Now that the 2020 fantasy football playoffs are upon us, my job overseeing the rest of season top 60 running back rankings here at Razzball are as through as the chances of Carson Wentz inviting Doug Pederson to this week’s Bible study. Last week, I put a bow on that project with one final, playoff edition of the top backs to target for those still in hot pursuit of a fantasy championship. Friends, we’ve come a long, long way from the initial set of rankings I constructed in the preseason edition, when I was young and naïve and my only prior experience with Reddit commenters was through the illegal streaming of countless sporting events. But now, since there are truly only two weeks of fantasy football remaining, my job is done. Instead, for those looking for rankings to use the next couple weeks, look to Donkey Teeth & Co. for further insight. All season long, Razzball’s Donkey Teeth and MB have been providing excellent work as always with their weekly fantasy football rankings. That’s the place to go for any and all remaining decisions. As for me, my final fantasy football post for 2020 will look ahead to 2021. Who is an early favorite for that first overall pick in drafts? Which 2020 rookie backs have put themselves in the conversation for a first round pick? And hey, how about the incoming 2021 rookie class? Any early-round selection potential there? You already know I want me some Najee Harris the same way I wanted to be in bed with Dobbins the Take-it-to-the-House Elf all season long. But first, before you all take your Sunday wizardry robes off, I’d like to take a few moments to reflect briefly on what we observed in 2020 (in lieu of a trip around the league), and how maybe we can use it as a learning experience to improve as fantasy owners in the years ahead.Please, blog, may I have some more?
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All season long, we’ve been grinding through the top-60 rest of season running backs. There has been a lot of turnover, an excess of movement both in and outside of the top-24, and a heck of a lot of injuries and COVID-19 to navigate around — both in the fantasy realm and the real world. But, alas, we’ve finally made it to Week 14. Hopefully, for many of you, this means the start of a successful playoff run, as Weeks 14-16 is when the vast majority of fantasy playoffs occur. For this very reason, I find myself feeling sentimental as I write this. At times, I led you stray, and at others, I did my job well. Now, as we leave the regular season behind and enter the postseason threshold, I have the opportunity to provide you with one last set of running back rankings as it relates to the 2020 season. In this final installment, I’ll be focusing on the set of matchups each running back faces over the next three weeks, as I’ve replaced the previous “bye” week component in the rankings with a look at each respective player’s “upcoming schedule.” And before you ask, yes — I do have David Montgomery ranked as a top-10 rest of season, fantasy playoff run option for that very reason, among others.
But before we get to the rest of that top 10, let’s take one final, albeit emotional trip around the league together. Feel free to bring a pack of Kleenex or, if you wish, simply deploy your own makeshift snot sleeve. Personally, I haven’t cried this hard since I said goodbye to my foreign exchange student in 10th grade. It was emotional. We played a lot of ping pong together. To fully appreciate this last ROS top-60 segment, I highly recommend playing the song “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. Blast it from the speakers as you digest the fickle words to follow.Please, blog, may I have some more?
In a casual conversation with my future mother-in-law this past week, she adamantly described Derrick Henry as “sexy.” Now, I’m no expert on the perceived attractiveness of 6-foot-3, 250-pound behemoth running backs, but I do know one thing: there’s only one. There’s only one Derrick Henry, and as he approaches a fantasy playoff schedule as easy as hiding a piece of Thanksgiving stuffing in Matt Patricia’s beard at the end of No-Shave November, we’re likely to see history repeat itself yet again. Remember, Henry averaged 24.2 half-PPR points in his final five games of 2019, which was only slightly better than the 23.1 points he averaged across the final five games of 2018. Historically, Henry is stretch-run hero — a fantasy playoff superman in a class all his own. Even if Henry hadn’t erupted for 37.5 half-PPR points in Week 12, he would likely enter the Week 13 rankings as the RB1 overall, as an upcoming matchup with the Browns is the only thing that stands between him and a remaining schedule against the Jaguars, Lions, Packers and Texans. No matter how your league is structured, those matchups scream league-winning upside, and there’s no doubt in my mind Henry will again have a high ownership percentage on championship rosters. But, since Henry did pop off in Week 12, let’s unpack it: 27 carries, 178 yards, three rushing touchdowns; two receptions (four targets), seven yards. All three of Henry’s rushing touchdowns came in first half, as he legitimately provided three healthy weeks of fantasy value in a single half. Now I understand the “sexy” part.
While Henry is up to RB1 this week, there’s a lot of other movement on the top-60 list and, as always, an overwhelming amount of injury updates to digest. So, before we get to the rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.Please, blog, may I have some more?
Frank Reich is a fine man. A good man, even. Sometimes, I sit around daydreaming, wondering what it would be like if he were my father. He would no-doubt instill many wholesome values in me, his son, and be a great fishing partner. He simply has that look about him — the one that comes with a Geppetto-eque twinkle in one’s eye — that exudes wisdom and level-headedness. Personally, I believe he’s a tremendous football coach, perhaps one of the most underrated in the entire league. The Indianapolis Colts are incredibly fortunate that Josh McDaniels spurned their head coaching offer back in the February of 2018 to remain with New England, leading to Reich landing the job as a sort of second choice candidate at the time. Since then, he’s done wonders with the team and carries many strengths as the man in charge, but he’s largely been a fantasy enemy to this point — especially as it relates to the running back position. That’s because he treats his backfield like a true father figure would: he believes in all of his backs, especially the young Jonathan Taylor, and is always willing to give dish out a second chance. The issue is… it’s hard to predict when those second chances are going to come. Heading into the week, Nyheim Hines was one of the highest risers up most rest-of-season rankings after receiving 12 carries in Week 10, rushing for 70 yards and one touchdown in addition to his typical receiving workload: five receptions for 45 yards and another touchdown. Jonathan Taylor saw just seven carries in that game, to which he translated to a mere 12 yards, which came on the heels of a Week 9 game in which Reich gave Taylor a measly six carries. Fast-forward to Week 11: Taylor rushed 22 times for 90 yards, also catching four passes (on four targets) for 24 yards. Those 22 carries equated to 68.8% of running back carries (22/32), as his 26 total touches were by far the highest amongst the Indy trio. Jordan Wilkins (four carries, 21 yards; one reception on one target, 15 yards) touched the ball just five times, while Hines (six carries, two yards; three receptions on four targets, 31 yards) registered nine touches. It’s certainly encouraging to see Taylor so involved in a crucial, competitive game that the Colts ultimately won in exciting fashion — but what can we expect from him moving into the home stretch of the 2020 fantasy football season?
After sinking to RB30 overall in my rankings last week, Taylor is back up into RB2 territory thanks in large part to an incredibly easy schedule from here on out. The only truly difficult matchup remaining for Taylor will come in Week 16 against the Steelers, which isn’t ideal as it’s when most fantasy championships will occur, but until then he’ll go up against the Titans, Texans, Raiders and Texans, again. There are certainly RB2 options with safer floors, but Taylor is once again trending up and represents a much more attractive Flex play than he did one week ago.
There’s a lot more to dive into this week, so before getting to the rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.Please, blog, may I have some more?
THUMP. That was Week 10 crushing us in the face. It was unpredictable, I know, but let’s begin the conversation about the running back position this past week with a look at some of the names that finished inside RB1 territory, with their overall rank listed: RB3 Nyheim Hines, RB4 Ronald Jones, RB5, D’Andre Swift, RB6 Devontae Booker, RB7 Rex Burkhead, RB8 Antonio Gibson, RB10 Wayne Gallman, RB11 Malcolm Brown and RB12 Salvon Ahmed. That’s three-fourths of the past week’s RB1 finishers going to running backs that were likely all drafted outside of the first five rounds in your fantasy draft and at least three, maybe four players who may not have even been rostered in your league as of Sunday night. Next, let’s move over to RB2 territory: RB14 J.D. McKissic, RB15 Boston Scott, RB17 Kalen Ballage and RB23 Alex Collins. Overall, that’s 12, or half, of Week 10’s RB1-2 crop going to names that likely required very little draft capital to make your roster. Some of those names are less surprising, like Swift and Gibson, but for the sake of argument, both running backs finished outside the top-28 running backs drafted in 2020. It’s already been a miraculous year at the position — for some, perhaps heart-breaking is a more fitting adjective — and the madness ensued in Week 10, to put it lightly. Fortunately, we can at least say we did not see the same absurd number of running back injuries as we’ve grown accustomed to.
Even so, it was a truly unpredictable week. Before you begin beating your forehead against the keyboard and your boss yells at you (or partner/child/parents/etc. for those still stuck at home) for disrupting the workplace over fantasy football for the umpteenth time since the onset of September, remember this: we’re all in it together. We’re all playing the same game, with the same weekly uncertainty factored in and with the same information at our fingertips. That’s reason for composure. That’s reason to keep fighting the good fight because, as you may have heard me say many times before, the grinders beat the whiners. I’ve actually never said that before, but you get the point.
It’s time to get to the rankings, but before we do, let’s take a quick trip around the league.Please, blog, may I have some more?
What in the Anthony Lynn is going on in San Diego!? I mean, Los Angeles!? Justin Jackson (zero carries; zero targets) seemed like a safe RB2 play with upside heading into the weekend, but suffered a first quarter knee injury and exited the contest prior to receiving a touch. In his stead, it was Kalen Ballage (15 carries, 69 yards, one rushing TD; two receptions on three targets, 15 yards) who burst onto the scene and answered the call. With the opportunity, Ballage finished as Week 9’s RB4, posting 15.4 half-PPR points. That was good for RB4 overall, you might say? Yes, indeed. Times are tough. The RB landscape has a bleaker outlook than the FBI Director’s job security. Joshua Kelley (nine carries, 28 yards; five receptions on five targets, 31 yards) did very little with his 14 touches, managing just 3.1 YPC and finishing outside RB2 range as the week’s RB25 with 8.4 points. Ballage, on the other hand, cruised his way to 4.6 YPC and was targeted three times by Justin Herbert in his debut. If you didn’t even know Ballage was on the Chargers until this past Sunday night, don’t fret! You’re not alone! With Troymaine Pope out with a concussion, Los Angeles elected to activate Ballage off their practice squad just over one month after the New York Jets cut him on Oct. 5 — making this entire situation all the more hilarious.
As we attempt to forecast the weeks ahead, there is still no official word as to when fantasy managers might expect Austin Ekeler to return outside of details provided on his Instagram account. For some of you, that may be the definition of a scholarly source. Ekeler showed that he started running last week and is ever-so-slowly increasing his activity, making a Week 12 return seem like a possibility, albeit an optimistic one. I speculated last week that his chances of returning at all seemed to be dwindling, but we may in fact see him on the field again in 2020. In the interim, I’m going to go out on a limb and state that Ballage is the Chargers running back to own. *hears a crack, stops to think, then plummets to the ground* It was an incredibly precarious limb.
There’s a lot more to discuss and break down this week, so before getting into the Week 10 rest of season running back rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.Please, blog, may I have some more?
To begin Week 9’s rest of season top 60 running back rankings, I’m going to get up on my body wash box. What is a body wash box, you ask? Well, I don’t use soap, so I don’t have a soap box to stand on. *someone whispers* “That’s just a phrase, Mr. Hobbs.” To which I reply, “Your face is just a term, and Mr. Hobbs is not my name.” Anywho, as I was balancing on top my mountain of body wash bottles, which was rather precarious and not at all safe, there was a particular player I kept thinking about; a running back I love for the rest of the 2020 fantasy football season and don’t quite understand why he’s being undervalued in so many industry circles. And to be clear, this is a player I have zero — you heard that right — zero, total shares of across the 11 fantasy football leagues I play in. None. Zip. So, there’s no self-serving bias here. That player is Josh Jacobs (31 carries, 128 yards; zero receptions on one target). Jacobs is currently positioned as RB9 overall on the season, averaging 14.5 FPPG, which is tied for 13th among running backs. So why do I like him even more than that as we forecast the rest of the 2020 season?
For starters, I’ve taken some heat as a result of my bullish ROS ranking of Jacobs in recent weeks. I expect to take even more this week, as I’ve moved him up to RB6 overall despite an RB15 finish in Week 8. But with my madness, comes reason. Through Week 8, the Raiders are 4-3 despite playing a brutal schedule that featured a combined opponent winning percentage of .623. Five of their seven games have come against teams with five-plus wins and, amazingly enough, they have won three of those games (Chiefs, Saints, Browns). Now, that doesn’t mean all of those high caliber teams Las Vegas has played feature elite front sevens, but the point is as follows. Jacobs didn’t exactly have positive game script on his side throughout the first half of the season, but he will moving forward, as the Raiders face one of the NFL’s easiest remaining schedules. Jacobs will see even more positive game scripts as the Raiders play with a lead more frequently. Plus, Jacobs is third in the entire NFL in touches with 165, trailing only Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliott. That’s 23.6 touches per game. On top of that, much of Jacobs’ issues in 2020 have come via a lack of ground efficiency, but I don’t think any of us are doubting his talent between the tackles. If Las Vegas can get Trent Brown and Richie Incognito back healthy, which appears to be on the horizon, Jacobs could very well be one of the five best backs to have in your lineup for the remainder of the season. He’s up to RB6 overall this week. I already told you to buy low last week, and now this window is closing faster than my high school ex-girlfriend’s when she saw me coming down the street with a boom box.
Before we get to the entirety of the week 9 rest of season running back rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.Please, blog, may I have some more?
What. A. Mess. Have mercy on us, 2020. To anyone who owns or has ever owned a pet, or is a parent, you may have experienced a scenario much like the one I am about to lay out. You turn your back for a few minutes, heck, maybe even just a few seconds. Perhaps you had to take the garbage out, or quickly snuck away to take a shower, and left your furry friends unsupervised for a brief moment. Upon your return, you are shocked to find the stuffing of a destroyed pillow strewn about the room, or a box of tissues shredded throughout your home — maybe, for the most unfortunate of souls, even some poopy footprints scattered across the floor. That feeling is what Week 7 felt like, at least to me. We let our guard down for just a second, reclined on the couch to relax and enjoy a pleasant Sunday afternoon of football — and we returned to reality to find an array of crap flung all across our roster and, more importantly of course, the top 60 rest of season running back rankings. Sure, we didn’t see the high-caliber superstars do gown that we saw earlier in the season, but that’s more so because, well, there are only a few healthy ones left unscathed at the position as is.
Let’s run through it. Chris Carson. Kenyan Drake. Devonta Freeman. Phillip Lindsay. Thankfully, one previously injured back, Raheem Mostert, was replaced via a breakout from Jeff Wilson, who finished as Week 7’s RB1 with 31 half-PPR points. Oh, yeah. Right. INJURED. Out several weeks. Then we have the lingering injuries from Week 6 that are accompanied by just as much, if not more, uncertainty than the aforementioned names. Miles Sanders. Joe Mixon. Let’s go a degree deeper. Nick Chubb. Austin Ekeler. All of this, crumpled together one layer after another, has created arguably one of the most clouded RB groups in recent memory. Even the top 24 is incredibly weak, relatively speaking, at the tail end. It’s ugly — and it’s tough to project considering many of these injuries come with timetables of “several weeks.” Or “for a while.” I especially get a kick out of “some time” and wouldn’t be surprised to hear a head coach give a *shrug* followed by “beats me, man, you heard anything?”
In this week’s column, I’ll do my best to make sense of it all. The rest of my colleagues here at Razzball are doing an incredible job attempting to do the same at their own respective positional assignments, so be sure to check out all of our rest of season positional fantasy football rankings. Before I get to mine, let’s take a quick trip around the league.Please, blog, may I have some more?
The choice for this week’s lede seemed obvious heading into the final game of the Week 6. Fresh off the Chiefs’ signing of Le’Veon Bell to a one-year deal, Clyde Edwards-Helaire erupted for 161 yards on 26 carries, adding another four receptions on four targets for eight yards. Other than the fact that CEH remains allergic to the end zone, it was an outstanding performance, as he cruised to 6.2 yards-per-carry while handling all of his targets with ease. Meanwhile, Bell saw a much different line in the box score: three plane rides, two luxury hotel stays, seven tweets and a new Mahomes. A big boost to the fantasy value? Well, it depends on how you look at it, as they say. All things are relative. It’s certainly a worse landing spot compared to somewhere like Miami or Buffalo where Bell would have a much greater likelihood of handling lead-back duties. However, playing second fiddle to CEH (which we have to assume for now, based on his Week 6 performance) still beats being the feature back for the New York Jets. Hell, being Andy Reid’s butt-scratcher beats being the No.1 running back for Gang Green. Still, I have to mention that it was in fact Darrel Williams (six carries, 16 yards, one rushing TD; one reception, 15 yards) that found pay dirt, running in a 13-yard score in the third quarter.
As of 8:15 ET on Monday night, that was the clear headline for my top 60 rest of season running back rankings. Well, that was until early in the second quarter of the nightcap between the Cowboys and Cardinals, where we saw the second highest paid running back in the NFL, Ezekiel Elliott, cough up his fourth and fifth fumbles of the season — and it’s only Week 6! By the way, that gives Elliott a share of the NFL lead for fumbles alongside Joe Burrow, Derek Carr and Carson Wentz. That’s right, he leads all running backs. Notably, the Cowboys actually showed a willingness to move away from Elliott for much of the second quarter after that, likely out of an attempt to both wake Elliott up and prioritize salvaging the game as it quickly got away from them. Tony Pollard ended up with a season-high seven carries in the first half, which he turned into 26 yards on the ground. In the end, however, it was obviously still Zeke’s backfield in the second half. Zeke finished with 12 carries for 49 yards, but he also caught eight of 11 targets (most on team) for 31 yards. Pollard finished with 10 carries for 31 yards, adding another two catches for nine yards. It’s reasonable to be concerned if you own any fantasy weapons in the Dallas offense after their performance on Monday night. Abysmal just doesn’t seem to be the right word, but it’ll do for now. The remainder of Dallas’ schedule is also pretty tough against running backs, so I’ve downgraded Elliott one spot.
Before we get to the Week 7 rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.Please, blog, may I have some more?
Entering Monday Night Football, Alvin Kamara was already the season-long RB1 overall in half-PPR and PPR formats despite having one less game played than much of the competition. So although his 15.9-point performance in half-PPR represented his weakest game of the season, it did very little to change his standing atop the top 60 rest of season running back rankings. Kamara rushed 11 times for 45 yards on Monday, fulfilling his usual role in the passing game with eight catches on 10 targets for another 74 yards. Latavius Murray (eight carries, 34 yards; two receptions, 23 yards) was effective but unspectacular, as it was the QB-duo of Drew Brees and Taysom Hill that punched in both of the Saints’ rushing touchdowns in the red zone. Yep, just how the fantasy gods drew it up.
As for the Chargers, the one-two replacement punch of Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson didn’t exactly play out the way many anticipated. Although Kelley was the popular pick to step into startable RB2 status with the absence of Austin Ekeler, he averaged a measly 2.6 YPC while totaling 29 yards on 11 carries, catching just one pass for nine yards. In fact, it was Jackson who handles lead back duties, out-touching Kelley 19-to-12. Jackson rushed 15 times for 71 yards (4.7 YPC), but the major takeaway was how much more effective he was in the passing game: five receptions on six targets for 23 yards. Both look to be risky plays until Ekeler returns, likely lending no value outside of weekly Flex consideration — but the unpredictable split between the two makes even that risky.
In other news, Le’Veon Bell is back, Todd Gurley finished as an RB1, Raheem Mostert’s return rendered Jerick McKinnon all-but-irrelevant and Chase Edmonds appears to be overtaking Kenyan Drake in Arizona. Before we get into the Week 5 rankings, let’s take a look at all of that and more via a quick trip around the league.Please, blog, may I have some more?
On Monday Night Football (the second one, not the first one), Todd Gurley finally broke out for fantasy owners (kind of). By “broke out,” I mean that he found the end zone not once, but twice — despite averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. That’s as hot as a lukewarm cup of coffee — as sexy as assless chaps with patches sewn in. It was the kind of performance that you had to be pleased with if you had him in your lineup, but at the same time, you were probably also clapping slowly while shooting those around you sneaky glares out the corner of your eyes to see if they were equally excited. On the plus side, Gurley out-touched Brian Hill 17-to-six, one week after Hill appeared to be the much more explosive back even as Gurley rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown. On the down side, Gurley caught just one pass for the second consecutive week (Ito Smith and Hill combined for five grabs), bringing his season total to a measly four receptions. Gurley clearly isn’t the back he once was, however, he did show some elusiveness inside the green zone on his first rushing touchdown, even shaking a second would-be tackler for the score. This is the point we’re at with running backs in 2020, as both Austin Ekeler and Nick Chubb went down in Week 4 with significant injuries. I am actually, tentatively, kind-of excited about Gurley. This is not good.
On the opposing sideline, Aaron Jones enjoyed yet another strong week, rushing 15 times for 71 yards (4.7 YPC) and hauling in five passes for 40 yards and a touchdown. The Packers look like the cream of the crop in the NFC (right alongside Seattle), as the Super Bowl could (I said could) potentially pit two State Farm figureheads against one another in Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. Can you imagine the marketing potential for State Farm!? Let’s all buy stock now! *does quick Google search* It’s already up 4.2% since Sept. 23 — people must really be catching on. Unfortunately, my popularity stock over on Reddit — and in life — is doing the exact opposite. My parents visited last week, and somehow, my father locked himself in the stairwell three different times. Again, this is 2020. This is real. And this is not good.
Before I lose everyone’s attention, let’s get into the Week 5 rest of season top 60 running back rankings. But first — a quick trip around the league.Please, blog, may I have some more?
There’s a very important place that I want to start today’s fantasy football conversation. Imagine getting fined $100K at work, just like Pete Carroll, Vic Fangio, Jon Gruden, Sean Payton and Kyle Shanahan did this past week. Not by Feds. Not by the IRS. Not by your local county judge. Think about that — just for one second. Fined 100-grand, at work. For me, this would bring up a concerning follow-up meeting: “So, uhh… are you asking me to quit? No? Ok… so the next three years are just pro-bono? Got it. Okay. I’ll be over here pummeling my head into this wall. Forever.” Although I don’t have a vendetta against any of those five head coaches, it’s an absolutely insane concept to even consider. In Green Bay, head coach Matt LaFleur actually has an assistant whose job it is to make sure he’s wearing a mask at all times. That’s literally his job! I don’t know if this is better or worse than Sean McVay’s “Get Back” assistant. I guess better, because this at least helps promote safety. Meanwhile, we’ve got reigning Super Bowl Champion Andy Reid looking one step away from being the next Power Ranger with the face shield he’s donning out there. Can you imagine being the intern that was tasked with finding a face covering that would please Andy Reid? Bet you it took weeks. I’d rather work as Philip Rivers’ governess. It’s just like I always say, if Julie Andrews can do it, so can I!
Shame on me for using the NFL’s current sideline mask fiasco for a lede two weeks in a row, but everything starts to get hazy on these late Monday nights. There’s a lot of movement in the rankings this week and even more question marks with certain running backs going down with injuries for undetermined periods of time, but it’s a job that has to be done nonetheless. Am I a hero in plain man’s cloth? No, I am but a man. Before we get into the rankings, let’s take our weekly trip around the league.Please, blog, may I have some more?