Each year, heading into draft season, we start to settle upon players we love and players we hate, relative to ADP. This article will dive into the latter portion, my fantasy football running back fades. We never like to see players perform poorly, but we also need to identify players that look to be in disadvantageous situations. Here are three fantasy football running back fades for 2023.
Fantasy Football Running Back Fades for 2023
Before we get into these fantasy football fades, I want to preface this by saying that all of these are relative to ADP. Of course, if any of them slip a few rounds, I’ll take a chance on them but that rarely happens. These are all based on Fantasypros PPR ADP data as of this writing.
1. Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
This one hits close to the heart as there wasn’t a single running back that I was more excited for last year than Travis Etienne. Apparently, though, it wasn’t meant to be. Etienne lived up to the hype as an explosive athlete as he rushed for 1,125 yards on 5.1 yards-per-carry. He also had an elite-level missed-tackles-forced rate at 26% as well as 16 breakaway runs, which was fifth-most among all running backs in 2022. It was the passing game that was the main issue.
Among all running backs with at least 250 routes run, Etienne had the second-worst PFF receiving grade at 49.8. In addition to that, his YPRR and TPRR rates were lacking at 1.29 and 14% respectively, both of which were RB2 levels or worse. It’s not like Etienne wasn’t out there either as he ran 245 routes, the 15th-most among all running backs. In terms of raw receiving totals, he finished with 35 receptions and 316 yards on 45 targets, leaving much to be desired. Etienne finished as the RB23 in 2022 at 12.1 fantasy points per game.
It’s just one preseason game BUT Travis Etienne gave way to Tank Bigsby on the first drive in short yardage and left the field for JaMycal Hasty on 3rd and long.
Not ideal, y’all.
Might just be a between the 20s back.
— Dwain McFarland (@dwainmcfarland) August 13, 2023
Heading into 2023, Etienne’s stock is down a bit, and rightfully so. Considering how bad he was in the passing game last year, he’s at an elevated risk of losing work in that area. Another issue he had was converting inside the five-yard line. Etienne got the ninth-most red zone touches (45) among all running backs but only converted 23% of his carries. The NFL average was right around 40%. He could be at serious risk of losing those touches as well.
The Jaguars drafted Tank Bigsby in the third round of the NFL Draft this year and he might steal work in both areas. If Etienne loses a lot of those high-value touches, he becomes a guy very reliant on breaking big plays. Right now he’s the RB13 and 32nd overall player off the board. That’s too early for a guy who may lose plenty of work in the passing game and inside the ten. There’s no reason he should be going ahead of guys like Joe Mixon, DK Metcalf, or Christian Watson. This makes Etienne one of the biggest fantasy football running back fades for 2023.
2. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
This one might rub people the wrong way as Jonathan Taylor was the consensus #1 OVERALL player heading into last year. It wasn’t that way for me as he was coming off a year in which it was the lowest-scoring running back season in years and he did so on the back of scoring 20 touchdowns, which wasn’t likely repeatable. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
Taylor dealt with ankle injuries throughout last year which sapped some explosiveness. His fantasy points per game dipped from 22.0 to 13.3. That saw Taylor finish as the RB17 on a per-game basis. Some of this can be attributed to the injury but even in the 10 games in which he played a majority of the snaps and got a lot of touches, he only finished as a top-ten RB just twice. Ultimately, regression hit in a big way, and combined with the injuries, it was a disaster season for Taylor and those fantasy managers who spent a high pick on him.
Heading into 2023, there is a lot that has changed on this Colts offense. They brought in Shane Steichen to be the new head coach. The wide receiver group is mostly the same but added rookie Josh Downs in the third round of the NFL Draft. They also spent the fourth overall pick on rookie quarterback, Anthony Richardson. This, along with the coaching change, are huge differences.
Playing with a running quarterback bodes well for efficiency but not for volume, especially in the passing game. Richardson is going to be far more likely to break contain and run rather than check down to Taylor. This will limit the number of targets and receptions he will see in 2023. On top of that, Richardson is going to steal carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. Those are all stats that Taylor won’t accumulate. On top of all this, Taylor is embroiled in a bitter contract battle with owner Jim Irsay. This all adds up to Taylor being one of the easiest fantasy football running back fades for 2023. He’s being drafted as the RB7 and the 17th overall player off the board. Pass on Taylor and take players like Amon-Ra St. Brown, Garrett Wilson, and Tony Pollard instead.
3. J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
This might be another one that rubs fantasy managers the wrong way as J.K. Dobbins has been a darling of the fantasy community since he was drafted. Managers have been wishcasting Dobbins to be an elite fantasy running back for years. Instead, he averaged 11.2 fantasy points per game as a rookie in 2020 and 10.2 fantasy points per game last year after missing the entire 2021 season with a major knee injury. Those were good for RB29 and RB34 finishes, respectively.
Sure, Dobbins has averaged nearly six yards per carry across his 226 career rushing attempts, but that’s what happens when you play with a rushing quarterback as dangerous as Lamar Jackson. Mark Ingram, during his big year with the Ravens, averaged 5 yards per carry and Gus Edwards has averaged more than 5 yards per carry every season. Even the shell of Devonta Freeman’s yards per carry jumped more than a full yard after joining the Ravens and playing with Jackson in 2021.
I know J.K. Dobbins is a darling among the #FantasyFootball community but I'm gonna be fading again. ADP is too pricey. In a timeshare + has a running QB
Since Lamar took over, no RB has gotten more than 202 att, 42 tgt, 34 rec & those were separate seasons
Best path is 15+ TD
— ✴️Rob Norton✴️ (@norton0723) August 18, 2023
Heading into 2023 it looks like people are falling for the Dobbins trap once again. He’s now more than a full year removed from the knee injury, which is encouraging, but it’s possible there could still be lingering effects as the team only recently activated him from the PUP list. There is speculation that it is in part due to his contract demands as he’s been vocal about wanting a new contract.
On top of all this, he’s still playing with Lamar Jackson. Since Jackson took over as the full-time starter in 2019, he’s led the team in both carries and rushing yards in three of the four seasons. Only Mark Ingram in 2019 had more carries (Jackson still had more yards). During that same span, Ingram is the only running back to have more than 150 carries in a season and the only one to finish as a top-24 running back in fantasy football. In that same four-year span, only one time has a running back even had more than 30 targets or 26 receptions in a season.
Simply put, this is not a fruitful fantasy situation for running backs in full PPR scoring formats. Dobbins is another running back, like Taylor and Etienne, that could see 200+ “low value” touches. This makes him one of the biggest fantasy football running back fades for 2023. He’s currently being drafted as the RB26 at 68 overall. Draft guys like Tyler Lockett, Diontae Johnson, and Deshaun Watson instead of Dobbins.
Main Photo: Sam Greene – USA Today Sports