Welcome back RotoBallers! Below you will find our staff's updated 2020 fantasy football rookie running back rankings. These rankings are being released after the 2020 NFL Draft, but things will of course change as we get closer to the NFL season. Those of you who are regular RotoBaller readers have likely already seen our updated overall fantasy football rookie rankings, released the morning after the draft. Now it's time to break those down in detail, going position by position with some tiered rankings analysis.
The RotoBaller crew has been busy fine-tuning all fantasy football rankings in the hours immediately following the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft. The first task was to focus on the recently-selected prospects in order to prepare dynasty owners for upcoming rookie drafts. Analysts Brandon Murchison, Phil Clark, and Pierre Camus have put together their early consensus running back rookie rankings for our loyal readers to use to their advantage.
Running back is always a focal point of any fantasy team. It's harder than ever to know which RB to trust, as so many teams rotate backs and rely on multiple players for production. As always, we take a forward-looking approach with our evaluations. These are subject to change as things unfold over the offseason, but for now here is a first look at our running back rankings for the 2020 rookie draft class.Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Exclusive access to our Premium articles, rankings, projections, 15 lineup tools and daily Premium DFS research/tools including our Lineup Optimizer, Research Station and so much more! Sign Up Now!
NFL RB Rookie Rankings for Fantasy Football (Post-Draft)
|4||24||Anthony McFarland Jr.||PIT||27||22||27|
|8||69||Michael Warren II||PHI||#N/A||76||56|
Tier 1 - RB Rookie Rankings
Dynasty owners seem to have immediately decided that Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the top running back in rookie drafts, with many viewing him as the 1.01. I definitely view him as a top-five rookie for 2020 and there's no doubt that landing in KC was great for a pass-catching back like him. There is a ceiling on his production though, as the rushing volume won't be there even if he does claim the lion's share of carries and make Damien Williams expendable.
The path toward a 1,000-yard rushing season would be a tough one for him initially in such a pass-oriented offense. His role as a receiver gives him fantasy RB2 potential though. You can read my full take on Clyde Edwards-Helaire and whether he is indeed the next Brian Westbrook right here.
Unpopular opinion #1 - Jonathan Taylor isn't the top rookie or the top running back in this draft class. He isn't necessarily going to step in and take 80% of the carries while Marlon Mack is relegated to the bench. Not that Mack is so spectacular (otherwise they wouldn't have drafted Taylor) but he did average 4.7 and 4.4 yards per carry the past two years. Taylor was a second-round pick, not a first. Simply put, the Colts will do what nearly every NFL team does - use a committee.
One knock on Taylor, aside from the heavy usage in college which I am not concerned with, is that he isn't much of a receiver. That leaves him with a lower ceiling, as Nyheim Hines will also have a role. All told, the best-case scenario could be a 60-25-15 split in touches, with a more realistic scenario being one where Taylor and Mack split carries for much of the season. Don't get me wrong, he could develop into a fantasy RB1 but we can't let his 4.4 time at the combine overshadow the questions in his profile.
Unpopular opinion #2 - Cam Akers is my top rookie RB. I understand that the Rams' offensive line took a huge step back, grading out as PFF's 31st-ranked unit in 2019. As you may know, Akers ran behind one of the worst offensive lines in college throughout his career, so if anything he'll see this as an upgrade. He has the right combination of toughness and speed to make plays on his own without relying on gaping holes up front. He also has little competition for the starting role, as Darrell Henderson did nothing last year and won't be more than a change-of-pace back. I can't say the same about Taylor on any of these counts.
Tier 2 - RB Rookie Rankings
D'Andre Swift stands alone in the second tier and that's all because of my less-than-generous ranking. Therefore, justification is required.
Unpopular opinion #3 - Swift will not be a weekly starter for fantasy teams in 2020. I like Swift and had him as my RB2 in this rookie class before the NFL Draft. He should be in the top tier based on his ability. Landing spot and opportunity usually overshadow ability in the NFL, however, and Swift went to the worst possible spot. I'm not just blaming the ghosts of Ameer Abdullah and Jahvid Best either.
The Lions already had a capable running back in Kerryon Johnson, who coach Matt Patricia seems to hate for no particular reason. Johnson won't simply disappear, so this is likely to be a committee situation off the bat, much like Taylor in Indy. Swift will be limited by the competition but also the lack of rushing opportunities in general by this offense.
Detroit had a relatively balanced run/pass split in 2019, mostly out of necessity. Swift supporters and Lions fans may argue that Matthew Stafford missing half the season altered the season and limited everything offensively. This is certainly true, but why would Stafford returning create a bigger emphasis on the running game? If anything, the Lions may lean on their franchise QB as they usually do.
The defense also carries much of the blame for lack of rushing opportunities, as they ranked 26th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed. Generally speaking, the worse the defense, the less the offense can establish the run. The selection of Jeff Okudah and Julian Okwara will help, but they won't suddenly be a top-10 defense. Unless Okwara can be an instant impact player, they have no viable pass-rusher other than Trey Flowers. As good as Swift may be, the volume just won't be there, leading him to be overdrafted based on his college career.
Tier 3 - RB Rookie Rankings
I thought I might be higher on Moss than most, but that didn't turn out to be the case. Moss didn't wow with his combine numbers, but NFL front offices don't care about that nearly as much as football fans and pundits. He steps into Frank Gore's spot in Buffalo and it's already been reported that he will have a similar role as the 1B to Devin Singletary. Gore saw 166 rush attempts last year and that's a fair estimate for Moss.
Unpopular opinion #4 - A.J. Dillon and Ke'Shawn Vaughn will be massively overvalued in dynasty. I like Vaughn as a player, but the Tampa Bay offense isn't geared toward the running game. Things will shift slightly with Tom Brady under center as opposed to Jameis Winston, but this is still a Bruce Arians offense. He just doesn't care that much about the running back position. He could carry weekly value if he outperforms Ronald Jones significantly, but that's an assumption we're making based on hope more than anything. Premium subscribers can read a more detailed evaluation and see where I have his rookie draft position in my one-man rookie mock article.
Dillon is another beneficiary of recency bias and combine stats. He's big and runs fast, granted. That doesn't always lead to production, however. Former BC alum Andre Williams was seen in a similar vein after he had a productive college career and ran a 4.56 40. He was last seen in the XFL. For some reason, Jamaal Williams gets constantly disrespected by the fantasy community, so the idea that someone can step in to replace him is appealing. Dillon isn't a shoo-in to do so and not worth a selection in the first two rounds.
Tier 4 - RB Rookie Rankings
We can see a path to production for Joshua Kelley, if he can just beat out Justin Jackson to be the RB2 in L.A. Likewise, Anthony McFarland doesn't stand out in any particular area, but with only injury-prone James Conner and plodding Benny Snell ahead of him in Pittsburgh, he could earn carries. The player I'm keeping a closer eye on is Darrynton Evans.
You'd think landing on a team that features the leading rusher in the NFL, Derrick Henry, who also led the league with 303 carries and a 69% team share would be a bad thing. It would definitely take an injury to make Evans start-worthy, but if that happens then he would be the hottest pickup of the year. Dion Lewis is gone and there is nobody else I could even name in the Titans' backfield (David Fluellen?). The Titans had a top-10 offensive line last year and added Isaiah Wilson in the first round to address a weakness on the right side. Evans might do absolutely nothing in 2020, but he's a stash I'm happy to have on my roster.
Tier 5 and Lower - RB Rookie Rankings
Lamical Perine has seen his stock rise after falling to the Jets. I'd like to see an Adam Gase offense do something... anything to prove that a running back can thrive under him. In the last three years as head coach of the Dolphins and Jets, his offenses have ranked 29th, 18th, and 31st in rushing yardage and in the bottom-three in rushing touchdowns each time. The one time he had a fantasy stud at RB was Jay Ajayi as a rookie coach in 2016. We know how that turned out, with Ajayi inexplicably being traded midway through the following season.
As a lifelong Miami fan, I'd love to say that DeeJay Dallas could do something at the pro level. He probably won't though, as nothing more than a solid but unexciting third running back who is adept at helping out in the passing game.
Don't count on any undrafted free agent pulling a Phillip Lindsay and becoming an absolute steal at the end of rookie drafts. If I'm taking a chance on any of them, it would one of Michael Warren II, Tavien Feaster, or Scottie Phillips.
As a tough runner, some feel that former Cincy Bearcast Michael Warren II could find a short-yardage role in Philly. The upside is limited, but at this point you're simply hoping for someone who can see touches.
It looks like the Jags may not find a trade partner for Leonard Fournette, but it would be a shock if he's still on the roster in 2021. Given his injury history, Feaster could make a dent in a relatively shallow backfield if he can leapfrog Ryquell Armstead on the depth chart.
If you are among the many who think David Johnson's best days are behind him, Phillips could be an interesting flier. Bill O'Brien killed our vibes on Karan Higdon last year and we know Johnson will be run into the ground until he breaks down, so it would take an injury to make Phillips relevant. That isn't so far-fetched if you watched DJ last year, though.
More NFL Draft and Fantasy Football Rookies
Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.