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Overvalued Backup Running Backs - Rhamondre Stevenson, Alexander Mattison, Travis Etienne

Who doesn't love to draft a player late and see him blossom into a league winner? That can often be the case with running back handcuffs covering for starters that fall down to injury or enter the season holding out. Drafting a no. 2 running back late, or even getting him from waivers close to (or for) nothing can turn into a league-changing move.

I have already said it in the paragraph above: the key for those players to be truly valuable is getting them as late as possible for the cheapest of payments. The problem? Sometimes fantasy GMs put so much into those backups turning into league winners that their prices skyrocket and their values plummet given their all-or-nothing profiles.

With the season getting closer and the summer getting hotter, it is time to dish out some names worth avoiding in your drafts at the prices they're currently going for. Let's get to it!

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Rhamondre Stevenson, NE (115.8 ADP)

It's not that I am in absolute love with the Patriots' offense, but hey, I'm not such a hater as some folks out there trying to bury all of Mac Jones, DeVante Parker, Damien Harris & Co. these days. The problem with the Pats, at least as I see them, is the fact that they have a quite balanced offense in terms of the talent of the player they boast and the share of opportunities they'll get, thus limiting their upsides on a murderous way.

Who will get more looks and produce more among the receivers? Hard to know, given all of Parker, Jakobi, Bourne, Agholor, and even rookie-WR Tyquan Thornton could be considered to be equals. Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith at the tight end position? That's a tough call. And what about the backfield? Damien Harris is supposed to be the RB1 and the tailback tasked with carrying the ball for the most times (PFF projects him to 195 carries compared to Stevenson's 150) with limited production on pass plays (just 11 projected targets). The problem? Stevenson is projected to an even lower eight targets next season.

While Harris comes with a 41.3% rushing-attempt share among all Patriots and Stevenson a 31.9% (already way lower than Harris' figure), Harris has a 2.1% target share to Stevenson's 1.6 while they have ADP marks of 82.2 OVR and 115.8 OVR as I'm writing this. I'm not saying Harris is a must-draft player (at least not as I'm writing this at the start of June and with that respective ADPs) but he's definitely more valuable than Stevenson at this point. If Stevenson's ADP starts sinking, then maybe he turns into some sort of potential value if something happens to Harris. Until then, don't chase him at that below-12th-round price.

More valuable RBs around his ADP: Michael Carter (116.2), Ronald Jones (114.2), James Cook (110.2)


Travis Etienne, JAX (45.0 ADP)

You might see this pick as cheating, but it's not such a thing by the letter of the law. Checking PFF projections for the upcoming season, Etienne is the actual RB2 of the Jaguars in terms of opportunities (159 to James Robinson's 197) and also in terms of offensive targets/carries shares (37.2% to JR's 45.3%). Of course, Etienne is going to eat big time but that comes with a couple of conditions that could heavily impact his fantasy outcomes.

First of all, health. Etienne has already missed a full campaign and is entering his redshirt rookie season in 2022 as he didn't appear in any single game last year. That said, it must also be acknowledged that James Robinson missed time himself playing only 14 (13 "starts") of the possible 17 games over the full 2021 campaign. Even then, though, Robinson was good to finish RB24 after putting up an RB7 season in his first year as a pro two seasons ago in 2020.

Secondly, and perhaps most important, is how Jacksonville handles Etienne and Robinson. It's been reported that Etienne could play a similar role to that of Deebo Samuel in San Francisco. That had GMs going crazy last summer, but he never truly got to see it happening on the field... and it's still not something we have witnessed in the NFL. Robinson won't be taking slot/outside/whatever snaps and opportunities from Etienne, but he is a capable pass-catcher with 46+ targets in all last two years catching 31+ passes for 222+ yards. Nothing incredible, but still average. And having Etienne taking the eyes of the D off Robinson should also benefit the latter have more room running from the backfield, all things considered.

I know Etienne could be considered a secondary/starting/RB-WR hybrid and that he comes with a very weird and fuzzy definition. I also think his current ADP of 45 OVR is, no matter how you look at it, a massive overpay these days given all of the question marks floating above his head. In all honesty, that's too rich for my blood.

More valuable RBs around his ADP: Josh Jacobs (42.4), Ezekiel Elliott (39.9), Elijah Mitchell (55.0)


Alexander Mattison, MIN (132.4 ADP)

Do you remember when we all fell for oft-injured Dalvin Cook? Good times, those ones... sadly, those health issues seem to be in Cook's rearview mirror by now. Yes, he missed 12 games in 2017 and then only played 11 in 2018, and if you still believe in injured Cook, then you will highlight the fact that he's played "only" 14, 14, and 13 games in the past three years. Yes. Yes, he has. Yet even then, he has finished RB6, RB2, and RB16 in those years, respectively, while never getting fewer than 249 carries and 49 targets.

Mattison is often put at the same level as Tony Pollard--who also has Ezekiel Elliott above him in the Cowboys pecking order--as the go-to backup rusher to draft. The thing is, Mattison has completed three seasons (13, 13, and 16 games played) in which he's never topped an RB39 finish nor averaged more than 7.9 PPR points per game. Not so good-looking for a guy often drafted among the top-50 RBs off the board every summer, is it?

Alex can rush the rock, sure, but prior to last year, he was nearly an afterthought on pass plays (12 and 15 targets his first two seasons, 39 last year) so that's an area where he could never put up numbers. His rushing has not been bad (434+ rushing yards three years in a row) but his scoring is mediocre (six rushing TDs in 330 career carries) and the ADP (132.4) looks a little bit higher than it should be all things considered. Cook projects to a 68%+ carry-share and a nice 11%+ target share among Vikings while Mattison sits at 18% and 5%, respectively.

More valuable RBs around his ADP: Nyheim Hines (142.8), Darrell Henderson (144.6)

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