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Sell These Running Backs Before It’s Too Late

The running back market is rapidly changing in dynasty fantasy football. Here are three RBs to sell before they lose all value.
running back James Conner, Arizona Cardinals

The life of an NFL running back is cold. It’s one of the most physically demanding positions in football, but they receive relatively little financial compensation. It’s an oft-injured position, yet their contracts are structured to exploit them and render them expendable. When a running back hits 27, the clock starts ticking, and once they turn 30, they’re heading toward retirement. As unfortunate as it is from a personal standpoint, we can use it to our advantage when managing rosters. Below are three running backs approaching the “age cliff” who should be traded immediately.

Sell These Running Backs Before It’s Too Late

Ezekiel Elliott

Since re-joining the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, Ezekiel Elliott’s market value has slightly increased. He’s jumped from being the dynasty RB70 to the RB61, according to KeepTradeCut. That’s primarily because Elliott is in a better situation this season than last. Dallas projects to be far better offensively than New England was, and their backfield is wide-open. Most assume Elliott is the starter simply because they have no other proven options. While there’s truth behind this, we must consider Elliott as an individual rather than a product of his surroundings.

Elliott’s suffered one of the most visible fall-offs in recent memory for a star player. After clearing 1,000 scrimmage yards and 4 yards per carry in six consecutive seasons to start his career, the wheels started falling off in 2022. Tony Pollard was better in nearly every facet of the game and chased Elliott out of town. He landed in New England, where it was more of the same: a downward spiral.

With the widespread assumption that he’s the lead back in Dallas, now’s the final time to move off Elliott. The season is two and a half months away, which is plenty of time for Dallas to sign or trade for another running back. Even if they stick with a rotation of Elliott, Rico Dowdle, and Deuce Vaughn, he’s a shell of his former self and unlikely to finish the year as a starter. Dynasty managers should look to move Elliott for a 3rd round pick or another veteran with a higher floor.

James Conner

The most typical reasons for a running back’s fall-off are age and injuries. In James Conner’s case, there’s concern in both areas. He’s 29 years old, suffers injuries annually, and is entering the final year of his contract. All signs point to 2024 being Conner’s final year of relevance.

The Arizona Cardinals seemingly know that time is running out in Conner’s career. They drafted Trey Benson early in the third round of this year’s draft, making him the second running back off the board. Benson is an outstanding athlete who will immediately find a role for himself in a shallow backfield. He offers far more explosion and big-play ability than Conner at this point. The two can be effective splitting carries this season, but by this time next year, Benson is fully expected to be the starter.

Conner’s value has only slightly dropped from RB34 to RB38 since the draft, according to KeepTradeCut. Managers appear desperate to squeeze one more year of production out of Conner, but it’s not worth it. Now’s the time to cash out on Conner for a second-round rookie pick before his stock completely crashes.

Austin Ekeler

No player exemplifies the life cycle of a running back better than Austin Ekeler. As an undrafted free agent in 2017, he signed with the Chargers and worked endlessly for a roster spot. He continued to improve until eventually taking over for Melvin Gordon. Fast forward some years, and now Ekeler is getting replaced by younger, more exciting options.

After four straight seasons of elite fantasy football production, Ekeler hit a wall last year. He averaged just 13.2 points per game, an eight-point dropoff from his previous two seasons. It was arguably his worst season in the league since his rookie year.

A change of scenery was needed, so Ekeler signed a cheap, two-year contract with the Commanders this offseason. However, this landing spot is far from ideal. Much of Ekeler’s production comes from usage in the receiving game, but that’s incompatible with rookie quarterback Jayden Daniels. No running back caught more than 21 passes in a season during Daniels’ time at LSU. Additionally, Brian Robinson Jr. established himself as the Commanders’ top running back last year and looks to build on that. Dynasty managers should try to sell Ekeler for a future second while his name still carries value.

Main Photo: [Rob Schumacher/The Republic] – USA Today Sports


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