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Biggest Fantasy Busts of 2020 - Running Back

The 2020 NFL regular season is now in the rear-view mirror, so let's look back on what happened. Today, that means looking back on some busts.

While plenty of good things happened this season, some players didn't live up to expectations. We're going to take a look at some of those players and try to diagnose why 2020 wasn't their year.

Today, we'll be looking at the three biggest running back busts of the season. ADP is from FantasyPros, and the final rankings are through the first 16 weeks because we don't need to pretend to care about Week 17 now that Week 17 is over. We're also not looking at players who dealt with major injuries, like Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley.

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Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

ADP: RB3
Final Ranking: RB11

While Zeke technically finished as an RB1 on the season, things definitely didn't go the way that we all expected when we were drafting him as the overall RB3 on the season.

Elliott got off to a good start, with five rushing touchdowns and three games of 89 or more yards over the first five games. But things really fell off a cliff after that, with Elliott totaling just two touchdowns -- one of which was a Week 17 rushing score -- over the remainder of the season. His receiving production continued to decline as it did in 2019, and that issue was exacerbated by the fact that his rushing production disappeared too. Elliott averaged 65.3 rushing yards per game, a big drop from the earlier parts of his career:

Elliott's yards per game have dropped every season, but until this year, that was something you could live with. But 2020 was not something you could really live with, especially when you definitely drafted Elliott while Alvin Kamara was still on the board.

The big question here is what comes next for Elliott. Obviously, the Cowboys are stuck with him for now, as the dead cap if they moved on this year would be far too much. Financially, the most likely scenario is that we have two more seasons of Zeke in Arlington.

But his years of heavy usage seem to be taking a toll. Elliott ranked 38th in big runs and 58th in big run rate. His true yards per carry ranked 53rd among running backs. Elliott still got plenty of volume but was clearly more ineffective than ever at doing things with that volume.

Going forward, we have to assume the Cowboys look to keep Elliott fresher by giving some of his touches to someone else, whether that be Tony Pollard or a back who is not currently on the roster. Elliott still has the upside to finish as an RB1 again, but it's hard to see him breaking into that elite group again. Maybe I'm wrong -- maybe we'll look back on 2020 as a slight blip and Elliott will still have a few more seasons as an elite fantasy option. But I'm not really willing to use a first-round pick on him next season to find out.

 

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs

ADP: RB11
Final Ranking: RB22

It wasn't so much that Edwards-Helaire was bad -- he just didn't live up to the preseason hype that saw him drafted as a low-end RB1 after Damien Williams opted out of the season.

Edwards-Helaire flew out of the gate with 25 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown. But he had just four more touchdowns over the remainder of the season and hit the 100-yard mark just once more. He saw his touches drop as the season went on, with his snap rate dropping midseason after the team acquired Le'Veon Bell.

One of the issues is that Edwards-Helaire struggled to make big plays. He was 24th in big run rate and 26th in juke rate. His true yards per carry of 4.3 ranked 28th among running backs.

I think we expected that Edwards-Helaire getting drafted in the first round was a sign of how the Chiefs would use him. But when he wasn't contributing to the team's success in the ways they expected, the Chiefs smartly added to their backfield. Edwards-Helaire will need to figure out how to evade defenders and improve his burst going forward, but he should enter 2021 as the lead back in Kansas City again. Maybe we shouldn't be out there drafting him like an RB1 this time around, but he can be a solid RB2 option. Just be wary of a preseason hype train.

 

Mark Ingram II, Baltimore Ravens

ADP: RB22
Final Ranking: RB72

Yikes.

Even after the Ravens drafted J.K. Dobbins, Ingram was being drafted as a low-end RB2 because the veteran had had some nice success playing with Lamar Jackson. But by the end of the season, Ingram was missing games as a healthy scratch as the Ravens valued keeping the RB healthy to save future cap space over whatever value he would have brought to the football field.

Ingram was okay early in the year, but it became clear when he missed time with an ankle injury that Dobbins was the best running back in Baltimore and that Gus Edwards was the better short-yardage option. Ingram saw his usage drop tremendously from then on, with five carries for five yards in Week 10 and two for two yards in Week 13. After Week 13, Ingram didn't have a touch until Week 17, but Dobbins had 160 yards in that game to Ingram's 39. And that was the end of things for Ingram.

So, what's next? He's been released by the Ravens and will probably find work somewhere in 2021, but it won't be as a lead back. As of now, it's hard to see a reason why I'd draft Ingram in 2021 fantasy drafts.



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