Players Expected to Lose Carries in 2020 (Fantasy Football)
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Fantasy projections are a fascinating assignment, as they involve factoring stats of previous season, offensive game-plan, and skillset, and determining how productive and valuable a player is for fantasy purposes. However, a player who sees a large number of snaps and touches one year could see a reduction in numbers the following year simply because of a coaching regime change or the addition of a new player who leads to the staff taking a committee approach.
With the shortest shelf life among any position in the NFL, coaches continuously seek depth at the running back position. If a team is lucky, they have two or three backs that rotate throughout the game. Usually, this consists of a featured back, their back-up, and a third-down specialist, who usually is a pass-catching scat back.
However, some teams use a two-headed monster approach, where instead of a clear number-one and number two-back, the touches are more evenly split, and the coaches take more of a 1a/1b approach to their usage. Although a two running back scheme is beneficial in real football, the uncertainty for fantasy purposes can cause serious frustration for fantasy players.
In this piece, I examine five running backs who were among the league-leaders in carries in 2019 but are now poised for their number of attempts to fall in 2020.
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2020 Carries Fallers
Nick Chubb (RB – CLE)
Chubb took the next step with his game during his second year in the NFL. He finished second in the league in rushing yards and finished the season with 298 attempts in 2019. However, when Kareem Hunt returned from suspension, Chubb’s production took a massive hit. Hunt will cut into Chubb’s rushing attempts and overall usage pretty significantly, especially in the passing game, an area of the field in which Hunt thrives in. I expect a two-headed monster out of the backfield for the Browns from the start of the season. Chubb is still an elite RB and could very well see over 250 touches and rush for more than 1,000 yards again. Despite that, I don’t think he comes near 300 touches with Hunt in Cleveland. Chubb is still an RB1 with a limited ceiling due to Hunt’s usage. Hunt should be a weekly RB2/3 with great standalone value and tremendous upside. However, do not fade Chubb because of Hunt’s presence. Instead, make it a priority to draft Hunt, who could be as high as a fifth-round draft pick this season.
Chris Carson (RB – SEA)
Chris Carson performed at a high level in 2019, eclipsing 1,000 yards for the second-straight season and totaling 278 rushing attempts in 2019. However, Carson’s fumbling issues led the Seahawks to sign veteran RB Carlos Hyde. The arrival of Hyde, who had 245 attempts himself in 2019, indicates Carson could be on a short leash if his fumbling problems continue. I think Carson will remain the featured back throughout the season, but an RBBC approach is not out of the picture if Carson cannot keep the football safe and commits too many costly turnovers. Carson’s ceiling in the Seahawk’s offense is a low-end RB1 and is a great value in fantasy drafts, but at the same time, he is one mistake away from a committee approach and becoming more of an RB3/Flex option if he has to split carries with Hyde. If you have shares of Carson, make sure Hyde is on your bench as well.
Marlon Mack (RB – IND)
On the heels of his first 1,000-yard rushing season on 247 attempts, Marlon Mack finds himself in a troubling situation this season. The arrival of 2020 second-round draft pick Jonathan Taylor does not bode well for Mack’s fantasy value. Mack is essentially non-existent in the passing game, making him more expendable, and Taylor might showcase his talent early enough to take control of Indy’s backfield. Mack is also in the last year of his rookie contract, so his days in Indianapolis should come to an end after this season. Mack could begin the season as the starting back, but Taylor will most likely out-perform Mack sooner rather than later, dealing the Colts a hand with no other choice than to make Taylor the featured back. Mack will be a late-round draft pick and should be a target for those who roster Taylor as well.
Sony Michel (RB – NE)
Despite his 247 attempts, Michel had a disappointing sophomore season on the ground, averaging just 3.7 yards per attempt. Michel’s ineffectiveness as a runner last season, combined with being a non-factor in the passing game and off-season foot surgery, leaves the Patriots running back mantle up for grabs. If Michel cannot bounce back from his injury and prove to be impactful, he could soon be passed over by second-year back from Alabama, Damien Harris. Rex Burkhead hasn’t played a full season as a Patriot, and Brandon Bolden is more a Special Teams player, potentially clearing a path for Harris, a 2019 third-round pick, to take over as the primary ball carrier for New England. Michel’s ADP is not too high, but drafting him comes with a risk. Harris is a late-round sleeper that could have tremendous value and upside if he secures a role this year.
Phillip Lindsay (RB – DEN)
Phillip Lindsay put forth another impressive season, rushing for his second-straight 1,000-yard season. Despite the productive season, the signing of Melvin Gordon will undoubtedly cut into Lindsay’s 224 rushing attempts from 2019. Lindsay will still be a viable fantasy asset, even more so if he is worked into the passing game at a higher volume. He should be the 1b to Gordon’s 1a, but don’t count out Lindsay in fantasy, especially in PPR. Gordon had 162 attempts in 12 games last season, a number that should rise a bit, but Gordon’s production might have a lower ceiling similar to last season due to Lindsay’s involvement. Gordon should lead the backfield in touches, but don’t count out Lindsay falling closely behind Gordon. Lindsay’s ADP makes him a sneaky late-round sleeper option across all fantasy formats this season.
The running back position is as unpredictable as ever. Injuries are always a concern along with coaching schemes and poor performance. Understanding which players could find themselves in troubling situations for fantasy purposes could help shape draft selections and roster construction. A player’s situation, especially for running backs, can change in a flash, so having a Plan B (secure your stud running back’s back up!) is critical for fantasy football success.
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Joshua Lefkowitz is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Joshua, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @JLefkoNFL.