May 20, 2021

Fantasy Football Buyer's Beware: 3 Running Backs to Avoid in 2021

The fury of the NFL's offseason has come to a halt after free agency and the draft. The most drastic moves have likely been made and the rosters we see now are close to being settled. There may only be a handful of potential realistic trades capable of moving the needle at this point.

That means there's plenty of time to get ready for your fantasy football draft. Minicamps and training camp will be upon us soon as the excitement surrounding the season swiftly builds. That optimism can be a dangerous thing as the season nears.

Some players get too anxious to take a familiar name in hopes of a rebound season or rely on the comfort of past production. Veterans can come with a big buyer's beware sticker. We don't want to blow a pick on a declining player or someone stuck in a disadvantageous situation.

We've identified three such veterans who come with a big buyer's beware sticker for this season. Each is overvalued and a dangerous play for their current draft position.

Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers

A breakout star from the tail end of the 2019 campaign, Raheem Mostert entered last season as a candidate to take a major leap in production. Injuries robbed him of half his season, though, and the 49ers' offense was a mess after Jimmy Garoppolo went down. The 29-year-old Mostert may have already missed his chance to be a star even as he returns.

Much has changed for this unit since Mostert rushed for 772 yards on 137 touches two years ago. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel solidified themselves as stud receivers, and both Jeff Wilson and Trey Sermon became legitimate threats to steal touches. And the addition of Trey Lance might be a complete game-changer for the unit.

Seeing Mostert as the 23rd back being taken in drafts on average isn't an unreasonable position. He shouldn't be ahead of those in better situations to get more touches, but there's a bigger chance this backfield becomes a committee approach that bends around Lance when he enters the lineup. It's tough to see the journeyman eventually cracking the 1,000-yard mark and producing consistently.

A late fourth-round pick can net you a better payoff thanks to the depth at receiver. By this point, taking a middling second or third back shouldn't be a priority. We can get more upside from Myles Gaskin, Najee Harris, Mike Davis and Devin Singletary.

Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

The market will likely cool off more on Melvin Gordon with Javonte Williams on the roster. The Broncos deliberately traded in front of the Miami Dolphins to get the North Carolina star, and it won't take long for him to start. Gordon's role with the Broncos will devolve as the season progresses if he's on the roster at all.

The 28-year-old has only had one stellar season in terms of efficiency even if some of that is out of his control. The Chargers rarely had a quality offensive line for him to find easy running lanes. His 2018 breakout featured 5.1 yards per carry and almost 10 yards per reception.

His first season with Denver was his second-best in terms of efficiency but lacked real impact. The Broncos can prop most backs up as they did with Gordon and Phillip Lindsay thanks to their running scheme. Gordon simply hasn't been able to transcend scheme in his career because he doesn't have special traits.

He's not bad, of course. He brings value as a consistent runner and ability to find the end zone. Teams like the Cardinals, Dolphins, Jets and Eagles could use him in a real role. 

Denver can get more usage out of him before his contract expires in the offseason. They don't need to unless they trade for Aaron Rodgers, though. It makes sense to keep him around to pair with Williams until then.

But there's no way I'd take Gordon at the top of the fifth round. His current average draft position is one out of convenience and familiarity. 

Kenyan Drake, Las Vegas Raiders

Only Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock would rush to sign a backup running back coming off his worst season in terms of efficiency to a fat two-year, fully guaranteed $11 million deal. The Raiders desperately needed defensive help but sprung at the opportunity to spend on a playmaker who doesn't have a clear role. Taking touches away from anyone else for Drake makes little sense.

It's not that Drake isn't good, but he's not a starting back, nor going to line up at receiver over who is in house already. Josh Jacobs is a superior all-around talent. Drake is a qualified backup but his draft positioning is more in line with a higher-upside talent.

However, the Raiders don't offer the right situation. At least with Mike Davis, Devin Singletary or Travis Etienne we can find a healthy surrounding cast to promote their efficiency. But the Raiders have an overhauled offensive line and lack reliable receivers to keep defenses honest.

Picking up Drake in the seventh round won't tank your roster but it'll be an undesired option when it comes to bye weeks or flex choices. As with everyone else on this list, we want to pick opportunity and situation over name recognition. A.J. Dillon or Gus Edwards can pay off better than Drake for the same value.

Photo: Getty Images