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Running Back Keepers and Reader Q&A: The King's Corner

In the King’s Keeper Corner, we will get you prepared for roster decisions ahead from various perspectives. We will examine player values by position, look at specific performers and compare keeper selections. We will also directly answer your keeper questions. Pose your questions to me @scotteRotoEx on Twitter to get your answers in this column.

Where applicable, we will also explore dynasty league situations as well. It’s never too early to start preparing in any format. Many leagues that allow you to retain anywhere from one player to a full roster are unique and dynamic in their setups and rules structures and we cover many angles here.

In this edition, we will look at the running back position and who you should consider keeping based on their values, which includes potential penalties. We also weave rookies into the mix, so you can see where they are valued in relation to the veterans, which is especially important in keeper and dynasty startup drafts. You can view our QB Primer here.

Editor's Note: Get any 2020 full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off using code FIFTY. Our exclusive off-season content, NFL Draft coverage, rookie rankings, dynasty analysis, preseason Draft Kit, In-Season tools and over 150 days of Premium DFS. Sign Up Now!


Tier One

Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott: These are the three unquestioned prime running backs in keeper and dynasty formats. They are proven superstars and featured backs who eat up most of the workloads for their teams. Having a top-shelf back who touches the ball more frequently than most other players at RB gives you a definite advantage at the position of most demand.

If you have one of these three players on your roster now, they should be untouchable in trades. They are the three most valuable players in keeper and dynasty leagues. If you are in a keeper or dynasty league that is drafting for the first time, and you can trade into one of the first three slots, do it. Obviously, in any keeper league, these three RBs are your first choice to retain.


Tier Two

Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook: Feature backs who get the majority of the team’s workload and can produce at high levels are becoming more rare in today’s NFL. Last season two running backs  had 300 attempts and eight reached the 250 mark. In 2012, five RBs had 300 attempts and 14 carried 250-plus times. Every RB in this group other than Kamara fits that description here. A healthy Kamara can rebound to his previous levels and still prove he is ultra-efficient and elite this season and quell any concerns about him.

Henry led the league with 301 attempts last year, and it was his first true season of being a large workload back, so you should not worry about him being worn down at all. His rushing production is so high, it can compensate for his shortcomings as a pass-catcher. Jacobs should be a versatile main offensive force for the Raiders for many years.

Mixon now has a better offense around him after admirably rushing for 1,100-plus yards in each of the past two seasons. Cook was able to carry 250 times and rush for 1,135 yards last season and totaled over 1,650 yards from scrimmage in 14 games. He will always be an injury risk, but can be among the very elite in fantasy football when available. These RBs are worth first round keeper tags, and rank just below the “Big Three” in keeper and dynasty appeal.

Year Age Rush Rec
2016 22 110 13
2017 23 176 11
2018 24 215 15
2019 25 303 18
Career 804 57

Derrick Henry's rushing and receiving totals so far in his career. He did not assume a hevay workload until last season and the receiving totals have been low, so do not be concerned about wear and tear at this point. 


Tier Three

Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette, Melvin Gordon, Kenyan Drake, Clyde Edwards-Helaire: Chubb was third in the NFL with 298 attempts last year, and Kareem Hunt is a free agent after this season, so Chubb's workload can remain high after this year even if it is trimmed a bit this season. Fournette finally stayed healthy last season and had over 330 total touches from scrimmage. Expect him to remain a featured RB no matter where he plays. Gordon is set to be a clear RB1 with Denver, as offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur prefers to lean on one runner. Drake is set to emerge as an unquestioned RB1 for the Cardinals. All of these veteran RBs are No. 1 keepers if you don’t have any of the players in the first two tiers, otherwise they are top No. 2 options. Edwards-Helaire should be a Top 15 pick at RB in keeper and dynasty startup drafts.


Tier Four

Miles Sanders, Austin Ekeler, Jonathan Taylor: Sanders seems set to be the definite starter for the Eagles, but he has to prove he can be a consistently effective inside and short yardage runner before we move him into a higher tier. Ekeler should get more rushing attempts this season but may share carries with Joshua Kelley. Taylor should be a feature back by 2021 but may be eased into that role this season. Sanders and Ekeler are definitely worth second-round keeper tags and as high-end fantasy RB2s keeper types with no round penalties. In a new keeper league, Taylor should be the second rookie RB drafted. Edwards-Helaire may make a quicker impact as a pass-catcher and plays in the league’s best offense.


Tier Five

D’Andre Swift, Cam Akers, Aaron Jones, Le’Veon Bell, J.K. Dobbins, KeShawn Vaughn, David Montgomery: We emphasize Swift and Akers at the start of this tier, because if you don’t have any of the RBs in the first four tiers or only have one of them in a keeper league, those two should be significant 2020 fantasy draft targets. If you are drafting in a startup league and get to the point where these are the best RBs available, you should give the rookies in this grouping very high consideration.  Both, especially Akers, have opportunities to see sizable workloads early in their pro careers.

Jones has already played at a high fantasy level, and while his value takes a hit this year with A.J. Dillon coming in, he is also in a contract year and could conceivably re-emerge as a prime fantasy RB1 with another team in 2021. Bell could be with a new team after this season also, with his outlook also possibly boosted on another team.

Montgomery is the clear RB1 for the Bears and could start to realize his potential if the QB play becomes respectable and upgrades the offense overall. Dobbins may be a lead RB by 2021. Vaughn could start as a rookie. The veterans here can be considered as third round keepers or below, or third or fourth keepers in leagues where you simply have a set amount to retain with no round penalties.


Tier Six

Chris Carson, A.J. Dillon, Devin Singletary, Joshua Kelley: Carson remains Seattle’s RB1 when healthy, but he has injury concerns that date back to when he was in high school. Singletary looks like a part-timer for Buffalo, but he is versatile with upside. He and Carson are worth fourth round keeper tags and can be considered as fourth keepers in leagues with no round penalties. Dillon was drafted by the Matt LaFleur regime and fits his mold of a lead power back. Don’t be surprised to see him potentially emerge as the prime runner for the Packers in 2021. Kelley has the promise to possibly take over the old Melvin Gordon role in Los Angeles.


Tier Seven and Beyond

Raheem Mostert has the most upside of any 49ers RB and is worth a fifth round keeper tag. …. Todd Gurley has obvious injury concerns, but is a lead RB and worth a keeper slot  for a fifth rounder. He will start and should post respectable numbers when healthy. …. David Johnson has the ticket to a significant workload in 2020, so he is at least worth a fifth round price tag. …. James Conner will still start for Pittsburgh and possibly somewhere else next year, so he is also worth a fifth-round penalty. …. Kareem Hunt could conceivably re-emerge in a larger role somewhere else in 2021, so he should be considered retaining for a later round penalty. … Alexander Mattison is a must-have as a later-round keeper if you are also retaining Cook.


Keeper Questions and Answers

FF816 on Twitter: Would you trade a 2020 1.09 pick for a 2020 2.11 and 2022 first rounder?

Engel: You have to move too far back in the second round to make this appealing in the short term, and the other first rounder you are receiving doesn’t have any impact on your team for another two years. You must place a high value on a current first rounder, to the point where you don’t move back more than a handful of slots and also get something else of significant value in return.

I would be more apt to take an early second rounder with a 2021 first rounder. You are not getting enough in return as the other owner minimizes the short-term impact on his end. This is only a starting point offer that cannot be accepted. Make the other owner give up something of greater significance and more immediate impact. He wants your most coveted pick and has to pay a better price.

Bob Miller: So you are really high on Josh Jacobs. He has been offered to me for my 1.01. It's a Superflex Dynasty full point PPR. Thoughts?

Engel: It really depends on the makeup of your team. That outlook certainly changes in a SuperFlex league, too. In my tiers above, I have Jacobs a tier above Clyde Edwards-Helaire but the separation is not great. But if you are QB-needy and are already set at RB, you may not want to pass on a chance to get Joe Burrow. Obviously, your trade partner believes Edwards-Helaire is going to have more value than Jacobs. That is why he is offering the deal. If you want Edwards-Helaire and do not need a QB, you should not make the deal. But if you can play on the other owner’s desire to get that pick, see if he will throw in something else to get that pick.

If you can get Jacobs and another significant draft choice for the first pick, go for it. Demand more, prey on the other owner’s strong desire to net the No. 1 overall choice while selling on and emphasizing the tremendous value of the pick. Play down the perceived negatives of Jacobs and make it seem like you don’t really want him, to further strengthen your sales position.

Don Osborn: What's your opinion on T.Y. Hilton kept in the second round in a 14-team PPR,  four player keeper league?

Engel: Hilton is only two years removed from a 76-1,270-6 receiving line and could be in for a rebound campaign with Philip Rivers taking over at QB. But some other owners are not going to confidently view him as a second rounder. There is a decent chance you may be able to get a player you like more with a second-round choice, or you could land Hilton after the second round.  His seasonal ADP is 68, which puts him just outside of the top 12 of the projected 56 to be kept in your league.

If you throw Hilton back into the player pool, you will have more choices than just being chained to him only in the second round if you keep him. Hilton is worthy of a second rounder in your format, but you increase your potential options in the second round by tossing him back into the draft pool.

ADP Name Team Pos.
57 Deshaun Watson HOU QB
58 Tyler Lockett SEA WR
59 Damien Williams KC RB
60 J.K. Dobbins BAL RB
61 Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC RB
62 DeVante Parker MIA WR
63 Stefon Diggs BUF WR
64 Deebo Samuel SF WR
65 Darren Waller LV TE
66 Marlon Mack IND RB
67 T.Y. Hilton IND WR
68 Terry McLaurin WAS WR
69 D.J. Chark JAX WR
70 Josh Allen BUF QB
71 Matt Ryan ATL QB
72 Kareem Hunt CLE RB
73 Cam Akers LAR RB
74 Aaron Rodgers GB QB
75 Michael Gallup DAL WR
76 Carson Wentz PHI QB
77 Tyler Boyd CIN WR

The 10-player ranges before and after T.Y. Hilton here via NFFC ADPs can provide a broad and general idea of some of the types of players that may be available in the neighborhood of the Colts WR. Take specific note of the WRs available. 

Jose L. Marines: Would you keep George Kittle in the 11th or Lamar Jackson in the 10th in a 1/2 PPR?

Engel: It is unquestionably Jackson for me. I consider him to be worthy of a first-round pick in any format. There has never been a fantasy QB like him and there is no other comparable to him right now. You can get high-end RB2 or low-end RB1 production from your QB when your roster Jackson while he also posts respectable passing numbers. Those who say QB is deep or Jackson will regress are missing on these significant points: No other QB has his incredibly high rushing floor, which will still be far ahead of any others even if he regresses from his 2019 production.

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