9 High-Floor Running Backs (2020 Fantasy Football)
Not every player on your team has to have the potential to be the best at their position. Oftentimes, I prefer to have one or two players in my lineup that I know will provide me a consistent baseline of points. If you go all-in on the high-ceiling, low-floor fantasy options, you put yourself at risk of mitigating the effect of your stalwart assets.
Instead, when going heavy wide receiver early on or selecting from a bevvy of bench players, I like to pick players that I am confident won’t disappoint me and get me exactly what I need. They won’t win you weeks, but they’ll keep your lineup competitive and balance out the more riskier options you may have already started at other streaming positions like tight end, quarterback, and defense.
Let’s run through some of my favorite high-floor running backs that I am confident you can plug and play with the relative certainty that they’ll manage double-digit points on a weekly basis.
Le’Veon Bell (NYJ)
Bell was extremely disappointing last year, finishing as the PPR RB16 despite being a consensus first-round pick in the fantasy community. While he didn’t return value on your investment, his market price has dipped far enough where he’s not being drafted as an RB1. Bell is currently being drafted 36th overall as the RB18, making him a fourth-round pick in most leagues.
On most teams, he would be your RB2 if you decided to invest heavily in wide receivers to start. While he does have potential upside with a revamped offensive line in front of him and another year alongside Sam Darnold, I am more interested in his floor. Last season, for all of the grief he had gotten, Bell was very consistent. He scored over 10 PPR points in 12 of his 14 games played, while scoring 15 or more PPR points in approximately half of his contests.
Bell also was always a sure-bet to receive touches, seeing 15 or more carries in ten games and targeted often in the passing game. He’s not exciting to roster, but he’s still the best player in an offense that will be behind often without Jamal Adams and C.J. Mosley manning the defense. He will once again be a high-volume running back with a consistent floor. Considering the price and lack of depth behind him, he’s a solid starter.
David Johnson (HOU)
Another former first-round pick that has fallen from glory, David Johnson gets a fresh start on a new team. While many suffer from recency bias and can only picture Johnson as the shell-of-himself player that couldn’t manage more than six touches since Week 7, I would like to remind you of what he had been when he was healthy.
In Johnson’s first six games before injury, he scored 18 or more PPR points in five of them, averaging approximately 17 touches per game. He was the PPR RB5 through the first six weeks of the season and looked well on his way to sustaining that pace behind fantasy football’s QB7. He’s now going as the 37th overall player and RB19, one spot behind Bell. While many consider him a washed-up running back who was incredulously valued by Bill O’Brien as a DeAndre Hopkins substitute, let’s not forget his situation.
He joins an offense that made veteran cast-off Carlos Hyde a 1,000-yard rusher. He will play next to Deshaun Watson, one of the best young quarterbacks in the league who’s mobility and read-option capability will open up holes for the running back. He plays for a coach whose reputation as a general manager depends on Johnson’s success in this offense. I’m not saying he’ll be an RB1, but I can’t imagine a scenario (injury excluded) where Johnson isn’t force-fed the ball. Johnson will provide a steady line of production in Houston and be a focal point in this offense. It may not be wise on O’Brien’s part to push all of his chips in on a 28 year-old, but it’s a reality that can benefit your fantasy team.
James Conner (PIT)
I think you can see the trend in this category. All these players are former first-round fantasy picks who disappointed and are tanking in average draft position. James Conner is no exception, as he was plagued by injuries and inefficient quarterback play in 2019 that led to his abysmal RB35 finish.
However, in the games where Conner played at least 50 percent of the snaps, he averaged 17 PPR points per game. He only had one performance in that stretch below 10 points, and that was his first game alongside Mason Rudolph. Like the other veteran runners in this tier, his ADP has plummeted to where he can be had as your RB2 or RB3. Conner is currently the 40th overall player off of the board and going as the RB21.
With Ben Roethlisberger back in the fold, Conner should see much higher efficiency and easily provide a double-digit baseline each week, health permitting. For those worried that Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, or Anthony McFarland will infringe on Conner’s baseline, I wouldn’t be too concerned. Conner only played one game last year with more than 70 percent of the snaps, yet he still put up seven double-digit performances. At his ADP, Conner is a high-floor runner that you can keep as a consistent starter in your lineup.
The Flex Plays
Kareem Hunt (CLE)
If I am going heavy wideout early on, Hunt is one of my favorite players to target in the late single-digit rounds. In the eight games following his suspension last year, Hunt became a great PPR FLEX option for those who chose to hold on to him. Hunt scored 11 or more points in his first six contests, averaging six targets per game and six carries per game in that span. His only two contests below the double-digit threshold came in the last two weeks of the season, where his utilization diminished in favor of giving Nick Chubb a chance at the rushing title.
With Kevin Stefanski entering Cleveland as the new playercaller, Hunt once again has an opportunity to provide a consistent floor week-in and week-out. Stefanski’s 2019 offense was ranked fourth in the league in rushing attempts and targeted the running back position 126 times. Chubb should get a sizable portion of carries, but that pass catching opportunity is more than enough to sustain Hunt’s floor.
Hunt may also see some time at wide receiver to begin the season, with Jarvis Landry likely to miss some games to start the year. Wherever he lines up, Hunt is sure to be utilized and given the ball in space. At an ADP of 66 overall and RB29, Hunt is a solid high-floor option for your zero-RB strategy.
Mark Ingram (BAL)
The disrespect Mark Ingram gets is astounding. For someone who has finished as a top-twelve running back in four of his last five seasons, it’s appalling to see him go as the RB25 off of the board. Even at age 30, Ingram is a reliable option to have as your second starting running back or flex play.
In his first season in Baltimore, Ingram finished as the PPR RB11 and averaged over five yards per carry. Despite seeing only 202 carries, Ingram scored 10 or more points in 67 percent of his games. Don’t get me wrong, he was highly touchdown-dependent; still, he had ample opportunity to get in the end zone, ranking top-five among all ball carries in rush attempts inside the five-yard line.
There are concerns over how much of the work rookie J.K. Dobbins will take from Ingram, but I believe they are over-exaggerated. Ingram has always been adept at sharing a backfield, whether it be with C.J. Spiller, Alvin Kamara, or Gus Edwards. Ingram only had 11 more rush attempts than the duo of Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, yet he was still dominant in a shared backfield. Dobbins is more likely to infringe on Edwards’ and Hill’s carries than Ingram’s. As the 54th player off of the board, Ingram is a safe running back who will be consistently undervalued in your fantasy drafts.
Tarik Cohen (CHI)
Can you name the four running backs with at least 100 targets in 2019? Well, it was Christian McCaffery (the 2019 RB1), Leonard Fournette (the 2019 RB7), Austin Ekeler (the 2019 RB4), and…..Tarik Cohen. Although his quarterback situation is still putrid (sorry Bears fans), Cohen has been a reliable outlet out of the backfield and utilized all over the formation.
Last season, Cohen saw five or more targets in 67 percent of his games and 10 or more targets in 25 percent of his games. He was also involved in the running game despite David Montgomery‘s presence, averaging approximately four carries per game. In what could be his final year of Chicago, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace would be inclined to see if Cohen is deserving of an extension and could be used as an Austin Ekeler-type.
Cohen doesn’t provide much upside, especially with Montgomery having a stranglehold on the rushing work. Still, you can expect five to six targets every game with the possibility that he breaks one into open space. As the 84th player and RB32 off the board, Cohen is a FLEX-worthy asset that can be relied upon for decent PPR output on a weekly basis.
The Spot Starts
Tevin Coleman (SF)
The 49ers running back group can be a minefield, but I am always willing to invest in the cheapest option of a high octane offense. Coleman is currently the 100th selection off of the board as the RB40, but he will likely see a decent workload despite the timeshare with Raheem Mostert.
While Kyle Shanahan chose to ride the hot-hand during December, Coleman had been averaging 13 carries per game in the three months prior to Mostert’s dominance. With Breida out of the mix in San Francisco, Coleman will likely see higher utilization despite Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson fighting for playing time. If you need someone to provide you a ten-point outing for one week, the RB2 in one of the best rushing offenses in the league isn’t a bad bet.
Matt Breida (MIA)
Speaking of Breida, he’s currently going one spot behind Tevin Coleman and looks to be in-line for the scatback role in Chan Gailey’s offense. Breida had a few fantasy relevant games with the 49ers last year, scoring double-digit fantasy points in four of his first five outings. While he was never very consistent in Santa Clara, the opportunity for a meaningful role is present in Miami.
As the receiving back in Gailey’s spread system, Breida will have ample work as a dump-off option in space and thrive rushing against light boxes. Given Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns opted-out for the 2020 season, Miami is in need of reliable pass-catchers. Look no further than the player that averaged 5.2 yards per touch and a 6.5 percent break-away run rate (according to PlayerProfiler). For an eighth-round pick, you can count on Breida to provide you several catches per game and a solid floor as a spot-start option at the running back position.
Boston Scott (PHI)
A year ago, Scott’s name on this list would have been laughable. However, after Jordan Howard went down in Week 10, Scott had incredible PPR upside as a spot starter. In the last four weeks of the 2019 season, Scott averaged over 20 points per game and six targets per game. Granted, the former statistic is skewed by his four rushing touchdowns in that span, but the receiving statline is promising.
With the Eagles failing to bring in any notable competition for Scott as the RB2 behind Miles Sanders, I am confident the former Saint can provide value as an occasional starter due to injury or bye weeks. It’s doubtful he’ll have a 36 point outing like he did in Week 17 last year, but an 8-12 point performance is a reliable expectation for his weekly output. As the 139th overall selection and RB48 off of the board, Scott will stay on the end of my bench and enter my lineup if I am in a pinch.
Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with 10 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Fantasy Football Draft or head to more advanced strategy — like When is it Okay to Reach on Draft Day? — to learn more.