2020 Fantasy Football Best Ball Underrated Running Backs

by Davis Peng
2020 Fantasy Football 2020 Fantasy Football Best Ball Underrated Running Backs

With Fantasy Best Ball tournaments and leagues currently drafting, I want to highlight the most scarce and most crucial position, the running back. I now own 12 competitive best ball teams, nine in season-long tournaments, and three in standard half-PPR leagues.

Not everybody is lucky enough to be the first overall pick to snag Christian McCaffrey. This list below will help you gain that edge to help make a game plan for your Best Ball drafts and hopefully convince you, readers, to possibly select these guys over other players when you're on the clock. 

I want to share with you the readers what I believe are the underrated picks based on previous stats and where I am currently seeing running backs being drafted. These are my 2020 Fantasy Football Best Ball underrated running backs who can overshoot projections.

My list is based on 12-man, half-PPR formats. In the meantime, if you haven't read my Best Ball Underrated Wide Receivers article, take a gander so you can get that extra edge to win yourself some tournaments.

2020 Fantasy Football Best Ball Underrated Running Backs

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Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP 37 - RB21)

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I will start this list off with someone who has finished as an RB1 in two of his last three seasons. I am not the most prominent proponent for Fournette in redraft leagues due to him generally missing a few games out of season and costing a high draft pick.

That said, Fournette still finished as RB9, and that was with a total of 3 touchdowns last season. With the explosive landing of DJ Chark and Gardner Minshew coming into his sophomore season, we can expect less stacked boxes to face off against Fournette and the touchdown numbers to increase.

Fournette is currently coming in at an average ADP of 37 and getting drafted as late as the 5th round in 12 man leagues. I can't think of any reason to not take Fournette as your 4th or 5th pick.

Fournette is being considered as an RB2/Flex but can finish as an RB1 some weeks. I have never been in a situation where I've said, "I have enough RB1s on my team."

At Fournette's current ADP, you will generally see him on the draft boards accompanied by other big-name players. I am not expecting Fournette to break off for 1,600 scrimmage yards again, but I expect him to finish as a top 16 or better running back.

Fournette will be a stiff flex player every week and an excellent backup RB2. Getting him as your fourth pick can be extremely beneficial to your Best Ball team.

Why I'm Buying Leonard

Fournette checks off many boxes that Fantasy Football players want in the running back. So let us go through the checklist.

  1. Fournette is currently a three-down back and doesn't seem to be going into a committee even with the off-season changes.
  2. Fournette has proven his ability to catch passes. He is averaging approximately fifty reception per season and had 76 catches in 2019.
  3. Even with DJ Chark on the team, Fournette remains the top option. 
  4. He is currently entering a contract year and has plenty to prove. Jacksonville will either run the treads off Fournette or trade him to another team that needs a running back.
  5. If Fournette does happen to miss a game or two, you will have a replacement lined up automatically, and Fournette won't affect your overall points. Fournette will generally be an upside pick in a scarce skill group.

David Johnson, Houston Texans (ADP 42 - RB22)

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This isn't a joke: I am declaring David Johnson an underrated pick. He was part of the blockbuster offseason trade between Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals which made Bill O'Brien the butt of many jokes.

You can now find David Johnson at the end of the fourth-round but as late as an early sixth-round pick. This is a travesty but understandable considering his recent history.

Let's go back a few years and talk about previous Houston Texan franchise running backs and Bill O'Brien. I have never been the biggest fan of Bill O'Brien, and his trading away of DeAndre Hopkins has put many people in the same boat as myself. O'Brien makes questionable calls for roster forming, but he has always had an eye for running backs. Any running back that goes to the Texans will be utilized as a three-down back until they either break or leave the team.

For example, look at former Miami Dolphin Lamar Miller and undrafted running back Arian Foster. Both running backs were franchise players who were often utilized when on the field. Both running backs were overly used to the point of injury. Bill O'Brien never lets up even when these running backs return from injury. In the last fifty-one full games that Miller played, he had less than 15 total touches eight times. This is injury-riddled Lamar Miller I am talking about. The same story goes for Arian Foster.

O'Brien will run his franchise running back into the ground, especially if they can catch the ball. I have Johnson pegged for 320 total touches if he plays all 16 games.

Why I'm Buying David Johnson

Johnson is a riskier play than other players in his ADP, but given the team he is currently on, he is worth the 5th to 6th round pick based on potential and position scarcity. Like Leonard, take him at the end of the 4th and early 5th round. 

  1. Running backs for the Texans had nearly 400 touches total combined in 2019. Carlos Hyde ran the ball 245 times and received 16 total targets for a whopping 261 touches. Johnson can get the same amount of rushing attempts while also adding around five targets a game for an additional 80 touches.
  2. Before arriving with the Texans, Hyde averaged under four yards per carry -- even as low as 3.3 yards per carry. I expect Johnson's YPC to go from 3.7 to about 4.0 - 4.2 per carry.
  3. Johnson was obtained with high trade capital. There must be a plan for him.
  4. Although not the most excellent rusher as of late, Johnson does run some of the best routes among running backs and has great hands, catching sixty-seven percent of all his targets.

Ronald Jones II., Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP 65 - RB30)

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I know, Ronald Jones is probably the least attractive player on this list. But I won with Matt Asiata in 2014. It's not about the big names, it's about the numbers they end up producing.

In 2019, Jones officially cleared 200 touches and surpassed 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Ronald rushed for 724 yards, six touchdowns, and caught 31 passes for 309 yards. Those numbers, although not high, came from barely over 200 touches. In the event Ronald Jones receives 200 rushing attempts and 30 receptions, you are looking at around 1,300 yards from scrimmage.

Ronald Jones is currently going in the sixth to seventh rounds. Many people in fantasy have a sour taste when it comes to Jones and sees value in the players around him on the team and in Fantasy Football.

With the addition of Tom Brady, we will see fewer people stacking the boxes. Did I mention that Brady consistently targets his running backs over 100 times per year in the passing game? There are some things to nitpick when it comes to Tampa Bay and Jones, but these are the moves that are made that can salvage a season or win a championship in Best Ball.

I expect Ronald to finish with 1,300 yards from scrimmage by the end of the season, making him a strong RB2 and flex play. Expect Jones to sneak his way off the bench and into your line ups when you most need it.

Why I'm Buying Ronald Jones
  1. Peyton Barber is no longer part of the team, freeing up 180 touches. His only replacements are a rookie running back in Keshawn Vaughn and an expired LeSean McCoy.
  2. The addition of Brady will make the boxes less stacked for Jones.
  3. The addition of Rob Gronkowski is all upside for Jones as Gronkowski is a great blocking tight end.
  4. Position scarcity and being a sixth to seventh-round pick is too hard to pass up.
  5. Jones' bye week is in Week 13, one of the least common bye weeks. The only relevant RB that shares that week with him is McCaffrey.

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams (ADP 60 - RB29)

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Cam Akers was the first draft pick, by the Los Angeles Rams. Drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Rams. He is going to be the heir apparent to Todd Gurley. The Florida State product racked up nearly 1,400 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns in 2019.

It's hard to put rookies as underrated players as they generally aren't tested yet. There is always a strong possibility they end up being busts or struggling in their first two years. Running back is the only skill-position that has fantasy relevance every year for rookies.

Sean McVay has flooded Fantasy Football with many productive players since 2017 when he arrived with the Rams. I trust that McVay wouldn't have invested a second-round pick in a player if he didn't plan on using him.

Yes, there are Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson, but don't let them deter you. The Rams are a run-first team that gives their primary backs approximately 60% of the touches. If Gurley with a degenerative knee issue can receive 60 percent of rushing attempts, I do not see why Akers with fresh legs wouldn't.

In 2019, the Rams gave Gurley 81 less total touches than his career average. Expect those touches to come back to the running backs for a range of 280 - 320 touches for Akers. I do not expect McVay to trust Jared Goff to win games with his arm.

Why I'm Buying Cam Akers
  1. In 2017 and 2018, Gurley was on pace for 24 touches per game. That is 384 touches by the end of the season.
  2. Akers has potential to be a three-down back, although his pass-catching is currently unproven.
  3. High draft capital was used, as Akers was the first pick by the Rams in the 2020 draft.
  4. Henderson didn't have a good year in 2019 and is already suffering injuries.
  5. Akers is currently being drafted behind players such as Mark Ingram, Deandre Swift, and Kareem Hunt who I don't see getting full workloads.

Honorable Mentions

No particular order but these players below are players I would snag as 4th and 5th running backs since they can vulture touchdown, take over for injured players, or have roles that garner 10+ touches per game.

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  1. Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears (ADP 115 - RB44)
  2. Latavius Murray, New Orlean Saints (ADP 103 - RB40)
  3. Jerrick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers (ADP 162 - RB 56)

Visit the F6P Fantasy Football page for more advice, including all 32 Fantasy Football Team Previews to get you prepared for the 2020 season

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