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Running Back Fantasy Football Fallers - Yardage Regression Candidates

Kenneth Walker III - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Oftentimes, fantasy football managers weigh a player's fantasy value based on their performance from the previous season. For the most part, this is the correct strategy, as history tends to repeat itself. However, there are certain players whose most recent season is not the best representation of what they will offer in the upcoming season.

There is no shortage of running back candidates who are likely to have fewer yards in the upcoming 2023 season. Last season, Tyler Allgeier, Devin Singletary, D'Onta Foreman, and Leonard Fournette all had stretches where they operated as their team’s workhorse running back. However, due to various offseason circumstances, these players are all obvious choices for regression in terms of both their yardage and their number of touches.

In this article, we’ll shift our focus to a few less obvious players who are also poised for regression in 2023. If you're looking to purchase one of our fantasy football Premium Packages, be sure to use the discount code BOOM for 10% off.

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Risers and Fallers - Regression Candidates Series

Here, you can find the rest of the Positive and Negative Regression Candidates series:


Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks

Kenneth Walker had an amazing rookie season that prompted a second-place finish in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting. Although he began the season as a backup to Rashaad Penny, Walker proved himself more than capable of carrying the load after Penny suffered a broken leg in Week 5, sidelining him for the rest of the season.

Walker finished his inaugural season with 255 total touches for 1,215 scrimmage yards. 27 of those touches came via receptions, which resulted in 165 receiving yards. However, fantasy managers should be prepared for a decline in production in his second season.

In Weeks 1–5, Walker averaged 5.8 carries per game, which accounted for just 25.8% of the team’s total attempts. He averaged 36.5 yards per game and was the clear No. 2 back behind Penny. Additionally, he had an average of 1.8 targets, 1.5 receptions, and 3.5 receiving yards per game. But once Penny went down, everything changed for Walker.

He stepped into a workhorse role that few other running backs in the NFL could rival. He finished the season with 20.2 carries per game, which was the third-highest in the league. The Seahawks gave him 74.0% of their team’s carries, which was also the third-highest percentage in the NFL. However, fantasy managers shouldn't expect this level of usage to carry over to 2023, due to the Seahawks selecting Zach Charbonnet in the 2023 draft.

Make no mistake, Walker will still be the lead back for the Seahawks. However, it’s unlikely that his production will look the same as it did in Weeks 6–18 when he averaged 101.9 scrimmage yards per game.

In his last two seasons at UCLA, Charbonnet had 398 rushing attempts, finishing with 2,496 rushing yards and an impressive 6.2 yards per carry average. It’s a virtual guarantee that he’s going to get more carries than the combination of DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer.

The one area where Charbonnet is sure to hurt Walker is in the passing game. In his final two collegiate seasons, Charbonnet hauled in 61 receptions on 69 targets for 518 yards. His 14.5% target share during his senior season was in the 92nd percentile for running backs. On the other hand, Walker has accumulated 60 targets, 45 receptions, and 294 yards in his collegiate (three seasons) and NFL career combined.

There’s a good chance that Charbonnet operates as the team’s third-down and pass-catching back in addition to being a change-of-pace option behind Walker. The fact that Charbonnet is significantly better than Homer and Dallas means fantasy managers should expect Walker’s overall touches and yards to decrease this season. All of that makes Walker a prime regression candidate for the upcoming season.


Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., Miami Dolphins

Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel has embraced the running back by committee approach, adopting this philosophy from his time with the San Francisco 49ers. McDaniel has taken the committee model to the extreme in his first two seasons in Miami and it was successful in the first go around. He signed Raheem Mostert prior to the 2022 season and ended up trading for Jeff Wilson Jr. after Chase Edmonds wildly disappointed.

Wilson, between his time in San Francisco and Miami, and Mostert combined for 410 total touches and 2,138 scrimmage yards last season. All in all, pretty successful seasons for both players and a lot of bang for Miami’s buck.

Following Wilson's trade to Miami, the team relied heavily on him and Mostert, splitting the workload right down the middle. They combined for an average of 20.5 carries per game, which accounted for 92.2% of the team’s rushing attempts. Together, they averaged 104 rushing yards per game.

The duo was limited in the passing game with an average of 6.0 targets, 3.5 receptions, and 25 receiving yards per contest. If we consider only their time together in Miami, they were on pace for 411 touches and 2,190 scrimmage yards over 17 games.

The problem comes from the fact that the Dolphins' two-way committee could very well turn into a three-way committee. The team selected De'Von Achane in the third round of the NFL Draft out of Texas A&M, where he was extremely effective. Between the 2021 and 2022 seasons, Achane had 326 carries for 1,985 yards, which is a 6.1 yards per carry average. Additionally, he chipped in 60 receptions on 73 targets for 457 receiving yards. He finished his final collegiate season with a 14.7% target share, which placed him in the 93rd percentile, according to PlayerProfiler.

His college dominator rating of 40.0% also placed him in the 90th percentile. This is a really good football player but he has faced some concerns about his size as he weighed in at just 188 pounds at the combine. However, it’s important to remember that he ran track in College Station, which limited his ability to add mass prior to the combine. Recent rumors suggest that Achane has already increased his weight to 192 pounds.

McDaniel will have a plan for the speedy back, who ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine. Achane very well could become the team’s top pass-catching option out of the backfield. Every touch that the rookie earns is going to take away from Mostert and Wilson. It’s not out of the question that Achane ends up leading this three-way committee by season’s end, which could make one of these veteran backs an afterthought.


Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

Aaron Jones had a bit of a “turn back the clock” season in 2022. He had an impressive year, recording 212 carries. This was his highest total since 2019, accumulating 1,121 rushing yards. It marked a career-high for him, which is fairly rare considering that he turned 28 years old last December.

Additionally, he achieved career highs in targets and receptions while logging the most receiving yards since 2019. However, with Jones entering his seventh season in the NFL and the departure of Aaron Rodgers from the Packers, it’s plenty fair to expect him to experience some regression.

During Rodgers’ tenure with the Packers, he targeted running backs on 20% of his passes, which is above the league average. If the new quarterback, Jordan Love, is more willing to run or take more deep shots downfield, it could result in a decrease in the running back target share that has been so favorable for Jones. This would have a negative impact on Jones as AJ Dillon is not utilized as frequently in the passing game.

It’s also possible that head coach Matt LaFleur chooses to implement a more run-heavy approach to take the pressure off his first-time starting quarterback. If this plan indeed comes to pass, it's possible the Packers may rely more on AJ Dillon, who is younger and much bigger than Jones, to handle a more run-centric offensive approach.

The 2022 Packers offense mostly finished as a league-average unit across the board last season. Outside of the running backs, the Packers’ skill players are extremely young. Wide receivers Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson, both entering their second seasons, faced injury setbacks last year, which limited their playing time.

Additionally, rookies Jayden Reed, Luke Musgrave, and Tucker Kraft are set to play significant roles. Considering the team's youth and inexperience, expecting the offense to perform at a league-average level is quite optimistic.

There are going to be a lot of growing pains with this offense and some bad weeks in the box score. Jones' efficiency metrics are going to decrease along with the offense's effectiveness.


Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

Including Derrick Henry on this list of potential regression candidates is not a decision that I take very lightly. However, there are reasons that suggest possible significant regression is coming for the bruising back. Per the table below, fantasy managers can clearly see a decline in Henry's play over the last two seasons.

Year YPC Broken Tackle Rate YAC/Attempt
Breakaway Run Rate
2018-2020 5.16 10.8% 3.01 4.91%
2021-2022 4.35 7.9% 2.26 4.04%

Make no mistake, that doesn’t mean Henry isn’t still a very good or even elite player. It just means that he had reached a near god-like level in terms of running the football and that he is starting to slow down a bit. He’s begun to show his own mortality over the last two seasons but this shouldn’t come as a surprise as it happens to every athlete. It’s why they say Father Time is undefeated and Henry is 29 years old.

Typically, once a running back's efficiency numbers start to slip, they tend to follow a downward trajectory. The table above shows a fairly sizable decrease in some categories that are sure to start affecting Henry's bottom line. Given the current state of the Titans' offensive line, Henry's decline could continue. PFF ranked the Titans’ offensive line as the absolute worst unit in all of football last season. In their yearly write-up, PFF stated:

“Tennessee’s line ranks dead last in PFF pass-blocking efficiency over the season (81.3), surrendering 172 pressures on 531 pass-blocking snaps. The Titans finished third worst in the league at generating yards before contact in the run game, averaging just 1.0 yards on the year.”

This season, the team will have three new starters on the offensive line, including rookie Peter Skoronski. The other two starters are veterans Andre Dillard and Daniel Brunskill, who were acquired through free agency. Neither player has recorded a season with a PFF run-blocking grade above 66. Collectively, they have a combined total of seven seasons of experience.

Pro Football Network and The Game Day both rank the Titans' offensive line 32nd while FTN Fantasy has them ranked 27th. This is an awful unit that is not going to give Henry much help at all.

The Titans' starting receivers are Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Kyle Philips, and Chigoziem Okonkwo. Those four players have combined for just 228 targets, 139 receptions, and 1,878 yards for their entire careers. None of them have ever surpassed 40 receptions or 500 yards in a season. Granted they're all very young players, it makes the last few stats somewhat unfair. But where is your focus going to be if you're a defensive coordinator?

There’s certainly the argument that the focus has always been on Henry and you’d be correct. However, in previous seasons, they could threaten to pass with the likes of Corey Davis and A.J. Brown. Well, those players are gone and Henry is going to be looking at an awful lot of stacked boxes while running behind a terrible offensive line. It could be a long season in Tennessee.

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