LOGIN

These are my favorite articles to write and study when kicking off an off-season. They’re snapshots of what we saw unfold in relation to where players were drafted and where they ended up. Unfortunately, this article highlights the busts at running back. These players underwhelmed according to their draft cost. Many factors bake into why a player might “bust,” but for the sake of fairness, I had neglected to mention players who were struck by major injuries early on, ending their season before it started, i.e., Nick Chubb and J.K. Dobbins.

Pour one out for the homies.

Who else was a Fantasy Football Bust at the RB position in 2023? Comment below, and we’ll discuss in the chat.

Want more data-driven stats and tools to help you win your fantasy league? Check out the Razzball Fantasy Football premium subscriptions for $0.00 upfront with our 3-day free trial!

Remember to check in with the @RazzballNFL team of writers as we host our Tuesday evening show, where we hit on all things offseason fantasy football.  Join Bobby LaMarco @BobbyLaMarco, Matt Stiles @stiles08, The Lineup Builder @Derek_Favret, and me, Sky Guasco @SkyGuasco at 9 pm EST/6 pm PST for the show as we answer all your questions thus keeping you engaged for the 2024 season while looking back at what coulda, shoulda, woulda been in 2023.  Come for the analysis, and stay for the laughs!

*Positional Finish indicates the player’s fantasy finish at the position in PPR. The average draft position (ADP) that is inside the () is the positional ADP the player was drafted based on the Razzball consensus ADP this preseason. 

Running Back Busts

#1 Bust

Check out my article from last week that discussed my rationale for placing Ekeler at the top of this list. You can find it and all of our free football content at Running Back Awards (razzball.com)

#2 Bust

While there were players with larger discrepancies in their ADP and finish, fewer had the expectations Pollard did. After exploding onto the scene last year as the RB8 co-rushing with Zeke Elliott in Big D, most of us figured the sky was the limit for Pollard after Elliott landed in New England. That was not quite the case. Pollard flew up draft boards to RB5 over the summer, but after a two-touchdown performance opening night vs. NYG, he wouldn’t score again until Week 11 and completely flopped in the fantasy playoffs, averaging 6.3 points per reception, points per game (PPR-PPG).

That was a despicable RB47 over Weeks 15-17 when you needed him the most. He was sandwiched between Kevin Harris (WHO?!) and Chase Brown. Sheesh. Pollard should remain a focal point of the Cowboys’ offense in 2024, but his goal line efficiency was dreadful. He saw the fifth most carries inside the 5-yard line, earning just the 37th most fantasy points on those touches. Don’t be surprised when Jerry brings in a seasoned veteran to (at minimum) handle goal line work.

#3 Bust

Ah yes. Another season, another write-up from me mentioning how Jacobs let you down. I like the guy as a person. I mean, he seems to hate fantasy football, but if you know his story, it’s tough not to root for the dude in real life. I’ll continue to do so. “Go, Josh!” {That’s me rooting for him.} With that being said, c’mon man! Over the last four seasons since entering the league, Jacobs has been pretty solid in Weeks 1-14 for the most part. The issue is he’s been pedestrian during the fantasy playoffs, which matters when you’re drafting a guy as a mid-second-round pick.

He didn’t even play in these past fantasy playoffs, so… that’s a zero. In 2022, he was RB21. In 2021, he was RB15. As a rookie, he was RB22 during the fantasy playoffs. You might say, “But Sky, he was RB12 before his injury in Week 14”, to which I’d reply, “I know, but whilst having four games of 20+ PPR points, he also had six games of fewer than 10.”

I’ve been knocking his efficiency for four years. We saw Zamir White fill in with 15.2 PPR-PPG over Weeks 15-18 in place of Jacobs. Good for RB9 down the stretch. Jacobs’ PPR-PPG was 13.9. If not franchised tagged, I expect Jacobs to end up elsewhere in 2024. If not Dallas, Baltimore, Houston or Philadelphia, I’ll be fading once again.  

#4 Bust

Like Jacobs, Stevenson didn’t play throughout the fantasy playoffs. That hurts fantasy managers and tends to linger into the following year’s draft stock. He was RB20 in PPR-PPG at the time of his season-ending injury in Week 13. He was just heating up then, too. Over Weeks 6-12 (with a bye in Week 11), Stevenson was RB7 in PPR-PPG and RB10 overall during those weeks. Drafters remembered his boost at the end of 2022, landing him at RB9 in PPR.

Oddly enough, he was on pace to better his rushing numbers but fell short of his receiving averages from a year ago. We’ll see if that carries over in 2024. If so, he might be better for ½ PPR leagues. Especially if they retain Elliott and/or use Harris more in a timeshare.

I try to steer away from injured players missing more than four games, but when you’re drafted as a Top 10 RB and end up a back-end RB3, that’s the definition of a bust. I expect him to bounce back if healthy come August, and he might even become a draft day value if drafters rage-fade too far. I’ll need to see how the Patriots rework things this off-season with Bill Belichick out and question marks all over the offense.

#5 Bust

 

Some guys I just end up “hating” on annually. I push all accountability onto them. I just react to what I see. They don’t do themselves any favors (see Jacobs above). Sanders is a fun back (on about 12 carries per season), and I loved him coming out of Penn State. Unfortunately, I seemed to have been the only one who saw his 11 touchdowns from a year ago as a fluke.

In his other four seasons, Sanders has scored 13 total touchdowns, including zero in 2021. He played 16 games in 2023 but saw career-lows in opportunities (carries + targets), total yardage, and yards per attempt at 3.3, and he scored just one touchdown. He finished 32 ranks lower than his ADP. That’s the largest gap on this list. Nobody expected much from the Panthers this season with a rookie QB and new HC, but to get another starting role as the (seemingly) featured back with reception chops when they’re playing in negative games scripts, this had drafters thinking they caught a steal in the 5th Round. Instead, they got bamboozled, getting just 5.5 PPR-PPG from Sanders while his teammate Chuba Hubbard doubled that with 10.7 PPR-PPG, landing as the RB27 on the season.

Hubbard was also at least usable down the stretch as the RB11 over Week 12-18. Sanders was, wait for it… RB62(!!!) during that time. They each played all seven games. For perspective, Sanders had .6 (less than a point) PPR points more than Stevenson, who I listed above… WHO MISSED FIVE-AND-A-HALF GAMES to end the year. Perhaps Sanders gets a redo in year two as a Panther, but he’s not going to be the breakout we once hoped for. Keep an eye on Hubbard as a “running back dead-zone” candidate though.  

For more from Sky and his Razzball content, find him on Twitter @skyguasco.