by Michael Nazarek/John Holler
Note: Below you will find a portion of our Fantasy Football Runningback
Rankings Analysis & Drafting Tips for 2020. If you'd
like to read all RB rankings analysis, please click HERE
to order our 2020 Pre-Season Draft Guide.
POSITION ANALYSIS - The running back position continues to show all the signals of being a dying breed, but at fantasy auctions and draft, the scarcity of elite talent continues to make it the most coveted prize in fantasy auctions and drafts. The "can’t miss" prospects at running back are few and far between, which is why when someone establishes himself as at the top of the running back profession, they command the top picks in drafts and the most money in auctions. There are two schools of thought at running back when it comes to drafting. Either you invest heavily in one guy and augment him with a backup band or you double-up on players and take risks that the guys you bring onto your roster are going to emerge. Fantasy teams have been hamstrung by a holdout of a player like LeVeon Bell or an injury to a player expected to be the franchise flag-bearer. There is no right answer to which method works best. Often times, it’s riding the wave and hoping it doesn’t crash.
RB Draft Tips- Found exclusively in the Guide.
THE MASTERMIND'S BEST BET:Found exclusively in the Guide.
The following rankings are based upon PPR (point-per-reception) leagues!
1ST TIER (THE ELITE STUD RB)
1) Christian McCaffrey, CAR – No running back in the league is used quite the way McCaffrey is. As a rookie in 2017, he made a big splash in PPR leagues despite having just 117 carries for 435 yards and two touchdowns. He made up for it with 80 catches for 651 yards and five TDs. However, he was just teasing what he was capable of. It was his receiving acumen that got him drafted early in 2018 and he responded, rushing 219 times for 1,098 yards and catching 107 passes for 867 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. In many leagues, he was viewed as the No. 1 overall pick in 2019 drafts and he let nobody down, setting career highs with 287 rushes for 1,387 yards, catching 116 passes for 1,005 yards and scored 19 touchdowns. There are some who are concerned historically about players who have 400 touches in a season and what comes after that, but McCaffrey has yet to miss a game and has earned the distinction of being the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s drafts/auctions. STAT FACT: In his last 24 games, McCaffrey has scored 24 touchdowns – 18 in 13 home games and six in 11 road games.
2ND TIER (VERY CLOSE TO ELITE STUD RB STATUS)
2) Ezekiel Elliott, DAL – Elliott is about as consistent a back as the league has right now. Despite only playing all 16 games just once, he has had more than 300 carries in three season, more than 1,350 rushing yards three times and 14 or more touchdowns twice. The only season he didn’t hit those lofty marks when when he played 10 games in 2017 while sitting out a suspension. However, if his numbers were pro-rated to 16 games, he would have had 387 carries for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns and 42 receptions for 430 yards and three TDs. The Cowboys have become much more of a passing team, but that shouldn’t diminish Elliott’s usage. The Cowboys have a history of leaning heavily on their running backs to get their money’s worth out of their contract and 300 rushes, 1,400 yards and double-digit touchdowns should be considered the bar that he shoots for…and likely surpass. STAT FACT: In his first two seasons, Elliott wasn’t much of a receiver catching 58 passes for 632 yards and three touchdowns in 25 games – an average of 2.3 receptions and 25.3 yards a game. Over his last two seasons, he has caught 131 passes for 987 yards and five touchdowns in 31 games – an average of 4.2 amd 31.8 yards a game – adding to his fantasy cache.
3) Saquon Barkley, NYG – He didn’t look like his former self when he returned from injury last year, but Barkley has the opportunity to be the No. 1 fantasy back in the game this year. As a rookie in 2018, he took the fantasy world by storm, rushing for 1,307 yards, catching 91 passes for 721 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns. In many formats, he was the No. 1 or 2 pick in drafts and auctions and bigger things were expected from him. However, a high ankle sprain cut his season down to 13 games. He still posted solid numbers (217-1,003-6 rushing, 52-438-2 receiving), but both were a big step backward from his amazing rookie season. He remains the focal point of the Giants offense, especially with a young quarterback at the wheel, and can be a three-down back for long stretches of games. We have him ranked third, but, if he stays healthy, he has the ability to be the No. 1 RB again as he was as a rookie. STAT FACT: In the first 18 games he played prior to his ankle sprain, Barkley rushed for more than 100 yards nine times. In the 10 games he played after returning from the injury, he topped 100 yards just twice.
4) Dalvin Cook, MIN – When Minnesota drafted Cook in 2017, the Vikings were a team that passed a lot in the aftermath of the Adrian Peterson era. However, injuries crippled his career. In his first two seasons, he missed more games (17) than he played (15). He was productive when he played – averaging 4.7 yards a carry and more than four receptions a game. But, the problem was missed time. Fantasy owners where a little skittish about investing too heavily in Cook, but all the signs were there. Minnesota brought in Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison, known for a zone blocking scheme in which running backs who hit the hole hard and have to speed to get the edge with blockers in front of him, Cook thrived. He finished the season playing 14 games and rushing for 1,135 yards, caught 53 passes for 519 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Injuries are going to always be a red flag because of his history (19 missed games of 48 possible), but, with Stefon Diggs gone, Minnesota is going to lean on Cook as heavily as just about any team and it’s up to him to earn his second contract, whether with Minnesota or someone else. STAT FACT: Despite not scoring a receiver touchdown, of the 15 games Cook played in 2019, he scored a touchdown in 12 of them.
5) Derrick Henry, TEN – There are two schools of thought on Henry. In PPR leagues, his numbers take a hit because he has averaged less than one reception a game for his career (57 in 62 games) and it has been consistent throughout his career – his career high for receptions came last year with 18 in 15 games. What puts him here is his ability to take fantasy owners to the pay window with his dominant rushing style. After two decent, but unspectacular seasons in a time share, the Titans finally took the blinders off and let him roll. In 2018, he was given an opportunity and rushed 215 times for 1,540 yards and 12 touchdowns. Established as a go-to guy, he had a career year in 2019, rushing 303 times for 1,540 yards and scored 18 total touchdowns. Henry signed a one-year, $10.2 million franchise tag and you can bet the Titans are going to pound him early and often to get their money’s worth. He isn’t a receiving threat, but, when you post the kind of weekly numbers he has, you don’t worry as much about it. STAT FACT: In the first 43 games of his NFL career, Henry rushed 414 times for 1,809 yards and 15 touchdowns. In his last 19 games, he has rushed 390 times for 2,024 yards and 23 touchdowns.
3RD TIER (SOLID #1 FANTASY RBs)
If you'd like to read all RB rankings analysis, please click HERE to order our 2020 Pre-Season Draft Guide.
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Sunday, September 13th, 2020
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