Fantasy Football

2020 NFL Draft Optimal Running Back Landing Spots


With the 2020 NFL draft just around the corner, this year’s class of running backs has slipped under the radar.

Fans and analysts have been debating as to where the chips will fall with regards to quarterbacks and wide receivers, meanwhile, the draft stock of running backs have been on a downward trajectory.

In the last week, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffery made history with his four-year $64 million contract. This payday is the exception to the rule. By and large, running backs have become more and more expendable partially due to the physical nature of the position and because of the saturation of talent within the league.

In the upcoming draft, there are talented players at the RB position, but because of the diminishing value of the position, it’s likely these skill players are going to slip to the later rounds of this year’s draft.

Nonetheless, with the 2020 NFL Draft Optimal Running Back Landing Spots, we’ll look at the cream of the backfield crop and discuss where each prospect fits best into the roster of multiple franchises. And if you missed it, take a look back at our optimal landing spots for Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers.

2020 NFL Draft Optimal Running Back Landing Spots

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D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

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  • Height: 5-8
  • Weight: 212
  • 40 Time: 4.48
  • Projected Round: 1-2

Kansas City Chiefs

D’Andre Swift, who is regarded as one of this year’s best running backs, has the potential to crack the first round.

With the 32nd pick in the draft, it would make sense for the Chiefs to select the Georgia product. He’s the kind of running back that can play all three downs, which would fit well into the committee ground attack already established in Kansas City.

Swift is a cerebral runner, whose agility and decisiveness at the line of scrimmage allows him to burst up-field. At the collegiate level, Swift averaged 6.6 yards per carry, racking up 2,885 yards on the ground, while scoring 20 rushing touchdowns.

He’s also effective in the passing game. In three seasons, the aptly named running back caught 73 passes for 666 yards and five touchdowns.

Damien Williams led the Chiefs’ cast of running backs in both rushing (498 yards) and receiving (30 catches, 213 yards). Despite being the backfield option for Patrick Mahomes, Williams often struggled to gain momentum in the passing game. Swift is a more versatile player than Williams and should garner a majority of touches in an already potent Kansas City offense.

Although using a first-round pick on a running back is suddenly taboo in the NFL world, Swift would slide into an excellent offense where he’d have all the tools for a successful rookie campaign. Fantasy owners could expect excellent production from Swift if he were to be drafted by the reigning Super Bowl Champions.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

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  • Height: 5-10
  • Weight: 226
  • 40 Time: 4.39
  • Projected Round: 1-2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jonathan Taylor is one of the most underrated players in this year’s class. In many mock drafts, Taylor is projected to be selected midway through the second round. With the 45th pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a great position to nab one of the most productive rushers in college football history.

Taylor is a workhorse with blazing speed. At 4.39, the Wisconsin product had the fastest 40-yard time at his position in the draft. As a collegiate athlete, Taylor used his speed to put up eye-popping numbers in the running game. Over three seasons, Taylor carried the ball 926 times for 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns— 20 of which he scored in his final season.

Many critics look to his usage as a point of contention. Although he averaged over 300 rushing attempts per year, Taylor never missed a game or practice for the Badgers as a result of injury.

The Buccaneers need a player like Taylor to fill the bell-cow role in Tampa Bay. With an aging Tom Brady at the helm, head coach Bruce Arians will look to balance the offense. Taylor offers the perfect skill set to take some of the pressure off Brady. Although he wasn’t utilized in the passing game often while at Wisconsin, Taylor’s combine showed his ability to make catches.

If Taylor goes to Tampa Bay in the second round, fantasy owners can expect Taylor to surpass Ronald Jones II on the depth chart, who has only mustered 768 yards in 25 games at the NFL level.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU

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  • Height: 5-7
  • Weight: 207
  • 40 Time: 4.60
  • Projected Round (2020): 2-3

Buffalo Bills

LSU is a running back factory. They seem to churn out NFL caliber backs year-after-year. Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice, Damien Williams and Spencer Ware are among the most recent running backs to make the step from Baton Rouge to the NFL.

This year is no exception.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is coming off an excellent season with the Tigers, posting 1,867 yards from scrimmage during the National Championship campaign.

Although his 40-yard-dash time (4.60) was slower than what you’d like from a top running back, his game tape reveals a much quicker step than his lackluster 40 time.

Although Edwards-Helaire registered 1,414 yards on the ground last season, his receiving game is where he stands out among this year’s class.

Edwards-Helaire caught 55 passes last season and showed his dynamism within LSU’s high-powered passing attack. The 21-year-old will step into the league as a top pass-catching back, which is where the Buffalo Bills lack.

Although the Bills already have Devin Singletary, who is a serviceable running back, Edwards-Helaire could step into the offense as a third-down back. He would be Josh Allen’s go-to safety valve. While a backfield committee isn’t always the most favorable from a fantasy perspective, those looking for a value hand-cuff option may consider drafting Singletary and Edwards-Helaire, especially in PPR formats.

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

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  • Height: 5-9
  • Weight: 210
  • Projected 40 Time: 4.50
  • Projected Round: 2-3

Pittsburgh Steelers

J.K. Dobbins averaged 6.7 yards per carry last season, totaling 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns as Buckeye. He also gained 247 yards through the air, earning First Team All American honors.

The Steelers currently have four running backs on their roster, with James Conner being the most well-known out of the bunch. After having a breakout season while former teammate Le’Veon Bell held out over contract disputes, Conner’s numbers declined. Last season was marred by injuries and the offense was one-dimensional when Ben Roethlisberger succumbed to injury early in the season.

Conner seemed to have superstar potential, but after a disappointing 2019 season, there are questions as to whether he is going to have a future with the organization. It’s a make-or-break season for Conner, who is going into a contract year.

Pittsburgh has already shown their unwillingness to spend big bucks for a running back throughout the Bell debacle, so it wouldn’t be outlandish to suggest picking up a running back in the draft.

Dobbins beat up on defenses as the bell-cow tailback at Ohio State. He’s multi-dimensional and can step into Pittsburgh’s rotation immediately, with the potential to overtake Conner for the role of RB1.

At the combine, Dobbins mentioned he models his game after Christian McCaffery. While he’s not expected to be nearly as productive as the world’s highest-paid running back, Dobbins does offer the Steelers and fantasy owners immediate value.

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If the Steelers can snatch Dobbins with their third-round pick, it could be a match made in heaven for both sides.

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About Tyler Mulligan

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

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