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NFL FANTASY: Yay, Nay, and Hooray! RB Edition

Which Running Backs Will You Be Taking in Your Draft?

Chris Carson by Jeffrey Beall is licensed under CC BY 4.0

NFL FANTASY: Yay, Nay, and Hooray! RB Edition

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Can you believe football is almost here already? It is indeed that time, and it also means folks are doing their homework and preparing for their upcoming fantasy football drafts. That is, of course, if you haven’t drafted your ultimate squad already!

That is where myself and fellow Turf Writer Ryan MacPherson come into play. Two guys…one from New York, the other from Boston…put aside their sports fandom differences to bring you our RUNNING BACKS edition of Yay, Nay, and Hooray!

Now you are probably wondering what that all means. Basically, if you remember last year, I did my Love, Hate, and Sleepers articles for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. If you are a follower of Matthew Berry on ESPN, he writes his Love/Hate articles for fantasy football each week. Pretty similar. But here at the Turf, we decided to put our own flavor on a similar concept. Our Yays are the players we Love. The Nays are the players we Hate, and our Hoorays! are the players we think could be Sleepers in fantasy this year. As in “Hooray! No one thought you would be this productive in fantasy this year!”

Alright let’s get to the Running Backs!

Ryan’s YAY Running Backs

Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

Before Melvin Gordon‘s return from a contract dispute in 2019, Ekeler was the #2 RB in fantasy. While you would expect his production to drop off after, he finished 2019 as the 4th overall RB. With Gordon gone, Ekeler assumes lead back responsibilities and should continue to flourish in the underneath passing game with Tyrod Taylor under center (for now).

Matt’s YAY Running Backs

Let me be very clear…Christian McCaffrey should be the #1 overall pick in every fantasy football draft in the country. So of course we love him. But let me give you a few not-so-obvious RBs I love too.

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

I love Carson this year. Ever since becoming the go-to RB in Seattle a couple of seasons ago, he has rushed for over 1,100 yards with at least 7 rushing TDs each season. The nice thing about Carson too is he has only missed three games in two seasons as a starter. I also expect Carson to step up this season in the pass game.

To me, Carson is tremendously underrated and is someone who always seems to fly under the radar and quietly produces nice fantasy years. He’s been on my team every year for the past two years, and has been quite reliable. Carson is the kind of guy who you think is more of a RB2, but is very capable of being a RB1 on a fantasy roster.

Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

Well because Rodgers basically has one legit receiver to throw to, he is going to need Aaron Jones to step up in the passing game and help a brother out. I think he will. And Jones should get a lot of reps too. He tied Christian McCaffrey for most TDs at the RB position last season (19), and tied Derrick Henry for most rushing TDs (16). I expect Jones to have another nice season, even if he regresses a little from last year.

Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

Take it to the bank, Jacobs will be a Top-10 RB in fantasy this year. Raiders love to run the ball – they were fifth in the league in rush percentage. Jacobs is another guy who could step up more in the passing game, as I still am not sure who is going to be the WR1 in Vegas this year. Jacobs caught 20 of his 27 targets last season. He had a very nice rookie campaign, and has solidified himself as the go-to RB in Oak- er, I mean, Las Vegas.

Ryan’s NAY Running Backs

Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints AND Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

I LOVE the talent with both of these guys but their contracts scare the shit out of me. As of right now, it looks like both will likely miss the start of the season as they hold our for big deals.

We’ve seen RBs do it in the past, some with more success (Ezekiel Elliott) than others (Melvin Gordon). But given that these guys will likely be your #1 overall pick, if they don’t play for a significant chunk of the season, your playoff hopes may be dashed by the time they return.

Tread lightly and make sure you draft their handcuffs (Latavius Murray and Alexander Mattinson) by the fifth or sixth round.

Matt’s NAY Running Backs

Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

Chubb had a nice year last season rushing for nearly 1,500 yards, 5 yards per carry and for 8 TDs. But that was without Kareem Hunt in the backfield for half of the season. Throw Hunt into the mix for a full season, then what happens?

Baker Mayfield had a rough season last year, and it will be this year when we find out whether he is for real or not. It would not surprise me if new head coach Kevin Stefanski implemented more of an “RB by Committee” approach. Which means Chubb would be sharing more of the workload with Hunt in the backfield.

And here’s the other thing to consider…in just half a season, Hunt caught 37 passes last year; which is one more than Chubb as a matter of fact. If you were to double that to 74 catches over the course of a full season, that would make Hunt a Top-30 pass catcher in the league last season…as a running back.

So Chubb wouldn’t be a bad pick in fantasy this year, but I would caution that he may be sharing more of the load with Kareem Hunt, which could result in less production.

Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets

My Le’Veon Bell ship has sailed. He doesn’t even like his coach, he’s on a bad team, and he’s behind an underwhelming offensive line. I don’t think we will ever see Bell return to the form he was in Pittsburgh. But who knows…I could be wrong…but probably not.

Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals

I just feel like Drake’s emergence last season was a bit of a fluke. This is a guy who’s never rushed for more than 850 yards in a season, and he is currently ranked 11th among RBs in fantasy going into this season. I think that’s waaaaay too high. Also, are we sure he’s going to hog all the reps in the backfield this season? Because Chase Edmonds is a solid complimentary RB you could stash on your bench, and he has potential to fill a much larger role in the offense this season.

Ryan’s HOORAY! Running Backs

Damien Harris, New England Patriots

To be clear, this is a DEEP sleeper. Harris is playing in a deep backfield that tends to spread the wealth and go with the hot hand. But Sony Michel hasn’t wowed with his efficiency and his injury concerns create an opportunity for “lead back” responsibilities – whatever that may look like in New England.

Harris has been explosive in camp and may get some serious run if he can get past a recent thumb injury. He won’t be your RB2, but could be a really solid flex.

Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals

Arizona loves Kenyan Drake and for good reason after his explosive production following his trade from Miami. But Drake has been battling nagging lower body injuries and enters the 2020 season in a walking boot.

The Cardinals now have legitimate receivers (enter DeAndre Hopkins) and if Drake misses time, Chase Edmonds will get the rock. In his three weeks as starter before injury, Edmonds averaged over 22 fantasy points per week in PPR scoring. That kind of production from a guy that will go as late as he will is a game-changer.

Matt’s HOORAY! Running Backs

James White, New England Patriots

Ryan chose Damien Harris as one of his Hooray! RBs. But I am going with another RB out of New England, who has been Mr. Reliable for the Patriots in recent years. James White is currently ranked 31st by ESPN among RBs in PPR leagues. That is seriously a crime. White has racked up over 2,000 yards from scrimmage, over 150 receptions, and 18 TDs the past two seasons combined. How is he not Top-30? In PPR?

New England might be lacking in weapons (maybe), but James White could become Cam Newton‘s best friend here; especially for a QB who isn’t very accurate throwing the ball downfield.

Matt lives in Newnan, Georgia but was born and raised in Upstate New York. He is a fan of the New York Yankees, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Boston Celtics. At the collegiate level, he is a Notre Dame and Syracuse fan (yeah he can root for both, and what?!) He must, however, find a soccer team to root for. So him out there. All suggestions are welcome. You can catch Matt on the Turf mostly covering NFL, NBA, MLB, College Football and Basketball, and Horse Racing (that is not a typo, he practically grew up on a racetrack). It's nothing's strictly sports.

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