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RB1 Predictions (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Aug 14, 2020

Fantasy football season is back, and the start of legitimate NFL action will soon be upon us! As we gear up for fantasy drafts or look ahead to potential moves to make, we can start to examine who the top plays at each position might be. Today, we’ll take a look at the running back position and which players should finish among the top-12. I’m in complete agreement with ECR for the first six backs, but my rankings begin to diverge at RB7. Let’s get right to it!

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1. Christian McCaffrey (CAR)
+0 vs. ECR
Surprised? I would hope not. I’m not going to be cute with this one, as it’s hard not to pick C-Mac as fantasy’s top back for 2020. The third-year back posted the third-highest yards from scrimmage total in NFL history in 2019, as he rumbled for 2,392 total yards and 19 total touchdowns while breaking his own record for running back receptions (116) in the process. The sky’s the limit for McCaffrey, and even if his lofty totals fall back to earth a little bit, it’ll be hard to bet against him as fantasy’s top back. Expect him to go No. 1 overall in most fantasy leagues this season.

2. Saquon Barkley (NYG)
+0 vs. ECR
Barkley led the league in scrimmage yards (2,028) as a rookie in 2018 and scored 15 total touchdowns in the process. Last season, he missed three games and was banged up for a good part of the year, which lead to a decline in production to just 1,441 scrimmage yards and eight total touchdowns. Considering he played limited and appeared in just 13 games, Barkley’s numbers are particularly impressive. He’s rushed for at least 1,000 yards in both years of his career and averaged over 70 receptions per season. We should see the 2018 Barkley this season, and he’s a clear selection as this year’s RB2.

3. Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)
+0 vs. ECR
It’s hard not to love what Zeke brings to the table every single game. In his four-year career, he’s captured the rushing title twice, gone for at least 1,300 yards in every season he played at least 15 games, and averaged 12 total touchdowns per season. A perennial RB1, Zeke would be higher on the list if not for the contributions McCaffrey and Barkley make in the receiving game.

4. Alvin Kamara (NOR)
+0 vs. ECR
The true definition of “Don’t call it a comeback,” Kamara is due for a bounceback this season after posting a – scoff – dreadful line of just 1,330 combined yards, 80 receptions, and six total touchdowns in 2019. His total yards and yards per touch were certainly a downer last season, but this is his floor, and he accomplished it while playing through multiple injuries, inlcuding a torn MCL suffered in Week 6.

5. Dalvin Cook (MIN)
+0 vs. ECR
Cook is an all-world talent and shocked the fantasy world with 1,654 total yards and 13 total touchdowns in 2019. In his first completely healthy season, Cook rumbled his way into the elite tier of RB1’s, and he should be back there again in 2020. Minnesota made it a priority to focus on the run game in 2019 and should do so again with Gary Kubiak still calling plays. Expect Cook to be the focal point of the Vikings’ offense in 2020, which should help him finish among the top five at his position.

6. Derrick Henry (TEN)
+0 vs. ECR
Henry stormed the NFL in 2019, leading the league in rushing with 1,540 yards to go with 18 total touchdowns. A big December of the 2018 season propelled Henry to his first 1,000-yard/double-digit touchdown season, but he showed in 2019 that he could be a productive back all season long. He signed a lucrative, four-year deal in the offseason and will be the anchor of Tennessee’s offense for the foreseeable future. His lack of involvement as a receiver knocks Henry’s fantasy stock, but he should still be a stud in 2020.

7. Kenyan Drake (ARI)
+4 vs. ECR
Out of Miami, and it feels so good. For the final eight games of the season, Drake was a fantasy comet, coming hot off the waiver wire and streaking through the sky as he dominated opposing defenses. For the back half of the year, Drake experienced a renaissance in the desert, averaging over 100 scrimmage yards, grabbing 3.5 passes, and scoring 1.0 touchdowns per contest. Last season to this one won’t be an apples-to-apples comp, but Drake’s upside has clearly been displayed, and it’s hard not to get behind him for a full season of production.

8. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC)
+0 vs. ECR
Damien Williams has withdrawn from the 2020 season, leaving CEH the number-one option in the Chiefs’ backfield. This position has proven to be lucrative in the past, given the success of such Andy Reid backs Kareem Hunt and Jamaal Charles. Hunt in particular came in as a rookie and immediately provided high-end production. Edwards-Helaire’s draft price is creeping up steadily, but he’s going to be very valuable by season’s end.

9. Josh Jacobs (LV)
+3 vs. ECR
Jacobs posted a solid rookie campaign, going for 1,316 scrimmage yards and seven total touchdowns in 2019. There’s reason to believe he can be even better this season. Las Vegas’ receiving game is certainly lacking, and JJ should again be a focal point of Jon Gruden’s offense. I like Jacobs to finish as the RB9 this year and exceed his current ECR ranking based on a lot of volume.

10. Joe Mixon (CIN)
-3 vs. ECR
Mixon is consistently in the top-10 RB mix, but it’s tough to argue that he’ll break into the top five this year. Through three years of NFL action, he’s topped out at 1,464 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns (both in 2018), and he’s the definition of middle-of-the-pack. Mixon is the type of guy who will be an RB1 more often than not, but his upside has been capped out in the RB7 – RB12 range. Improved quarterback play from Joe Burrow should open up some running lanes for Mixon, but I’m not ready to rank him higher than RB10, especially given the quality options ahead of him on this list.

11. Aaron Jones (GB)
+5 vs. ECR
Last year’s touchdown leader (19) is expected to regress a little bit in 2020, particularly as the Packers drafted A.J. Dillon in this year’s draft. But is he going to fall off the map? Unlikely. I don’t expect Jones to score 16 rushing touchdowns again, but he proved to be lethal in the receiving game (49/474/3). He’ll still be the top option in the backfield, and with Green Bay’s receiving corps extremely thin behind Davante Adams, Jones should still be a top pass-catching option.

12. Nick Chubb (CLE)
-3 vs. ECR
Chubb rumbled for nearly 1,500 yards on the ground last season, crossing the end zone eight times in the process. He did this without Kareem Hunt in the mix for 10 games, however, and Chubb’s production dipped over the final six games with both backs on the field. From Weeks 12-17, Chubb scored just two total touchdowns and saw his scrimmage yards dip from 110.8 to 99.2. He’s still an RB1, but with Hunt set to steal some touches and Baker Mayfield in prove-it mode, I don’t expect

Notable Exclusions

Miles Sanders (PHI)
Sanders has all the upside in the world to finish the season as an RB1, but does he have the opportunity? Doug Pederson is notorious for utilizing an RBBC approach in the backfield, and while Sanders is head-and-shoulders above the other backs on the roster, I don’t trust him as an RB1 given the workload uncertainty.

Austin Ekeler (LAC)
Ekeler was phenomenal in 2019, totaling 1,550 total yards and 11 total touchdowns while racking up an impressive 92/993/8 receiving line. The end of the Phillip Rivers era, however, means the team is likely to play a bit more conservatively on offense, and I’m not comfortable with Ekeler as an RB1 after one big season.

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Zachary Hanshew is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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