2019-20 Preview: The Five Most Overrated Fantasy Football Running Backs

The NFL may be in full vacation mode, but fantasy football general managers never take a day off. If you’re like me, your summer reading list is NFL scouting reports. You’re binge-watching the NFL Network and checking position rankings daily. Fantasy Football drafts are right around the corner. So we’re providing our readers a public service. We’re revealing our five most overrated fantasy football running backs for 2019. These running backs are productive but guaranteed to screw up your fantasy football leagues. Before you troll me on Twitter, we analyze running backs based on projections for touchdown leagues. These running backs could help you in PPR leagues.

The Five Most Overrated Fantasy Football Running Backs in 2019

5. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

David Johnson‘s fantasy fortunes have been a roller coaster ride over the past three seasons. He made general managers look like geniuses with more than 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns in 2016. Johnson then rightfully entered the 2017 season atop most draft boards. Unfortunately, the Cardinals’ running back suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week One and was lost for the season. Last year, both he and the Cardinals struggled. Rookie Josh Rosen became the new starting quarterback and the team won only three games all season. Johnson finished his season with 940 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

This season, Johnson’s fantasy value will continue to plummet. For the second time in two years, he’s got a new head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, and a new starting quarterback in Kyler Murray. Murray is a dual-threat quarterback who will take carries away from running backs. Plus the Cardinals didn’t significantly upgrade their offensive line this off-season.

Johnson is in his late 20s, coming off major injuries and led by a rookie play caller and quarterback. That’s not a recipe for fantasy football success. But Johnson is currently ranked fifth amongst the Top 60 Running Backs of 2019 by ESPN’s Matthew Berry. My recommendation is–draft at your own risk. His best fantasy football days are behind him.

4. Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos

Phillip Lindsay went from an undrafted rookie free agent from the University of Colorado to starting running back for his hometown Denver Broncos in less than a year. He rewarded his fantasy owners with 12 games of double-digit PPR points, including eight games with at least 15 points. He also tallied nine touchdowns. But before you get too excited, there are red flags if you’re planning to draft him before the third or fourth rounds.

Even the Broncos weren’t expecting his level of production. John Elway selected running back Royce Freeman in the third round of last year’s NFL draft to be the Broncos primary ball carrier. But the rookie battled an ankle injury last season. Now 100 percent healthy, Freeman is expected to split carries with his fellow second-year back. Also, there are now detailed scouting reports on Lindsay. He won’t be able to catch defenses by surprise. One of the biggest differences between the college and pro game is the sophistication of defensive schemes. Broncos opponents can now game plan specifically to contain Lindsay.

Berry ranks him 24th on his ESPN board. That’s a fair rating, but the danger will be reaching for the second-year back early in your drafts. Our advice is to be patient.

3. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons in 2018. In addition, the pillar of organizational strength and consistency was beset with turmoil. Its premier running back held out for the entire season and wide receiver Antonio Brown‘s attitude paved the way for a trade to the Oakland Raiders. But one of the brightest spots of the season was the emergence of rookie running back James Conner.

Conner was the Steelers’ 105th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Normally that’s not a big deal, but Conner’s battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma made him into a local hero at the University of Pittsburgh and on the Steelers. In just 13 games, he topped 1,400 yards, scored 13 touchdowns and finished as a top-six running back in both [PPR and TD scoring] formats. But buyer beware.

The Steelers offense will not be the same this season. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a year older and the wide receiving corps lacks depth. JuJu Smith-Schuster moves over to the number one receiver. The Steelers still don’t know who their number two receiver will be. But it’s most likely to be second-year receiver James Washington. Defenses can load now load up on Conner and the running attack, which will limit his production. The ESPN board his him ranked 11th but owners expecting to get Le’Veon Bell-type production from Conner again will suffer.

2. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

On the ESPN fantasy rankings of running backs, right behind Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley is Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers. McCaffrey finished 2018 as the second overall PPR running back. He set the NFL record for fantasy points in a single season by a running back based on receiving statistics. McCaffrey appears set to have another stellar fantasy year. But call me cynical.

Coming into the league, there were concerns about McCaffrey’s ability to withstand the beating running backs take at the professional level. McCaffrey is only 5’11” and weighs approximately 200 pounds. The Panthers coaching staff has expressed concerns about McCaffrey’s workload. Head coach Ron Rivera told the Charlotte Observer in March, “him [McCaffrey] touching the ball was no concern.” “It was just the extra plays. So we have to look at that and find a way to take that load from him.”

1. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

This season, Todd Gurley is one of most classic overrated fantasy football running backs in the league.

Why? He’s currently ranked seventh by ESPN’s Matthew Berry. But he’s battling chronic arthritis in his knee. The knee is so bad there were reports that Gurley and the Rams are exploring experimental stem-cell treatments to alleviate the pain. Last season, the Rams were forced to sign veteran running back C.J. Anderson, while Gurley rehabilitated his injury. This season, rookie running back Darrell Henderson is expected to split carries in the Rams backfield. We expect Gurley to be so limited by health and personnel packages that he will not merit his high ranking.

Do you think we missed someone on our list of the five most overrated fantasy football RBs for 2019? Let us know on social media or in the comments section.

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  1. I completely agree on David Johnson. Where is the evidence that he will be a fantasy stud? I disagree on McCaffrey, or at least if you are right about McCaffrey, then there are virtually no surefire picks outside Barkley and Kamara. As for Gurley, I think he has been downgraded on most draft boards, and I’m starting to believe he may now be undervalued.

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