Which top running back will be a fantasy football bust?

Saquon Barkley failed to live up to his fantastic top-five draft status last year

Saquon Barkley failed to live up to his fantastic top-five draft status last year
Photo: PA

With impending and untimely drafts, why the hell did you schedule it on a Saturday afternoon when I said I had a wedding, if you’re not skimming the random top 100 on the internet to solidify your consensus top 100 list, you are breaking the unwritten rules of procrastination. You know the rest of the weed-smoking, drunk idiots getting ready for the big day are looking at the same information, so no matter how accurate the experts are, what you find from 20 minutes of googling is a very good starting point.

Let’s be honest, we’re just writing against the room anyway. Choose your bidding wars – or let a randomly generated snake order determine your fate – and hope you don’t spend precious capital on David Johnson, Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliot. In addition to building or revealing character, auction drafts made the most coveted players available to each team.

Now, whether you want to target one of the top five players is a matter of strategy, but usually there are only a few irresponsible spenders per league, and their early sprees can make a possible franchise cornerstone available if the appointment process works well. (Or you could be stuck with a top-five pick in a snake draft because the marbles literally didn’t fall your way.)

Either way, however you end up with a shot at a seemingly top-five pick in the little-studied draft material, one of those running backs is going to ruin your season. Barkley made the top five pundits last year, and I personally know how that went. (Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, so do I). Zeke finished in the top six or seven in 2021, but the year before he didn’t get for 1,000 yards and finished with eight total touchdowns. Christian McCaffrey destroyed many teams in 2020 (and 21), and David Johnson was the sunk cost in 2019.

So first, before naming the double agent in the top five, who are the top consensus defenders? My cursory research says it’s a mix of these five:

  • Jonathan Taylor
  • Derrick Henry
  • Christian McCaffery
  • Austin Ekeler
  • Joe Mixon

I’ve seen Dalvin Cook in place of Mixon in a few sims, but he has a long injury history and would be too obvious a choice. So of those remaining players, Taylor gets an assist because of the fireball he was last year, and Mixon’s previous consistency and role in a power attack makes him feel safe – although unwillingly.

So that leaves Henry, McCaffrey and Ekeler – and all three have serious health issues. I know it’s foolish to assume Run CMC will be sustainable considering he’s played 10 games in total over the past two seasons. Still, Carolina has the least impressive quarterback situation, and whether it’s Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold, he’s going to go through a lot of checks and transfers. For what it’s worth, he’s adamant it’s the best he’s ever feltand I would bet on his pedigree.

At 26, McCaffrey is also the youngest of the three, which matters little. As for age, Deadspin writer Jon Hoefling recently pointed out that there hasn’t been a top five over 27 in five years. This means that by default – or bizarre anomaly – Ekeler (27) and Henry (28) are the absent old men.

So between a running back with the physique of Terry Crews who had almost 1,000 yards in eight games in an injury-shortened season, and a versatile 5-foot-10, 200-pound fullback whose longest game scrum last year was 40 yards, that’s a pretty easy decision. Henry is an all-time great. Adrian Peterson had 1,400 yards when he was 30. Ladanian Tomlinson had nearly 2,000 scrimmage yards when he was 28. This is the kind of aristocracy King Henry finds himself in.

What Ekeler did in 21 was worthy of a top-five pick, and if he scores another 20 touchdowns after hitting a previous season high of 11, good for him. While I’m sure Henry’s 2021 ruined the seasons of a lot of the fake GMs who picked him, Ekeler’s first year of full-time work in 2020 was just as destructive – not that. just wasn’t as publicized. He is injury prone and has only been in the position for two years. Was I one of the many managers whose 2020 was regularly devastated by the Chargers running back’s ever-tight hamstrings? Maybe, maybe not, maybe fuck you.

I know he’s elite out of the backfield, but the most rushing attempts he had in any game last year was 17. The money’s in guaranteed touches, and if some of them are taken away, especially in the red zone, it’s going to be hard to justify what you spent on him. The head coach Brandon Staley, speaking about Ekeler’s role this season, said“Hopefully we can do even more with him.”

That’s fine and all, but you might want him healthy later in the year – he missed week 15 (also a fantastic playoff round) in 2021 – so you don’t gag another place in the playoffs. Los Angeles also added a fourth-round pick, Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller, who gets some representatives of the first team at the camp.

All the press that Justin Herbert and the other NFL team in Los Angeles have received this offseason also makes me nervous. Wouldn’t it be advanced loaders to immediately dig themselves into an insurmountable hole as soon as we forgot they weren’t the loaders?

If you complain that my argument is based solely on intuition and luck, you are missing the point. Injuries or strange circumstances dictate the outcome of fantasy football. There’s always a back or wide receiver in the top five who dismantles your shaky hopes of winning the trophy.

Playing roulette with the most expensive talented players is why fantasy pundits joked about player value later in the draft. (Or, again, for you plebeians, that’s why people who get a top-five pick in a snake draft bemoan their luck. Because if you miss it, you won’t be selecting again for nearly of two turns.)

So in the event of a bidding war with the league’s self-proclaimed genius, you find yourself saying, “That sounds like a lot for Austin Ekeler.” Back off – or hope it exceeds your bid by $65.

See also  Fantasy football news and notes

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