Fantasy Football: 3 RBs to avoid

Do not draft Bengals RB Joe Mixon

By Jesse Moeller (Twitter: @JMoeller05)

Have you ever heard the phrase “Shooting for the Stars”? This phrase perfectly describes fantasy football to me. Upside wins you championships, as teams with Alvin Kamara in 2020 or Christian McCaffery in 2019 can attest. No one remembers the RB4 performance from LeVeon Bell in 2016. What they do remember is David Johnson breaking fantasy during that season. Hitting on a player who becomes the RB1 in fantasy football gives you a massive advantage over the competition.

It is the gold standard all fantasy managers end up be chasing. Settling for the floor is never a winning strategy, as that hurts your team more than it helps. Target players with paths to notable roles in opportunity shares, target shares, and touchdowns. Touchdowns are the most fickle of the three but can boost a player into contention. Since 2016 no RB1 has less than 64 receptions or 15 touchdowns. That is the baseline for any player to reach the RB1 status. If you cannot reasonably project a player to hit those thresholds, you will have to reevaluate how you feel about that player.

 Derrick Henry RB3

What both tweets reference is an asymmetrical upside that only specific players possess in this game. I am here to explain why Henry is not one of those players.

Once again, I ask why Derrick Henry is going off the board as the third running back in redraft this season? Unless you are playing in standard leagues, where Henry truly is the king, there is no chance Henry pays off his current price. Derrick Henry is one of the safest players in fantasy, and as you know, he will likely be near the league leaders in carries again this season. Which is great and gives him a safe floor, but why are you chasing the floor? The third pick is ideal for upside players such as Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, Jonathon Taylor, Ezekiel Elliot, and if you believe in Antonio Gibson or Najee Harris. These players possess the league-winning RB1 upside that is not in the cards for Henry.

Henry is one of the best running backs in football, his skillset will never allow him to reach the RB1 of fantasy, and that’s ok. Drafting Henry at pick three is playing scared, and scared money does not make money. Fade Henry at cost, and invest in other players at the same range. Let someone else grab Henry earlier than you.

Joe Mixon RB13

That is some extreme inefficiency from Mixon last year.

Another season and the Mixon hype train is taking off. Boosting him top a borderline top 12 running back. It has propelled him into talk of being “The Best Value.” As an early second-round pick where people talk themselves into an upside with Mixon that does not exist. Mixon has been an inefficient volume play so far in his career. Why is Mixon going ahead of names such as C.E.H., Swift, Dobbins, Sanders, and Carson? Are you able to project Mixon for increased efficiency when last year he was among his most inefficient in the NFL with a rookie Joey Burrow as his quarterback? Or are you alright with boom busts weeks for Mixon that will undoubtedly drive you crazy as a manager?

What is working in Mixon’s favor? Of course, that would be the volume, as he will once again receive most of the rushing work for Cincinnati. It becomes fascinating if you can project Mixon for an increased role in the passing game, along with his efficiency moving in the right direction. In 2020 Mixon faced only 6.5 defenders in the box, and the seventh-best light front carries rate, and somehow his fantasy points per opportunity finished as .64, ranking 108th in the NFL last year.

The Bengals invested a first-round pick in superstar prospect Ja’Marr Chase and now have three bonafide wide receivers who will control the target distribution in Cincinnati this season. Regrettably, leaning on Mixon in favor of those three wide receivers is a lousy process by the coaching staff. So let someone else suffer through the roller coaster ride that is Joe Mixon in 2021.

Kareem Hunt RB24

Kareem Hunt is genuinely an expensive backup in Cleveland who had an unsustainably high touchdown rate in 2020. Regression is coming for the Browns 1B to Chubb’s 1A. Last year it was a consensus thought that Hunt was the backup to own in the NFL. If Chubb were to suffer an injury, Hunt would become the league winner. This exact scenario played out, and Hunt was no better than he was with Chubb on the field. So, what is the upside when selecting Hunt?

Hunt reminds fantasy players of the rookie who broke out in Kansas City to finish as the RB5 back in 2017. Unfortunately, he is not that player anymore, and you are better letting someone else chase the upside that does not exist for him for the next two seasons, as Hunt is tied to Cleveland as Chubb’s backup until 2023. Hunt played every game in 2020 and only managed 38 receptions, so without the receiving upside for Hunt, what value to your team does he present?

At his price, take a shot on a player that presents the upside you are looking for in one of Travis Etienne, Chase Edmonds, Javonte Williams, or Miles Gaskin.

Remember that upside is king in fantasy. Going after floor players because “they are safe” hurts your teams instead of winning you championships, which is the goal we all have when we start playing fantasy football. At a certain point, all of the players I listed do become a value in drafts. However, at the current ADP they maintain, they are a fade for me. As I do not hate players, I’m not too fond of overinflated ADPs.

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