2019 Rookie Fantasy Recap: Running Backs
Let’s rewind for a moment. At this point last year, we were beginning the conversation of analyzing these incoming rookies. Just like this year, there’s no shortage of people doing their homework on these players and inspecting the tape and reviewing the numbers that they put up in college.
For a few months, this is what all of the NFL’s attention is turned towards. When you turn on NFL Network, it’s all they’re talking about. In addition, all the other major sports news outlets are covering these players and it’s all in anticipation of those few days in April where we find out where these players will end up.
After the NFL Draft, there’s a few weeks of discussing the landing spots and recapping the event. But then the conversation about these rookies falls off a cliff. Specifically in Fantasy Football, there’s very little review on these rookies and how they performed. Whether this is in-season or at the year’s end, we fall victim to the mindset of constantly looking forward.
However, for Fantasy Football, looking back can be extremely beneficial. There are players that may be immediate contributors in 2020, but their situation wasn’t perfect in 2019 and they failed to maximize their potential.
We have short-term memory in Fantasy Football and it’s important to remember that and strive to remedy it. In this article, we’ll look at the 2019 RB rookies and how they performed, while also looking forward to next year and how they can contribute in 2020.
(Players will be listed below in order of where they were drafted)
1. Josh Jacobs (LVR)
Josh Jacobs played in 13 games as a rookie and displayed the talent and abilities that made me rank him as my No. 1 RB in the 2019 NFL Draft. Jacobs dealt with a shoulder injury throughout the season, but still gutted it out and put up some great numbers. Despite missing three games, Jacobs finished as the RB15 in Half Point Scoring formats and finished the season over the illustrious 1,000 rushing-yard mark for RBs. In addition, he finished with 7 rushing TDs, but was infrequently used in the receiving game. Moving into next year, there’s optimism for Jacobs to take an additional step forward as he steps into a larger role in the receiving game, which is one of his best assets. If healthy, Jacobs will compete for a Top-10 finish in 2020 due to his workload and involvement in the offense.
2. Miles Sanders (PHI)
Miles Sanders played in 16 games as a rookie and consistently flashed the athletic ability that made him such an intriguing prospect out of Penn State. While Sanders didn’t receive the amount of touches fantasy owners would have liked to see (179 carries), he finished as the RB14 in Half Point Scoring. The majority of Sanders’ fantasy value came through the air as he finished with 50 receptions and over 500 receiving yards, which was good enough for a Top-7 finish at the RB position in 2019. Moving forward, Sanders is unlikely to ever be given the full workload in Doug Pederson’s system, but he remains a valuable fantasy asset. Due to his work in the receiving game, Sanders is a solid candidate to finish as a Top-24 RB again in 2020.
3. Darrell Henderson (LAR)
Darrell Henderson was one of the most puzzling selections in the 2019 NFL Draft in April and it’s still one of the most puzzling here in February of 2020. The Rams refused to use Henderson this season, despite Todd Gurley’s disappearing act from the field on critical downs. Henderson only received 43 total touches in 2019, which is inexcusable considering that Henderson was drafted in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft. While there are rumors that Gurley might be traded this offseason, which would open the doors for Henderson to receive more work, the likelihood of that actually happening is slim to none. Gurley’s contract is un-tradeable and the Rams would take a massive cap hit to outright release him. Henderson is going to be stuck on the bench for the majority of 2020 unless something drastic changes this offseason, which makes him untouchable in Fantasy Football.
4. David Montgomery (CHI)
David Montgomery walked into a rough situation in Chicago this past season. Montgomery consistently displayed his tackle-breaking ability and contact balance, but the Offensive Line rarely gave him anything to work with play after play. Montgomery played in 16 games in 2019 and received 242 carries, but only finished with 889 yards on the ground and six rushing TDs. He had a limited role in the passing game too and finished as the RB24 in Half Point Scoring formats. Moving forward, the Bears offense should rebound back to what it’s capable of and Montgomery will be a beneficiary. Despite the limited production, Montgomery still saw a significant amount of touches, which is a good sign. I’d expect Montgomery to finish somewhere in the RB2 range again in 2020.
5. Devin Singletary (BUF)
Devin Singletary was the surprise of the 2019 season, personally. Nearly everything in his scouting profile indicated that he wouldn’t have as much success as he did, but he came through and contributed for fantasy owners last year. Singletary came in undersized and had a limited athletic profile, but his shiftiness and burst helped him succeed. Singletary played in 12 games last season and received nearly 200 total touches. He finished as the RB28 in Half Point Scoring formats, but showed that he could’ve finished higher if he played in all 16 games. In regards to the 2020 season, I expect the Bills to bring in a larger RB that can compliment Singletary, particularly on the goal line. At his size, I expect Singletary to remain around the 200 total touches mark, which limits his upside, but still allows him to be a valuable fantasy asset. His 2020 projection is in flux for the time being until we get more clarity on whether or not the Bills bring in competition at the position, but I wouldn’t be surprised to be talking about Singletary in the RB15-RB25 range again next season.
6. Damien Harris (NE)
Damien Harris was a talented RB coming out of Alabama, but the New England Patriots are intent on keeping him as insurance at the RB position…Harris saw only four carries in 2019. At this point, Harris can’t be counted on for anything in Fantasy Football next season.
7. Alexander Mattison (MIN)
Alexander Mattison was a bit of a surprise pick at No. 102 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, but he played extremely well when he saw the field. Mattison played in 13 games alongside Dalvin Cook and received 112 total touches. While Mattison will most likely never see enough work to be relevant for Fantasy Football with Cook playing in front of him, he’s an extremely valuable asset if Cook is ever injured.
8. Bryce Love (WAS)
Bryce Love was selected with the 112th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Oft injured in college, Love underwent another knee surgery in October of last year and never saw the field. Love contributing for Fantasy Football in 2020 is a roll of the dice. He’s dealt with several injuries over his playing career and lacked true explosiveness the last time we saw him on the field at Stanford. At this point, Love shouldn’t be considered for 2020.
9. Justice Hill (BAL)
Justice Hill was a favorite of the Fantasy Football community, but did very little in 2019. Hill played in all 16 games, but only received 64 total touches. Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards, and Lamar Jackson dominate the majority of the touches in the running game in Baltimore. Until one of them is no longer with the team, it’s hard to picture the situation for Justice Hill changing much in 2020.
10. Benny Snell (PIT)
Benny Snell was drafted with the 122nd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and came on in relief of James Conner for the Steelers last season. He saw a total of 11 total touches, but failed to do anything extraordinary with them. Snell is a rotational player and will most likely be treated as such again for 2020.
11. Tony Pollard (DAL)
Tony Pollard may have been the steal of the NFL Draft, being selected by the Dallas Cowboys at No. 128 overall. Pollard came on to form a dynamic duo with Ezekiel Elliott in 2019 and flashed his playmaking ability several times throughout the year. Pollard had 101 total touches and was electric whenever he had the ball in his hands, which resulted in a stellar 5.3 YPC. Moving forward, Pollard should continue to see work in this backfield with Zeke, but it might not be enough for consistent Fantasy Football value week after week. Pollard remains a valuable handcuff for 2020 and beyond.
12. Ryquell Armstead (JAX)
Ryquell Armstead had buzz coming into the 2019 season that he may be the long-term replacement for Leonard Fournette. Fournette played very well though in 2019 and silenced any optimism for Armstead’s fantasy value long-term. Armstead is an intriguing hold in deep Dynasty leagues, but is unlikely to have any fantasy value for 2020.
13. Darwin Thompson (KC)
Darwin Thompson was one of the most-hyped players around the start of the NFL season in 2019. Drafted in the 6th round, Thompson was unknown to the majority of Fantasy Football fans…however, due to the offense he plays in in Kansas City and the murkiness that existed with the backs in front of him, Thompson’s stock was through the roof. Unfortunately, nothing substantial came out of it. Thompson only saw 46 total touches in 2019 and didn’t do much with that workload. Thompson will remain a rotational part of the Chiefs backfield in 2020 and is unlikely to carve out a substantial role.