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Fantasy Football Running Backs to Avoid Heading Into the 2024 NFL Season

Joe Mixon - Fantasy Football Rankings, DFS Lineup Picks, NFL Injury News

Running backs have always been highly sought-after commodities in fantasy football drafts. If you find a stud back, that can be the edge you need to lock up your league's title.

Even though we should always invest in running back in some capacity, we also need to recognize the volatility of the position. There's turnover every year as players age and their production falls off a cliff. Selecting the wrong running backs could ruin your season before it gets started. So, while it's fun to look for the next breakout star rusher, it's equally important to identify who you should avoid.

Make sure you keep up to date with all your fantasy football needs by following RotoBaller on X and checking out RotoBaller.com. Let's examine several running backs to avoid in your 2024 fantasy football drafts.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

D'Andre Swift, Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears began their offseason by signing Swift to a three-year, $24 million contract. 2023 was a career year for Swift. He accumulated over 1,200 scrimmage yards and eclipsed the 1,000-rushing yard mark for the first time in his career.

While Swift’s surface-level stats look good, the underlying metrics paint a different picture. Swift finished only 40th out of 49 running backs in Next Gen Stats Rush Yards Over Expectation (RYOE). Among running backs with at least 65 carries, Swift finished 36th in Pro Football Focus’s (PFF) signature Elusive Rating and only ranked 39th in PFF’s rushing grade.

Looking at this data, it’s unclear that Swift is even the best running back currently on the Bears roster. Fellow RB Khalil Herbert graded higher than Swift in every one of the above metrics. Herbert finished 10th in PFF’s Elusive Rating, 20th in Next Gen Stats RYOE, and was PFF’s 15th-highest-graded rusher. It’s not unreasonable to suggest he could eventually emerge as the preferred back over Swift.

There is precedent for a team turning away from a back after signing him to a big contract. Just last year, we saw the Carolina Panthers bench starter Miles Sanders in favor of Chuba Hubbard after they inked Sanders to a four-year, $25.4 million deal.

If Swift struggles or injuries plague him, don’t be surprised if Herbert or someone else can wrestle the starting job away.

Joe Mixon, Houston Texans

Mixon was traded from the Cincinnati Bengals to the Houston Texans in the opening days of NFL free agency. He now gets to play alongside C.J. Stroud, Nico Collins, Tank Dell, and Stefon Diggs. While many think this is great news for Mixon's 2024, we may want to pump the brakes.

Despite seeing many light boxes the last two years with the Bengals, Mixon hasn't been able to take advantage. Per Next Gen Stats, Mixon saw 8+ defenders in the box at the 15th-lowest rate last season. Despite this advantage, he only finished 27th in RYOE and couldn't muster more than 4.0 yards per carry.

He didn't fare much better against light boxes in 2022, either. According to Sharp Football, Mixon had the highest percentage of his runs come against light boxes in 2022. Among backs with 100+ carries, he was 39th in yards after contact per carry, 34th in runs of 10+ yards, and 36th in yards per carry.

It's also worth questioning whether Mixon is a good fit for offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik's system.

While Mixon should remain a solid RB2 option thanks to expected volume, don't expect a late-career breakout-type season. He failed to capitalize when seeing light boxes in Cincinnati playing with Joe BurrowJa'Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins. There isn't anything to suggest Mixon will take advantage of a similarly favorable situation in Houston.

Mixon also turns 28 this summer. We can't completely rule out his play falling off a cliff. If that happens, given his career 4.1 YPC, we could be looking at a disaster season in the worst-case scenario. It's better to pass and let someone more bullish play Russian Roulette with Mixon.

Tony Pollard, Tennessee Titans

A popular breakout pick last year, Pollard failed to meet the lofty expectations of fantasy gamers. He looked considerably less explosive as the Cowboys lead back and averaged a career-low 4.0 yards per carry. The Tennessee Titans believe he still has plenty of juice left as they handed him a three-year, $21.75 million contract in free agency.

It's worth noting that Pollard did show signs of life to close the season.

Tennessee brought in the veteran to pair with second-year back Tyjae Spears. The Titans are looking to scale back Pollard's workload with the hope that he can return to his previous form. Spears is no slouch, though, and should not be overlooked. He finished higher than Pollard in both RYOE and Rush Yards Over Expectation Per Attempt (RYOE/ATT). Spears also graded higher in PFF's Elusive Rating and had a higher Breakaway Run Percentage.

Pollard currently has an average draft position (ADP) of 73.07 in the National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC). Spears is going about a full round later with an ADP of 85.56. Since we are most likely looking at a backfield split, Spears looks like the better pick. He's likely to receive the same workload, is younger, looks more explosive, and is arguably the better back. Why take Pollard when you can probably find the same production later in the draft?

Austin Ekeler, Washington Commanders

Finishing as the PPR RB26, Ekeler was one of the biggest fantasy football busts last year. A consistent top-three pick in drafts, Ekeler had his lowest yardage and touchdown totals since 2020. He also had a career-low 3.5 yards per carry. The advanced metrics don’t look much better.

Ekeler finished just 36th in Next Gen Stats RYOE. Among backs with at least 50 carries, Ekeler finished 63rd out of 68 eligible backs in Fantasy Points Data Suite’s Missed Tackles Forced Per Attempt (MTF/ATT). It’s clear he is on the back nine of his career.

The Washington Commanders are hoping Ekeler can turn things around as they signed him to a two-year, $8.4 million deal. He figures to be part of a committee with incumbent starter Brian Robinson Jr.

Ekeler still carries value in PPR leagues as he’s likely to be used in a pass-catching role. The main problem with Ekeler, though, is that it appears he has started to hit the dreaded age cliff. This can be a hard truth for gamers to accept, especially for a player that many fantasy managers hold near and dear to their hearts. Maybe Ekeler can bounce back. We’ve seen this happen before with players who appeared to be finished.

However, betting on a soon-to-be 29-year-old running back whose skills appear to be declining is usually a losing proposition in fantasy football.



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