Everyone building a fantasy football team this year wants the deepest roster possible, but that’s easier said than done. Chances must be taken on certain players that aren’t in the first tier of their position, with the hope of striking gold. Sometimes you’re right, and sometimes you’re very wrong. Here are five fantasy running backs that run the chance of being a disappointment in 2014.
5. Doug Martin: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (FanDuel Price: $8,100)
After being limited to just six games in 2013, Martin is hoping he’ll return to his rookie season form, where he rushed for 1,454 yards and 12 total touchdowns. He’s healthy and ready to be on the field for Week 1, but don’t be reaching too high for him in your draft. He won’t necessarily be a bust, but it doesn’t seem like he’ll have enough chances in the backfield to make the kind of impact some fantasy owners are expecting him to.
Tampa Bay OC Jeff Tedford would like to employ some kind of RB rotation, but that idea took a hit with Charles Sims out until later this season with a fractured ankle. Bobby Rainey is still around as the change-of-pace back for the time being. Martin is secure as the team’s top option, but has just nine carries for 30 yards this preseason (3.3 yards per attempt).
4. Steven Jackson: Atlanta Falcons (FanDuel Price: $6,900)
Jackson is coming off his worst season in the NFL since being a rookie with the St. Louis Rams in 2004. He averaged 3.5 yards per carry over 12 games and 157 attempts, leading to 543 rush yards and seven total touchdowns. This season hasn’t begun much better — he’s just starting to participate in drills after dealing with a hamstring injury and isn’t expected to get much time in preseason games.
If he is ready for Week 1 like head coach Mike Smith says, some players may take a chance on him bouncing back. At the age of 31, the likelihood of him returning to 1,000-plus rushing yards are very slim, especially with Devonta Freeman angling for some playing time after showcasing his skills during the preseason.
3. Chris Johnson: New York Jets (FanDuel Price: $6,500)
Johnson has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in each of his six seasons in the NFL, but hasn’t been the same runner since going off for 2,006 yards in 2009. Don’t let his cumulative rushing numbers fool you into thinking he’s a legitimate fantasy commodity. He moves onto the Jets, who have a worse offensive line than there was in Tennessee when he was with the Titans.
To make his fantasy value continue to take hits, Chris Ivory will be used a lot and will take away precious carries in the red zone from Johnson, who is supposed to be on the top of the depth chart. He’s proven to be durable throughout his time in the league, but that won’t lead to more production. His yards-per-carry number hasn’t been close to the 5.6 he posted back in ’09, and the 3.9 he finished with last year was a career low.
2. Ray Rice: Baltimore Ravens (FanDuel Price: $6,900)
Rice’s fantasy value already takes a hit by starting 2014 with a two-game suspension (which should’ve been more). Plenty of owners took him with a high draft pick last season, and were incredibly disappointed with 981 total yards and four touchdowns — two numbers he hasn’t produced since being a rookie with the Ravens. It’s fair to think this was just a bad year for Rice. Entering his age-27 season, he still has a few years left of potentially being a top running back.
However, sitting out the first two games allows Bernard Pierce a legitimate chance to make an impact and force the coaching staff to favor a two-headed attack upon his return. Rice’s awful 2013 will lead to him getting picked very late in drafts, potentially becoming a steal. He also runs the chance of being a disappointment again. It just wouldn’t be as surprising this year because his draft stock has plummeted so much.
1. Reggie Bush: Detroit Lions (FanDuel Price: $7,800)
Bush’s 2013 season was actually his best overall from a fantasy perspective. He was the 11th-highest point-getter at the RB position, the highest in his career. He reached 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards for the first time and his 54 receptions were the most since he pulled in 73 in 2007 for the Saints. He proved he could be a versatile featured back, but the presence of Joique Bell and Detroit’s recent commitment to him stand to take away the fantasy value Bush finally built up.
Bush and Bell will combine for a committee role in 2014, with Bell possibly taking on more of the most crucial fantasy situations. He’s more durable, will likely be used in goal line situations and is strong enough of a pass-catcher that he doesn’t necessarily have to be subbed out for. The Lions also agreed to a three-year, $9.3 million contract with Bell, including $4.3 million guaranteed. That shows they’re committed to him, and it could cost Bush some fantasy points that he would’ve scored if this was last year.