Generally, the most coveted player in fantasy football is a starting running back. By definition, there are only 32 of them. In most leagues, managers have to play two backs each week and, if there's a flex, people will try to start three. In a 12-team league, that means there are 36 potential starting spots.
It's simple supply and demand. And the supply of starting running backs is short.
So it's advantageous to acquire starting running backs. And it's potentially devastating to lose one to injury or the bench. Injuries can't be avoided, but you can move away from backs who are most likely to lose their jobs.
The Footballguys staff gives their thoughts on which starting running backs you'll want to avoid.
There are quite a few running backs who could lose their job at some point this season, and it may be sooner than we think. Teams who drafted a rookie back are among those who could see an early change. The one I'm suggesting is Melvin Gordon III in Denver. Rookie Javonte Williams is the future for the Broncos, and their deep stable of backs may mean Gordon is expendable. Denver would save $2.4M if they released him outright. They still would have depth with Mike Boone and Royce Freeman on the roster as well.
Myles Gaskin. A scatback with good vision and strong receiving skills, Gaskin lacks top speed and power. He fit well in the previous regime's offense and served as a pleasant surprise for the fantasy community. The new offensive coaching staff sought out Malcolm Brown, who does everything Gaskin can, is a strong pass protector, and is far more powerful.
The fantasy community regards Brown as "just a guy" because they are too enamored with top-end speed. Outside of top-end speed, which a back gets to use maybe 5-7 times a year with the ball in his hand, Brown had some of the most impressive metrics of his draft class. L.A. kept Brown around last year because it didn't know what it would get from Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson after releasing Todd Gurley.
Brown will impress during training camp and push for an increasing amount of playing time this year. He could wind up the teams' leader in rushing touchdowns and the close-out back, who is most likely to earn 80-100 rushing yards in games.
I'll second Gaskin. He's the quintessential dead-zone running back (Rounds 3-6 in 12-team drafts) who is doomed to produce like a Round 10 pick when it's all said and done.
Malcolm Brown is one of the least-sexy names in fantasy football, but he's one of those guys NFL teams love. As Matt noted, he never stopped earning playing time for the Rams despite the team investing early draft capital at the position. In 2019, the Lions tried to steal him away with a restricted free agent offer. And ultimately, he was targeted by Miami when he finally hit unrestricted free agency.
Think through that last part. The Dolphins obviously needed running back depth entering the offseason, yet nearly passed on the position entirely in the NFL Draft (they eventually picked Gerrid Doaks in Round 7). They did nothing beyond prioritizing Brown in free agency, which should tell us everything we need to know about the team's plans for him.
The probability of a committee backfield in Miami is greater than fantasy gamers are currently calculating. Drafting Gaskin ahead of wide receivers going in the same range, such as Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith, and D.J. Chark Jr, to name a few, has mistake written all over it.
It's hard to say who the actual starter is, but Chase Edmonds sits atop the Arizona depth chart right now. If James Conner can stay healthy, he is far more suited for a starter role than Edmonds. In three years in the league, Edmonds has just three games with 10+ carries. Conner has 26 such games over that same span. Edmonds should still be a decent fantasy asset based on passing down work, but Conner is built for a bigger workload. While Conner's injury history means he is unlikely to see his Pittsburgh-level volume, he is more likely to end up as a traditional starter before long for the Cardinals.
Lots of good names mentioned already, but I am going to answer Mike Davis. When looking at the Falcons backfield, it is clear there is no one currently there to challenge him to start the season. A veteran, a trade, or another team's roster cut is more likely to be the bigger threat.
Davis was great in relief of Christian McCaffrey in Carolina last year, but he got tired quickly. It also must be remembered his journey through the NFL before that. There are no guarantees he fits with what Atlanta wants to do or whether he has the endurance to handle a workload after last year's use.
By season's end, Mike Davis will be a case of "I knew it," but the guy who pushes him down or out is pure guesswork at this stage. Training camp and preseason may help a little.
Javonte Williams vs. Melvin Gordon III is one of the bigger depth charts to watch independent of an injury-shifting opportunity. I would not consider Chase Edmonds a clear starter entering the season, so he is excluded from the conversation. If considering James Conner, a multi-year NFL starter on the depth chart with Edmonds, a tweener-sized back yet to accrue 100 carries in any singular season, the long shot that's a mistake. Myles Gaskin vs. Malcolm Brown is the one I am watching the closest. Brown is very fantasy affordable as well. I agree with the sentiment Phil addressed of Miami with a depth chart need, passing basically through the entire draft. The notable addition was Brown, a savvy veteran (Matt outlined well) who has been consistently discounted because he is not overly fast during his career.
It’s Melvin Gordon III. The Broncos coaching staff seems to be looking for a reason to move on, and Javonte Williams is the three-down package who can make it easy to displace Gordon with a strong preseason.
There have been some excellent answers to this question, and the fantasy hive mind is tuned into these possibilities - ADP reflects the precariousness of these running backs spot on the depth chart. In Gordon's case, his ADP is well behind Williams. There are three situations where the starter is still being drafted as an entrenched starter, and usually in the first three rounds of fantasy drafts, where there is a possibility that they are overtaken on the depth chart without an injury:
Continue reading this article with a Season Long Pro subscription.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, ESPN