Must Draft Sophomore Running Backs in 2020 Fantasy Football

Must Draft Sophomore Running Backs in 2020 Fantasy Football

The most interesting of all fantasy playerz in 2020.

 

Josh Jacobs - Oakland Raiders
[Round 1, Pick 24 Overall]
Current ADP: 13 (2.01) - RB10

My thoughts on Jacobs coming into the league are likely well known to anyone in my audience and I again covered it in my top lessons learned video from last month.

Subpar athleticism, combined with lack of workhorse volume in college were my concerns. He showed us that his athleticism metrics didn't matter a fuckin kilobit. I'll be honest, the volume still worries me a bit, he did get banged up a lot last year, coming in and out of games, eventually missed 3 games. 

I should've been more open to the straight volume argument last year with Jacobs to be honest. It's the same argument I made for D'Andre Swfit this year as the favorite to be the first running back off the board (per Vegas).

The first rookie running back drafted in the NFL draft (that was in the 1st round), over the last 10 years, averaged 20.2 touches/game in rookie year for RBs that went in the 1st. ingram was the only 1st rounder with fewer than Gurley's 19.2 touches/game (who was coming off ACL tear out of Georgia), and Ingram was the 28th overall pick, the latest of the 1st rounders. So, Jacobs averaged that exact number 20.2. Sometimes shit is simple and you don't have to look much further beyond this.

Jacobs was a monster with those touches. Over 1300 YFS, which, yes if you do the math averages over 100 YFS, given he played in 13 games. He had 5 games of 100+ rushing yards, that's tied with guys like Dalvin Cook and Aaron Jones. He ranked top 10 in the NFL in:

  • YPC (4.75)
  • YAC (3.48)

And probably the craziest thing, he led all RBs in missed tackles forced, per PFF, despite missing 3 games. His avoided tackles/attempt (0.29) led all 50 running backs with greater than 55 carries.

The biggest question for Jacobs, other than health, is his involvement in the passing game. He might not have had the volume at Alabama, or during his rookie season, but on film, he's smooth AF in the receiving game.

Another overlooked part of this offense is the improvement on the offensive line. They took a jump from 13th to 6th overall in RBing per FOs, and while PFF was less generous, they went from 21st to 18th this year, still an improvement.

They also literally only had Jacobs and Darren Waller on offense. When they take an early WR, Jeudy or CeeDee, it's going to help the offense tremendously.

We do have to take a look at the rest of the team around him. The only other RB on their roster right now is Jalen Richard, who they resigned to a 2-year $7.5M extension. Yes, he'll take some passing work, but Richard only averaged 2.5 targets/game while Jacobs was on the field. DeAndre Washington is gone to free agency, so that alone should open up more work in the passing game, that's 40 targets going elsewhere.

The receiving work is everything for Jacobs. It's the difference between him being the top 12-15 fantasy RB that gives you the 11-12 points/week with occasional big games, and the high-end RB1 that has the potential to finish top 5. We're heading in the right direction already

I don't listen much to coach speak, let alone GM speak, but where there's smoke there's usually fire. So if we continue to hear reports about how much they plan and are using him in the passing game, I'll be buying Jacobs in redraft for sure. It's going to be really hard to monitor that, however, since we're likely not getting any physical OTAs or training camp or anything, so this is going to be really tough and you're going to have to put your faith in whatever you hear.

They will also have more weapons. Darren Waller, yes, a healthy Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow will be a BIG piece of this passing offense, mark my words - he's like the Cooper Kupp of Las Vegas. Where he doesn't blow you away anywhere but the guy just gets it done on the field and has fantastic chemistry with the QB + whoever they draft at WR early. So the targets might be a little tougher to come by.

PointsBet currently has Jacobs' over/under set at 1650 total yards. He's a good bet to finish inside the NFL's top-5 rushing leaders.

 

Miles Sanders - Philadelphia Eagles
[Round 2, Pick 53 Overall]
Current ADP: 23 (2.11) - RB13

Sanders is going to be one of the most talked-about players for 2020 fantasy football this summer. And for good reason. I'm not sure how many people realize this, but Sanders finished his rookie season with more yards (1327) than Jacobs did (1316). Sure, Sanders played 3 more games, but Jacobs had 33 more touches than Sanders. "He ultimately joined Gale Sayers, Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, and Saquon Barkley (among others) as one of just seven rookies in league history to account for 800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards. Sanders' 1,327 yards from scrimmage also led all rookies this season." (Rotoworld)

The Eagles and Doug Pederson did absolutely everything in their power to keep Sanders in an RBBC for as long as they possibly could last year. It took a Jordan Howard injury in Week 9 to finally hand the keys over to Sanders, but man following Week 9, Sanders crushed 

Over those last 7 weeks, we're talking about almost 19/touches per game with 4 of them coming through the air. I mean we're talking about top 10 fantasy RB numbers over that stretch.

Y'all know I love the talent of Sanders, I had him ranked above Jacobs in rookie drafts last year. But there are two red flags for Sanders entering 2020:

1. Doug Pederson wants to use a running back by committee, no matter how bad fantasy players want him to let Sanders be a workhorse, it doesn't look like it's going to happen. We can only go off his time as a HC in Philly. He was under Andy Reid as the OC in KC, but obviously that was Reid's offense, not Pederson's. This previous season, Sanders' 179 carries was the most by a running back in the four years Pederson has been the head coach. The RB1 in his offense as a HC has averaged 157 carries. It's a chicken or the egg thing for sure. People that love Sanders will argue that he's never had a back like Sanders to run into the ground. And that would be true. People fading Sanders will say Pederson has always used a committee. That is also true. 

2. Much of Sanders' fantasy success came through the air. It was likely a product of all RBs and WRs on the Eagles dying. DJax, Jeffery, Jordan Howard, Sproles, I mean by seasons end they were fielding the worst group of WRs in the league. I'm shocked they made absolutely 0 moves to address the position in free agency, but that won't be the case in the NFL draft. When players are healthy, and new pieces are added to the offense, just like Jacobs, do we see his Sanders' rate of receiving numbers dip? Most likely. Does that mean he can't catch 50 passes still, no it doesn't? Sanders had 63 targets last year, turned those into 50 receptions and 500 yards.

If he can do that again, being his  2nd year as the main running back, that's definitely doable. Boston Scott is still there and will likely serve as a weapon in the offense too.

The question becomes how much of an increase in carries does he get? I mean he had 179 last year, that was while Jordan Howard averaged over 13/game for the first 9 games. Sanders averaged 11.2/game on the season. I think we can expect a slight uptick there with Jordan Howard out of the picture.

 

David Montgomery - Chicago Bears
[Round 3, Pick 73 Overall]
Current ADP: 50 (5.02) - RB24

By nearly all accounts, Montgomery was a bust during his rookie season. Because in almost every league, you had at least one person that loved him and reached for him in the 3rd, even the 2nd round.

[insert Lucas video]

Which was never a good idea, no matter how much you liked Montgomery as a prospect. I liked him a lot. But at no point did I ever suggest he was a 3rd round pick.

Anyways, from a raw numbers outlook, it definitely could've been worse for Montgomery. He definitely wasn't efficient and looked sluggish most of the time, but he still went for nearly 1100 yards from scrimmage and 7 touchdowns. Melvin Gordon's rookie season had far worse numbers than that. Le'Veon Bell's was not much better. He did that behind the 29th ranked RBing line (FOs, 20th per PFF), and absolutely abysmal QB play.

It's very possible they take someone in the draft and fuck the whole backfield up. Montgomery doesn't seem like he has that 3-down ceiling of a true NFL back, especially not while Tarik Cohen is there.

Am I completely out on Montgomery as an NFL running back, no? I think it would be irresponsible of me to give off that notion. I will absolutely be looking elsewhere with my early 5th round pick. There are an incredible amount of WRs going in this area:

This shit makes me want to throw up tbh.

 

Devin Singletary - Buffalo Bills
[Round 3, Pick 74 Overall]
Current ADP: 30 (3.10) - RB18

Singletary is one of the more intriguing fantasy players to look at for 2020. He comes in as a rookie, super-efficient, looks amazing, but still splitting time with the timeless Frank Gore. 

Singletary missed 3 games from Weeks 3-6 (bye in there) with a hamstring injury, sat week 17. Outside of that, he was pretty much a beast. Very close to 1,000 total yards (969), despite playing in just 12 games and two of them extremely limited snap counts (< 35%) because of the hamstring injury. So we can do some extrapolation work. He missed week 3-6 with the hammy, the two games sandwiching those weeks, 2 and 7, were the two games he played sub 40% of the snaps. Every other game he played at least 2/3rds of the snaps, which i think is reasonable to expect for him in 2020. If you take that 10 game pace, and push it out to 16 you're getting:

  • 222 carries
  • 1107 rushing yards
  • 63 targets
  • 47 receptions
  • 310 receiving yards
  • So, 269 touches, 1417 yfs 

THIS DOESNT INCLUDE THE PLAYOFF GAME where Singletary caught 6-of-7 targets and had 134 yards from scrimmage.

The GL carries are where Singletary will thrive, or remain faceless in fantasy. Last year Gore had 11 of the team's 18 GL carries. Allen had 5 and Singletary had the remaining two. Allen, being the player he is will continue to get his share, but with Gore gone, Singletary should get them. He reminds me A TON of Aaron Jones. Jones has been the single most efficient back on the GL an inside the 10-yard line at converting carries into TDs. Everyone thinks of these smaller backs as bad GL backs literally just cause their size, but just like guys like Antonio Brown and smaller WRs, it's just as important as being able to create space in the tightest areas of the field, not just being big and having jump-ball ability, it's the same with running backs, it's not just about size, separation for wide receivers is like vision for running backs, especially near the GL. Going back to college, Aaron Jones averaged nearly a rushing TD a game in his career because he's just simply good at scoring. It was the same with Singletary but to a multiple degree. Guy scored 12 rushing touchdowns his freshman season, 32 his sophomore year, and 22 more his junior year. Another guy, that despite his stature is awesome at scoring. Some things aren't just as easy as "regression" or unlucky, luck offensive line play.

They go ahead and draft A.J. Dillon in the 3rd round, and everything I just wasted my breathe on pretty much goes away. They were rumored to be looking at Melvin Gordon. They want a committee, but if Singletary can ake the valuable pieces of the committee like Aaron Jones has in GB, it's going to be a very good year for the second-year back in Buffalo. 

I'm also not sure people realize just how involved in the passing game he was, or at least the weekly ceiling he gave you because of it. Again, discounting the two games he didn't play much in because of injury, Singletary saw 6+ targets in 4-of-10 games and caught 3 or more passes in 6-of-10 games. A quick 3-for-33 receiving line is adding 5 half per points/game. I don't imagine them drafting a pass-catching back if they do go back I think it's more likely to be a bigger back with a skill set very different then Singletary, so he's a better PPR target than standard.

That being said, you need to draft with this spectrum in mind. Do they not give him the GL work, still? You can't just take the best-case scenario numbers I laid out and depend on that when putting your team together. You take pros with cons, bake that into where you're targeting guys and that's how you put together a good fantasy team with few holes, lots of floor and lots of upside.

 

Darrell Henderson - Los Angeles Rams
[Round 3, Pick 70 Overall]
Current ADP: 79 (6.07) - RB34

Gurley's gone. Opening up 223 carries and 31 receptions in the Rams backfield. The Rams are clearly not committed to giving Henderson a Gurley-like role, they never were.

BUT I WANNA PREFACE - MALCOMN BROWN TANGENT

At no point, despite Gurley's limited role, relative to previous years, did Henderson make a push for the backfield. 11 carries were his season-high, 14 total touches. He finished the year with a miserable 39-147-0 (3.7 ypc) rushing line as a rookie - adding 4 catches for 37 yards.

They've already come out and said they plan to use a committee. Does that mean Henderson and Brown, does that mean drafting a rookie? We'll see. Probably both.



It's entirely possible that regardless of who they take in the draft Henderson leads the backfield in touches. That said, that doesn't automatically mean fantasy success by any stretch. The biggest problem is this offensive line. When they were dominant, back in 2018, shit was easy for the RBs. They made Todd Gurley look like Saquon. He was playing football by himself on the field sometimes. You don't need me to tell you that their offensive line play plummeted in 2019. 19th in RBing per FOs, 26th per PFF, just one year after being ranked #1 per both services in run-blocking. Life comes at you fast. The only real piece they have cemented as a starter on the line next year is Whitworth, (3-year $30M extension) and let me tell you, he's not the same elite Whitworth he once was. He's still very good in pass blocking, but he was bad in run-blocking (58th of 80 qualified tackles). The line is absolutely going to be a problem, and given that they've traded away all of their first-round picks until 2035, it's going to continue to be a problem. Henderson is a guy that needs a line to provide him holes.

So, I will not be taking Henderson in the 6th round of drafts. I don't see much upside in a committee, behind an offensive line, no idea if he gets any GL work. But that doesn't mean I'm drafting Malcolm Brown at value.

Others

Travis Homer - Seattle Seahawks (Round 2, Pick 53 Overall)

https://www.playerprofiler.com/nfl/travis-homer/

Homer is a name to keep an eye on just based on the fact their personnel is al fucked up right now. Rashad Penny tore his ACL in Week 14 and is supposedly "more than a normal ACL tear" so I have little to no faith of him being back and ready, or any sort of usable in 2020. J.D. McKissic signed with the Skins. C.J. Prosise is a free agent and Chris Carson missed the last few weeks of the season because of his hip, Carson's had a tough time staying on the field for most of his career now. The reports of, ready for training camp, are being said ready for Week 1 now, hate when those are pushed back, especially a guy like Carroll. He's never had a player that won't be 100% by Week 1. Another guy to wait and see on based on the draft but.

Tony Pollard - still Zeke's backup, but it's possible they get him more involved in the passing game. He's someone I think people are going to hype into single digit rounds and either drop him 3 weeks in or hold onto him strictly as a handcuff. I don't think you're ever going to feel good enough about Tony Pollard to have him in your starting lineup.

Justice Hill - a guy I love, but still Mark Ingram's backup. we didn't see anything last yea that suggested hill was earning a bigger role. sure he had like 6 good plays if we cut a highlight tape of his season, but you could do that for Rex Burkhead and like fuckin Jordan Wilkins too.

Damien Harris - ain't happening unless sony gets cut ($2.5M salary, $5M dead cap) nope. BUT apparently he's going to see more work in 2020. It would be pretty fucking hard not to, after getting 4 carries in 2019. I don't hate him as a late round dart throw.


Leave a comment