Fantasy football busts: Running backs

by Bryce McRae and Cory J. Bonini on September 7, 2010 @ 16:41:00 PDT's analysis of fantasy football busts for the 2010 season will be updated weekly throughout the offseason. We have separated our busts and overvalued players this year, so be sure not to confuse the two.

Busts are also overvalued players in some cases. Even the most surefire pick can end up busting due to injury, but there is no way to accurately project for that. Instead, we will primarily focus on the players' situations that could lead to down years. No one likes doing the dirty work, so let do it for you! Be sure to check for weekly updates.

Note: All average draft position (ADP) figures are based on 12-team, non-PPR leagues unless specified otherwise.

Running backs

Steven Jackson | St. Louis Rams | ADP: 9th overall

Miami Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown
Can you trust Brown?

I know, I know ... it's not fair to kick someone when they're down, bad back or not. Jackson has two major perks: He is entering a contract year, and he is the offense. The latter is working against him in some respects. St. Louis may start Sam Bradford, a rookie quarterback, and their receiving corps is the who's who of unproven talent. Jackson doesn't have much behind him on the depth chart, which can be good, but he'll need a breather from time to time.

The Rams' offensive line has a lot of talent from end to end, but injury problems and a lack of continuity have stunted their growth as a unit.

Let's address Jackson's back, again. His bruising style doesn't advocate durability; he underwent back surgery in April; he should be ready for Week 1. We've seen Jackson miss at least one game in every season but 2006. St. Louis has been cautious with him early in camp.

Fantasy value: Jackson won't slide out of the first round too often. That doesn't mean we feel comfortable taking him with any of the first 12 picks, but his potential keeps him in the opening stanza. The risk and weekly headache is just too great for our taste.

Ronnie Brown | Miami Dolphins | ADP: 5th round

What has Brown done for you lately? Carry your fantasy team for the first eight games then submarine your chances with a midseason injury? The sixth-year back can't seem to stay healthy. He has never started a full slate of games.

Last year, a Lisfranc fracture put an end to his season after nine games. He made it to camp OK. Signs point to progress, but will he overdo it because he's a pending free agent? He hasn't been bothered by his foot so far.

Ricky Williams has shown few signs of aging. The years he was out of the league appears to have delayed the NFL aging process for the 33-year-old. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry (1,121 rushing yards, 241 attempts) to Brown's 4.4 YPC last year.

Fantasy value: We don't dispute Brown's talent, when healthy. It's just he can't stay on the field. Changes in the offseason and the ability of his backfield mate suggest he won't have as many opportunities, too. There's just too much risk involved to take him as a No. 2 back.

Brandon Jacobs | New York Giants | ADP: 5th round

Which Jacobs will we see in 2010? The powerful, bruising touchdown machine, or the slowed, uninspiring, easily tackled version? Jacobs blames a knee injury on his down season of a year ago. We have our doubts. The Giants' offensive line is aging and struggled at times last year. Defenders know what is going to happen when Jacobs gets the ball - it's not like trying to catch a ping pong ball.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants
Too much risk

The Giants discovered that they have a passing game last year, even if it wasn't by choice. It's hard to imagine offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride ignoring this revelation and returning strictly to a power-rushing attack. Don't misconstrue this as us saying they'll abandon the run, but we expect a more opened up style.

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw has shown to be a competent change of pace to Jacobs, but we feel the former may be the better primary back for the Giants. Keep Jacobs in short-yardage and goal line situations, even though his 6-foot-4 frame makes it difficult for him to gain leverage. Jacobs is always nicked up and doesn't contribute in the passing game.

Fantasy value: We never completely avoid drafting any player, regardless of us labeling them a bust. Every player has the right value, it's just awfully tough to draft Jacobs at a level that makes him a justifiable selection with minimal risk. He is drafted, on average, in the early fifth round. On the surface, that probably seems fair, but we would like to take him closer to the eighth round, which will not happen. Niche players usually are best reserved for niche fantasy roles.

Chester Taylor | Chicago Bears | ADP: 11th round

Taylor comes to Chicago and has to learn an entirely new system and will play second fiddle to Matt Forte. Don't think Taylor's role will be substantial just because Forte struggled last year. Mike Martz's system generally focuses on one workhorse back; Forte is versatile enough to handle that role.

While he doesn't have a lot of mileage on his legs, Taylor is going to be 31 years old Sept. 22. His per-carry and per-reception averages have each decreased the past two seasons. He should still see some receiving looks, but his ability to make something with them is decreasing.

Fantasy value: The 11th round, but only in a point-per-reception league, isn't a bad time to take a chance on Taylor if you already have Forte. If you opt for Taylor, realize you aren't getting anything special and him living up to expectations of even a 11th-round pick is unlikely.

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Also See:
Sleepers: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Busts: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Undervalued players: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Overvalued players: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT

About Bryce McRae

Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.

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