Rookie Running Backs for 2020

Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 4:48 pm ET

Watching draft activity so far this year shows that running backs are going off the draft boards quick. In the first three rounds of average draft positions, 20 of the 36 picks are running backs. With more than half of the first three rounds going to one position, 2020 is shaping up to be another RB-heavy season. That means that if you don't draft running backs early, you may very well end up with a rookie RB as a starter or flex option.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the rookie with the most buzz coming into 2020 and for good reason. He's a talented back on arguably one of the most fantasy friendly offenses (5th in total points and 7th in total yards). The Chiefs took him with the last pick of the first round, so he's certainly going to have a role on this team. Depending upon scoring formats, his ADP has him going anywhere from the end of the second round to the start of the fifth. At his lowest ADP, that means that he's being drafted ahead of guys like Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournette, and James Conner. But why? Unlike those guys who sit atop their respective depth charts, CEH still has to unseat Damien Williams for the starting job. That's not a given. While Williams didn't start out strong last season, he certainly finished strong and should have been the Super Bowl MVP. It would be unrealistic to think that CEH unseats Williams for the first couple of games. He needs to learn the offense and Williams doesn't. CEH could carve out a healthy role for himself and earn timeshare duties this season, but to draft him so high in redraft leagues seems like a high price to pay.

Like CEH, Jonathan Taylor doesn't sit atop the depth chart, but unlike Edwards-Helaire, his ADP is a bit more realistic. Depending on scoring format, Taylor is coming off the boards between the fourth and seventh rounds. He'll get some early-down work and share time with Marlon Mack, but he not only needs to edge out Mack, but he also needs to edge out Nyheim Hines for third-down duties. That's a fair amount of competition coming into the season. Taylor won't likely supercede Mack as the RB1, but he figures to be a solid 1-2 punch for the Colts and his touches could certainly rise near those of Macks'. He could be a great fantasy backup RB for your team.

One thing that is great about both Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor is that given their situations, if they can get the majority of the touches (whether earned or because of injuries), they have an opportunity to be a Top 12 running back. I don't think it's a high probability for 2020, but you're drafting them on potential ceilings.

Cam Akers is being drafted between the fifth and ninth rounds depending upon scoring format. Here's what we know about Akers. He's going to be in a three-man committee with Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown. His role has yet to be determined, but plenty of speculation abounds for him as the lead man there. A virtual off-season isn't great for Akers to truly learn the Rams system either. Henderson will likely get the bulk of the touches out of the gate, and while Akers could see more usage towards the end of the year, the committee approach limits his fantasy value.

D'Andre Swift is typically being drafted a few picks after Akers comes off the board. The presence of Swift certainly diminishes the fantasy value of Kerryon Johnson, but the distribution of the workload remains to be seen. There's a strong chance the they are going to cancel each other out relegating them both to flex options at best. Keep in mind that the Lions ranked in the bottom third of the league last year in rushing yards and haven't produced a 1,000 yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013.

Every rookie this year is going to have to contend with virtual trainings instead of rookie camps and OTAs. That makes it very difficult for coaches to feel confident about the depth chart competitions. In Dynasty formats, every player above has significantly more value than in redraft leagues.

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