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4 running back bust candidates for 2021 fantasy football

We’re still far from the 2021 fantasy football season, but as of now, these running backs’ ADPs are too high.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

A lot can happen between now, April 8th, and September when the 2021 NFL and fantasy football season officially begin, but it’s never too soon to start planning out your fantasy draft strategy. I like to peruse early ADPs to get a sense of which players the fantasy community are undervaluing and who they might be overvaluing.

Today, it’s all about overvaluing.

Here are four running backs who’s current ADP (via Fantasy Football Calculator) I think is too high and could be setting them up to bust in 2021. Is bust too strong a word with these guys? Probably. But calling them “backs who might not live up to their ADP” isn’t quite as sexy.

Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints — ADP: 1.04, RB4

I get that there’s only so low you can rank Kamara, but we are stepping into uncharted territory with him in 2021. For the first time in his career, Kamara will be playing a 16 game season without Drew Brees and with either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill under center. Now we have seem Kamara play without Brees before, most recently, a four game stretch from Week 11 to 14 last year with Hill at quarterback. During that span, Kamara ranked the RB11 in .5PPR. Up until Week 11, playing with Brees, Kamara was the RB1.

As someone with Kamara on his dynasty team, I’m rooting for Winston to get the starting spot as he’ll check the ball down to Kamara far more often when in trouble, whereas Hill has the ability to tuck the ball and run, which diminishes both Kamara’s passing game potential, but also Kamara’s goal line potential as Hill is always a threat to score around there as well.

Like I said at the top, there’s only so low you can rank Kamara—after all the man did finish RB1 in .5PPR last year—but I would be nervous about taking him so early with question marks still surrounding what exactly this Saints offense will look like in 2021.

Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders — ADP: 2.04, RB10

It’s a testament to Josh Jacobs the player that despite all the undermining Jon Gruden did this offseason, people are still drafting him as a RB1 this year. I get it. It’s hard to pass on a third-year running back who’s averaging 280 touches, 1,300 total yards, and 9.5 touchdowns per season since entering the league. However, you’d be foolish to ignore the horrible situation Gruden has put Jacobs in for 2021.

First off, Gruden decided this was the offseason to completely dismantle the Raiders’ offensive line, which had long been one of the best in the league. They traded away both Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson, two stalwarts along the O-line. To make matters worse, Gruden also brought running back Kenyan Drake in via free agency as I guess a slot receiver? Drake may not take a bulk of the rushing work away from Jacobs, but he certainly seems like he’ll be capping whatever potential Jacobs had as a pass catcher.

Regardless, adding another running back to the roster (and paying that running back $11 million over two years) AND trading away your offensive line isn’t exactly a recipe for success. Austin Ekeler, who’s all alone in Los Angeles with a vastly improved offensive line, is currently being drafted RB15. I’d MUCH rather have him than Jacobs this year.

Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team — ADP: 2.08, RB13

Let me start this by saying, I love Antonio Gibson. I was a happy benefactor of his breakout rookie year and as such, he will always hold a special place in my heart. That being said, Gibson going ahead of guys like the aforementioned Ekeler, Joe Mixon, and J.K. Dobbins is a touch too rich for my liking.

While Gibson did have a great rookie year—finishing the RB12 in .5PPR, and totaling 1,042 total yards and 11 touchdowns—his fantasy production relied in large part to all those touchdowns he scored (5 of which came in just 2 games). Gibson finished tied 4th in the NFL last year in rushing touchdowns but 19th in rushing yards with 795. The addition of gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick will mean Washington will throw more touchdowns; they only threw 16 last year, tied for 2nd worst in the league. Fitzpatrick threw 13 touchdowns last year in 9 games.

Bringing do-it-all man Curtis Samuel into the fold also has me worried about Gibson’s ceiling. We already saw Gibson’s ceiling capped last year with Washington prioritizing J.D. McKissic as a pass catcher out the backfield over Gibson, and Samuel can lineup all over the formation, including the backfield. At RB13, Gibson is being drafted as a fringe RB1 and I’m not quite sold that is his clear value in 2021.

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams — ADP: 3.03, RB16

There’s a lot to like about Akers situation in Los Angeles and we saw what he could be as a fantasy back in flashes last year. But I’m not sold that Akers is going to be stepping into some clear, reliable role his sophomore season.

Akers saw his most reliable work from Week 13 onward in which he averaged 23.5 touches per game across 4 games (he missed Week 16). Even with a 171 yard game during that time, Akers still was only the RB22 in .5PPR during that span. Prior to that, Akers averaged 6.9 touches per game. Now the 2021 Rams will be a different offense with Matthew Stafford under center and you can argue that that alone will open up more opportunities for Akers if he continues to see 20+ touches per game. Even if you think that, I’m not sold Akers is a lock for 20+ touches. I’m not sure he’s a lock for 15.

Darrell Henderson is still on this roster and he was the RB25 in .5PPR last year from Week 1 to Week 12. Sean McVay showed us last year that he wants to operate a fluid, hot-hand backfield and that is not conducive to fantasy football. Maybe I’d have more faith in Akers if he had incredible production to close out the season, but he didn’t and that has me thinking he’s not going to get the high-end RB2 workload that he’s being drafted for. Kareem Hunt averaged a reliable 14+ touches per game and finished the RB10 last year. He’s currently going a whole round later than Akers.