The NFL might be a quarterback-driven, pass-first league these days, but you are not going to win a fantasy football league without a decent running back corps.
Even though more NFL teams are going with a running-back-by-committee philosophy rather than relying on a running back to be a three-down workhorse, fantasy rosters have to be stocked with multiple solid rushers to have a chance of making a run for their league’s title and trophy. This is why running backs are the top four picks and make up seven of the first 10 picks overall according to RotoBaller’s updated 2020 rankings.
Here is my analysis of RotoBaller’s latest 2020 running back rankings for standard fantasy football leagues:Editor's Note: Love the strategy of season-long fantasy sports? Live for the short term gratification of DFS? Try Weekly Fantasy Sports on OwnersBox - a new weekly DFS platform. Sign up today for a FREE $50 Deposit Match. Sign Up Now!
Running Back Standard Rankings and Tiers
|Position Rank||Position Tier||Player Name||Overall Rank||Overall Tier|
|24||4||Mark Ingram II||55||5|
|33||6||Ronald Jones II||91||7|
|61||9||Benny Snell Jr.||212||12|
|64||9||Anthony McFarland Jr.||217||13|
|71||9||Lynn Bowden Jr.||243||13|
|125||13||Kerrith Whyte Jr.||446||19|
|130||13||Michael Warren II||459||19|
C-Mac was the best point producer among running backs last season thanks to topping the 1,000-yard mark in both rushing and receiving yards, racking up 116 receptions, scoring 19 touchdowns, and is the no-doubt No. 1 fantasy player overall heading into the season. If you are worried that Teddy Bridgewater will cause harm to McCaffrey’s fantasy value, trash the idea. The kid was dominant despite having a battered Cam Newton and inconsistent Kyle Allen as his signal-callers in 2019. McCaffrey would put up great numbers if Christian Hackenberg was his QB.
Barkley is No. 2 because we all know he can pile up another 2,000 combined yards as he did in his rookie campaign if he stays injury-free and the Giants offensive line opens holes instead of bottling him up in the backfield. He could have 1,500 rushing yards and 900 receiving yards as long as Daniel Jones and the offense around him does not implode.
Zeke Elliott is not the pass-catcher out of the backfield like McCaffrey and Barkley are, but his rushing yards and touchdowns are right there with the top two. Fantasy owners just have to hope he does not suffer any after-effects from his bout with COVID this offseason.
Alvin Kamara was one of the most disappointing players in fantasy football last season, especially in the touchdown category since he scored 18 in 2018 and just a half-dozen in 2019. He is lucky to be ranked this high and is more valuable in PPR leagues, but if he can stay healthy and regain his old form he will supply his fantasy owners with 1,500 combined yards and double-digit TDs.
Derrick Henry barreled his way to the 2019 rushing title and tied Aaron Jones for most rushing touchdowns with 16. He also had the best YPC (5.1) for any back with 200-plus rushing attempts and was tied for third with nine runs of 20 yards or more. Henry’s only drawback is his lack of receiving value. McCaffrey had twice as many receptions last year as Henry has had over his entire four-year career.
Joe Mixon was able to muster back-to-back 1,000-yard years despite hardly ever having No. 1 WR A.J. Green to keep defenses from stacking the line. Cincinnati’s offense should be better with Green returning and No. 1 pick overall Joe Burrow manning the passing attack, which bodes very well for Mixon.
The only thing that will prevent Chubb from being a top-five fantasy back this year is Kareem Hunt. The former Chief is too talented to not be given 10-15 touches per game. It is too bad Cleveland does not run a wishbone offense so both Chubb and Hunt could get 20 touches apiece on a weekly basis.
Josh Jacobs earns every hard yard between the tackles and should be a shoo-in for a second straight 1,000-yard season with 8-10 touchdowns. What he needs is more opportunities in the passing game. His 20 catches for 166 yards and zero touchdowns last season does not cut it for fantasy purposes.
Nobody’s fantasy value has skyrocketed faster than Edwards-Helaire’s. The first-round rookie has gone from understudy to the top tailback in the most dangerous system in the NFL with Damien Williams opting out of the upcoming season. If he is a quick learner and blends into Patrick Mahomes’ offense seamlessly, Edwards-Helaire could be a Tier 1 back and a fantasy savor. But if he hits a rookie wall or has a hard time adjusting to the pro game, he could be a fantasy failure.
Austin Ekeler is the second-best pass-catching running back in the league besides McCaffrey. This year he will eclipse the 1,000-yard mark on the receiving side, but will he come close to it on the running side? While Ekeler has a career 4.8 YPC, he has never rushed for 600 yards in a season and might be hard-pressed to break as many big runs now that he is more of an every-down-back and less of a change-of-pace back.
Aaron Jones has an uncanny nose for the end zone and is given ample opportunities thanks to Aaron Rodgers and his Packers. He doubled his output in the passing game from 2018 to 2019 as well. The only thing keeping him down in this tier is he does not get his number called enough. Jones only ranked 15th in the NFL in rushing attempts last season.
Kenyan Drake escaped the fantasy Siberia of Miami and blossomed as the linchpin of Arizona’s rushing attack, slashing defenses for 643 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in just eight games. Now that David Johnson has been traded to Houston, all that stands between Drake and a monster year is if head coach Kliff Kingsbury decides to call pass plays 95 percent of the time. Don’t put it past him.
Leonard Fournette only found the end zone three times last year despite touching the ball 341 times and was recently waived by Jacksonville, so nobody’s fantasy stock has fallen faster as the season is about to start. There is no doubt a team will take a flyer on him, but Fournette has no chance of duplicating that touch total again in 2020.
Todd Gurley was on top of the fantasy world in 2017 and 2018 when he scored 40 touchdowns during those two years. He still enters 2020 as the top tailback in an explosive offense, although the offense is Atlanta’s and not Los Angeles’. A change of scenery is not going to help Gurley’s cranky knee, though, so he is a fantasy risk no matter when you draft him.
Bell being ranked behind Conner is a fantasy crime against humanity. Conner had one very good season in 2018. Bell has had three separate seasons where he had more than 1,900 combined yards. Both have backups who will slice into their time and touches --- Benny Snell for Conner, Frank Gore for Bell --- but Bell has plenty to prove and a better track record of these two.
David Montgomery’s training-camp groin injury is probably going to cost him a game or two, so he might drop a tier heading into your Draft Day. If he falls farther than he should because of his injury, though, feel free to take him and enjoy the 13-14 solid weeks he gifts you.
Baltimore has the perfect offense and quarterback for a straight-line runner like Ingram, who racked up 1,018 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in his first year as a Raven. The trouble is second-round pick J.K. Dobbins should flourish in this offense, too, and is going to be a titanic thorn in the side of Ingram’s fantasy owners this year. And if Dobbins does not steal some carries from Ingram, Gus Edwards and quarterback Lamar Jackson will.
I wrote a previous article on how fantasy players should stop the hype train regarding Mostert, so you will not see me arguing he should be rated higher. He has not proven he can handle more than 12-15 touches per game, and he likely will not get the chance with veterans Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon behind him on the depth chart in San Fran.
Swift’s chances of becoming Detroit’s primary ball carrier took a Brian Urlacher-like hit thanks to his preseason leg injury. Now Kerryon Johnson will likely be Detroit’s starting tailback until Swift gets back up to speed physically and with learning the offense.
Jordan Howard averaged 1,100 rushing yards and eight touchdowns per season over his three-year stint with the Chicago Bears before being robbed of six games last season with the Philadelphia Eagles. With injury-prone Matt Breida as his only competition for carries in Miami, Howard is a sleeper who could wake up fantasy teams with 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
Sony Michel is coming off a foot injury, has to battle Damien Harris, James White, Lamar Miller, and Rex Burkhead for playing time in New England’s crowded backfield, and no longer has Tom Brady orchestrating his offense. Oh, and his offensive line lost two members due to COVID-related opt-outs. I would not touch Michel with a 100-foot pole until the late rounds.
Ronald Jones is a super sleeper since he is surrounded by Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and the rest of Tampa Bay’s upgraded offense. If he can keep his helmet on straight, improve his pass protection, and not earn the wrath of Brady and head coach Bruce Arians, Jones could have a super season as the best back in this juggernaut.
Mack’s fantasy value was harpooned as soon as Indianapolis selected Jonathan Taylor in this past year’s NFL draft. Mack is a solid runner who can provide 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, but that is not going to happen now that Taylor is in town.
Tier 7 and Below
Poor Phillip Lindsay. The kid started his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard years, and what was his reward? Melvin Gordon and his multimillions placed above him in the pecking order. Even if Gordon and Lindsay split the touches and time it still means Lindsay’s fantasy worth has been damaged beyond repair.
I keep hearing how Chicago head honcho Matt Nagy is an offensive genius, yet what has he done with franchise quarterback Mitchell Trubisky? And how poorly did he utilized Cohen last season? Cohen will not average a paltry 3.3 yards per carry and 5.8 yards per reception XXX
All-Day AP is 700 years old and a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame when his career finally ends, but the guy is the No. 1 RB for the only NFL team that he could be the No. 1 RB on. Somehow, someway A.P. will end up with 800 yards and a half-dozen touchdowns, especially now that Derrius Guice probably got himself kicked out of the league due to his domestic violence arrest and sexual assault allegations.
Ryquell Armstead is no longer a Tier 9 back in the wake of the aforementioned Fournette being cut. But even though he will be Jacksonville's No. 1 rusher, the Jaguars offense is below-average at best and will be quarterbacked by a possible one-year wonder in Gardner Minshew, so do not pencil Armstead in for 1,000 yards just yet. His ADP is sure to shoot up in the final days before the NFL season. He's worth a mid-to-late round pick but don't overpay.
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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.