5 Undervalued Running Backs Based on ADP (2020 Fantasy Football)
Having a stable of running backs is a straight-shot to finding success in fantasy football, but it’s not always easy. Finding an RB1 works out most of the time, but finding a consistent RB2 or RB3 to fill in or slide to the flex is arguably almost as valuable as that workhorse RB1 himself.
Taking a look at five running backs, I expect to finish ahead of FantasyPros ECR ADP; I tried to find players that showed RB1 flashes during the season, even if it was a month spurt, to find an edge in who to target this season. When looking at critical factors in finding a breakout running back, I view their game script, production premium, total touches, and the potential increase in snap share being the most important. These five running backs should all see more touches in 2020, and higher finishes than their current ADPs.
ECR: RB13, ADP: 11.80 (1.12)
Sanders is a top-10 running back in this league, and he’s going to be the main bell-cow feeding the Eagles and fantasy teams of all formats for years to come. He proved as a rookie he’s a three-down back, earning 229 total touches while splitting the backfield with Jordan Howard and Boston Scott. While he didn’t surpass 200 rushing attempts last season, FantasyPros predicts 19 running backs to do so in 2020, and Sanders is one of them.
In 16 games, Sanders recorded 179 carries for 818 rushing yards and 50 receptions for 509 yards. Sanders spent 2.96 seconds on average behind the line of scrimmage (8th) and 5.8 yards per touch (7th) as one of the Eagles’ main and only playmakers at some points. He recorded 168.7 fantasy points per game (10.5 ppg) in standard leagues and 218.7 (13.7 ppg) in PPR leagues, both 15th place finishes.
Sanders recorded a 70% snap share in five of his final six games (Weeks 11-16), averaging 18.75 points per game. Over that span, he was third in PPR and seventh in standard leagues, giving his owners RB1 numbers while in fantasy championship pursuit. He posted three top-10 weeks in those six games and only one double-digit performance per PlayerProfiler.
He had ten double-digit fantasy games and five top-10 performances in his rookie campaign total, and with Howard departed for Miami, the running back by committee approach Doug Pederson has rolled with is over. Sanders had a 53.7% snap share and a 48.4% opportunity share but still finished 15th in both leagues (218.7). Imagine if Sanders owned an 87.2% snap share like the next running back on this list?
Sanders’ 82.9 total yards per game and 1,327 yards from scrimmage were already impressive as the 1A-RB in the offense. He finished 16th in total yards as a rookie, and now as the lead back, he should turn heads and build off his rookie campaign, no questions asked.
Sanders is predicted by FantasyPros to record 230 carries for 1,027 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. In addition to the ground game, Sanders is projected to total 50 receptions, 431 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns. That’s a 12th ranked finish by the model with 191.7 standard league fantasy points. I would bet my money Sanders will surpass 1,458 total yards from scrimmage, which would have been 11th in the league last year, with his increased snap share.
He only posted six goal-line carries on 36 red zone touches in 2019, splitting 24 and six with Howard. His receiving factor gives him a top-10 candidacy and a pure RB1 as the lead back with the Eagles. Sanders is expected to put it together in 2020, and out of the running backs outside the top 10 in ADP, Sanders is most worth having. Dynasty league owners should consider him a first-rounder, and if he slips to the second round in any format, you won’t regret selecting him there.
ECR: RB20, ADP: 38.73 (3.03)
“Remember when Le’Veon Bell was a first-round pick? Funny how times have changed. I wouldn’t touch Bell with a six-foot pole. He’s a bust. Never will be the same.” These are sayings you’ve probably heard about Bell over the past year, and this summer for fantasy redrafts and dynasty leagues, and hell, I’ve listened to it too because I selected him, but that talk is over.
Yes, he had the worst season of all his healthy years as a pro, and yes, the Jets offense was terrible, but was he a bust? He finished 16th in PPR scoring with 215 fantasy points (14.3 per game) and 21st in standard scoring with 149 points (9.9 per game).
Bell missed one game in his first season back after sitting out 2018, and it was Week 14 versus the Dolphins’ 27th-ranked rushing defense, a game that would have been nice for the fantasy postseason push. In weeks 1-13, Bell was 14th in standard scoring (123.2, 10.3 ppg) and 13th in PPR scoring (178.2, 14.9 ppg). He finished Weeks 15-17 a lowly 25th in PPR scoring (36.8, 12.3 ppg) and 29th in standard scoring (25.8, 8.6 ppg) as the Jets were clearly out of playoff contention.
If you had him as your RB1, then yes, he was a bust, but as an RB2, he did his part behind that dreadful offensive line. His 3.2 yards per carry last season was a career-low, he still surpassed 300 total touches (301), and somehow posted the NFL’s second-best rushing efficiency (4.48), per NFL NextGen Stats. The Jets added beef to their offensive line with draft picks and free agency, then did the same to their receiving core while getting their tight end back from a season-ending injury.
The Jets offense will be much better in 2020, more well-rounded, and less dependent on Sam Darnold and Bell. Bell had the fourth-highest snap share among running backs (87.2%) and recorded eight games of 90% or more snaps, including six where he played 100% of the snaps per PlayerProfiler. Bell recorded six weekly top-12 fantasy performances out of his 15 games and Weeks 9-12, he was on fire.
Bell posted the fourth-ranked PPR total with 69.9 fantasy points (17.5 per game) and averaged 21 touches per game. He was seventh in standard scoring with 50.9 fantasy points (12.7 per game). Four of his six top-12 performances came during this stretch, and he finished 9th or 10th all four weeks carrying the ball 16.2 times per game in that span. He caught 19 of his 20 targets and showed flashes of that RB1 he was in Pittsburgh.
FantasyPros predicts Bell to record 229 carries, for 877 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. He’s also projected to have 57 receptions for 418 receiving yards and one touchdown, giving him 286 touches for 1,295 total yards and six scores. That finishes as the 18th ranked projected running back with 164.7 fantasy points in standard leagues and 15th place finish in PPR with 221.7 on the 16-game season.
In Pittsburgh from 2014 to 2017, Bell recorded three top top-three finishes in fantasy, including finishing first in 2014. In 2017, his final season as a Steeler, Bell finished second in standard scoring and PPR scoring behind only Todd Gurley. 2018 was a long layoff that maddened and ruined a ton of fantasy owners’ seasons, and 2019 had such high expectations we still labeled him as a first-rounder. In 2020, he won’t be a first-rounder, but he’s a complimentary RB2 with an RB1 ceiling weekly.
Bell’s workhorse load has kept his fantasy relevance while the Jets develop this into a respectable offense. This season can’t get worse outside of injury for him based on his career numbers when healthy. His 789 rushing yards is the lowest total of his healthy seasons, and 461 receiving is the lowest since his rookie year.
It’s not a case of he’s not the same back; I just don’t think we’ve seen him warm up thoroughly, or have any other credible threats to compliment him. Jamison Crowder was the Jets’ leading receiver last season, and Bell is used to Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and more. While New York’s 2020 additions aren’t going to boost Bell’s status back into stardom, I would be the least bit surprised if he finished the season ranked 9-12th in PPR leagues and higher than his RB20 ECR, making his value to me, desirable as my RB2.
ECR: RB30, ADP: 60.27 (5.01)
In 2019, Kareem Hunt had a mini-comeback in his second-half with the Browns. The former Chiefs running back was suspended for the first half of the year and finished as one of the premium PPR options when he did hit the field.
Hunt finished 47th in PPR scoring last season, but he only played nine games. In those nine games, Weeks 10-17, Hunt finished 17th in PPR scoring with 101.4 total fantasy points and 12.7 per game. In standard scoring, that dropped to 23rd with 64.4 total points and 8.1 per game. He can still be a dominant RB2/3 in PPR leagues while being a flex option in standard leagues.
In Weeks 10-15, Hunt was at his best, finishing as the RB11 with 86.7 points total and 14.5 per game in PPR leagues. Down the stretch for the Browns, Hunt was a key factor and received a 50% snap share or higher in his final six games. In the last two weeks of the season, he received six and seven total touches, so his fantasy numbers dropped drastically after seven solid weeks as the Browns RB2 and an RB2 in fantasy production.
FantasyPros projects Hunt to record 469 rushing yards on 105 carries for four scores and 49 receptions for 439 receiving yards and two touchdowns. That’s 908 total yards and six touchdowns on 164 total touches for a projected 30th ranked finish with 127 fantasy points in standard and 24th in PPR with 176.5 points. He’s a PPR-machine, and his fourth-place finish in 2017 and 12th place finish in 2018 represent that.
Hunt had more receiving yards (285) than rushing (179) yards in 2019 and had a career-high 5.8 yards per touch on a career-low 80 touches. His production premium ranked fourth among all running backs last season (+35.3) while having a negative game script in the Browns offense (-1.83) per PlayerProfiler. With a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski, the Browns running back by committee should be featured more in the offense.
Stefanski took the Vikings rushing offense from 30th place with 93.3 yards per game in 2018 to 6th place with 133.3 rushing yards per game in 2019 in his first year as offensive coordinator. Stefanski had a healthy Dalvin Cook and Alex Mattison while in Minnesota. Now he has the NFL’s second-leading rusher in Nick Chubb and one of the most dynamic RB2s in the game in Hunt.
Both Browns’ running backs could finish top-20. Chubb the rusher, Hunt the receiver, the game script is set in stone for Cleveland’s 2020 offense. Hunt recorded a catch rate of 73% or higher every season and should be a feature in this offense, whether it’s in of the backfield or the slot.
Stefanski is positive news for this and recorded a +1.84 game script for Cook (6th) last season. 2020 can be Hunt’s redemption year, and he can be the ultimate RB3/Flex option in PPR leagues with his upside and breakout ability each week. He’s turning 25-years-old in August, making him appealing and worth reaching over similar backs his age in dynasty leagues. In redraft leagues, the fifth round is a considerable price, but he’s going to produce RB2 PPR numbers or better in 2020.
ECR: RB30, ADP: 97.42 (8.02)
Before the Raheem Mostert trade request, I was out on Tevin Coleman for this season. Now, I’m simply all in on Coleman shares for 2020. Last season with the 49ers, on Coleman’s 137 carries, he saw eight men in the box 40.15% of the time (55/137), and he still posted a 4.28 rushing efficiency (T-6th) and 2.9 seconds by the line of scrimmage (13th) per NFL NextGen Stats.
No one thought much of his production because the 49ers were running-back-by-committee, but he flourished on his RB2 amount of touches. For 2020, Coleman is projected to record 150 carries, 655 rushing yards, and five rushing touchdowns this season. The model also has him catching 20 passes for 175 receiving yards and one touchdown. Those numbers equate to a 34th placed finish with 119.2 fantasy points in standard leagues.
In 2019, Coleman recorded seven games of 10 or more carries in 14 games last season on a 41.4% snap share per PlayerProfiler. If his snap count increases and he’s able to average 15 carries per game, his fantasy production from a flex/RB3 option should hit an RB2 tier. Moster’s situation is trick, and head-scratching after Matt Breida was traded away. Mostert is the RB1 in this offense, but he doesn’t want to be, so Insert Coleman, who’s spent his career backing Devonta Freeman, Breida, and Mostert, and I’m sure he’s motivated for a career-year.
Between Weeks 5-8, Coleman was the fourth-ranked running back in fantasy points overall (69.7) and sixth in fantasy points per game (17.4). In those four games, he averaged 17.7 touches, much higher than his 11.2 season average. Coleman isn’t much of a factor in the passing game for PPR leagues, but without Deebo Samuel, the 49ers can’t rely on rookie Brandon Aiyuk to fill his shoes consistently.
Considering the departure of Emmanuel Sanders and how much that now hurts the 49ers’ passing game, Coleman, as the starter, could see more than his 2019 total of 2.1 targets per game in 2020. San Francisco averaged an already low 29.2 passing attempts per game (31st) in 2019, so their game script will be interesting to watch the first few weeks, as well the Mostert situation.
Whether or not Mostert sticks around, Coleman could be in control of this team’s ground game given the opportunity. In 2018, Devonta Freeman missed 14 games, and Coleman recorded career-highs in every category filling in.
Coleman finished with 800 rushing yards on 166 carries with four touchdowns. He also caught 32 passes for 276 yards and five touchdowns, finishing 18th in standard (161.8) and PPR leagues (193.6) as Atlanta’s starting running back. He’s been a handcuff pick his whole career, and this could be a fresh start for him in his second season with the 49ers.
If you can get Coleman in the seventh or eighth round while the low-end running backs are clearing out, I’d consider that a steal. If you like him or his situation as much as I do, then a reach could be in order. I already have Coleman in two dynasty leagues as my RB3/4, and his stock is potentially higher than it’ll ever be, so selling him if you already have him is wise too.
I will certainly experiment with one league, but as an RB3/Flex option, he has a lot of upsides this season, arguably most of all RB3 options given his situation. He’s undoubtedly better than his RB30 ranking in fantasy for 2020 and has top-20 potential as an RB2 in fantasy if he finds his 2018 form behind this 49ers line.
Matt Breida (MIA)
ECR: RB41, ADP 102.83 (8.08)
Onto a new scene, Breida headed across the country, leaving the 49ers to join the Dolphins’ youth movement. In San Fran, Breida was apart of a three-headed running back by committee, and now it’s a two-man backfield with the also newly-acquired Jordan Howard.
Both backs are expected to receive a healthy dosage of carries, but Breida was a unique player even in his situation. In 2019, he spent on average 2.99 seconds in the backfield, fifth-most in the league, and recorded a 4.06 rushing efficiency, ranking higher than Sanders’ (3.89) per NFL NextGen Stats. He was one of three running backs to record more than 125 carries in the 49ers offense, and he had the least amount of carries between the three (127) on least amount of games (12).
From Weeks 2-6, Breida finished 18th in RB rankings with 13.3 fantasy points per game, recording four of his five double-digit games as a 49er. Down the stretch, he received six or less carries in three-straight games and eight or fewer total touches in all three. Breida didn’t record more than a 44% snap share after Week 1 last season, but he still recorded double-digit touches in nine-consecutive games before falling off at the end of the season.
Breida is projected to record 131 carries for 590 rushing yards and two touchdowns with Miami. Through the air, Breida is predicted to catch 36 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown according to FantasyPros. That’s 167 touches, 862 total yards, and three touchdowns on 5.16 yards per touch. That equates to 109 fantasy points in standard leagues, which is a 40th-place finish by the model.
If he touches the ball over ten times in a majority of his games, he should easily finish above his current ADP of 41. He’s entering his fourth season in the league, and he and Howard both have dealt with injuries, something that can lift either player’s value at any point throughout the season. Breida dealt with an ankle injury last season, his third since 2018, and Howard has had two shoulder injuries since 2017.
The Dolphins threw more far more than the 49ers in 2019, out-passing them 38.4 (7th) to 29.4 (31st) per game. Breida posted an 83.7% catch rate and dealt with the fourth-ranked game script (+4.13), something he won’t have in Miami this season. Breida caught a pass in 10 of 13 games last season, and as one of the league’s fastest players, he could be one of the Dolphins’ more dynamic playmakers.
Breida had 31 and 36 targets in his first two seasons and 22 last year, and Miami only threw to their running backs 19.93% of the time. That was 3% less than San Fransisco, but the Dolphins’ leading rusher was also their quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) with 243 yards.
The Dolphins could feed their backs if Fitzpatrick is hurt or wants to switch their offensive style after having every back on their roster go down with an injury or trade. I like the upside of both Breida and Howard, but tagged with Tua Tagovailoa for the future, Breida seems more like the change-of-pace back and playmaker of the backfield.
I can’t stress enough that he’s going to finish higher than his ADP of RB41, and he’ll turn out as a valuable RB3 or flex. Breida finished 44th, 24th, 45th in standard scoring his first three seasons and 47th, 26th, 46th in PPR scoring, all on fewer than 13 touches per game each season. Over three seasons with the 49ers, Breida averaged 821 yards from scrimmage on 149 touches per season or 10.4 per game.
He has ten total touchdowns, but the last two seasons he’s posted 21 total breakaway runs and breakaway run rates of 6.5% (6th) and 8.5% (4th). He’s a big-play waiting to happen, but he hasn’t had the shares to put it all together consistently. If you get him late in redrafts past the eighth round, that’s a winning pick. In dynasty leagues, his offensive potential in an offense with Tagovailoa, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki in the near future sounds like Breida’s worth a roster spot.
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