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The flip side of succeeding with value players is failing with overvalued players. These players will not put up stats commensurate to their draft spot, and avoiding them is another of the important keys to a successful fantasy team. To point out these players, we asked our staff to look through the Top 150 and identify players that should underperform their draft position.
Here are the running backs who received the most overvalued votes:
And here are all of the players mentioned and the reasons why.
Player Receiving 10 Votes
Travis Etienne Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars
Matt Waldman: An exciting player with a more well-rounded skill set than D'Andre Swift, Travie Etienne Jr. is a runner who also earns a lot of his yards in open space. However, the drafting of Tank Bigsby and the signing of D'Ernest Johnson are good indications that Doug Pederson wants to employ a committee in Jacksonville. Etienne earned 255 touches last year. Expecting anything more than 250-260 touches from Etienne in this offense is unrealistic. He was RB17 last year. Unless the Jaguars fall apart this year and can do nothing but check the ball to Etienne in garbage time, ala Detroit and Swift in 2021, valuing Etienne as a top-12 running back is overrating him.
Ben Cummins: Etienne put up an impressive 1,441 total yards last season, but he did it on the 16th-most touches (255) in the entire league. Etienne doesn’t profile as a running back who will routinely handle that many touches year in and year out, so it makes sense Jacksonville drafted Tank Bigsby in the third round and signed D’Ernest Johnson fo add to JaMycal Hasty, who was already on the roster. Etienne’s opportunities are going down this season, and he’s not a good enough pass-catcher to remain efficient enough to pay off a third-round ADP.
Daniel Harms: Running backs that aren’t targeted a lot, in an offense that doesn’t target them much, and generally aren’t great as pass catchers are bad bets to meet high ADP expectations. Etienne just received more target competition with the additions of Calvin Ridley, Brenton Strange (yes, I said it), and Tank Bigsby. For Etienne to meet his ADP expectations after finishing as the RB17 in 2022 (RB24 in PPG), he’d need to have a huge amount of touchdowns. That’s a tough ask of any running back.
Joey Wright: Looking back at what Etienne did in 2022, I am surprised I am putting his name down here. Etienne finished as the RB17 in PPR points per game and helped the Jacksonville Jaguars reach the second round of the playoffs. However, when we factor in the additions of exciting rookie running back Tank Bigsby and a shift towards a more pass-centric game plan with Calvin Ridley, I have a difficult time seeing him even touch his current ADP as the RB11.
Christian Williams: The Doug Pederson offense prefers a committee backfield, and Tank Bigsby's introduction in the offense could severely limit Travis Etienne's upside in 2023. From Week 10 on, Etienne averaged just 10.1 fantasy points per game. That was good for RB36 over that period behind guys like Melvin Gordon and Latavius Murray. He struggled down the stretch, but his full-season average of 12.3 points per game was good for just RB24. With Bigsby in the mix, Etienne has somehow crept up inside the top 12 in ADP. Managers should exercise caution when drafting Etienne this season.
Jeff Bell: Etienne was a rollercoaster in 2022. A significant disappointment early in the season, ceding work to James Robinson. Robinson was eventually traded, opening the way for Etienne to dominate touches. He excelled early in that role, peaking at RB7 from weeks five through nine. But from Week 10 on, he plummeted to RB33. The Jaguars responded by drafting Tank Bigsby on Day 2 of the NFL draft and signing D'Ernest Johnson. The fantasy community responded by putting Etienne at RB11. Doug Pederson has reiterated his desire to run a committee backfield. Etienne at an RB1 valuation is best left for others.
Kevin Coleman: My worry for Etienne is not based on the player he is on the field but on his respective ADP. If you are drafting him for the 2023 season, you would expect him to be your RB1 on your roster, and with the addition of rookie running back Tank Bigsby, that's a tall ask. While he had some big spike weeks in the middle of the year, outside of his Week 17 performance against one of the worst defenses in the NFL, Etienne was a fairly average fantasy asset. He scored just five touchdowns on the season, and Bigsby could be the Jaguars goal line running back. On top of that, Etienne has never profiled as a pass catcher, and with the addition of Calvin Ridley to this offense, we could see an even bigger dip in his targets. There is also an argument that Bigsby is a much better pass catcher. Etienne is a fade at his current ADP.
Corey Spala: Despite accumulating 255 touches in 2022, Etienne finished as RB17 (PPR). He finished as the RB23 in points per game. I would be remiss if I did not mention he only scored five touchdowns. Jacksonville bolstered their running back room with a third-round selection and a veteran free agent signing. Doug Pederson did not draft Etienne and made sought out two running backs. This is not the right formula to invest an early third-round pick on Etienne.
Sam Wagman: Etienne is talked about as a top-12 option at the position this year, yet I can't fathom how he gets there. Doug Pederson loves committee approaches from his running backs, and them drafting Tank Bigsby on Day 2, as well as having JaMycal Hasty and Snoop Conner, means this approach is probable again. Etienne also was very boom or bust last season, with only four top 12 fantasy finishes but 6 finishes outside the top 36. He's not a dependable asset for me this season.
Sigmund Bloom: The Jaguars can't make it more obvious that they want a committee backfield. A third-round pick is a significant investment in the backfield, and Tank Bigsby should be able to assume a good part of the role that James Robinson had before he was traded to the Jets. Etienne hasn't delivered on promised value in the passing game, and the Jaguars cup runneth over with viable targets at wide receiver and tight end. Etienne started out with a bang last year after Robinson left but still ended up disappointing later on. Now he has better company in the backfield and is more likely to disappoint than deliver at a not-very-depressed ADP from last year's aspirational price tag.
Player Receiving 5 Votes
Ken Walker III, Seattle Seahawks
Dave Kluge: This write-up could just as easily be a “Zach Charbonnet is undervalued” take. Simply put, there’s no way to predict how Pete Carroll will divide the touches between his two young and talented running backs. But with Walker going in Round 3 and Charbonnet in Round 9, drafters are confident that Walker will retain his role from last year. This situation feels reminiscent of the “Chris Carson or Rashaad Penny” discourse fantasy managers partook in for years. A second-round investment in Charbonnet likely means the Seahawks have big plans for him, which would make it difficult for Walker to pay off at his current cost.
Jason Wood: I take no pleasure in labeling Walker overvalued, especially considering how I had envisioned him as the cornerstone of my dynasty leagues for years to come. However, my frustration intensified when the team made the inexplicable decision to use another second-round pick on UCLA's Zach Charbonnet in this year's draft. It's truly maddening. To assume that Walker will be the primary workhorse disregards both Charbonnet's draft status and Pete Carroll's coaching history. It's more reasonable to expect that if both remain healthy, they will share touches and commoditize each other.
Jeff Bell: Walker dominated Seattle's backfield after Rashaad Penny's season-ending injury in Week 5. His 18.6 attempts per game averaged a 317 full-season attempt projection, which would have placed third overall. His inefficiency held him to RB11 over that span. The Seahawks shocked everyone by adding Zach Charbonnet to their backfield at Pick 52 in the draft. Walker continues to go off the board early, landing at RB14 in these rankings. Meanwhile, Charbonnet lands at RB39. Given the uncertainty around Pete Carroll's potential usage, the two should be closer. Walker carries high downside risk with minimal upside at his value.
Matt Montgomery: In what could have been a great value runningback situation prior to the draft, Walker is now in one of my least favorite spots in the league. The team used semi-high draft capital to draft, who many thought, was the third- or fourth-best running back coming out of college, leaving many managers (dynasty especially) wondering, what now? I’ll tell you what now, don’t draft him early! See if you can sneak him later.
Corey Spala: I want to ensure I am taking a player this early who will undoubtedly be featured in the offense. Walker had the third-most breakaway runs and was the second-most explosive rusher. He is a home run hitter. However, he was the league-worst in running back success rate. He had nine carries inside the five-yard line and only converted one for a touchdown. Seattle did not draft Zach Charbonnet in the second round to let him develop. We do not know how the running back touches will be split, we can only assume both running backs will be involved. I am staying away from Walker at pick 35.
Player Receiving 4 Votes
J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
Jason Wood: Will this be the season where everything finally falls into place for Dobbins? Although he finished as RB20 during his rookie year in 2020, it wasn't an overwhelmingly dominant performance. His 925 scrimmage yards were largely bolstered by nine rushing touchdowns. Unfortunately, a torn ACL sidelined him for the entire 2021 season, and upon his return last year, he seemed lackluster. Averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, he ranked as RB38 in the first six weeks before re-aggravating his knee injury. However, he made a triumphant comeback in the final month, showcasing his explosiveness once again. But can we base our hopes on just one month? Considering the presence of a new offensive coordinator, a run-first quarterback, and an abundance of depth at the position, I believe Dobbins' current average draft position (ADP) represents his peak potential. It's generally prudent to draft players closer to their floors.
Jeff Haseley: I'm skeptical about J.K. Dobbins' impact this year, mainly due to Lamar Jackson. Throughout Jackson's tenure, only one Ravens running back (Mark Ingram) has surpassed 200 carries in a season (202 in 2019). Since then, no Ravens back has gone beyond 144 carries. Injuries were definitely a factor here, but even the replacements struggled to gain traction. Baltimore also ranks last in running back receptions since Jackson's arrival in 2018. Mark Ingram was the sole top 20 back for the Ravens since 2018, finishing 11th in 2019. While the new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, might bring changes, Jackson's style of play will heavily influence the running game. We have a fairly large sample size to make an inference that backs up the notion that historical data offers little optimism for the success of Ravens' running backs in Jackson's era.
Matt Montgomery: Can we please stop with the Dobbins talk? Every year fantasy managers are clamoring for Dobbins to take the role as a dominant running back in a run-first, old-school offense, and it hasn’t happened. Whether it’s his fault or the old offensive coordinator's fault, the reality is a changing playbook to a more pass-happy offense won’t help either. He’s a guy trending down.
Chad Parsons: Dobbins has yet to put together a healthy and productive season. His peak aPPG season is still outside of RB30. Baltimore is also not an optimized backfield for touches (goal line carries and targets), consistently in the bottom five of the NFL backfields. Dobbins is also returning from injury, and the team made a concerted effort to add to the wide receiver position in the offseason.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Cummins: Harris has shown the ability to handle a big workload, but Jaylen Warren was impressive in a limited sample as a rookie and projects for more work in year two. And Harris isn’t dynamic enough to survive decreased opportunities. Despite having the fifth-most rushing attempts last season, Harris only ranked 24th in rushing plays of 10+ yards. And stuck with offensive coordinator Matt Canada and quarterback Kenny Pickett, the best case for Harris in terms of an overall offensive environment is the Steelers end up league average. He’s an easy fade in the third round.
Dan Hindery: Harris was an exciting fantasy prospect as a rookie in part due to the fact that the Steelers have been one of the few NFL teams willing to ride one running back almost exclusively. Harris played over 80% of the snaps in a game 12 times as a rookie, and the fantasy production followed. However, he played over 80% of the snaps just once last season and played less than 67% of the snaps in all but one of the final seven games. The emergence of Jaylen Warren as a trusted backup means Harris is not going to get the extreme levels of volume he saw in 2021. If we project him to play something in the neighborhood of 60-65% of the snaps again in 2023, Harris projects as more of a mid-tier RB2 option with a relatively modest upside.
Sigmund Bloom: Harris is being drafted as if he's the lead back for the Steelers when there is writing on the wall that they see Harris and Jaylen Warren as a duo more than they see Warren as the backup/change of pace. Harris only really came through for us in fantasy when he got an inordinate number of targets from one-foot-in-the-grave Ben Roethlisberger. He could deliver at ADP if the Steelers running game continues to improve, but he is being drafted at or near his ceiling instead of his mean/median outcome.
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