Fantasy Football draft season is just around the corner. As a result, plenty of "experts" will release their positional rankings and expectations for some of the NFL's best fantasy options. The running back position is arguably the most coveted position for any fantasy football roster. A top running back, or lack thereof, can make or break someone's fantasy football championship run. However, some teams' running backs everyone should be fearful of. With all of this said, I present to you: five backfields to avoid this fantasy season.
1) New England Patriots
The Patriots are a backfield in which I always do my best to avoid come draft season. It’s not due to a lack of talent by any means, but rather how New England uses their backs. New England has always been a team that “rides the hot hand” at the running back position which is never an ideal system for fantasy owners. A season ago, the Patriots used four different running backs for the most part. Those being: Damien Harris, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White. The backfield became even more complicated a season ago with the addition of Quarterback, Cam Newton. Newton is one of the best dual-threat QBs the NFL has ever seen and Bill Belichick used Newton’s abilities as expected. Newton was tied for first on the team in rush attempts, second in yards, and first in touchdowns. All from the Quarterback position. What stands out the most is Newton’s twelve total touchdowns. With most of these coming around the goal line, more concerns are to be raised about the fantasy value of the Patriots running backs, who are losing goal-line opportunities to Newton. Newton’s rushing numbers were also partly a result of his subpar passing performances a season ago, but having a team use multiple running backs each week and a running Quarterback is not a recipe for success for any fantasy football player.
2) San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers backfield is one that was arguably more frustrating for fantasy owners last year than the Patriots. Having to deal with constant injuries to Raheem Mostert throughout the season and trying to predict if they would go with Jerrick McKinnon or Jeff Wilson Jr each week was a problem that I, along with many other owners, had to deal with. The lead back, Raheem Mostert, played in only eight games last season after suffering a high ankle sprain early in the year that lingered and continued to give him trouble. Their second string back, Tevin Coleman also dealt with injuries as he spent some time on the injured reserve along with Mostert, due to a knee injury. This left the 49ers with two real options: Jerrick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson Jr, in which it felt like the 49ers were doing a coin toss each week to decide who would be carrying the load. Wilson ended up being the true workhorse back as he led the team in attempts, yards, and touchdowns even while having to compete for reps with McKinnon. This past offseason, Tevin Coleman and Jerrick McKinnon departed from the 49ers, giving some hope for the fantasy value of Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. However, just as that hope arose, it again disappeared. The 49ers then signed former Giants running back Wayne Gallman and then used a third-round draft pick on running back Trey Sermon. Nobody is quite certain yet on what role Gallman and Sermon will have in the offense, but based on last season, I’m worried they could steal some reps from Raheem Mostert this season. The good news for this backfield though, is that Jeff Wilson is expected to miss four to six months after it was announced Tuesday that Wilson underwent surgery for a torn meniscus and is expected to miss the beginning of the season. However, I’m still wary of drafting any 49ers running back.
3) Houston Texans
The Texans are a dumpster fire currently even without everything surrounding Deshaun Watson. Houston ranked thirty-first in both rush attempts and rush yards per game. When healthy, David Johnson was the main back for the Texans last year, as he led the team in attempts, yards, and touchdowns. Johnson has had injury troubles in the past, but hopefully, those troubles don’t carry over into his time with the Texans. Johnson himself isn’t the reason I’m staying away from the Texans backfield, Johnson performed well in the twelve games he appeared in a season ago. However, the Texans added both Philip Lindsay and Mark Ingram II to their running back room. To go along with that, if the Texans have Deshaun Watson next season, that severely hinders the production of their backs. However, the Texans backfield will also be severely hindered if Watson isn’t under center next season. Whatever happens with Deshaun Watson and Houston is truly a lose-lose situation for their multiple running backs. Disregarding the current allegations against Deshaun Watson and his battle with the front office I still would stay away from this backfield. With the additions of Philip Lindsay and Mark Ingram II, the Texans are a team that could easily be looking at a “running back by committee” situation this season, which is always disastrous for fantasy owners.
4) Denver Broncos
The Broncos backfield has been interesting since the addition of Melvin Gordon III. After back-to-back seasons of splitting carries with Philip Lindsay, it seemed as if Gordon would be the main back coming into this season, once Lindsay signed with the Texans. Unfortunately for Gordon though, the Broncos used a second-round pick on North Carolina running back Javonte Williams, once again creating concern for the fantasy value of Melvin Gordon. With the Broncos selecting Williams, this leads me to believe that Gordon will once again be sharing the workload for Denver’s rushing attack this upcoming season. However, I have stronger concerns for Gordon that go further than just the potential that he splits reps with Javonte Williams. There’s also potential that Williams ends up as the workhorse back late in the season and Gordon sees his role practically disappear. Gordon is entering the final season of his two-year deal with the Broncos and the selection of Williams also leads me to believe that there’s a strong possibility that Gordon won’t be returning as a member of the Broncos after this season. If the Broncos have already decided that they’ll be moving on from Gordon after this year, then we could see them experiment with Williams by giving him the full workload so that they can see what they have in the rookie running back. However, I could also be completely wrong in this assumption, but either way, I’m slightly fearful of drafting a Broncos running back come my fantasy draft, as should you.
5) Buffalo Bills
Buffalo is another team that’s extremely frustrating when it comes to their running backs and fantasy football. They’re frustrating not just because they split touches between Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, but also because of the lack of carries per game for Buffalo. Buffalo was twenty-sixth in rush attempts per game a season ago, averaging only 24.5 attempts per game. To make matters worse, they were twenty-fourth in the league in rush yards per game, with 104.2 yards per game. With the lack of rushing opportunities for the Bills running backs, some might believe that maybe they have more involvement in the receiving game. Well, you’d be wrong, as Singletary and Moss combined for only fifty-two of the team's four-hundred and ten total receptions a season ago and combined for a meager one touchdown reception. Combine this with the fact that QB Josh Allen had only fifty-four fewer rushing attempts than Devin Singletary last season, who led the team in attempts, and you have a recipe for disaster for fantasy managers. And for the icing on the cake, the Bills signed former Dolphins running back Matt Brieda this offseason which adds even more competition for Moss and Singletary, who already are fighting for touches as it is. Similar to the Patriots, Quarterback Josh Allen led the team in rushing touchdowns with eight, while it took three running backs combined to reach the same amount for the Bills last season. This means that Allen is getting more rushing opportunities around the goal line than the backs for this team. Due to the lack of opportunities for the several running backs of the Buffalo Bills, I’m very comfortable avoiding anyone in the backfield for this team come fantasy football season.
*All stats were found from ESPN Stats & Info. Department and TeamRankings.com