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RB3s With RB1 Potential (2020 Fantasy Football)

Aug 27, 2020

J.K. Dobbins very well could reach RB1 status if he becomes the starter sooner rather than later.

Every year there are players that make the largely unexpected jump up the depth chart and fantasy rankings to help managers win championships. Whether through injury or ineffectiveness ahead of them, players will return immense value based on average draft position. We know this will be the case. The trick is identifying which players will make the jump.

Last week, we examined wide receivers. Today, we’re looking at running backs that are currently being drafted as RB3s that our writers feel can ascend into RB1 territory this season.

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Q: Which current RB3 based on ECR has the best chance to finish as an RB1 for the 2020 season?

J.K. Dobbins (BAL): RB33
Dobbins was a very productive college player, finishing his Ohio State career with 5,104 yards from scrimmage and scoring 43 touchdowns. He was one of the most NFL ready running backs in the NFL Draft because he was used as both a runner and a receiving back in college. The problem is that running backs are not highly valued in the NFL Draft and Dobbins fell to the 55th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft as a result. NFL teams do not take running backs in the second round so they can marinate on the bench.

Dobbins is going to have a role in this offense, even with Mark Ingram being an established player coming off a Pro-Bowl season. The only question is what the split is going to be and if training camp is any indication, Dobbins is going to see the field quite a bit. He has been turning heads with his athleticism and his playmaking ability and once he sees the field with Lamar Jackson behind center, it is going to be difficult to keep him off the field.

I could see this situation being very similar to Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in 2017 when both backs were very productive. I am not sure both will finish in the top-10, because unlike New Orleans with Drew Brees that year, Jackson also runs the ball from the quarterback position and there may not be enough footballs for all three players to put up monster rushing numbers. What I do foresee happening is Dobbins becoming the featured back in the second half of the season and is one of the best rookies in fantasy football. He very well could reach RB1 status if he becomes the starter sooner rather than later.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)

Kareem Hunt would’ve been my choice, but he doesn’t qualify since he’s the RB30. Instead, I’ll take Dobbins because he has the most upside in the league’s most explosive rushing attack. Dobbins is an insanely productive college player who’s an ideal fit as a three-down back in Baltimore. I imagine he’ll beat out Gus Edwards and Justice Hill for the primary backup role on talent alone. Could he supplant Mark Ingram as the lead back in Baltimore as a rookie season? It’s possible. But I think the more likely scenario is that Dobbins only starts if Ingram goes down with an injury. If that scenario occurs, then watch out. Dobbins has top-5 potential alongside Lamar Jackson.
– Matt Barbato (@RealMattBarbato)

Tarik Cohen (CHI): RB35
Tarik Cohen finished 13th in half-PPR leagues in 2018 with 198.4 fantasy points and 12.4 per game through 16 contests. In 2017 and 2019, he finished as an RB36 as a rookie and RB37 last year, splitting time with David Montgomery. We all know by this point that if Montgomery is in, it’s most likely a run, and with Cohen, it’s most likely a pass. Yes, it’s predictable for opponents, but that hasn’t stopped the now fourth-year pro at being one of the best receiving running backs in the league. Cohen caught 79 passes last season, the fourth-most, and 71 in 2018, the fifth-most of all running backs. Over three seasons with the Bears, he’s caught 203 passes for 1,534 yards and nine touchdowns.

Cohen has never missed a game, playing 48-of-48 in three seasons, and he has the potential to post RB1 numbers at least once every four games, something he did in 2018 (31.3%). I fully expect Cohen to finish higher than his current ADP.
– Vaughn Dalzell (vaughndalzell)

Antonio Gibson (WAS): RB48
To finish as an RB1 in fantasy football, you need at least one of two things: high volume or excessive touchdown output. Last season, eight of the top-twelve running backs had at least 300 total touches, while ten of them had eight or more total touchdowns. It’s rare for a player outside of the top-30 consensus running backs to have either piece of the RB1 puzzle; however, there is a player with an ECR of RB49 that has the opportunity for both. Yes, that player is Washington’s Antonio Gibson.

Since Derrius Guice was unceremoniously released by the team, Gibson has received a lot of praise despite his lack of volume at Memphis. However, the dynamic college runner with only 33 career rushes and 44 career receptions is going far too low given his tremendous upside. As far as opportunity is concerned, Gibson will have plenty of it. The only notable running backs in the Washington locker room are 35-year-old Adrian Peterson, Tampa Bay castoff Peyton Barber, and second-year runner Bryce Love. While many contend Love has a legitimate shot at a decent workload, I am hesitant to agree given his injury history and the fact that he was not picked by this regime.

Gibson, on the other hand, was chosen with Washington’s second pick in the draft. Gibson is the best receiver in this backfield and second-best receiver on the team, so the coaching staff will prioritize getting him the ball. As far as scoring opportunity is concerned, there aren’t many players aside from Terry McLaurin who would command a large share of red zone utilization.

Gibson may not be big enough to be the goal-line running back, but he is certainly dynamic enough to take a screen pass, jet sweep, or slant to the house. Given his low draft cost, dynamic playmaking ability (15.6 yards per touch at Memphis), and odds for a sizable workload, Antonio Gibson is your best to outproduce his ADP and finish as an RB1.
– Dan Ambrosino (@AmbrosinoNFL)

Zack Moss (BUF): RB41
Zack Moss is reportedly going to fill the “Frank Gore role” in Buffalo and split time with Devin Singletary. But I’m not buying the idea that Singletary is going to be “the guy” with Moss as the complementary piece. Moss is a much stronger between-the-tackles runner and is a better fit for the running game that Buffalo wants to employ, and he’s already showcasing his pass-catching ability in training camp. His floor is a short-yardage running back who will see goal-line touches, but he has RB1 upside if he takes the starting job from Singletary, which I believe he will.
– Mike Maher (@MikeMaher)

Jordan Howard (MIA): RB32
I almost went with Dobbins. If you really want to go outside the box, and even deeper into the rankings, Bryce Love (ranked 69 in the ECR) could be an option. My pick hasn’t changed during training camp. I am sticking with Jordan Howard as a potential RB1 ranked outside the top 30.

Howard, currently 32nd among all running backs in the latest ECR, has the best shot of any back outside the top 30 to finish as an RB1. He signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Dolphins this offseason and is projected to lead the team in carries. The 25-year-old missed the majority of the second half of 2019 due to a shoulder stinger, but he is reportedly 100 percent recovered from the injury. Howard and Matt Breida will form a “thunder and lightning” pairing, where Howard offers the power and Breida delivers speed.

The Dolphins are expected to rely on Howard heavily in goal-line situations, where he has hit pay dirt 30 times across 46 games in his four-year career. He logged 119 carries for 525 yards and six touchdowns across 10 games for the Eagles in 2019. New Dolphins OC Chan Gailey loves to use the power-run to set up play-action, which suits Howard’s style of play. Howard is capable of handling a large workload, while Breida is often injured and has yet to eclipse 180 carries in a single season. Barring injury, Howard could easily be an RB1 in 2020 with a prominent role behind an improved offensive line.
– Brad Camara (Beerad30)

Phillip Lindsay (DEN): RB36
The Broncos went out and signed two-time Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon to a two-year, $16M deal this offseason, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll receive the majority of the work in the Denver backfield. Head coach Vic Fangio has already come out and stated that he anticipates both Gordon and third-year running back Phillip Lindsay will play enough to where “we really don’t have to designate a starter.”

Last season, Lindsay and Royce Freeman shared the backfield in Denver, with Lindsay playing 50.4% of snaps, while Freeman played 50.1% of snaps. Gordon may be historically better than Freeman, but let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s unlikely the Broncos give Gordon much more than 50% of the snaps in an effort to keep him healthy throughout the season. Lindsay meanwhile has quietly rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, finishing as RB13 and RB19 in PPR in 2018 and 2019 respectively. He’ll now share the backfield with a 27-year-old who has missed four games in each of the last two seasons due to multiple injuries.

Lindsay is currently the ECR’s RB36 but could just as easily finish within the top-20 even with a relatively healthy Gordon in the picture. If history repeats itself and Gordon misses four games in 2020, we could be looking at an RB1 finish for Lindsay when all is said and done.
– Adam Koffler (@AdamKoffler)

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