Bust to lust – Running Backs

Bust to Lust is back for its second season. In this series, I will be looking at the positions of Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver and Tight End.

As the title suggests it’s all about players that had a bust season in 2020 that have the potential for us to lust for in 2021.

For the second part of the series, I’ve looked at the Running Back position.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals had the rug pulled from under them last season. They had the boy wonder Burrow drafted 1st overall and he was looking like he had the potential to be the player everyone hoped he would be. Then boom, week 11 comes along and decides to mess with Burrow’s knee.

Before that happened though, Mixon had already been lost for the season. A niggling foot injury stopped him in his tracks after week 6, making Mixon miss the remaining 10 games of the season. No surgery was needed in the end so Mixon should be ready to roll when training camp starts.

Looking Back

Mixon has been in the league for 4 seasons now. Last season with only 6 games to his name, Mixon didn’t quite get the hat trick of 1000 yard games in a row. Instead, it was a 428 yard season with 3 TD’s averaging 3.6 yards per attempt. Not quite the season anyone was hoping for.

2018 and 2019 were solid seasons, so we know he has it in him. Both seasons saw Mixon go over 1100 rushing yards and averaging over 4 yards a carry in both seasons, one of those was actually at 4.93 yards per carry. These stats helped Mixon finish as the 10th RB in 2018 and 13th in 2019.

Pushing forward

The Bengals are putting together a team around their franchise Quarterback. They have put together a strong Wide Receiver core, drafting star wideout Ja’Marr Chase this year who joins Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.

Why do Wide Receivers get mentioned when this article is all about the Running Back. Well, a balanced offence should produce a good offence. Whilst the Wide Receivers are stretching the Defense, the Running Back should have more room to manoeuvre.

You just need to look at last season and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They had multiple weapons at Wide Receiver but had no run game and they soon got found out as their offence collapsed at the most crucial time of the season. The same goes when you have the opposite working for you.

A solid run game can only get you so far if the Defense stacks the box and stuffs the run all the time. You need both a solid run game and good receiving options to open up the play and get that advantage. This is why I see Mixon potentially having his strongest season yet with how things are lining up in Cincinnati.

ADP for 2021

In half point PPR leagues, Mixon’s ADP right now is a 3 round pick. Around the 27th pick off the board and going as the RB16. Injury expectations have Mixon in a good place for a value pick. He’s a good 3 down back that will get most of the work as there isn’t a lot to challenge him on the depth chart. If you are looking for that RB1 upside but find yourself scrambling to find one in the 3rd round then Mixon could be great value for you.

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Technically Zeke finished the season just outside the top 10 as the 11th highest scoring Running Back, so some might argue that he shouldn’t be in an article for bust to lust. However last draft season, Zeke was being picked up as the 3rd/4th player off the board so you would hope to be getting at least a top 5 return for him.

Once Dak went, so did Zeke’s production and snap count. In fact, pretty much every stat was reduced this season for Zeke. In 2018 and 2019 Zeke rushed for 1434 yards and 1357 yards whereas, in 2020, Zeke only had 979 yards. His yards before contact were reduced, His yards after contact per attempt were reduced and he only got half the rushing TD’s of the season before.

Dak was injured in week 5 and for the first 5 games of the season when Dak was playing, Zeke had double figure fantasy points in all 5 games. As soon as dak was out, Zeke only managed 4 double figure fantasy point games in the remaining 11 games of the season. Not only did his scores reduce but so did the touchdowns. In those 5 games with Dak, Zeke scored 5 of his 6 TD’s and scored his 6th in the last game of the season against the Giants.

Dak is back!

This offseason Dak is healing and word has it that he should be good to go for the start of training camp. Fantastic news for Cowboy fans and Fantasy owners of Dak but in this circumstance, this is fantastic news for fantasy owners of Zeke.

I Spoke about Zeke’s snap count reducing without Dak. in the first 5 games, Zeke was averaging snap counts in the 80% range. Without Dak for the rest of the season, that percentage dropped into the 60’s. Quite a big drop off for a player that was drafted in fantasy for the workhorse role and the expected high volume of work. With Dak back this should return to its normally high percentage in the 80’s and 90’s.

ADP for 2021

His value hasn’t changed all that much from the 2020 season. Right now Zeke is still in the first round but has fallen to around the 1.07/1.08 pick. Which also means he’s coming off the board as the 7th/8th Running Back. With his usage due to pick back up again with Dak back in the side, getting Zeke here could be a good value. With his potential to be back in the top 5 of fantasy Running Backs.

Damien Williams, Chicago Bears

Now, this is definitely more of a spicy take but this is the NFL and anything can happen. I feel Williams could end up being more of a feature in this Bears backfield than a lot of people think.

The last game Williams played in was the 2019 Super Bowl where he scored two TD’s and was in the mix for MVP. Fast forward a year and Williams is sitting at home not playing for his team in the Super Bowl. He opted out of the season due to covid.

Williams is now looking at a fresh opportunity in Chicago after signing with the Bears this offseason. Unfortunately, he does have more competition than he had in 2019. But I feel Williams has the potential to make his name and presence felt in that backfield.

For now, the Bears will probably have Williams in mind for backup duties, trick plays and a change of pace. Montgomery has the lead role and right now Williams is most likely battling Tarik Cohen for the extra touches.

Old faces reunited

What we need to remember is, Williams isn’t starting fresh in a new system. He will be reuniting with coaches he’s already been involved with. Head Coach Matt Nagy was the Offensive Coordinator at the Chiefs with Williams before he was given the Bears HC job.

Not only that but the Bears offensive coordinator is Bill Lazor. He was the Dolphins Offensive coordinator for Williams’ first two seasons in 2014 and 2015. Having both these coaches in place gives Williams a boost heading into a new team.

Current ADP

When it comes to draft night it will be a late round flyer that you will be spending on Williams. Right now he can be taken as the 159th player off the board which also makes Williams the RB52.

At the moment, David Montgomery is coming off the board as the 37th overall player and the Running Back 20. Granted it’s an if, but if Montgomery goes down injured, Williams is a better option to take that lead role after showing it in those finial games for Kansas

Handing Williams a bigger workload especially inside a good offensive scheme will obviously automatically boost his value after taking him so low in the draft.

That’s it Rush Nation, my Bust to Lust at the Running Back position.

Next up is the Tight End position.
Until then, keep Rushing.

Pittsy – @PittsyNFL

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