Yesterday, we looked at fantasy football bust quarterbacks, so it’s time to move down the list to fantasy football bust running backs. Last year, eight running backs went in the first round of your average PPR draft, and the bus running backs ran deep. Of these eight, five returned top-twelve running back value, and all but three lost rankings value. Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott returned higher value than their draft price, but James Conner, David Johnson, and Le’Veon Bell fell out of the top twelve at the position entirely. There are definitely land mines to navigate when considering bust running backs. Three such bust running backs land mines are below. For this article, I chose half-PPR top-24 running backs per FantasyPros average draft position data.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (RB12, #16 overall)
The Packers beefed up their running game depth, adding second-round running back A.J. Dillon to their rotation alongside Jamaal Williams. That alone is enough for me to not take Aaron Jones at his ADP, given that Dillon profiles as a baby-Derrick Henry back and Green Bay Head Coach Matt LaFleur cut his teeth in Tennessee with Green Bay. This, with the addition of fullback Josiah Deguara tell me that LaFleur is ready to convert this offense to a ground-and-pound one. This would minimize Aaron Jones, who is more of an all-purpose back than a “down their throat” banger (phrasing!). Jones topped up at 285 touches last year, and is due for a step back in that department, given the Packers’ draft.
Jones has another inevitable problem: touchdowns. Aaron Jones accounted for 19 of the Packers’ 44 offensive touchdowns last year. First off, 19 is far too many for pretty much any running back these days. Over the last 20 years, a running back had at least 19 touchdowns 19 times (including 2019 Jones and Christian McCaffrey). Only two backs did it on fewer than 315 touches, and running back took 363 touches to rack up that many touchdowns.
What’s more likely: Aaron Jones continues his TD pace, which is unprecedented, or he regresses, which happened to every back that hit the 19 touchdown threshold except 2005-2006 LaDanian Tomlinson?
Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets (RB21, #45 overall)
I’m not entirely sure where to start here, so I’ll start by conceding this point: the Jets offensive line should be better this season, with the additions of Mekhi Becton, Cameron Clark, and a bevy of veteran offensive linemen. Still, I’m not convinced this line will improve enough to fix the stylistic mismatch between Bell’s patient style and a terrible Jets offensive line that required next-level frenetic running to make sure the line didn’t get the back destroyed.
Adam Gase also hates Le’Veon Bell. He never wanted him, he misused him, the two take pot shots at each other in the media, and Gase brought in Frank Gore to contend with Bell for touches. Bell likely loses a chunk of touches to Frank Gore, and Bell’s 4.0 yards per touch (one of the least efficient backs in the league) doesn’t leave me with high hopes for his fantasy football production in 2020.
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills (RB24, #59 overall)
Remember Frank Gore last year? He stole so much from Devin Singletary until the Bills realized they can’t have Gore steal touches from Singletary anymore. Before Frank Gore failed to score on three goal-line carries against Washington, he averaged 14.2 touches per game. After that point, he averaged 8.3 touches per game. Why am I talking about Frank Gore? The Buffalo Bills said they want to use rookie Zack Moss in the Frank Gore role from last year. Meaning… taking fourteen touches per game from Devin Singletary.
In the games where the Bills used Frank Gore like they want to use Zack Moss this season, Singletary averaged 7.3 touches per game. Granted, I don’t think he will dip that low, but I think that around fifteen touches per week is his reasonable upside. With that price, volume, and an offense that likely wants to pass more this year, I’m out on Singletary at his ADP.