By: Jackson Kane (Twitter: @TheJacksonKane)
Five Running Backs To Avoid In 2017
The NFL is a “What have you done for me lately?” league. The NFL is also known for another acronym aside from its intended meaning – “Not For Long.” With the average NFL career lasting 3.3 years, players must make their mark when given the opportunity. Two of the five backs I’m about to raise some red flags on are seasoned veterans in the league. But Father Time spares no one in the brutal business of professional sports. Whether it be competition from a talented youngster or some tread on the tires, these five guys will give fantasy owners headaches in 2017:
Matt Forte – New York Jets
The 2014 version of Matt Forte that put up 1,846 total yards and 10 total touchdowns seems like such a distant memory, but it was just two short years ago. He finished that season as the fourth-highest scoring running back in fantasy football. Fast-forward to 2016. Forte suited up with the New York Jets after spending the entirety of his eight-year career in the Windy City. The Tulane product delivered career lows in rushing yards (813) and receiving yards (263), along with his lowest yards per carry total (3.7) since his second season. Granted, he did appear in 14 games for Gang Green, but his production didn’t match that of a late fourth/early fifth-round pick. His largest yardage total on the ground in 2016 was 100, which he hit twice. I still remember the hype train after his 100-yard, three touchdown performance on Thursday Night Football against theÂ Bills in Week 2.
So can Forte return to his once-coveted form for fantasy owners? I’m personally more on the “Free Bilal Powell” side of this equation. When the Jets running back coach has stated that Powell would be a “Pro Bowler” if he ever was the feature back, the writing appears to be on the wall. His aggressive running style (5.5 yards per carry in 2016) and versatility (58 catches as well) are worthy of starting responsibilities. It’s been a good run, Mr. Forte. But all good things must come to an end.
Giovani Bernard – Cincinnati Bengals
One of the harder backfield committees to analyze in recent years would be the Cincinnati Bengals. The combination of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard has been good for Cincinnati, but frustrating at times for fantasy owners. Anyone with stock in Bernard in 2016 was let down immensely.
The fourth-year back out of North Carolina was coming off a 2015 campaign where he amassed more than 1,100 total yards and career-highs for yards per carry and reception. A season-ending ACL injury in Week 11 of last season may be the crutch that Bernard supporters will lean on to defend the speedy, third-down back for his underwhelming year, but the injury might not be his only obstacle in 2017.
The Bengals selected much-maligned Joe Mixon out of Oklahoma in the second round of April’s NFL Draft. Mixon was involved in a 2014 altercation with a young woman on campus, who he punched in the face. Many teams decided to pass on him, but Cincy decided to give the talented Sooner a chance to redeem himself. Marvin Lewis has been raving about his talent all offseason, calling it “off the charts.”
With Bernard slated to miss at least the first few regular season games, all signs are pointing to a changing of the guard in the Bengals backfield; at least on third downs. Mixon has already sparked the interest of his head coach. It’s only a matter of time before he’s making plays out of the backfield and kicking Bernard to the curb. Jeremy Hill had better look out too; his 3.8 yards per carry last season isn’t exactly a glowing recommendation for his starting status.
Ty Montgomery – Green Bay Packers
It’s always good to see a player switch positions and make a name for himself. Both Ty Montgomery and Terrelle Pryor are names that come to mind when it comes to that subject. Montgomery is entering his third year in the league out of Stanford, where he played receiver.
After an injury genocide that wiped out every Packers running back on the roster, Montgomery was thrust into the starting running back spot with little to no experience whatsoever. Somehow, the elusive, slippery 24-year old made it work.
Now that I’ve praised him for his 2016, let me start with why he’s an awful pick for 2017:
1. Green Bay’s offense has too many weapons – Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Martellus Bennett … Just to name a few. Obviously an effective offense in the NFL has to be able to run the ball. I don’t doubt that Montgomery will get his fair share of looks to start the season, but eventually, he’ll show that the Packers were playing with house money in 2016.
2. Montgomery wasn’t really THAT good in 2016 – Aside from his Week 15 explosion against the Bears, Montgomery failed to exceed 60 rushing yards in any other game. In Weeks 6 and 7 against Dallas and Chicago, the Stanford product collected 10 catches in each contest, totaling 164 receiving yards across the two weeks. He managed just 24 catches in the nine weeks after that. He was merely a decoy for the most part after those two stellar receiving performances.
3. The Packers offense is built to passÂ and they do just thatÂ – Green Bay passed the rock 64.6 percent of the time in 2016 according to teamrankings.com. That was good for the second-highest mark in the NFL behind only Baltimore. Whether that was because they were playing from behind quite a bit because of their poor defense or the Green Bay coaching staff not truly trusting Montgomery remains a mystery.
4. The front office drafted Jamaal Williams out of BYUÂ – It might just be the number 21 jersey he sported at BYU, but watching film of Jamaal Williams, I thought I was watching La’Dainian Tomlinson. The kid is crafty in space and makes people miss, even more than Montgomery did last season. Sorry Ty Montgomery fan boys, but Williams will secure this job by Week 8. The receiver turned running back will be known by one nickname from this point forward: “The Mirage.”
Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts
If you were to flip through a dictionary and come across the word “consistency,” a picture of Frank Gore’s expressionless face would be there in a perfect world. The Iron Man of running backs over the past decade has suited up for all 16 games in each of the past six seasons.
Gore was good for four yards and a cloud of dust last season for Indianapolis. His longest run of the season was 22 yards, but he somehow managed to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the ninth time in his last 11 seasons. However, that 22-yard run tells me something; that the former third round pick out of Miami is finally starting to slow down. The Colts may have also noticed that their ox of a running back is on the decline.
Indianapolis snagged Marlon Mack out of USF in the fourth round of this year’s draft. He set the school rushing record in just three seasons at South Florida and averaged over 100 yards per game on the ground for his career. Gore may see numerous goal line touches this season, but Mack should push him for work regardless. Don’t draft Gore unless he sinks significantly lower than his average ADP of 64.
Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers
1,151 yards and nine total touchdowns: those were the numbers put up by third-year running back, Carlos Hyde, last season for the 49ers. He finished as the 18th-ranked running back in terms of fantasy points scored in 2016. He was a solid RB2 last season for fantasy owners, but what’s next for the former Ohio State Buckeye?
San Fran decided to bring in Kyle Shanahan as their new head coach this offseason. Shanahan was the brains behind the league’s best offense in 2016 – the Atlanta Falcons. His offensive scheme features some college elements, such as the pistol formation and option running plays. Hyde hasn’t immersed himself in that type of offense during his time as a pro, so his status as the definite starter for the 49ers has to be in question.
The Niners also selected Joe Williams in the fourth round of the Draft in April. He played in a similar offense at Utah to what Shanahan will implement in San Francisco. Maybe it was just the red, white and black jerseys of the Utes, but Williams looked a lot like a running back his new offensive coordinator enjoyed scheming with in Atlanta (Tevin Coleman). Add in that Carlos
Hyde has suffered nine different injuries since the start of his NFL career according to sportsinjurypredictor.com and you’ll see why Hyde shouldn’t be coveted by fantasy owners in 2017.