Fantasy Football Quarantine Check-In: Running Backs Edition

NFL Running Backs

We have no idea what will actually happen come September, but in the classically delusional world of the NFL, the 2020-2021 schedules have been released! In doing so, the fantasy football world rejoiced and began the early rankings of players based on offseason movement, the draft, and now the schedule. The potentially fan-less season is months away, but even more so, we have no idea whether training camps will start, which can cause trouble for those big splash new additions to teams that need to learn the playbook. So how can we begin preparing to avenge our fantasy football performance of 2019? This offseason has been an interesting one for the running back market that saw some big names move to new teams, so let’s take a look at some early thoughts on who to draft/stash/or run away from fast (yes, I was proud of that forced rhyme).

We will ignore the obvious that is Christian McCaffrey is the universal #1 pick, Dalvin Cook is still good, Ezekiel Elliot is still a Cowboy, and Derrick Henry is a monster. The latest news to break was old man Frank Gore signing with the Jets. Now, at one time not too long ago, the Eagles had Frank Gore in their grasp and for maybe 36 hours he was set to be an Eagle until he balked and ditched us for the Colts. In Philadelphia, we never forget:

To this day, it remains one of the weirdest free agency stories we’ve had; however, Gore joining Le’Veon Bell in NY isn’t great for either of their fantasy values especially when head coach Adam Gase made it a point to lighten Bell’s workload in 2020. Look for Bell as the 20th RB taken or even later after a disappointing 2019 paired with Gore news. 

In Arizona, Kenyan Drake will be the man next to Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins (typing that sounds extremely scary). Entering his first full season in Arizona under head coach Kliff Kingsbury, Drake is projected to be a top 20 overall pick, ranking well ahead of his former teammate and fantasy season ruin-er, David Johnson. Johnson was famously traded to the Houston Texans this offseason for Hopkins, and I for one would not feel comfortable taking Johnson anywhere near my top selections, despite many, like Matthew Berry, being high on him for 2020.

Austin Ekeler was a STEAL for anyone that had him last season after Melvin Gordon held out and ended up leaving anyway and making less money than he was originally offered (but do you). Ekeler not only becomes the RB1 for the Chargers, but he is a great pass catcher for those in PPR leagues.

Speaking of Miles Sanders, the Eagles are currently looking to add a veteran running back, but regardless, you must like his upside in the 3rd round and above. If the Eagles do add a back like Carlos Hyde or Devonta Freeman, expect to see some sniping of valuable fantasy TDs by the old heads.

Melvin Gordon found his way to Denver where he will share the ball with a talented scorer in Philip Lindsay. The Broncos brought in Pat Shurmur to coach QB Drew Lock and improve the offense, both of which should help Gordon. I’ve seen Gordon ranked as high as RB17 and as low as RB33 on different rankings list (broad range when considering his PPR value), so do what you will with that. Gordon was an explosive player when the Chargers were still in San Diego, and I wouldn’t discount the revenge factor, he will be out to prove people wrong.

Is a change of scenery what the doctor ordered for Todd Gurley’s knees? I’m not optimistic as a member of the “I’ve been burned by Gurley” fan club, but many fantasy “experts” think he is due for a good season.

There is inherent risk in drafting a highly touted rookie, especially when the Super Bowl-winning team already has a pretty good running back in Damien Williams, but if you’ve watched enough Chief’s high-flying fast paced football then you know Clyde Edwards-Helaire could have some serious impact in KC. The advice here, do not reach for CEH, but keep an eye out for him in the later rounds…

Then we have our safer running backs, returning to their teams where they are the clear bell cow: Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones, Saquon Barkley, Mark Ingram, James Conner, and Chris Carson. Not all these backs are created equal (obviously Barkley and Jones are top tier backs to be taken in round 1 if available), but all will get a large share of their team’s snaps meaning more chances to score points. Conner is coming off a season plagued by injuries, but we still feel they bring plenty of value as RB2s. As for Carson, aside from injuries, there have been some rumblings that beast mode (Marshawn Lynch) may once again return to Seattle…One name left off that list is Alvin Kamara. He is still the top back in New Orleans but after an extremely disappointing season where he was a top 5 pick across many leagues, how can we trust he will return to form? Take the leap my friends, the Saints have only gotten stronger.

We could talk running backs all day, but as a first pass through, we feel good about the top of the draft and some late round hidden gems. This check-in is merely a guide to help you dig through the various rankings lists with some knowledge about the state of the teams/players around them so YOU can choose to ignore or agree with the experts.


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