Fantasy Football Busts – Running Backs – 2020
Le’Veon Bell – New York Jets
Bell found out quickly that his backfield dancing routine doesn’t work without an exceptional offensive line and top tier QB. Bell left Pittsburgh and James Conner had a monster year. Was Bell just a product of the system in Pittsburgh? Absolutely! He waits and waits for a hole to open and when it doesn’t, he finds himself crumpled on the bottom of a 1-yard run pile. He didn’t look aggressive or as fast as he did in the open field with the Jets as he did with the Steelers.
To sum up the 2019 season, since it’s not worth more than one line item, 789 rushing yards, 3 TD’s and 3.2 yards a carry. He was well over 4 yards in his time in Pittsburgh. The re-tooled offensive line is intended to help but who can say whether replacing marginal starters with a new set of marginal starters will fix the problem. The Jets had more work to do on the offensive line so they drafted tackle Mekhi Becton in the 1st round of the 2020 draft. Bell’s days of being a headlining running back are over and I’m not buying a ticket to this year’s show.
Don’t forget to check out our other Fantasy Football Busts!
Melvin Gordon – Denver Broncos
The Gordon saga played out through the 2019 off-season which lead to him sitting out the first four games of the season. In that time Austin Ekeler was having a fantasy gold season averaging all most 21 fantasy points a game. The Chargers then proceeded to insert Gordon back to starter status and sealed the fate of the rest of the season. 31, 18, 32 and 31. Those were the rushing totals in the first four games of Gordon’s triumphant return. He also added a –3 yards receiving performance in one game just to add icing on the cake. Admittedly I’m still a little bitter as my awesome Ekeler fantasy pick was foiled much earlier than it should have been.
2020 introduces a new running back by committee situation though the one in Denver is a two man show. Royce Freeman is the odd man out and a similar style back as Gordon, but less effective. I’m still trying to figure out why Gordon warrants a starting gig in the first place. Over five seasons, Gordon has topped 1,000 yards just once and averaged over 4 yards a carry just once. Last season he managed only one 100-yard game. So much for rush bonuses if your league is setup for it. He’s averaged 9 TD’s a season in the last four years (excludes his rookie year), so there is a silver lining but that’s not enough to overcome what will be a slow and steady decline. Gordon will be an early selection in your fantasy draft, but I’d avoid at all costs.
Sony Michel – New England Patriots
At first glance you’d think Michel’s 2019 season was the mirror image of his rookie campaign. 931 rushing yards in 2018 vs 912 in 2019 with 7 rushing TD’s in 2018 vs 6 rushing TD’s in 2019 and no value whatsoever in the passing game. From a fantasy perspective it’s a wash. The wrinkle comes in the averages as Michel played only 13 games in 2018. His yards per rush dropped .8 yards per attempt.
He spends too much time dancing in the backfield waiting for the perfect avenue to run, and if it’s not there he folds. Fellow RB Rex Burkhead runs with a vengeance and attacks the hole to find paths to positive yards on most carries. Michel has way too many one- and two-yards flops.
The 2020 forecast for Michel is cloudy with a chance of rain, which could turn into a downpour. There are four running backs to speak of on the Patriots and all of them are more aggressive runners than Michel. The bruising Brandon Bolden may emerge as a goal line back, which is just painful in the fantasy world considering he’ll get three or four touches a game. The quarterback situation could be one of the worst in the NFL which makes the skill position players in New England questionable. You really can’t start any New England running back except White.
Jordan Howard – Miami Dolphins
So, let’s get this straight, Ryan Fitzpatrick was the Dolphins leading rusher in 2019 with 243 yards and 4 TD’s? Ouch! The veteran QB was running for his life on most pass plays so the rushing yards were more survival instinct than anything. The signing of Jordan Howard, who was on the verge of reviving his career in Philadelphia until injuries took their toll, was the free agent solution to the running back problem.
Howard burst onto the scene in Chicago in 2016 with two 1,000-yard rushing seasons but tailed off in season three. Chicago eventually cut him loose. Philly picked up the pieces and Howard’s rushing per attempt average returned to previous seasons success. Amazing what a competent QB can do for a running game. Howard comes into Miami as the number one back and will monopolize goal line attempts. Matt Breida throws a wrinkle into the carries mix, but Howard will still get a good share.
The Dolphins offensive line was one of, if not the worst in the league last season, whereas the Eagles were one of the best in the trenches. You see where I’m going with this right? Howard will be a focal point of a running game that will struggle. Howard is an average flex position starter and may creep into a #2 RB conversation if he is involved in the red zone, but I wouldn’t hold my breath, the Dolphins won’t be in the red zone very often.
Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions
The one thing Kerryon Johnson brought from his college career to the NFL is his history of injuries. Johnson managed just eight games last season and participated in only ten his rookie season. He has a straight up running style which exposes him and subjects him to bigger hits. He has average speed and power, is serviceable as a pass catcher, which puts Johnson in the category of forgettable.
Even when healthy, the game logs aren’t impressive. In the eight games he played last season, he topped 50 yards rushing in just two of them (only one 100-yard game), though he was able to score in 4 of 8 games. D’Andre Swift was drafted for a reason and should be getting plenty of touches early and likely starting by mid-season.