Fantasy Football 2020 Projections: Running Backs 1-11

By Bradley Stalder @FFStalder @FF_Fanalysts

 

16 Game Projections for PPR Leagues Unless Otherwise Noted. ESPN ADP as of 8/2/2020 for 12-team leagues.

For my RBs 11-20, click here.

 

11) Derrick Henry

Derrick Henry

295 Rushes
1416 Rushing Yards
14 Rushing TDs
22 Receptions
218 Receiving Yards
1 Receiving TD

 

Derrick Henry is the 6th running back off the board. The market is buying the hype! He led the NFL in rushing yards last season (1540 yards) and signed an unlikely 4-year extension this offseason with the Titans. The bad news? The Titans offense is bound to be less efficient in 2020 than in 2019. Henry finished last season as RB5 in PPR– in a season of two very different halves. From weeks 1-8, Henry had one 100-yard rushing performance (exactly 100 yards on 27 carries). From weeks 9-17 (including missing week 15), Henry eclipsed the 100 yard rushing mark in five of his seven games. In fact, week 17 he had 211 rushing yards. Henry definitely will eclipse double-digit TDs in 2020, but what limits Henry’s ceiling is his involvement in the passing game. I have him projected for a career-high in receptions at 22 (48th in my projections for RBs), and he has not even achieved more than 18 receptions in a single season. Henry only had four games last season with more than one reception, and had three games with zero catches.

 

Action Item: King Henry is my RB6 in Standard Leagues, but RB10 in PPR. Don’t overpay for a player with a limited ceiling catching the football.


10) Aaron Jones

aaron jones

212 Rushes
1060 Rushing Yards
13 Rushing TDs
44 Receptions
373 Receiving Yards
2 Receiving TDs

 

Aaron Jones is the RB7 in ADP. Jones is the most talented running back in the Green Bay Packers backfield– and it’s not close. While much was made this offseason regarding the head-scratching reach in the NFL rookie draft for 2nd round RB AJ Dillon (and by extension QB Jordan Love), these picks more than secured Aaron Jones as the 2nd best pass-catcher on the team going into 2020. Last season, Jones was 2nd behind Devante Adams (83 receptions in 12 games) with 49 receptions of his own. In fact, Jones had four games with at least 6 receptions. With the loss of Devin Funchess (Opt Out), the only notable addition to the pass-catching group is rookie and CFL star Reggie Begelton. While Dillon and Jamaal Williams (3rd on the Packers last season with 39 receptions) may siphon goal-line work and receiving work, Jones only twice had a snap share in 2019 lower than 50%. He’ll stay on the field as the lead of Green Bay’s RBBC– and can provide week-winning upside having finished as the RB2 overall in 2019.

 

Action Item: Jones is going as a mid-2nd round pick– which is a bit expensive given his low floor. Avoid Jones at his current ADP, though he is the fastest dropping top-30 RB in ADP and may be a value come September.


9) Dalvin Cook

cookdalvin

252 Rushes
1159 Rushing Yards
9 Rushing TDs
56 Receptions
490 Receiving Yards
1 Receiving TD

 

The 5th RB in ADP is Dalvin Cook. Last season, Cook finished as the RB6 in 14 games– but absolutely broke out in his healthy games. Health has been an issue for Cook– missing 19 games in the first 3 seasons of his career. And, in 2019, it wasn’t as though Cook had the backfield to himself. Rookie Alexander Mattison had at least 12 rushes in four different games during the thirteen games he was active himself– and relieved Cook effectively (4.62 YPC during the season). There are serious questions regarding the Minnesota offense with key departures of OC Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland HC) and Stefon Diggs (traded to Buffalo), but Cook will remain the centerpiece of the offense as long as he is on the field. Cook had seven games with at least 4 receptions, seven games with over 95 rushing yards, and eleven games with at least 1 rushing score. If Minnesota remains run-heavy, expect Cook to flourish when on the field.

 

Action Item: Cook is healthy now and, if fantasy managers believe the NFL season may end early, Cook is a great target to give solid top-5 running back upside to start the season.


8) Todd Gurley

todd-gurley
237 Rushes
1025 Rushing Yards
6 Rushing TDs
63 Receptions
533 Receiving Yards
5 Receiving TDs

 

Todd Gurley is the RB15 in ADP. In my projections, fear is baked into his ADP and Gurley has a clear path to significantly out-perform that draft status. While Gurley finished as RB14 last season (15 games), the Rams’ passing scheme limited his upside. The Rams finished at the bottom of the NFL with a 10.1% RB target share. Gurley only had 31 receptions last season– compared to 59, 64, and 43 the previous three years respectively. Had Gurley earned the average of those (plus YPR included extra), Gurley would have finished last season as RB7. Last season, in 14 games for the Falcons, Devonta Freeman caught 59 passes–comparable to Gurley’s 2017 and 2018 seasons (where Gurley finished RB1 and RB3 respectively). Gurley, now himself with the Falcons, finds a weak depth chart, on a 1-year prove-it deal, led by a top-10 fantasy QB, and on a pass-heavy offense. The stars are aligned for Gurley to yet again rebound and finish as an RB1.

 

Action Item: In redraft leagues, buy Gurley at his ADP. He is going near the end of the 3rd round, and may drop to the 4th round in some drafts. Don’t be afraid– his knee’s risk is built into his ADP already.


7) Kenyan Drake

Drake Kenyan

227 Rushes
1084 Rushing Yards
10 Rushing TDs
63 Receptions
466 Receiving Yards
2 Receiving TDs

 

Kenyan Drake is RB9 in ADP, going in the mid-2nd round of fantasy drafts. Drake fits the Arizona Cardinals scheme and will flourish in 2020 with the development of Kyler Murray along with the addition of ProBowl WR DeAndre Hopkins. Much has been made of Drake’s 2nd half with the Cardinals last season– 643 rushing yards on 123 rushes (5.23 ypc) with 8 rushing TDs. Drake also caught 3 or more passes in six of his eight games with the Cardinals. While Chase Edmonds and rookie Eno Benjamin may siphon carries from Drake, the Cardinals transition tagged Drake for 2020, making him the 6th highest-paid running back this season– follow the money. Look for Drake to take on a similar role in 2020 as in 2019; even if he doesn’t repeat extrapolated 2019 production, Drake will still feast on both the ground and through the air in 2020.

 

Action Item: Kenyan Drake is being drafted after Nick Chubb, Mike Evans, and Aaron Jones and may be a value in redraft leagues if that trend remains.


6) Le’Veon Bell

Bell 2
262 Rushes
1100 Rushing Yards
7 Rushing TDs
73 Receptions
607 Receiving Yards
2 Receiving TDs

 

Le’Veon Bell is being drafted as the RB18. Bell wasted away behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines in New York in 2019, averaging 3.22 yards per carry on 245 attempts in 15 games. Bell’s 3 rushing TDs were his fewest since 2015, when he only played 6 games with Pittsburgh that season. With an improved offensive line, a healthy (for now) Sam Darnold, and added weapons of Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims, Bell’s offensive outlook can only improve. Bell was 2 TDs below his expected OTD in 2019, which would have made him RB13 in 15 games. As long as Bell is healthy, he has top-5 upside at running back– even if the Jets offense struggles again under coach Adam Gase.

 

Action Item: Le’Veon Bell may be the best valued RB in redraft this year. He is going in the mid-4th round but is being drafted at his floor. Feel confident about Le’Veon Bell providing value at his ADP.


5)*** Clyde Edwards-Helaire

ceh

(Previously RB17 before Damien Williams Opt Out)
NEW PROJECTIONS:
232 Rushes
1137 Rushing Yards
8 Rushing TDs
62 Receptions
569 Receiving Yards
6 Receiving TDs

 

Click here for my CEH take prior to the Williams opt-out.

 

Before Williams’ opt-out, CEH’s ADP hovered in the mid-4th round. Now, it is skyrocketing to the mid-3rd, and quickly rising even higher. Naturally, rookies are risky picks in redraft– and yet a rookie RB has led the NFL in rushing yards 2 of the previous 3 seasons. Of the rookie RBs, Edwards- Helaire’s path to RB1 status is the clearest. If you drafted CEH in the 3rd or 4th round, rejoice!

 

Action Item: If drafting now, try to take advantage of the market not yet catching up to CEH’s value. Draft CEH with confidence in the 2nd round– even if your website has his ADP still listed in the 3rd.


4) Saquon Barkley

saquon-barkley-giants-big-play-struggle

263 Rushes
1262 Rushing Yards
9 Rushing TDs
72 Receptions
586 Receiving Yards
3 Receiving TDs

Click here for my pre-projections hype piece for Saquon Barkley.

Barkley is being drafted as the RB2 overall. Being the consensus 1.01 in 1QB leagues and redraft last season, Barkley disappointed due to a nasty high-ankle sprain, which limited his production midseason. Barkley projects as my RB4, however, because rushing volume (RB7 in rush attempts), rushing yards (RB5), receptions (RB5), rushing TDs (tied at RB7), and receiving yards (RB6) all are exceptional but not top-3 in any projected category. Barkley projects out in the top tier of running backs and, if injuries befall any of the Giants receiving corps as they have in the past, Barkley has the talent and opportunity to access RB1 status.

 

Action Item: Barkley is a top tier RB1 and should be drafted before any wide receiver, even Michael Thomas.


3) Ezekiel Elliott

tony-zeke

313 Rushes
1440 Rushing Yards
11 Rushing TDs
70 Receptions
598 Receiving Yards
3 Receiving TDs

 

The 3rd RB in ADP is Ezekiel Elliott. Last season, Elliott finished as the RB3 behind Aaron Jones and Christian McCaffrey. I have Elliott projected for the most rushes at running back, 4th in rushing TDs, and most surprisingly 6th in running back receptions. Why so high? The short answer is Jason Witten is no longer on the team. When Witten retired for the 2018 season, Elliott was targeted 95 times and caught 77 passes. Witten then unretired, returned to Dallas in 2019, and somehow finished as TE11 in PPR leagues. Elliott saw his targets drop from 95 to 71, even though Dak Prescott threw 70 more passes in 2019. While Blake Jarwin is poised to lead the Cowboys in TE receptions, Elliott has shown the capacity to handle a large target share. While new head coach Mike McCarthy has never had a running back with more than 50 receptions, OC Kellen Moore remains the play-caller for the Cowboys. With the addition of the dynamic rookie CeeDee Lamb, the subtraction of mediocre play by Randall Cobb and Jason Witten, and an offseason (remember Elliott held out during 2019’s offseason waiting for a new contract) to prepare, Elliott is poised to remain a top-tier option for 2020.

 

Action Item: Elliott is my projected RB3 in standard, ½ Point, and Full PPR leagues. Elliott remains an elite talent with elite value, no matter the league– feel confident you’re getting a stud.


2) Alvin Kamara

Alvin Kamara 1

220 Rushes
1100 Rushing Yards
12 Rushing TDs
81 Receptions
714 Receiving Yards
6 Receiving TDs

Alvin Kamara’s ADP is RB4. For the 3rd season in a row, Kamara finished with 81 receptions– who am I to project differently? TD regression and an ankle injury affected Kamara’s output significantly in 2020– and yet Kamara finished as RB9 overall despite missing two games. Had Kamara received Latavius Murray’s fantasy points for those two weeks, Kamara would have finished as the RB2– which is where I have him projected for in 2020. Even with 30-year-old Murray still in the fold, Kamara provides a high-floor and access to a high ceiling due to his pass-catching– Kamara had at least 5 targets in 11 of his 14 active games.

 

Action Item: Even if fantasy managers miss out on “the big three” of McCaffrey, Elliott, and Barkley, drafting Kamara is not a tier-down draft pick.


1) Christian McCaffrey

cmac

237 Rushes
1114 Rushing Yards
9 Rushing TDs
102 Receptions
850 Receiving Yards
6 Receiving TDs

 

McCaffrey is the consensus 1.01 in all leagues entering 2020. I have McCaffrey projected for 250 fewer rushing yards, 4 fewer TDs, 14 fewer receptions, and 150 fewer receiving yards than 2019– and still as my projected RB1. The Panthers only selected defensive players in the 2020 rookie draft, so McCaffrey’s competition for snaps and targets out of the backfield include the likes of Reggie Bonnafon, Alex Armah, and Mike Davis– not an intimidating bunch. Teddy Bridgewater, the new Panthers starting QB, will look to McCaffrey and other short-yardage weapons to move the ball downfield under new head coach Matt Rhule and OC Joe Brady. McCaffrey is certainly in a position to repeat as the RB1 overall– remember he finished as RB2 overall (3 points behind Saquon Barkley) in 2018 putting up similar stats to what I have him projected.

 

Action Item: Don’t overthink McCaffrey at the 1.01 in almost any league format. CMC just signed an extension this offseason and is in the Panthers plans for the long-term– securing his status in dynasty leagues.

Agree or Disagree? Let us know!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: