Early Overvalued Running Backs (2020 Fantasy Football)
The 2019 fantasy football season has come to a close. For those that never let their foot off the fantasy gas pedal like myself, 2020 preparation has just begun. Over the course of the month, I’ll be walking through early renditions of potential overvalued and undervalued running backs and wide receivers for the upcoming season. First on the plate is overvalued running backs.
One overlying theme this list has is big name recognition. These guys have been popular names in the fantasy world for multiple years and for good reason. An important takeaway here is understanding most running back high-performance career arcs last only about four years. Quite a few on this list are running out of time on that front. Not only that, but many of them scored far more than expected considering their usage in 2019. Let’s take a look at a few players who could be a fade at their current price tag.
Todd Gurley (LAR)
2020 ECR: RB13
Part of Gurley’s struggles came from the Rams’ offensive line going from 1st in run blocking in 2018 to 19th in 2019 according to FootballOutsiders.com. That marks one of the biggest drops in performance among running backs over the last few years. Unless the Rams make big additions over the off-season, we shouldn’t anticipate a major boost in 2020. The other part of Gurley’s struggles came from a lack of use in the passing game. This significantly plummets his value, especially in PPR leagues.
He was also clearly on a snap count for most of the year, splitting time with both Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson. The Rams will boast a new offensive coordinator this year in Kevin O’Connell who comes from the Redskins. In his time there, he led one of the most even running back timeshares in the league between Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Derrius Guice, and Wendell Smallwood. Peterson led the team with an unimpressive 42 percent season-long snap share. While Gurley has a stronger track record than those players and will still be the featured back, expect Brown and Henderson to work in more this year.
Derrick Henry (TEN)
2020 ECR: RB6
Henry came off of a massive close to the season and playoff run, consistently earning chunk gains and rushing for over 100 yards a game. No doubt, Henry is incredible as a runner and led my “Yards Created Above Expected” category here:
Introducing RB Yards Created through analytics! 💪📈
The purpose of this process was to see if we can measure each RB's ability to create on their own. As such, it was adjusted for O-line blocking, % vs stacked fronts, yards before/after contact, etc.
2019 list here 👇
— David Zach (@DavidZach16) January 8, 2020
Still, his lack of a role in the receiving game is alarming in PPR leagues. In 2019, he was the only top-20 running back to have fewer than 20 receptions on the year. If he doesn’t get more involved in the passing game, he’ll continue to be dangerously reliant on a massive rushing workload and touchdown totals. Another important note is how Henry recently stated in an interview that Ezekiel Elliot‘s contract is his current floor for getting resigned. In this modern era where running backs are more willing than ever to hold out for guaranteed money, this casts yet another shadow of doubt over his 2020 status. Recency bias will likely elevate his draft stock as most will remember his incredible performances to close the season. Unless there’s talk of increasing his receiving role, he’ll need to replicate his career year to make good on his current value.
Aaron Jones (GB)
2020 ECR: RB7
While the ECR currently has him as RB7, there have been many mock drafts already taking him as a top-five running back. I’ve written about Aaron Jones a lot this year already and it always involves the same basis of touchdown regression and splitting snaps with Jamaal Williams. Jones deserves more playing time based on his talent, but it has yet to come to fruition. There are few more reliable stats than extreme touchdown rates coming back to league average (whether high or low), and Jones’ 6+% touch rate certainly qualifies. He can still be a good fantasy player, but another top-5 finish in 2020 is unlikely unless he maintains his massive touchdown pace or sees a significantly increased workload. Williams might just be a thorn in his side for yet another year.
Melvin Gordon (LAC)
2020 ECR: RB16
People are expecting Gordon to maintain his workload regardless of where he goes. Landing spot is nearly everything for him, and his value is directly tied to it. Considering that he held out last year and is now an unrestricted free agent, there is little comfort believing he quickly signs a new contract, unless a team shells out their bank for him. Gordon was constantly out-shined by Austin Ekeler all season long which is a testament to both the rise in Ekeler’s performance and the fall of Gordon’s. Ekeler is also far more easy to retain for the Chargers than Gordon. Gordon is not worth the risk in my mind until we know more in free agency. Until then, it would be prudent to steer clear.
Mark Ingram (BAL)
2020 ECR: RB18
Ingram is entering his age-31 season and is coming off of a spectacular year in the Raven’s new-look offense. Running backs and old age are two things that have never mixed very well for fantasy purposes. In fact, only six running backs over the age of 27 have been a top-24 PPR fantasy back in the last three years; Ingram coincidentally holds two of those six outliers. Unless he turns into the next Frank Gore or Adrian Peterson, there is a strong likelihood that his performance starts to trail off drastically each year from now. He could easily start seeing fewer snaps going forward in favor of receiving specialist Justice Hill, and Gus Edwards has been sneakily stealing his own shares as well.
Thanks for reading, and stay golden! If you like what you learned, follow me @DavidZach16 for more interesting stats and tidbits throughout the year.