2023 Fantasy Football Running Back Busts

by Michael Tomlin
Fantasy Football RB Busts

Avoiding busts in the early rounds of Fantasy Football is just as if not more important than finding sleepers. This is especially true with the 2023 Fantasy Football running back busts.

The majority of the 2023 Fantasy Football running back busts are being selected in the first thirty picks of drafts right now. Those top picks are what truly make or break you chances at a title.

You do not have to draft the best overall running back to win. You do have to avoid drafting a player you insert in the lineup each week that keeps failing to perform.

That is truly what the 2023 Fantasy Football running back busts do to your squad. They can sink your championship hopes faster than they can win the league.

Personally, there are no “league-winners” but there are definitely “league-losers” in Fantasy Football. If your top pick or two busts without getting injured then your title hopes have busted as well.

All of the Average Draft Position (ADP) data for the 2023 Fantasy Football running back busts is from July 17th, 2023, half-PPR drafts.

2023 Fantasy Football Running Back Busts

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Jonathan Taylor – ADP: 12.7, RB5

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In 2022, 13 players had more 100-yard rushing games than Jonathan Taylor. From Week Two on, that number balloons to 26 players.

In fact, Taylor only cracked 87 yards a single time after destroying the helpless Texans in the season opener. I get it, he missed some time. But he still played two-thirds of the season. He also had at least 20 carries in seven of his eleven games.

Could it be a hangover from his obscenely high 2021 usage (332 carries)? Possibly. But there are three factors that make me believe it is not going to get better in 2023.

The first is rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson. Richardson will be run-first with himself more often than not. More importantly, he will hog goal line carries with his 6’5’’, 245-pound frame.

Which leads to my second concern: touchdowns. Taylor scored on just 2.0% of his carries last season after scoring on 5.4% the prior year. Should the predominant rate be somewhere in the middle? Probably. But when you factor in splitting work in the Red Zone with Richardson it is problematic.

Lastly, Taylor simply is not a receiving threat. There were hopes and promises that he would catch the ball more last year but actually saw his targets and yards per route run dip. Now, Taylor will have Richardson throwing to him, a guy that only threw 21 completions to running backs all season last year.

Simply put, Jonathan Taylor is being drafted beyond his ceiling, in my opinion. I would much rather have Davante Adams or Nick Chubb going at the same ADP.

Derrick Henry – ADP: 21.3, RB7

I mean, he has to bust at some point, right? Consider: Derrick Henry has 1030 carries in three of the last four seasons (missing just two games in those seasons, not including 2021). Only six players in NFL history have done that before, and none in 20 years.

Then you factor in 2021 when he was on a blistering 465-carry pace before being injured for the season, and this workload has become abominable.

Entering his age-29 season it is just too risky and rich for me.
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Tony Pollard – ADP: 21.7, RB8

The last three seasons, the Cowboys have been the league leader in plays per game with Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator. Well Moore is gone and Mike McCarthy is taking over the play-calling duties.

In his last 12 seasons in Green Bay, the Packers averaged fifteenth in plays per game. The difference between first and fifteenth last season was over five plays per game, or more than 88 plays on the season.

In Tony Pollard’s first three NFL Seasons, he scored 10 total touchdowns on 399 touches. In 2022, Pollard scored 12 touchdowns on just 232 touches.

There is also still a chance that Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Kareem Hunt, or some other free agent makes their way to Cowboys’ camp.

Lastly, only 13 running backs have finished in the Top 10 at the position in half-PPR scoring with less than 200 carries since 2011. Twelve of the thirteen had double digit touchdowns (the other had nine). Pollard’s 39 catches 2021 were the third fewest of that group.

So, Pollard at this ADP is praying that he continues positive touchdown luck or has a severe spike in receptions.

Breece Hall – ADP: 30.0, RB12

Insert post-hype sleeper coming off of an ACL injury here. Whether it was J.K. Dobbins last year, Saquon Barkley the year before, or the countless other non-Adrian Peterson’s of the running back world, it is always smart to fade the running back the first year off the knee injury.

The Jets quietly have built a nice running back room as well. Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight have each shown flashes. Israel Abanikanda is a very popular deep sleeper.

New York will not have to depend on Hall, so why push him too hard off the injury? I just do not see the workload being there for an RB1. More importantly, the touchdowns will not be there, as we know that Aaron Rodgers likes to throw it in from inside the five-yard line.
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J.K. Dobbins – ADP: 54.7, RB18

First off, we never like to plan for a guy getting injured. With that said, we have a player that has missed 27 games in his three NFL seasons. Dobbins is literally less than a coin flip to play each week.

As I mentioned in the 2023 Running Back Sleepers article, even when Dobbins plays it is a split backfield. In games both Dobbins and Gus Edwards played entirely, Dobbins only got 56% of the carries.

I get it, the guy is explosive. However, I think his four-game stretch at the end of the season last year took the stink of the four-game stretch at the beginning.

All anyone wants to talk about is the 99 yards rushing he averaged in that late span of games. They tend to leave out the 30 yards per game earlier in the season.

I also just do not see a ceiling worth this pick. This has to do with a complete nonexistence in the passing game. Dobbins has just 25 catches in 23 career games. Lamar never has not and never will throw to his running backs, leaving Dobbins ceiling as a rushing-only prospect.

Javonte Williams – ADP: 82.3, RB29

See Hall, Breece. We have another running back less than a year removed from an ACL injury.

Also noted in the Running Back Sleepers post was that Sean Payton never uses a workhorse running back. It is always a split.

I also realize that these concerns are pretty well baked into the price at this point. I will predict, though, that the price for Williams shoots up into the RB2 range by mid-August.

There are certain guys that the overall Fantasy Football community thinks they know are just better than their stats or perception. Think of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kyle Pitts, Trey Lance, or even Montee Ball and Donte Moncrief from years past.

I can safely say I have been on the right side of this peacocking-groupthink more often than not. This is how I have felt about Javonte Williams.

I am going to take a stand and say that Samarje Perine is simply a better player who has not found the right opportunity. I think Perine takes over this backfield as the lead guy and Williams misses even more time.

That’s it for the 2023 Fantasy Football running back busts. Be sure to check out the rest of our draft kit!

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