3 Running Backs to Fade in 2024 Fantasy Football and Best Ball Drafts

Which running backs should we avoid in fantasy drafts?

Not every running back running back can be a target in fantasy football drafts. There are plenty of reasons to be “out” on a particular player.

Earlier this week, I dissected how Zero RB and Hero RB builds seem to once again be optimal in fantasy football. I also discussed some potential targets that would fit in with these draft strategies in 2024.

Let’s look at some running backs who fantasy managers should avoid at their current price and discuss why I am not particularly interested in selecting that player in either 2024 fantasy football redraft leagues or Underdog Fantasy Best Ball drafts.

SAQUON BARKLEY, RB PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (ADP: 16, RB6)

Selecting a running back in the early rounds of Best Ball drafts requires that RB to have the potential to “break fantasy.” I am hesitant about that outcome with Barkley. In this range, I prefer to hammer away at my receiving core with names like Marvin Harrison Jr., Drake London, Chris Olave, and Brandon Aiyuk.

But what are some factors (which apply to redraft as well) that I think will hold Barkley back from game-breaking production? First is simply his move to Philadelphia.

2024 will mark Barkley’s first season in his NFL career where he is not a New York Giant. In terms of fantasy production, Barkley’s situation in New York was a love-hate relationship. The offensive environment in New York has not been fantasy-friendly throughout Barkley’s career. However, Barkley has had little competition for touches and was the clear offensive focal point. This has led to Barkley being heavily relied on, especially in recent years. He has been top-five in weighted opportunities per game in each of the last two seasons. A stat that is incredibly predictive of fantasy success, as running back is a volume-driven position.

Barkley will now have to mix in with the rushing abilities of Jalen Hurts, the target hogs of AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith, and a steady TE in Dallas Goedert. Barkley will undoubtedly be a featured piece of this offense, but will by no means be the one-man show that he was in East Rutherford.

The next piece that makes me hesitant is the lack of high-value touches that Barkley will see in Philadelphia. As Ryan Heath points out in his weighted opportunity piece, targets and red zone touches are by far the most valuable opportunity that a player can get.

In 2022, the Eagles ranked dead last in terms of running back target share. Last season, with a talented receiving back in D’Andre Swift, the Eagles were in the middle of the pack, ranking 16th in RB target share. Sure, the presence of Barkley may lead to a slight bump in usage for RBs in the passing game. But I do not expect the Eagles to target their RBs at a much higher rate than the league average.

As I am obligated to mention, goal-line carries may be difficult for Barkley to come by. The Tush Push is simply the most effective play in football and will be used at the goal-line at a high rate.

Barkley is undoubtedly a talented running back. However, the concerns are there and I prefer to opt for a receiver in the early second round of drafts.

JOSH JACOBS, RB GREEN BAY PACKERS (ADP: 42, RB11)

Similar to Barkley, it has been tough for me to get to Josh Jacobs in drafts because he falls in a range where I prefer to be doing something else in terms of roster construction.

Jacobs comes off the board in the mid or late fourth round. In this range, I regularly pivot to grab a quarterback or tight end.

Lamar Jackson is available to set up a stack with Mark Andrews or previously drafted Zay Flowers. Trey McBride is an elite TE that I like to target. Dalton Kincaid is available to finish off Josh Allen stacks. Patrick Mahomes is also an option in this range.

This roster construction and stacking discussion primarily applies to Best Ball. However, there are concerns with Jacobs as a player that applies to redraft leagues.

As we have discussed, fantasy success at running back is primarily driven by volume. Jacobs is one of the poster boys for this. He managed to hoard 393 touches in 2022 on his way to an RB1 finish. However, he has been anything but efficient since then. As my fellow RSJ writer Duck put it, “he played like he had concrete shoes last season.”

The efficiency metrics back this up.

Jacobs is clearly a back that will require shouldering most of the workload to find fantasy success. However, quotes from head coach Matt LaFleur have indicated that Green Bay will be more of a committee than Jacobs is accustomed to.

MarShawn Lloyd is an intriguing rookie and as much as we hate it, AJ Dillon is known to eat up carries.

Without a massive workload or falling on the right side of touchdown variance, Jacobs is a tough pick at RB11.

NICK CHUBB, RB CLEVELAND BROWNS (ADP:114, RB34)

This price has steadily dropped from an egregious ADP in the 70s in early Best Ball drafts. However, I don’t think I will be drafting much of Nick Chubb until he is comfortably in the double-digit rounds.

Let’s take a look at who Nick Chubb is as a player. Undoubtedly one of the league’s best rushers, Chubb has produced in fantasy by remaining incredibly efficient throughout his career. Chubb has maintained at least 5.0 yards per carry in every season of his career. Chubb is tied with only Barry Sanders and Jim Brown for most seasons (five) with at least 5.0 YPC on 150+ attempts.

However, things are looking much different for Chubb in 2024. He underwent multiple surgeries to repair his ACL, MCL, and meniscus. The path to historical rushing efficiency once again is tough.

Unless Chubb continues to slip down draft boards or there are some very positive updates on his recovery, it will be hard for me to be on board with Nick Chubb.

But if you are looking for some early-season rushing production as a bridge to rushing production from rookies later in the year, D’Onta Foreman is not a bad option in the last round of Best Ball drafts.

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