Fantasy Football Overvalued – Running Backs – 2020
Leonard Fournette – Free Agent
After a disastrous 2018 season riddled by conflicts with the coaching staff and front office, Fournette rushed for a career high 1,152 yards in 2019. He also upped his per carry average to 4.3, more than half a yard higher than his career to date. For his efforts, the Jaguars declined his 5th year option and signed Chris Thompson for third down back duties. The move makes almost no sense and demonstrates the Jaguars have no idea how to build a team. They’ve finished 3rd or 4th in the AFC South 10 of the last 12 seasons.
There aren’t many backs left in the league who can be defined as a true workhorse. Fournette settled into 7th position in rushing attempts among the league leaders and was surprisingly a focal point of the passing game. Fournette had 100 targets and converted 76 of those, both higher than his career totals before the season. Fournette looked lighter, quicker and much nimbler than his 2018 version.
If there is any downside to Fournette is that his success depends on volume as I’m not convinced he’ll be able to maintain a plus 4 yards per carry average. He will need a lot of touches in the running and receiving game, both of which are now in question with OC Jay Gruden coming onboard. Gruden’s offense in D.C. wasn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard during his tenure. Chris Thompson, who is a decent back in his own right, will likely consume the majority of receiving targets as well as eat into Fournette’s rush attempts. Another challenge for Fournette is getting in the endzone. With a career low 3 TD’s last season, the Jaguars just don’t convert rushing TD’s often. The obvious lack of confidence in Fournette is concerning and I’d pass all together.
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Gus Edwards – Baltimore Ravens
Powered by the best offensive line in football, the Ravens running game dominated its way to over 200 rushing yards a game. Jackson and Ingram II were the stars of the show, but Gus Edwards still had plenty of curtain calls himself. His straight up running style with a 6’1”, 238-pound frame makes him an easy back to find but a tough back to take down. Even in the backup / mop duty role, Edwards managed 711 yards on 133 carries for a 5.3 yards per carry average.
Gus Edwards used to the be the no-brainer handcuff for Mark Ingram II but now you’ll have to make a bet as to who emerges as the primary backup. The house money is on rookie J.K. Dobbins and I’d go all in. Dobbins won’t have much impact on the carries total for Mark Ingram II but he will take over relief duties early in the season as Edwards is phased out.
Rex Burkhead – New England Patriots
Burkhead served as Michel’s backup last season and there is no reason for it. The numbers just don’t add up. Burkhead averages almost a yard more per attempt and hits the whole like it’s the last carry of his career. He isn’t afraid to initiate contact and battles for the extra yard or two. He’s also two dimensional as a threat running and receiving, whereas Michel almost guarantees a run and White almost guarantees a pass.
The quarterback situation is one of the worst in the NFL which makes the skill position players in New England unworthy of a roster spot. Burkhead is the team’s most effective all around back but it won’t matter. Let your fellow fantasy managers play three card monte just hoping they picked the right back to start in the right week. Sony Michel and James White will each have 2 or 3 start-able game but the rest will be duds. Throw in the chatter about Damien Harris joining running back mix makes everyone, including Burkhead a fantasy non-starter.
Frank Gore – New York Jets
This was a very peculiar move for the ageless veteran Frank Gore. He joins a team with no shot at a playoff run while Sam Darnold is the quarterback. The Jets already have a clear-cut number one running back in Le’Veon Bell. Motivations aside, Gore has been declining the last five years with a new team every year in the last four. He averaged over four yards a carry in his ten years in San Francisco but only topped four yards once in the last five.
The last two years, one in a brutal Miami Dolphins run game and the other as a backup to Devin Singletary, Gore produced the lowest rushing yards since his rookie season. The most important piece of this signing is the impact on Le’Veon Bell. Bell is already headed for a bust season and the signing of Frank Gore makes that inevitable.