2020 Fantasy Football: Three-Down Running Backs

by Dylan Clemons
2021 Fantasy Football Week 12 Injury Impact

Welcome back fantasy nerds, this is the Fantasy Six Pack 2020 Fantasy Football Three-Down Running Backs article. We will go over a few teams who still have a few three-down backs in the NFL.

Three-down backs are somewhat of a dying breed in the NFL. More teams are going with the running backs by committee approach, which sometimes is a nightmare for fantasy owners. I covered those backfields previously in my 2020 Fantasy Football Committees Backfield article.

People's opinions vary on what technically is a three-down running back. I like to look at snap share percentage. I also like to look at how many targets the running back gets on the season. If the running back has over a 70% snap share, and average around 20 touches per game, I consider him a three-down running back.

There were only six running backs to do that last season. Let's get into those names now.

2020 Fantasy Football: Three Down Running Backs

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Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

Christian McCaffrey had an unbelievable season last year and he is the best example as a three-down back. His snap share led all running backs at 98.1%, while also leading the league in touches per game as well, averaging a whopping 26.75 touches.

I expect a similar season for  McCaffrey this year. The offense is going to change some, going from defensive-minded head coach Ron Rivera to offensive-minded coach Matt Rhule. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is more known as a safe quarterback who likes to check it down a ton. So that should mean another workhorse type season for McCaffrey.

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

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Ezekiel Elliott had another workhorse type season, playing on 84.3% of his team's snaps, and finishing with a hair over 23 touches per game.

Last season we saw Tony Pollard get a little more involved in the offense and look good with his touches. I expect him to eat into Zeke’s workload a little bit more this season, but I still expect Zeke to finish with around 20 touches a game. He will still be that workhorse type back that we love in fantasy football.

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

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Saquon Barkley had somewhat of a disappointing season last year, because of a nagging ankle injury that he received in Week 3. Miraculously he came back from that injury in just three weeks when it normally takes four to six weeks to heal. But when he returned you could tell that he wasn’t 100% still.

Even while he was battling injuries, he was still on the field for 88.1% of his snaps and averaged over 22 touches per game. As long as Barkley stays healthy we know that he will be the Giants' three-down back because he’s freakishly talented.

However, I must warn you that the beginning of his schedule this season is against extremely tough run defenses, so you may need to temper your expectations a bit at the beginning of the year.

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

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When you think of three-down backs, Chris Carson probably isn’t a name that comes to mind, but he does fit my criteria for this article. He played on 73.9% of the Seahawks' running backs snaps. He also averaged 21.6 touches a game while he was in the lineup.

The thing that sticks out in my mind when it comes to Carson is that he has had fumbling problems in the past. Luckily for him, Head Coach Pete Carroll hasn’t lost faith in Carson yet, and he continues to use him as his “workhorse” back.

Carson did have off-season hip surgery, and they did sign veteran Carlos Hyde. Reports are indicating that Carson will be ready for Week 1.

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

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Last season was the first time in Fournette’s young career that he was able to play more than 13 games in the season. He was, by every definition, a workhorse back. He had a 91% snap share according to playerprofiler.com. That was good enough for 2nd in the league for running backs.

Fournette also averaged 24.33 touches per game, which was second in the league to McCaffrey. I do expect him to get mostly all the work in the running game, but his pass-catching work will most likely regress. The Jaguars signed veteran pass-catching running Chris Thompson this off-season.

I go into more detail on what I expect from Fournette this season in our 2020 Fantasy Footall Running Back Do Not Draft List.

Honorable Mentions

Below are some players who just made missed the statistical benchmark in 2019, but I believe will be three-down backs in 2020.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals - I believe he is in line to see 350 touches this season in what will be a much-improved offense with rookie quarterback Joe Burrow and a healthy A.J. Green.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans - The only reason why Henry isn’t listed above is that his snap share was low last year since he doesn’t get a lot of work in the passing game. He is definitely workhorse material though, and with Dion Lewis gone, the Titans may keep him on the field for more passing situations. I expect him to get close to 25 touches per game this season again.

Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals - I’m excited to see what Drake will do in this offense for a full season. Once he was traded there he never saw less than 15 touches in a game. Now that he knows the full playbook, I see him being the workhorse back there.


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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1 comment

Three Down Running Backs - Fantasy Football 2020 August 10, 2020 - 10:39 pm

[…] fantasysixpack.net takes a look at which teams have running backs that have over a 70% snap share and averaged around 20 carries last season. […]

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