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Sophomore Running Backs Set to Bust Again In Fantasy Football

Michael Carter - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Out of every NFL skill position, running back is the one that worries me the most when it comes to rookies who don't produce. Because of the short shelf life of NFL running backs, seeing a rookie do nothing is worrisome because most running backs don't have a lot of time ahead of them in the NFL.

Below, you'll find my picks for some second-year running backs who disappointed last year and now look set to disappoint again this year.

(Note: only running backs who were drafted will appear below, and this definitely isn't everyone who could be on this list. Jermar Jefferson, Larry Rountree III, and Jake Funk are all guys who could have been here too. So is Gary Brightwell. And Kylin Hill. But I didn't want to write forever. Chuba Hubbard isn't here because he's at least closer to having solid value than these guys are, as he would just need a Christian McCaffrey injury, which is something that seems to regularly happen).

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!

 

Michael Carter - New York Jets

Of everyone in this article, Carter had the best 2021 season, carrying the ball 147 times for 639 yards and four touchdowns.

In fact, if the offseason hadn't gone the way it went, I probably would have viewed Carter as a great sleeper this year. He was solid both on the ground and in the receiving game last year, ranking eighth among running backs in yards per reception and 13th in yards per touch, per PlayerProfiler.

But then the Jets spent a second-round pick on running back Breece Hall. The Iowa State product is a much more dynamic player than Carter.

Now, we could talk all day about how using an early second on a running back was a bad move for a Jets team that had plenty of other needs, but this isn't the time/place for that. What matters here is that the Jets used an important pick on Hall. He's going to be on the field a ton, cutting greatly into Carter's upside.

 

Khalil Herbert - Chicago Bears

Herbert served as the Bears' backup running back last year, carrying the ball 103 times for 433 yards and two touchdowns.

He heads into 2022 in the same spot: backing up David Montgomery.

The Bears did change coaching staffs this offseason, so maybe backing up Montgomery becomes a better spot to be in than it was last year.

But Montgomery has averaged 276 carries and 60 targets per 17 games during his NFL career. That's a lot of volume that's gone his way.

Because of that, I'm out on Herbert as anything more than a handcuff this season. He could have some value if Montgomery went down, but even then, the team brought in free agent Darrynton Evans and drafted Trestan Ebner in the sixth round, so there's no guarantee that Herbert would step into the same kind of volume that Montgomery has.

 

Kene Nwangwu - Minnesota Vikings

I actually really like Kene Nwangwu! Watching his preseason tape, he really flashes. In the right situation, he could be pretty good.

But the Vikings are very much not in the right situation. The team has Dalvin Cook starting. It has one of the best backup running backs in the league in Alexander Mattison. That leaves Nwangwu without a lot of upside in the short term.

I think Nwangwu is really interesting in 2023 when he theoretically takes over the Mattison role on this team since Mattison will hit free agency.

But for 2022, he's third on the depth chart on a team that's unlikely to use the kind of committee approach that would allow the third running back to see consistent snaps.

So, keep an eye on Nwangwu going forward, but without two injuries ahead of him, his 2022 season is doomed to be another disappointment.

 

Trey Sermon - San Francisco 49ers

Sermon was a popular preseason sleeper last year. I know I spent way, way too much on Sermon in a dynasty auction draft.

So, what did Sermon do with his sleeper status? He stayed asleep. Sermon appeared in just nine games last year, carrying the ball 41 times for 167 yards and a touchdown. He also added three receptions.

The lack of receiving game usage is particularly concerning because the Niners have Elijah Mitchell to handle running the ball. If Sermon is going to carve out a role on this offense, he has to offer something that Mitchell doesn't.

But with Kyle Juszczyk serving as a nice safety net in the passing game, the 49ers don't necessarily need to have a halfback who does a lot of receiving, and that means if Sermon wants snaps, he needs to show he can bring something on the ground. With him behind Mitchell and likely behind Jeff Wilson Jr. for that role as well, it's hard to really see much space for Sermon to succeed.

 

Eno Benjamin - Arizona Cardinals

Benjamin was only a seventh-round pick last year for the Cardinals, but there was still some excitement about the Arizona State product, especially with the Cardinals rushing game heading into last year being in a weird place. It was unclear exactly how things would shake out there.

But James Conner ended up being better than anticipated, running for 15 touchdowns and toting the rock 202 times. Chase Edmonds added 116 carries.

Edmonds is gone now, which theoretically opens up a role for Benjamin. But in the first preseason game, with the Cardinals resting their key players, it was Benjamin who played, getting five carries, and Darrel Williams who sat. Does this mean Williams is in the driver's seat for that No. 2 back role?

Maybe. It also probably also doesn't help that Keaontay Ingram looked better than Benjamin in that preseason game.

I see why Benjamin is someone you target as a deep dart throw because the Cardinals definitely need someone to step up beside Conner, but it's tough for me to think that the guy who could also get 34 carries and seven targets as a rookie will clearly be the guy. I think we get more of a committee look behind Conner.



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