Fantasy Football Steals – Running Backs – 2020
James White – New England Patriots
James White will have plenty of opportunities in the passing game making him a fantasy football steal at the running back position. I’m still trying to sort out if James White’s 2nd best receiving yards on the team in 2019 was because of his outstanding receiving ability or the complete regression of Tom Brady and the Patriots passing game? Or the lack of wide receiver weapons? It’s probably a combination of all three but when the 2nd receiving yardage total is 647 yards, you know you have a wide receiver by committee situation.
Considering White gets 4-5 carries a game, which produced very little, his evaluation should be based on the receiving portion consisting of many targets and receptions. The quarterback situation could benefit James White’s game. Whichever quarterback wins the starting job, you can be sure short passes and the screen game will be a primary component. There may not be a better receiver out of the backfield than James White.
Don’t forget to check out our other Steals of the Draft!
Mark Ingram II – Baltimore Ravens
Ingram II had over 1,000 rushing yards for the third time in his career and wasn’t the leading rusher on the Ravens. That’s really all you need to know about the best running team in football that averaged over 200 yards a game. That’s insane! Ingram II contributed with 1,018 rushing yards, 247 receiving yards and 15 total TD’s, 5 of which came in the passing game. He is the definition of a downhill runner. He hits the hole hard regularly opened by the best offensive line push in football. Though Ingram II doesn’t have breakaway speed, he seems to relish punishing tacklers to move the pile 2 to 4 yards forward on his own.
The veteran running back has another good year in store for him. Even at 5’9”, Ingram II gets his share of goal line work even though Jackson and his virtually unstoppable option play will steal a couple TD’s. Instead of the quarterback / wide receiver combination that many fantasy owners employ, a Ravens quarterback / running back combination could reap huge benefits. If you’re lucky enough to land Jackson in the 1st round or even better 2nd round, then adding Ingram II later on to monopolize the couple dozen Ravens running TD’s that will be scored, might be a good strategy.
The backup position was handled largely by Gus Edwards, but he isn’t a threat to take any more carries away from Ingram II. If fact Gus Edwards will be slowly phased out of the offense. The selection of J.K. Dobbins in the 2020 NFL draft does pose questions about how the running back carries mix will shake out. What we know for sure is that Ingram II is as solid as can be as the Ravens #1 running back. Dobbins will get action but more preparatory for the 2021 season. Of the approximately 400 running back carries last year, Ingram II received half of them. In today’s NFL that’s all you can ask from an offense the produces so much.
Kareem Hunt – Cleveland Browns
Hunt was suspended for the first eight games of last season and Nick Chubb was the primary back. In the first 5 games back, Hunt average almost 7 carries and a little over 4 receptions per game. Hunt is 24 years old and just 2 years removed from his rookie season where he totaled 1,327 rushing yards. Hunt is a top-ten NFL running back let alone fantasy back with the right team if he were a starter. Hunt can bang it up the middle or bounce it outside. There is no doubt in his conviction to move the chains. With limited opportunities, Hunt still averaged 8 fantasy points a week.
Signing with Cleveland allowed him to make changes in his personal life and get his football career back on track. Hunt will be much move involved this year and the biggest two-headed monster in fantasy football will emerge. Is Nick Chubb a pass in this years fantasy draft? Is Hunt a pass? Well, that all depends on the round your picking and if you already have a true #1 fantasy back. As a #2 or flex position starter, Hunt should yield around 10 fantasy points a week.
Miles Sanders – Philadelphia Eagles
So much for easing the rookie 2nd round pick into the NFL. Sanders got off to a slow start but by seasons end, he received double digit touches in 13 of 16 games. He is the clear-cut number one back moving forward. Sanders is a quick scat-back with a burst of power mixed in. He can also lineup at the wide receiver position and get deep. He averaged over 10 fantasy points a game with two monster games in weeks 15 and 16. Sanders was a top 20 fantasy running back by the end of the year.
Sander is excellent out of the backfield and with an unstable wide receiver core, Sanders will get just as many if not more looks this season. The Eagles use a short dink and dunk passing game. Carson Wentz averaged 6.7 yards per attempt which puts him in the Sam Darnold and Dwayne Haskins category, not something you’d hope for from a veteran quarterback. But this works right into Sanders strengths. Sanders will go off the board quick this year so if you want him, it’ll cost you a late second or early third round pick. Considering he is the featured running and pass catching back, he could be a steal.
Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks
Carson finished strong in his third season with the Seahawks putting up career highs in rushing attempts, rushing yards and receptions. His nine total TD’s matched his sophomore year. Carson stands at 5’11” 222 pounds but looks bigger in pads. He’s not particularly fast or elusive and has a lot of extraneous arm and leg movement while running. Despite a less than fluid running style, he ran for 1,230 yards and averaged about 13 fantasy points a week. He also had a nice uptick in passing game production. The Seahawks don’t go the running back often in the passing game, but there isn’t a third down back to speak of so any scraps available usually go to Carson.
Playing a full season has been elusive so far but his rookie season was the only year of his short career with serious games missed. In 15 games last season, Carson had six 100-yard games and 9 games with double digit fantasy points. The consistency is refreshing and great asset for a #2 running back. His primary back up, Rashaad Penny is coming off ACL surgery. An injury that occurred in early December. The likelihood that Penny has any meaningful impact is slim, at least early in the season. The Seahawks hedged their Penny bet by signing Carlos Hyde to a one-year deal. Hyde is also coming off an injury but should be ready by week one. Hyde is starter worthy and a definite handcuff to Carson. Carson is young and the Seahawks workhorse, goal line back. If you go with WR, WR in round 1 and 2 and Carson is still available in the 3rd, jump on the pick and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
David Montgomery – Chicago Bears
The quarterback situation has stabilized in Chicago for the time being (if Foles stays healthy) and short-range position players will benefit. David Montgomery is one of those who will cash in from a game managing quarterback. Montgomery is a tough runner, who despite getting nailed in the backfield often, fights for every inch. Blessed with quick feet and good start, stop, shifting ability, Montgomery has a chance to make big strides in year two. He will also be a three down back with good hands and increased work in the receiving game. The one trick novelty of Tarik Cohen has been exposed and is easily defended which means more touches for Montgomery.
The Bears wasted no time putting their 3rd round pick to work last year. Montgomery was a workhorse, getting almost four times the rushing attempts than any other back on the roster. He matched fellow rookie Josh Jacobs with 242 carries, which ranked 13th in the league. 3.7 yards per carry is a concern but considering there was little to no threat in the passing game, 8- and 9-man fronts were commonplace. To put a positive spin on this critical stat, four of the last five games of last season yielded 4.7, 4.3, 4.4 and 4.9 yards per carry. Montgomery will also get all the goal line work. He was the only Bears running back last season to score a rushing TD and is slotted as a solid #2 fantasy running back.
D’Andre Swift – Detroit Lions
The message for Kerryon Johnson in the 2020 NFL draft was crystal clear, we can’t survive with journeyman running backs while the starter is continuously recovering from injuries. It’s not Johnson fault, injuries happen, but some players and positions are more susceptible to injuries than others and the record shows so far that Johnson can’t stay healthy. D’Andre Swift fell in the lap of the Detroit Lions in the 2nd round and despite needs on the defensive side of the ball, the Lions couldn’t help but solidify the running back position.
Swift is as complete a back as there is in the rookie class. Quick feet is overused when describing a running backs skill set but for Swift it’s true. He is ridiculously shifty and can change direction with one cut that leaves defenders frozen in their cleats. He has great speed and will thrive in the receiving game. Swift will be utilized early and often. I’d expect shared time early with Johnson but as the season rolls on, Swift will be featured more and fantasy football steal this season.
Duke Johnson – Houston Texans
How can you not like a guy named Duke? The other Johnson has been very consistent running the ball and receiving out of the backfield for the Cleveland Browns and now Houston Texans. Johnson has averaged almost 5 yards a carry the last two seasons and over 9 yards per reception since coming into the league five years ago. He also finds the endzone occasionally, 5 times last season in fact.
If David Johnson gets hurt or production stumbles (which is 50/50), coach Bill O’Brian has no trouble giving Duke a heavier workload. Several times last season he was given 6-9 carries even though he’s considered more of a receiving back. He is quick and elusive and can be more than a change of pace. Don’t be surprised if 2020 is more balanced between the two rather than David Johnson as a workhorse. Stash Duke on your bench early in the season to see how things play out.