Second-Year Running Backs (2020 Fantasy Football)
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our Cheat Sheet Creator – which allows you to combine rankings from 100+ experts into one cheat sheet – to our Draft Assistant – that optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football draft season.
Now that most of us have survived Rookie Fever 2020, let’s remember how great we felt about these players this time next year when we take a look back. Hey, I do it too. It’s tough not to get overly excited about the unknown with so much potential ripe for the taking. But, as we see, year after year, not all rookies pan out or meet expectations.
However, with this initial disappointment can come some post-hype appeal for players that maybe didn’t reach expectations their rookie season, but still have an opportunity to be an asset entering their second season. Now, I’m not going to cover the guys at the top of this class through Year 1. At this point we are all expecting big things from Miles Sanders, Josh Jacobs, and even Devin Singletary in their sophomore seasons, but here’s a breakdown of the rest of last year’s RB class as we enter 2020.
David Montgomery (CHI)
A player that a lot of people had high hopes for in 2020 was Chicago Bears RB David Montgomery. After moving up to select Montgomery in Round 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft, it appeared the Bears had found their next workhorse RB after shipping Jordan Howard to Philadelphia. With Montgomery playing all 16 games and leading the team with 242 carries, it didn’t appear that lack of opportunity was the reason for Montgomery failing to live up to the hype in 2019. So why should fantasy owners give Montgomery another chance in 2020?
Unlike many of the other names on this list, Montgomery has escaped additional competition in his backfield throughout the 2020 offseason. And while Montgomery’s 3.7 yards per carry as a rookie isn’t anything to write home about, volume is king. I’m not here to tell you that Montgomery is in line to be a top-12 RB this season, but the workload should not be ignored.
As the Bears offense tries to right the ship, trading for veteran QB Nick Foles, it’ll be hard for this offense to be as poor as it was in 2019. After ranking 9th in points scored in 2018, the Bears dropped to 29th in the league last season with only the Bengals, Jets, and Redskins behind them. Despite the struggles of the offense, Montgomery did still manage 1,000 total yards and ranked 12th among RBs in total touches. Currently ranked as RB24 in FantasyPros ECR, I think Montgomery is in for another big workload in 2020, but with more opportunities to find the end zone.
Darrell Henderson (LAR)
Unlike Montgomery, it has been a busy offseason if you have been following the fantasy stock of Darrell Henderson. First, the Rams released Todd Gurley, just two years after making him the highest-paid RB in the NFL, and things were looking bright. But then with their first pick of the 2020 draft at #57 overall, the Rams selected former Florida State RB Cam Akers in the second round.
Now, it should be noted that veteran RB Malcolm Brown is also still on the roster as well and out carried Henderson almost 2-1 in 2019. The backfield is looking a bit crowded in Los Angeles, and for the first time in years, fantasy owners will need to wager on who the RB to own will be for the Rams.
Despite not living up to the hopes of fantasy owners, Gurley did have a fine 2019 season in this offense with over 1,000 total yards and 14 total TDs. Factor in the other 5 rushing TDs from Malcolm Brown last season and there should be plenty of opportunities for whoever can become the lead back in this Sean McVay led offense. Henderson isn’t the newest addition to the backfield but is a player that the Rams believed in enough to trade up for just one year ago. Currently coming in as RB45 in the consensus rankings, Henderson could be a nice later round flyer.
Alexander Mattison (MIN)
As we enter the world of “handcuffs”, Alexander Mattison is a player that will more than likely be a frustrating player to own in 2020 unless you’re the Dalvin Cook owner. Mattison did manage to receive 100 carries his rookie season, which is something, but with only 10 receptions, he’ll need to push Cook into more of a timeshare if he wants to become more than just a high-end handcuff.
Mattison never had the opportunity to fill-in for Cook in the two games he missed toward the end of 2019, as some fantasy owners will always remember (*cough*, Mike Boone, *cough*), so it was next to impossible to predict when the Vikings were going to be a position to just sit Cook for the 4th quarter and give Mattison the carries to run out the clock.
The talent is there for Mattison, and after being selected in the 3rd round of the NFL draft last year, many fantasy owners felt robbed of an intriguing fantasy asset. But for now, Mattison will remain a handcuff. One that will be highly sought after at the first sign of a Dalvin Cook injury, but a player that will be difficult to burn a roster spot on until that point.
Damien Harris (NE)
Anther second-year RB that could be line for a bigger workload in 2020, because it would be almost impossible to have a lesser workload, is former 3rd round pick, Damien Harris. In a surprising move, last season the Patriots spent a day-two pick on a position that already appeared to be crowded. Spoiler, it was.
With Sony Michel leading the team with 247 attempts, and James White and Rex Burkhead receiving 65+ a piece, there wasn’t much left on the bone for Harris who saw just 4 attempts as a rookie. Now, there’s a lot of unknown in this offense with Tom Brady no longer at the helm, maybe the Patriots use this opportunity to see what they have in other players. Harris is someone you’re unlikely to need to spend a draft pick on come August but is a player to keep an eye on.
Ryquell Armstead (JAC)
Now a player that carries a little less draft capital entering his second year in the league is Jaguars RB Ryquell Armstead. After being selected in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Armstead didn’t see much work in his rookie season. In fact, Jaguars starting RB Leonard Fournette saw all but 44 of the RB carries for the team in 2019.
Now with the changes to this offense in 2020 bringing in Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden, the Jaguars only added veteran pass-catcher, Chris Thompson. Rookie James Robinson was signed as an undrafted free agent, but after not spending any of their 11 draft picks on an RB, Armstead could at least be inline to be Fournette’s direct handcuff. A roll that might turn into a valuable asset as last season was the first time Fournette didn’t miss multiple games in a season after missing 11 games his first two years in the league.
Tony Pollard (DAL)
Similar to Mattison, Pollard is a player that would be fun to own if he had landed in a better situation coming out of college. The former Memphis RB was drafted last year in Round 4 but was used about as much as you would expect the RB2 in Dallas to be used. Pollard saw just 86 carries his rookie season and added another 15 receptions.
Now, with the Cowboys’ hire of new Head Coach Mike McCarthy, some people have pointed to McCarthy’s history with RBs as a pathway for Pollard to see more playing time in 2020. It’s true, Mike McCarthy only gave his top RB more than 250 carries just four times in 13 seasons with the Packers. But he never had a back close to the talent of Ezekiel Elliott. Similar to some of the other RBs mentioned above, Pollard should be considered a handcuff option this season, but unlike some of the other RBs above, Pollard plays behind Ezekiel Elliott, who has yet to miss a game due to injury in his career.