Fantasy Football Longshots – Running Backs – 2020
Alexander Mattison – Minnesota Vikings
Mattison packs a punch at 5’11” 220 pounds. He’s 10 pounds heavier than Cook and has a very similar running style. With just 100 NFL attempts, Mattison averaged 4.6 yards per carry and was consistent game to game with that output. In the 4 games Mattison had double digit carries, his per attempt average was higher than 4.5 in three out of four of those games. Cook is obviously the big dog in Minnesota but Mattison is starter worthy for a run heavy team if Cook goes down.
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J.K. Dobbins – Baltimore Ravens
The signals are mixed when considering the impact of J.K. Dobbins in his first year with the Baltimore Ravens. He does enter a crowded backfield of proven veterans including Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards. Not to mention the best running quarterback in football Lamar Jackson. Dobbins is a one cut back with great balance and breakaway speed.
At Ohio State, Dobbins dominated the big ten week after week and finished with a 2,000-yard season. He had over 300 carries last season in college and this has swirled around as a potential issue, but he’s shows zero signs of any impact. After three 300 carries seasons in the NFL, then I’d start to worry. Dobbins is far and away the second best running back on this team and should easily fill the backup role by mid-season.
Justin Jackson – Los Angeles Chargers
Jackson has a similar size as Ekeler with excellent quickness and explosion when sneaking through the hole. Jackson spent most of the 2019 season nursing a calf and hamstring injury. With the emergence of Austin Ekeler and return of Melvin Gordon after a 4-game holdout in 2019, Jackson was relegated to backup of the backup duty most of the season.
There just weren’t enough balls to go around, but with just 29 rushing attempts, he ran for 200 yards and a 6.9 yards per carry average. The Chargers drafted Joshua Kelley in the 4th round to fill out the running back room, but Jackson will have the first opportunity to start if Ekeler goes down.
Jonathan Taylor – Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts offensive direction became clear on draft day with the selection of Jacob Eason, Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. Taylor comes out of Wisconsin as one of the most dominating college running backs in a three-year stretch. He averaged over 300 carries and over 2,000 yards a year over his college career. There is a little tread on the tires, but the guy is only 21 years old. I wouldn’t worry about mileage before even taking an NFL snap.
Taylor weighs in at 5’11” 220-pounds and has the durability to take a professional pounding. Taylor is a tackle breaking machine and a goal line scoring machine. The Colts will incorporate Taylor into the rotation quickly and trim quite a few carries from Marlon Mack. There will be enough carries by mid-season to make Taylor a flex-position starter.
Tony Pollard – Dallas Cowboys
Pollard came onto the scene in 2019 as a 4th round pick for the Cowboys and inherited the benefits of one of the best offensive lines in football. He is smaller, but quicker than Elliott who packs about 15 more pounds. The positive thing is that you don’t see the offense change much with Pollard in the lineup. With minimal attempts (about 6 per game), he does a lot with them, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Toss in a couple 100+ yard games with a score in each, Pollard has proven in a short time that he is handcuff material. If you draft Elliott, then Pollard is a must.
Rashaad Penny or Carlos Hyde – Seattle Seahawks
Just as Rashaad Penny was starting role late last season, he suffered an ACL injury that ended his rise and began his rehab. Side by side and both healthy, Penny appears to be the better back when compared to Chris Carson. Penny is faster and quicker through the hole and can break it outside. Carson isn’t quite as fleet as foot and doesn’t create opportunities as much as taking advantage of opportunities the offensive line gives. Penny is more explosive but needs to be on the field.
The rehab process for Penny is estimated at 9 months, give or take so that puts a potential healthy status right at the beginning of the season. That’s doesn’t count conditioning however, so Carlos Hyde was signed to fill the gap between game one and if or when Penny is ready. Hyde can be a workhorse running back who finds a gap and goes full speed. He delivers a blow to defenders as much as the other way around. The Penny timeline has many variables and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hyde cements himself as the primary back.