The five worst situations for fantasy running backs

A good offensive line can turn a running back into a star, but, as Dan Schneier notes, a bad one can ruin fantasy productivity.

| 4 months ago
(Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The five worst situations for fantasy running backs

Put the best running back in the world behind an offensive line of high-schoolers in an NFL game, and that back is going to have some bad numbers. Take a high-school running back and put him behind an all-world offensive line, and he isn’t going to be good, but he’ll occasionally find a few yards.

For running backs, talent certainly matters. But opportunity, volume and supporting cast matter at least as much, and those factors can get lost in the offseason, when we spend our time dissecting a player’s individual skills.

Earlier, we looked at the top situations for running backs. Today, we’re going the other way. These are the worst situations for running backs across the league in 2016. You won’t hear about a player’s breakaway ability or elusive rating, but you will get a breakdown of the worst situations based on the blocking in front of him, and we’ll also give a brief nod to offensive scheme and game script.

1. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks top our list. Not a single starter would put up a realistic fight to start on the Cowboys’ offensive line (our top team). Over the past two offseasons, the Seahawks have gotten rid of their two best (Russell Okung, Max Unger), and they have done very little to replace them. The Seahawks have a unique way of evaluating players, and I’m sure they viewed 2016 first-round offensive tackle Germain Ifedi as the best lineman on their draft board, but he struggled according to CFF’s graders. Expecting Ifedi to immediately replace Okung’s production is a stretch.

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Dan Schneier is a staff writer for PFF Fantasy, a former FOX Sports NFL scribe, and an auction format enthusiast.

  • Darnell

    In theory it should make sense, but somehow Seattle’s running game has been upper echelon going on a few years now; and the oline has been bad just as long.

    Tom Cable coaching up a high end running game, and the oline receiving crappy PFF grades seems to have been the norm for a few years now.

    Rawls was a fantasy beast in his starts last year with an oline that was rock bottom bad with nowhere to go but up, whereas Dallas runners didn’t provide much of anything.

    So what is being posited in this article does and should make sense, Seattle runners appear to be immune. In large part due to Wilson – who will get into the redzone and therefore get TD opportunities for his RBs, and help the RBs by being a threat to keep it himself.

    • Dan Schneier

      Thanks for reading Darnell. RW’s presence (and the zone read) certainly play a major factor here. We saw something similar with RG3 in his rookie year, Alfred Morris, and a struggling OL (minus Trent). Having said that, I think SEA’s OL issues have NEVER been as bad. Two seasons ago, they had Max Unger (when healthy). Last season, the had Okung (when healthy). Neither player is there anymore. They will have 2-3 new starters this year. No continuity. At some point, Cable’s magic will wear off. Imagine if this OL gets hit with injuries too?

      • Darnell

        Very good points.

        Yes, the Tom Cable run game touch could wear off at any moment, but the track record suggests otherwise. This team has gotten starts from the likes of Alvin Bailey, Paul McQuistan, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Patrick Lewis, and Michael Bowie; and still productively ran the ball. A lot of that was Lynch, but this site has exalted Rawls similar ability to make something out of nothing. This a system that got 1000 yds from Justin Fargas; and a 100 yd game at 6ypc out of Christine Michael last season.

        Though I am admittedly and optimistically thinking that last season was rock bottom, I can still see this being a top 5 run game (and for fantasy purposes – TDs to be had for the RBs). Seattle appears to be a case where a productive running game exists independently from poor individual PFF grades. Just as there doesn’t appear to be a correlation between strong oline grades and qb health (Romo, Dalton), this could be an inverse situation.

        • Dan Schneier

          Those are all good points. Just thinking about Bailey made my head spin haha. I will say this — Rawls showed similar ability on a much smaller sample size than Lynch. He also wasn’t quite as productive (independent of his blocking) as Lynch (most elusive back over the past two seasons on a per touch basis).

  • David Stinnett

    Cable always makes sure SEA can rush. They will get as many or more rushing yards than last year, but fantasy outlook is down due to possible committee