Goldfield Syndrome RB Review
By Bradley Stalder @FFStalder
In the classic 2004 romantic comedy 50 First Dates, the protagonist Lucy (played by a prime Drew Barrymore) suffers from Goldfield’s Syndrome — a brain illness that affects, among other things, one’s short-term memory. Her love interest Henry (played by a regressing Adam Sandler) faces conflict when Lucy cannot remember any information regarding their romantic encounters from the previous few days. In fact, she flat out rejects his attempts to remind her of his love. His failure to help her remember only more fuels his desire to renew a lasting love with her. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say, it is an Adam Sandler film (but not like Funny People or Uncut Gems, more like Happy Gilmore).
Sometimes, we as fantasy managers experience a form of non-clinical Goldfield’s Syndrome — forgetting or dismissing the “love” our players have shown us in the past. We are too quick to reject our fantasy players’ future because of what we see in the present. Let me remind you, as Henry reminded Lucy, of the love of past players and what love they could show us managers in 2020.
For this article, we will review running backs who were top 15 PPR-scoring players from 2018 or earlier, who did not pass that threshold in 2019, and yet have the potential to return to prominence in 2020 season.
Melvin Gordon (RB7, 2016; RB5, 2017; RB8, 2018) — Age 27
- Situation Review: The Denver Broncos signed Gordon as a free agent this spring. Despite holding out for the first 4 games of the 2019 season, Gordon still managed to finish as the RB23 due to his goal line usage, punching in 8 touchdowns on the ground. He joins Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman in the backfield Denver backfield, following a disappointing campaign that saw both players regress statistically across the board. GM John Elway described the backfield as a “1-2 Punch” with regards to Gordon and Lindsay, respectively. We should expect Gordon to get the bulk of the goal line, short-yardage, and passing down work. Lindsay’s situation is a topic we will review later in this article.
- Chance at RB15 Status: 80%. Despite the committee, Gordon will have the sponsorship of Elway. The Broncos want Drew Lock to work out as the starting QB, and Gordon brings both pass-blocking and pass-catching proficiency to the table. It’s reasonable to think Gordon will maintain a 50-60% snap share given his abilities as well as his pay grade (politics!). With a sufficient amount of work as the lead ball carrier for an offense brimming with upside, it’s within the realm of possibility for Gordon to achieve a top-15 fantasy production.
Le’Veon Bell (RB14, 2013; RB1, 2014; RB3, 2016; RB2, 2017) — Age 28
- Situation Review: Adam Gase. Need I say more? Well. I suppose I should. An improved offensive line has Bell excited to be with New York this season, following a disastrous debut. The Jets started 2019 on the wrong foot, as second-year QB Sam Darnold came down with mononucleosis just a week into the regular season. Even after he had returned, Darnold was “seeing ghosts” thanks to a translucent offensive line that failed to provide him with time to throw. It’s fair to say that this was not the offense Bell had hoped for when signing with the Jets after holding out for the entirety of 2018 (when he was employed by a much more competent organization). While Bell’s effectiveness dwindled in 2019, his volume should not be significantly affected by the additions of rookie LaMical Perine and non-rookie Frank Gore.
- Chance at RB15 Status: 70%. Bell is still the workhorse back with elite receiving skills that we gloated about as our first-round pick in redraft leagues throughout the 2010’s. 2020 cannot be worse than 2019– as long as Bell’s wheels do not fall off (and by that I mean his legs would literally have to fall off for him to be worse than he was last year!). Since many fantasy managers were hurt by Bell’s lackluster return on investment in 2019, he may become a value pick for this season depending on how far he falls in drafts.
James Conner (RB6, 2018) — Age 25
- Situation Review: All the offseason chatter regarding Pittsburgh’s desire to replace Conner proved to be mostly noise as the team opted to draft raw, but talented change of pace back Anthony McFarland in the fourth-round of the 2020 NFL Draft instead of spending money on a marquee name. These actions speak to the Steelers willingness to give Conner yet another go as the lead back for the offense. Much of the team’s success will hinge on the health of the team’s stars — Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, Juju Smith-Schuster, and versatile fullback Roosevelt Nix (a key cog in the run game) all missed significant time during the 2019 season due to injury.
- Chance at RB15 Status: 50%. Conner’s upside in the past has been as a top-five – top-ten back. His capability to achieve that upside, however, is limited by his availability. Should he once again be plagued by injuries, the team opt to redistribute some of his workload among the other uber-talented backs on the roster.
David Johnson (RB8, 2015; RB1, 2016; RB9, 2018)– Age 28
- Situation Review: The pulse wave of the earth shattering David Johnson-DeAndre Hopkins trade still reverberates throughout the NFL community. David joins Duke in the Johnson & Johnson Texans backfield after the team let bruising plodder Carlos Hyde walk in free agency. This may have flown under the radar for some, but Hyde actually rushed for over 1,000 yards last season despite coming in as a preseason cast-off via trade from the Chiefs. Duke’s review will come later in this article.
- Chance at RB15 Status: 60%. Perhaps the odds should be higher but I’m hedging my bets due to Johnson’s injury history and age as well as his team’s poor offensive line. The potential for effectiveness is also playing a role in hindering Johnson’s outlook in 2020. David Johnson will get the bulk of the carries to start– how the season ends, however, should tell us how much more harshly we are to judge Bill O’Brien’s gaffe.
Jordan Howard (RB10, 2016; RB14, 2017)– Age 25
- Situation Review: The Dolphins were expected to draft a running back after signing Jordan Howard in free agency. Then, during the draft, the team inexplicably traded for committee back Matt Breida from San Francisco. With Ryan Fitzpatrick as the team leading rusher for the 2019 Dolphins — the only other QB to lead their team in rushing was Lamar Jackson — the Dolphins were looking for an answer this offseason and Howard fills the Kenyan Drake sized chasm that went unfilled by the Kalen Ballage-Patrick Laird duo.
- Chance at RB15 Status: 60%. Howard will get the bulk of the goal line and short yardage work. While he won’t earn much time on passing downs, and will be sharing the overall workload with Breida, Howard’s a safe value later in fantasy drafts.
Do you believe any of these former RB1’s will return to prominence? Let me know on Twitter!