2020 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

2020 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs


Running backs get no love.

Christian McCaffrey makes approximately $16 million per season as one of the most dynamic and dominant backs to play the game. Last year, McCaffery torched defenses for over 1,000 yards in both rushing and receiving. In total, CMC accumulated 2,392 yards from scrimmage— the third-most in single-season history.

Sure, he deserves the title of highest-paid running back in the NFL, but his contract is only the 59th highest with regards to average yearly earnings.

Earnings aside, the NFL has seen a changing of the guard over the past few years. The infamous Le’Veon Bell holdout illustrated the decline in running back value. This year’s draft class also showed the mindset of NFL general managers. 2020 was the year of the wide receiver, with six going in the first round. Only one running back was picked on day one. 

Nonetheless, running backs remain critical to fantasy success. They’re the engine that powers a fantasy football squad.

With the 2020 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs, we’ll delve into this year’s stud rookie rushers, giving them the respect they deserve.

2020 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs

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Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

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With the very last pick in the first round, Andy Reid and company added another weapon to the already lethal Chiefs offense. 

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is fresh from a National Championship with the LSU Tigers, where he showed his versatility as both a runner and receiver. The newest Chiefs running back racked up 1,414 yards on the ground last season, but was perhaps more impressive was in the passing game. 

Edwards-Helaire reeled in more catches (55) than any other running back drafted in 2020. With Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Mecole Hardman stretching the field vertically, Edwards-Helaire should see multiple opportunities as Patrick Mahomes’ lead safety valve.

Although Edwards-Helaire’s skillset fits into Andy Reid’s pass-heavy offense like a glove, he does have competition.

Both Damien Williams and Darrel Williams were used prominently in the Chiefs offense a season ago.

Although there is a danger for a committee rushing attack potentially hurting Edwards-Helaire’s fantasy viability, his dynamism as both a runner and pass-catcher should lead to CEH having the highest usage out of the three. 

While it’s risky to pick any rookie, Edwards-Helaire has the highest upside out of any Kansas City running back. His true value comes in PPR leagues as he is likely to be on the field in third-down situations.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

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The Indianapolis Colts traded up to the No. 41 pick to acquire Jonathan Taylor— an indication of the number of carries the former Wisconsin Badger will command.

Taylor was one of the most productive running backs in college football history, racking up 6,174 rushing yards and 55 total touchdowns over his three-year tenure. 

Apparently averaging over 2,000 yards in one of the NCAA’s power conferences isn’t worth a first-round pick these days. Nonetheless, the Colts pulled off a heist, adding a true three-down back to their repertoire.  

Critics of Taylor pointed to his usage while at Wisconsin. He carried the ball 923 times, and there is a question as to whether or not he has tread left on the tires. Despite never sustaining a serious injury in college, many teams passed on Taylor as a result of his (over)usage. 

Taylor enters his rookie campaign behind one of the top-ranked offensive lines in football, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Continuity on an offensive line is always a positive. Led by the top-ranked left guard in the NFL, Quenton Nelson, the Colts are bringing back all five starters for 2020. Jonathan Taylor should easily find success behind the crème de la crème of offensive linemen.

Taylor’s biggest threat to success is his teammate Marlon Mack. 

Mack led the Colts in rushing last season, hitting the 1,000-yard milestone while accounting for eight touchdowns. His biggest problem has been staying healthy. Mack has missed games in every season thus far in his career. Most recently, Mack fractured his left hand in Week 11 of the 2019 season, missing two games as a result.

Taylor should be drafted toward the end of the third or beginning of fourth rounds in most leagues. While he may not have proven himself in the NFL yet, running behind an elite offensive line might translate to elite numbers for the rookie.

D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions

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Detroit is typically where running backs go to die. 

Since the legendary Barry Sanders, the Lions can’t seem to get it right at the running back position. Sure, Kerryon Johnson has shown flashes of adequacy over his two-year tenure, but for the most part, he hasn’t been fantasy viable. Nagging injury issues are have caused the 23-year-old to miss 14 games in his young career.

To address their problems at running back, Detroit selected Georgia product D’Andre Swift with the 35th pick in the 2020 draft. 

Swift was dominant last season as a Bulldog, racking up 1,434 yards from scrimmage, adding eight touchdowns. While at college Swift was a proficient rusher, averaging 6.6 yards per carry.

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Swift shouldn’t have much of a problem outperforming Johnson, who only averaged 3.6 yards per carry in 2019. The question is how well the O-Line will perform after losing one of their best offensive linemen in Graham Glasgow. To replace him, the Lions drafted Jonah Jackson to shore up the hole on the line. 

If Detroit can provide quality blocking for the explosive Swift, it’s not a stretch to see him in the RB2 conversation. Last season, Josh Jacobs of the Raiders and Miles Sanders of the Eagles were firmly in RB2 territory. 

Swift should be a solid fantasy asset this year. Fantasy owners should forget about the Detroit running back curse and consider rounding out their running back depth by selecting Swift in the mid-to-late rounds.

Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams

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Todd Gurley is off to Atlanta in hopes of rejuvenation. 

Darrell Henderson was supposed to be the go-to guy for the Rams, but last season showed that he isn’t the home-run hitter in the NFL that he was in college.

While it’s too early to assume that Sean McVay has given up on Henderson, the fact that they drafted Cam Akers in the second round says otherwise.

Behind one of the worst O-lines in the Power-5 conferences, Akers shredded defenses for 18 touchdowns in 2019. The Florida State Seminole racked up 1,144 yards in just 11 games while reeling in a respectable 30 catches for 225 yards.

It will be extremely tough for rookies this year, entering the NFL without OTAs or minicamps. Despite the shortcomings to training brought on by a global pandemic, Akers has reportedly stood out in the Rams’ virtual offseason program.

When Todd Gurley was healthy for the Rams they ran the ball often. In 2018, 44.59% of offensive plays were run plays. Last year, with a hobbled Gurley, they ran just 38.01% of the time. With new blood at running back, there’s hope that McVay can reignite the power-run prowess of years past.

Keeping this in mind— as well as his progression through virtual OTA’s -Akers has a good chance to take the starting job in Los Angeles, thus providing solid fantasy output. 

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

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Although they fell short of the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens are still on the list of contenders going into 2020. 

Instead of going back to the drawing board, they decided to add luxury pieces to their already insanely talented group. In the second round, Baltimore selected J.K. Dobbins of Ohio State, adding another dynamic piece to their already explosive running game.

In 2019, Dobbins broke the single-season record for yards in Ohio State history with 2,003. By doing so, he notably surpassed both Ezekiel Elliott and Eddie George’s previous marks. 

Dobbins also ran for a colossal 21 touchdowns last season, adding 247 yards receiving and two scores through the air. His big-play ability should translate well on a roster filled with talented skill players.

Baltimore ran the ball over 54% of plays last year. This is due in part to having the fastest player on the field as a quarterback and leading a majority of games down the stretch. It also has to do with having a strong running back group. 

The veteran Mark Ingram will be the top running back in Baltimore going into the 2020 season. He’s entering his tenth year in NFL, on the heels of his third Pro Bowl selection. While he’s going to be starting the season at the top of the depth chart, there’s a definite chance he misses time due to injury at some point during the season. 

Ingram missed Week 17 in 2019 due to a strained calf. In order to protect Ingram to injury, they might shelf the vet late in blowout games. This helps Dobbins in garbage time, but there are many what-ifs in this scenario. 

Dobbins also has to contend with the bruiser Gus Edwards. These two will be fighting for snaps behind Ingram. Dobbins does have the edge in the receiving game over Edwards, but the Gus Bus is the obvious choice near the goal line.

Dobbins is talented, but in order to contend with Ingram, fantasy owners might want to go the handcuff route. 

Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a complete overhaul on offense this past offseason. The biggest move was obviously moving on from Jameis Winston and signing Tom Brady. Not only did Tampa Bay sign one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but they also picked up a future hall of fame tight end Rob Gronkowski. 

As a result of the big-name signings, Tampa’s third-round selection flew under the radar. Ke’Shawn Vaughn out of Vanderbilt steps into a high-powered Buccaneer squad led by head coach/noted quarterback whisperer Bruce Arians. 

Vaughn is high on many draft boards and for good reason. It may not be about what he does on the ground as much as what he can do as a receiver. Last season in New England, Brady targeted running backs 155 times. This was more than any other team outside of the Chargers (169). It’s unlikely that Arians will drastically change things at this stage in Brady’s career.

Vaughn played for both Illinois and Vanderbilt over his four-year tenure in college. He racked up 3,944 yards from scrimmage, scoring 33 total touchdowns. These numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, but he should have a prominent role in Tampa’s offense considering Ronald Jones hasn’t really lived up to his projections coming out of college.

The lack of competition at the running back position coupled with Brady’s propensity to involve running backs in the passing game means Vaughn should be on the radar. In PPR leagues he has the potential to be especially valuable.

Vaughn is currently being drafted around the eighth round, which is absolute thievery. 

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

About Tyler Mulligan

Sports Journalist from Toronto, Canada. Fantasy hockey, basketball and football aficionado.

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