at 16.6%. To compare with Austin Ekeler's 75% contested rate as the second most targeted.
With the wide receiver corps being dinged up coming into the season, teams will likely key in on Fournette's receiving game. If he isn't given the free space, he was given in 2021. This could hurt his range of 70 receptions to the 40 - 50 range. At a 6.6 YPR, that is approximately 260+ yards. A far cry from 2021's 450 yards.
Competition For Touches
Lastly, I believe adding third-round rookie running back Rachaad White will take away overall touches from Fournette at some point. The league is coming into a running back by committee, and although Fournette had a majority of the touches last season, that was more due to his counterparts being ineffective. Additionally, this is possibly the Buccaneers' last year with Tom Brady, and I doubt they would have spent a high capital pick on someone they had zero plans for. So expect White at some point in the season to eat away the touches, particularly the passing down work away from Fournette.
Alternatives to Fournette
Usually, I would have an alternate pick suggestion, but I will say that Fournette's situation is unique because there isn't an alternative. You could take Chubb or Javonte Williams, who go in the same range. However, unless a significant injury occurs to their counterpart, I don't see them having the upside Fournette "could" have. Of course, the operative word is "could". If things swing in Fournette's favor, he will be great, but I have to expect that the coaching staff is game-planning better this time.
Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Underdog ADP - 36 (RB16)
Travis Etienne is currently on a Jacksonville Jaguars team that is still trying to find itself through the coaching mess of 2021. Etienne is currently being drafted at the end of the third round in Underdog, and that is very expensive for a player who probably won't be much different than running backs going 30 - 50 spots later than him. I am unsure what is currently propping up his price, but he should be behind all the mid-round wide receivers rather than ahead of them.
Why I'm Hesitant On Buying Etienne
The Jaguar's offensive line ranked 24th in the league regarding run blocking in 2021. They did add one positive upgrade in Brandon Scherff, but other than that, the line isn't likely to make a giant leap forward. This is concerning overall as I do not expect them to give Etienne much space to work with.
Lastly, Etienne is currently being taken in the top 36 players as an RB16. From a numbers standpoint, this is a vast overpay for a minimal gain compared to guys you could be getting later. The RB16 on the season in a half-ppr format versus an RB24 was approximately a 20-point difference. The overall points per game are nearly the same across those eight spots at about 11 - 13 PPG.
The next question is, who is this year's RB24, and where is he being drafted? RB24 this season is Josh Jacobs, and he is taken 40 spots later than Travis Etienne. Jacobs also finished as the RB16 in 2021, with the general average of the RB2 scoring 12.4 PPG in 2021. The difference between Jacobs and RB12 was 9 points, and RB24 was a 23-point difference. Unless you're sold on Etienne to break out into the top eight in his position this season, I will pass on Etienne as this is a low-upside buy.
Alternatives to Etienne
My alternatives to Etienne would be to take advantage of the Best Ball format and create the same production that Etienne will give you with a combination of running backs going later. Such as Jacob, Rachaad White, Rhamandre Stevenson, Nyheim Hines, and Jerrick McKinnon. Use your picks in third and fourth to get any wide receiver in his going range. Players such as Courtland Sutton, Terry Mclaurin, Allen Robinson, Marquise Brown, etc.
Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
Underdog ADP - 80 (RB25)
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard is probably my least favorite buy on the season. He is currently the RB25 and the highest-priced "what if" handcuff in Best Ball, going at ADP 80.
Why I'm Hesitant On Buying Pollard
This is simple for me; the overall price for Pollard is just too high. He is clearly the secondary player behind Ezekiel Elliot and is just reprising the same role he had last year. With a possible pass-catching "slot" role. Pollard is talented, and he will provide contribution weeks in a Best Ball setting. He did this five times in 2021, and that's useable overall.
Aside from the five weeks he did contribute, his overall points per game last season were less than 10. This means, on average, Pollard was a non-contributor to teams. This is problematic as he is currently being taken ahead of other running backs, such as Damien Harris, Chase Edmonds, and Devin Singletary. They have a clear/better path to starting roles and higher points per game.
If you include wide receivers, you're passing up on players such as Deandre Hopkins, Devonta Smith, Christian Kirk, and Chris Olave, who are likely to hit your flex more often than Pollard. If you're banking on Pollard this season, you're mainly hoping Ezekiel Elliot gets injured to make a return on his going rate.
Alternatives to Pollard
Nearly every player is going around his current rate. You're one year early on, Pollard.
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