Fooled me Once, Not Again - Sophomore Running Backs Set to Bust Again

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There were some really strong performances by rookie running backs in 2016. Ezekiel Elliott was a top pick and performed up to--if not better than--expectations. Jordan Howard came out of nowhere to establish himself as a fantasy stud, someone who is getting drafted very high this season. There was...you know, actually there wasn't much happening beyond those top two. Lots of players with promise, but no one made a huge fantasy impact.

Looking back over the list of last season's rookie backs, the only name that I'm confident about as an improved player in 2017 is Paul Perkins, who should have control of the Giants backfield. Beyond that...well...we'll see.

Let's focus on four players who got a little bit of good talk before last season and talk about why they won't see much improvement in 2017. One of those is Derrick Henry, who shows up on this list for slightly different reasons than the others--Kenyan Drake, C.J. Prosise, and Devontae Booker.

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Second-Year RB to Avoid

Derrick Henry - Tennessee Titans

Let's get this one thing out of the way first: Derrick Henry is a good football player. He carried the ball 110 times last season for 490 yards and five touchdowns. In most situations, those would be encouraging signs.

But Henry is backing up DeMarco Murray on a team that has its sights set on an AFC South title. Barring injury, Henry won't see the field enough to be a consistent producer. The most encouraging sign for fantasy owners would be if Henry can carve out a role in PPR leagues--he had a catch percentage of 86.7 last season--but that seems unlikely too because he was used very inconsistently in the passing game last season. Add to this that Marcus Mariota is very, very accurate in the red zone--the Titans won't hesitate to throw the ball to tight end Delanie Walker or the newly signed Eric Decker down there--and Henry doesn't have the upside that owners would want to see.

Obviously, change every word I wrote if Murray goes down--or if the Titans are unexpectedly terrible and move on to Henry late in the season. But don't depend on those options.

 

Kenyan Drake - Miami Dolphins

Count me as a major member of the Kenyan Drake Fan Club before last season. With Arian Foster old and Jay Ajayi unproven, I thought Drake would grab control of that backfield by mid-season. That didn't happen. The moment Arian Foster left the team, Ajayi jumped in and the team never looked back. After seeing nine carries against Cleveland in Week 3, Drake only saw more than four touches once. Drake has now fallen behind Damien Williams on the team's depth chart.

Unlike Henry, I'm not sure an injury to the team's starter would really change Drake's outlook. He'd likely share touches with Williams. The team would likely throw the ball more with Jay Cutler. Also, don't count on injuries! Stop it! You can't predict those things! Avoid Kenyan Drake.

 

C.J. Prosise - Seattle Seahawks

Look y'all--the Seattle backfield is a huge, huge mess. Thomas Rawls looked okay last season, but the team decided to bring in former Packer Eddie Lacy and then draft Chris Carson, who seems to be getting a lot buzz lately. That Carson--a seventh-round pick--is getting talked about so much speaks volumes about this backfield and, specifically, about C.J. Prosise's place in it.

You might look at Seattle and say that the battle is still wide open, that Prosise has the skills to claim the position when Rawls and Lacy look ineffective. I get it. He averaged over five yards-per-carry last season. He was effective in the passing game. But don't get tricked--Prosise won't carve out a sizeable enough role on this team to be fantasy relevant. There's a chance he sees an uptick in targets out of the backfield and becomes a flex option in PPR, but he shouldn't be playable in standard.

 

Devontae Booker - Denver Broncos

Booker had a chance in 2016 to claim the starting job in Denver after C.J. Anderson went down. He responded by posting three games in which he received the bulk of the team's carries but finished with less than three yards-per-carry. Justin Forsett ended up replacing him. Not great.

A wrist injury will cost Booker a handful of games to begin the season. He'll be the team's number three back when he returns, behind Anderson and the newly-acquired Jamaal Charles. Booker won't see much playing time, but even in the event he does he's a player to beware. 2016 proved that Booker doesn't have the vision to be a starting running back in the NFL. Leave him on waivers.

 

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