Boom or Bust Running Backs in 2016?

smitty fantasy football advice

Each and every fantasy football season, a grip of big name fantasy football running backs head into the off-season with tons of question marks surrounding both their talent and their situation. Some of these running backs are doubted for good reason, some are not. Some are doubted for good reason, but are still solid bets to believe in heading into the next fantasy season. Below are some of the biggest Bust Candidates heading into the 2016 fantasy football season, however, I believe in some and think they are good buy-low targets, so be sure to read through each player write-up! Enjoy!

Running Backs

Devonta Freeman - RB ATL

Devonta Freeman

Let’s start with his monster 2015 stat line: 265 rushes for 1,056 yards, 11TDs, 73 receptions for 578 yards and 3TDs… that’s an impressive season for the 5-8/206-pound rusher. Is he legit? Honestly, I don’t see how anyone can suggest that he isn’t from purely a talent perspective. Now, does the team support him as the full-time guy heading into 2016? That’s an entirely different issue, and it’s a great question to ask before investing in Freeman entering 2016 (or before trading away, or in existing leagues, before trading for). Here is my take… He was doubted during his entire 2015 campaign, even when he was ripping off 10 total touchdowns in a five-week timeframe (weeks 2-6). I think doubting him last year was ridiculous. He was showing no signs of slowing down through his Week 11 injury (concussion), nor was his workload ever in question. And, if you say that he did slow down, what, you mean he was only playing like a low-end RB1 on occasion? Yeah, that happens when you are scoring 40 fantasy points per game for a bit… Freeman suffered a concussion in Week 11, where he received just three carries before exiting the game. Granted, he never ran for over 76 yards again on the year, but he totaled 100 yards twice in that five-game span (weeks 13-17), and he totaled 90 yards in four out of the five games. He also had 3TDs in those five games. He was playing solid football despite so many suggesting that he wasn’t elite during the final five games of the season. Atlanta played some strange football down the stretch in 2015, too, which didn’t help Freeman return to 100-yard games. While anything can happen on draft day in April, I think the Falcons know what they have in Freeman. There is going to be some risk in owning Freeman this upcoming fantasy football season… he will be valued like a RB4-7 overall, if not higher, so he’s going to have to stay healthy to earn that value, but that’s the case with any top 10RB. Should current Freeman owners trade him away for a safer option? I say always consider selling ANY PLAYER if the price is right, but honestly, I’m all-in on Freeman this year given the value. In fact, I think that he has top 1-3RB upside, but his somewhat lower perceived value in that 4-7RB range looks like an opportunity if you ask me. I am still trying to buy-low on Freeman in all of the dynasty leagues because he feels like a very doubted player entering 2016. Buy-low if you can!

Conclusion: Boom
Doug Martin - RB TB

Doug Martin

After disappointing all fantasy owners in both 2013 and 2014 (both were 400-yard rushing seasons), Doug Martin bounce-back in elite fashion in 2015, rushing for 1,402 yards, pulling in 33 receptions for 271 yards and scoring 7 total TDs. He was a beast at 4.9 YPC. Predicting bust is always a tough business, and I’m not predicting bust with Martin; however, I’m not ready to pay high RB1-type value for D-Martin entering 2016. He could replicate 2015, sure, but given he failed fantasy owners in both of his seasons prior to last year, I think that there are just safer bets in that 1.10-2.05 range, which is the range where Martin is often falling on current ADP lists. I guess I’m relatively happy with him at the end of the second-round, so it really boils down to whether you think he can fall that late in your upcoming 2016 drafts, or fall that far in trade value. My guess is that by April and May, Martin will settle in near the top of the second-round, at least, and while some might disagree, I feel that players like Odell Beckham, AJ Green, and other stud WR1s, make for safer top 8-15 overall picks. Again, at 17-20 overall, I start considering Martin, but that’s the safe zone for Martin… making him your first-drafted player feels quite risky if you ask me.

Conclusion: Bust if drafted in top 14
Jamaal Charles - RB KC

Jamaal Charles

While there is a chance he never rebounds to even low-end RB1-type value, the important thing to keep in mind here is that no one needs to pay that kind of value for Jamaal Charles heading into 2016. At least, that’s the case currently in redraft, and it will almost certainly remain the case in dynasty. In redraft, a healthy-looking Charles this August could climb back into the 1.10-2.04 range, which isn’t too risky, and it still has decent upside. The real value right now is in dynasty, as he can be acquired at almost flex-like value. He is no lock to return to form, but if there is even a decent chance, he is all upside and no risk at that valuation. Go get him in dynasty. Yes, you heard me, in dynasty! No, not because he has 3-4 elite years left, but because he can help you win now and he won’t break the bank.

Dynasty Tip Of The Off-Season

I think many Championship teams in fantasy football in 2016 will be built around having 2-3 stud WRs mixed with a couple underrated ‘they still got it’ running backs like Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles. That is how you build a monster dynasty startup squad in 2016, folks… you build your youth at WR (trade up even) landing at least two fantasy WR1s like Odell Beckham and AJ Green… then while everyone continues to neglect players like Forte, Lynch and Charles due to their age, scoop them up and roll with two of those rushers with those elite WRs. That’s smart fantasy management in 2016!

Conclusion: Boom for 1 more year
Matt Forte - RB CHI

Matt Forte

Most everyone expects Matt Forte, a free agent, to play elsewhere in 2016. Anything can happen, so stay glued to our site for updates on this as the off-season moves along. For now, though, let’s assume Forte leaves Chicago. He is now 30, often times the year of decline for elite rushers, but based on what I saw last year, Forte still has one year left talent-wise. The problem will be staying healthy. He only played 13 games last year, and when a runner nears 31, injury becomes concern number one. His numbers, granted due to missed games, declined to 218-898-4 (receiving: 44-389-3), but in the right spot, I can imagine him staying healthy. Where he lands will absolutely dictated where I slot him on our rankings, so know that. But, with teams like New England likely to show interest, I think Forte picks a great spot for himself, one that lets him thrive for one last elite year (elite meaning top 7-11 for RBs). In redraft, he could be a HUGE steal, at least that’s how it’s looking right now, but ADP data is not super reliable in January/February. He could be an early third-rounder heading into March/April redraft mock drafts… off-season hype, or a new home, will surely make his ADP climb back into at least low-end RB1-type status. This means that in redraft, talking about him as a sleeper might not do anyone any good (as he will be valued high by the time draft day comes); however, it’s still important to talk about. Want some solid advice? If you play in dynasty leagues, put your “I MUST ALWAYS BUILD FOR THE FUTURE” mentality aside for one moment and build one piece of your fantasy team for the ‘now’. Forte is likely worrying his current owner in your dynasty league (most likely), as they sniff the end, and they worry cashing in later will get them little to nothing. They could be right, and again, his situation has to be good for him to thrive at 30-31 years old… Still, go buy him in dynasty on the cheap, and I am talking 4th-round or later type value. This will put you in an awesome position at RB in 2016 and not jeopardize your future or your style of building. As I just wrote above: I think many Championship teams in fantasy football in 2016 will be built around having 2-3 stud WRs mixed with a couple underrated ‘they still got it’ running backs like Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles. Jeremy Langford will be talked about below, as he is the likely starter in Chicago heading into 2016.

Conclusion: Boom for 1 more year
Jeremy Langford - RB CHI

Jeremy Langford

Jeremy Langford had a decent season for a rookie (rushing: 148-537-6TDs, receiving: 22/279/1TD), but actually only rushed for 3.7 YPC. Still, with Matt Forte likely on his way out of Chicago, Jeremy Langford becomes the likely top dog. There are risks, like the NFL Draft, or Ka’Deem Carey, but if one invests in Langford, they can pretty easily invest in Carey and minimize some risk. The bottom line is this… if Chicago doesn’t draft another rusher in the 2016 NFL Draft, or bring one in via free agency, Langford (safely cuffed to Carey) has big upside with moderate risk (his ADP will easily be inside the 3rd-round, or higher, if officially set to start in 2016).

Conclusion: Boom if drafted in 3rd-round or later
Marshawn Lynch - RB SEA

Marshawn Lynch

Like with Matt Forte above, Marshawn Lynch is expected to be in a different uniform in 2016, but that could change. Anything can change and change fast in the NFL. But, assuming he leaves, he likely lands in a great situation, or he could even retire. Where he lands will determine his value, but in the right spot, and we only imagine him playing another season if he can pick a great spot, he should have one more elite year left, even with a slightly reduced workload (for example, in New England). He is a fine buy-low in dynasty given he might just be attainable at 4th- to 5th-round value, and in dynasty, you can still build/hold plenty of future buying at those prices. Only buy if the price is right. And, remember, he could flat-out retire in the coming months, do NOT overspend!

Conclusion: Boom if attainable at 4th- to 5th-round value
Eddie Lacy - RB GB

Eddie Lacy

After being a top five overall pick in 2015, Eddie Lacy turned out to be one of the biggest fantasy football busts in recent memory. Most anyone that drafted him at that value played at a huge disadvantage each and every week last year. Are you willing to gamble your 2016 season on an unmotivated talent? I’m not. Not unless he falls to flex-like value, which isn’t likely, unless he is cut, benched, or hurt, heading into 2016. Here is the thing in dynasty, if you can get him at flex-value, attack. If you can’t, don’t go near this situation until he shows serious signs of bouncing back, but at that point, he won’t be cheap. So, just stay away unless you can get him at flex-like value, plain and simple.

Conclusion: Bust unless acquired at flex value (not likely)
Carlos Hyde - RB SF

Carlos Hyde

I love this kid’s skill set, I do, and I am not yet ready to write him off. That said, if he is going to cost you a third-round pick in 2016, there is still plenty of risk despite still having decent ceiling. The good news is that his ADP looks to be in the late 4th- to 5th-round range, and the closer it gets to the 5th-round, the lower the risk, which means he is a bigger breakout candidate that way. I hope he is doubted heading into 2016, this way I can own him as close to risk-free as possible. If you currently own Hyde, don’t trade the rusher unless someone overpays. It makes no sense to trade him at basement value. If you want a secret weapon of a flex heading into 2016, with the upside for so much more, this is your guy. It’s all about what value you can acquire/draft him at, though.

Conclusion: Boom if attainable outside the top 45 overall
Arian Foster - RB HOU

Arian Foster

He won’t likely be in Houston in 2016, and that could turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing. His landing spot completely decides his 2016 value, so it’s near impossible to speculate (responsibly that is) until we know where he lands. Until then, he is a bust candidate, as he is going to be 30 years old by Week 1 and he is extremely injury-prone. In dynasty, I’m not hopeful he helps anyone long-term, or even for an entire season, but even in dynasty, he has value IF the price is right and his situation is solid.

Conclusion: Bust for now; situation could change this for one season
Jonathan Stewart - RB CAR

Jonathan Stewart

I doubted Jonathan Stewart this past season, and I admit that he did decent work behind that Carolina offensive line. The veteran ran the ball 242 times for 989 yards and 6TDs. I honestly don’t see J-Stew staying healthy in 2016, as he hasn’t played more than 13 games in any of his last four seasons, two of which he played under 10 games. Could he crank out one more season where he plays 13-14 games? Maybe, but at 29 years old, and given he is considered to be one of the most injury-prone backs in the NFL, his likely top 45 overall value is way, way too high a price tag for me. In dynasty, I don’t see the appeal of going and getting him. If you own him in any format, try selling, especially if he has a monster Super Bowl outing.

Melvin Gordon - RB SD

Melvin Gordon

I’m not giving up on Melvin Gordon – yet. I sure hope San Diego doesn’t. He is a very skilled back that struggled to hold onto the football last year. If he enters 2016 as the starter, something I’m not sure of at this point, he has major upside with super low risk. If available via trade or draft at RB3/4 type value, he is definitely worth a look.

Conclusion: Neither Boom or Bust yet; awaiting coaching decisions

1 Comment

  1. Smitty on January 27, 2016 at 7:09 am

    Thoughts?

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