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. Aaron Jones (in practice). 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.
Derrick Henry – 20 carries, 75 yards, one rushing TD; two receptions (two targets), -3 yards. Finishing just outside of RB1 territory, Henry’s 14.2 half-PPR points isn’t all that surprising — or concerning — against a stout Steelers front seven. On top of that, Henry salvaged high-end RB2 value in a game in which he suffered from game script, as the Titans found themselves down 24-7 at half. Next week looks better as Tennessee heads to Cincinnati, but expectations should be tempered yet again during weeks 9-12, when Henry goes up against the Bears, Ravens and Colts twice. Yes, Henry is more or less match-up proof — I’m simply laying out the facts. Luckily, Henry faces a super soft fantasy playoff schedule in Weeks 14-17 and should yet again represent a league-winning option in that regard. And by super soft, I’m talking softer than a Cowboys fans’ midsection thinking about Ben DiNucci as their starting quarterback. On the plus side, he at least sounds like a guy that can make a mean fettuccini alfredo.
Aaron Jones – Missed Sunday’s game after injury his calf during Thursday’s practice. Reportedly Jones could have played through it, but the team was optimistic… yadda yadda yadda. I expect Jones to be back and healthy in Week 8, which is why my rankings don’t reflect much in regard to this past Sunday. With Jones out, Jamaal Williams (19 carries, 77 yards, one rushing TD; four receptions, 37 yards) posted 19.4 half-PPR points, which placed him at RB4 overall. The only real takeaway is that if, and if, Jones were to miss additional time, Williams could occupy the lead role in Green Bay — not rookie AJ Dillon (five carries, 11 yards).
Ezekiel Elliott – 12 carries, 45 yards; one reception (two targets), six yards. Winter is coming, which means it’s nearly time for seasonal affective disorder to settle in. Therefore, I’ll keep this blurb short for the sake of everyone’s mental health, including mine. The Cowboys are *insert adjective here* Seriously, pick one. Abysmal, pathetic, depressing, abhorrent, melancholy — you name it. They bring out the doldrums. Elliott is the same highly-talented, multidimensional lead-back that he’s been in the past, but his fantasy output is significantly capped in this offense right now. On Sunday, he totaled 5.6 half-PPR points on 13 touches, which finished not only outside of RB2 range, but RB3 range as well. Note: the 13 touches marked his first game under 20 touches all season. If he’s getting 20+ touches, he can still be the same high-end RB1 that you used a top-three pick on — but how often can we expect that moving forward? The O-Line isn’t the same and it’s safe to expect Dallas will be playing from behind in a large percentage of their remaining games. He’s still an RB1, but trending into mid-tier range, and I don’t think back-end RB1 status is out of the picture for him in 2020. Here’s a thought: throw McCarthy out there at guard. Guy hasn’t worked out in two decades and could be better utilized elsewhere. Right, right. Keeping this one short. I won’t let you down again.
Josh Jacobs – 10 carries, 17 yards; three receptions (four targets), 14 yards. Yikes! Or should I say, jinkies! (recently rediscovered What’s New, Scooby Doo? on Netflix) We expected this to represent a tough match-up for the Raiders on the ground, but I certainly did not foresee Jacobs finishing with 31 multi-purpose yards. The trench battle in this one mirrored a young child playing Whack-a-Mole at a carnival fresh off a cotton candy sugar rush: the very moment Jacobs would come peaking through the line of scrimmage, he was quickly pummeled with the mallet that was the Tampa Bay front seven. Still, I think it’s important not to overreact here. For one, the Bucs may have the best front seven in the entire league — one of the top three at the very least. On top of that, Jacobs is RB14 overall at present, and the Raiders just completed perhaps the toughest six-game schedule to open an NFL season that I can remember: Panthers, Saints, Patriots, Bills, Chiefs, Buccaneers. They came out 3-3 from that brutal stretch and although not every one of those teams represents a tough front seven — it’s important to remember how essential game script can be on an RB’s production. Las Vegas figures to be playing with the lead much more often through the next 9-10 weeks, as they’ll play Denver (twice), the Los Angeles Chargers (twice), Atlanta, the New York Jets, Miami and Indianapolis during that stretch. Once Trent Brown returns from the COVID list to bring this O-Line back to health, Jacobs is likely a weekly top-eight play. I’m happy to take the heat for this call if I’m wrong, as I have Jacobs ranked three spots above consensus — but if I were you, I would buy low on Jacobs and be actively looking to acquire shares.
James Robinson – 22 carries, 119 yards, one rushing TD; four receptions (six targets), 18 yards. After three weeks of mediocre fantasy production in which he averaged just nine half-PPR points, Robinson exploded against the Chargers in Week 7. J-Rob saw a season-high 26 touches, marking his second 20+ touch game of the 2020 season, and averaged 5.4 YPC on the ground. That workload allowed Robinson to pile up 29.7 half-PPR points, which was good for RB2 overall on the week. The rookie has now been targeted 17 times over the past three weeks and has received no fewer than four targets dating all the way back to Week 2. With so much injury uncertainty (Carson, Sanders, McCaffrey, Mixon) and downright chaos (Elliott, Hunt, CEH) at the RB1 position, Robinson is officially an RB1, as his role and involvement is one of the easiest to forecast at the position moving forward. That’s hard to find these days. Can he walk? Check. Will he get the ball? Check. Sign me up!
Kareem Hunt – 18 carries, 76 yards; three receptions (four targets), 26 yards, one receiving TD. Rebounding from a rough Week 6 performance against Pittsburgh, Hunt found his way back into RB1 range with 17.7 half-PPR points in Week 7 versus the Bengals. Hunt hauled in a late eight-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield in the fourth quarter, which catapulted an otherwise pedestrian fantasy day into one more pleasing to fantasy owners. D’Ernest Johnson (one carry, three yards) can be dropped at this point, especially with a Nick Chubb return looming. Speaking of Chubb, head coach Kevin Stefanski finally provided an update on his star running back on Monday. Although Chubb won’t be available against the Raiders in Week 8, he will be reevaluated during the team’s Week 9 bye. There’s certainly a strong chance he returns to play Houston in Week 10, but it’s still far from a certainty. While I’m hesitant to downgrade Hunt too much until we know for sure, I’ve upgraded Chubb now that there’s some light gleaming at the end of the tunnel. Hope! Glorious hope!
James Conner – 20 carries, 82 yards; three receptions (five targets); 29 yards. Despite not finding pay dirt for the first time since Week 1, Conner turned in respectable RB2 output in Week 7 thanks to his usual, hefty workload. Conner was handed 18+ touches for the fifth-straight game this season, with the only such game he has failed to eclipse that threshold in 2020 being his injury-reduced Week 1. In fact, Conner has actually seen 20+ touches three out of the last four weeks and if you look at his past five weeks (his season excluding Week 1), he’s the RB7 overall with 17 FPPG. With a reasonably favorable ROS schedule, fire up Conner as a fringe RB1/high-end RB2 for the remainder of the year.
Chris Carson – Five carries, 34 yards; one reception (two targets), seven yards. It wasn’t the line fantasy owners hoped for, but considering Carson exited the game in the second quarter and didn’t return, it could have been even worse. After undergoing an MRI on Monday, it was revealed that Carson suffered a mid-foot sprain. He’s considered week-to-week and will “miss some time,” according to Adam Schefter. Is that really all you’ve got, Adam!? I could have told you as much by staring into the coffee grinds in my trash can. “Hey, wait, is that a half-eaten buffalo wing? That means Carson could be back to face Buffalo in Week 9!” As a result of Carson’s absence, Carlos Hyde (15 carries, 68 yards, one rushing TD; three receptions, eight yards) saw an increased workload and effectively churned out bottom-end RB1 production in the form of 15.1 half-PPR points. You can install Hyde as middling RB2 in the meantime, as head coach Pete Carroll indicated Monday that Rashaad Penny will not play in Week 8 as he works his way back from a knee injury. By the time it’s worth adding Penny, it’s quite likely Carson will be back and ready to go.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire – Eight carries, 46 yards, one rushing TD; one reception (four targets), 17 yards. CEH managed to finish as a high-end RB2 despite seeing just nine touches, but it’s clear Le’Veon Bell (six carries, 39 yards; zero targets) is going to eat into his ceiling, even if the rookie maintains lead-back duties. Bell was more efficient on the ground, as his 6.5 YPC slightly topped CEH’s 5.8 YPC. I would still start CEH in confidence, but he’s better suited now as an RB2 compliment to an elite RB1 for teams looking to bring home titles this fantasy season.
Todd Gurley – 23 carries, 63 yards, two rushing TD; two receptions (three targets), 19 yards. Gurley was incredibly inefficient on the ground, rushing for just 2.7 YPC. However, he managed to find the end zone twice — once on purpose, once on accident. Thanks to his accidental touchdown in the final two minutes of the game, Gurley posted 21.2 half-PPR points, which was good for RB3 overall. He’s not going to improve much in the ground efficiency department and remains fairly touchdown-dependent, but with his volume and lack of competition for green zone touches, he’s evolved into a surprisingly safe weekly RB2 option. The only way you can go wrong with Gurley is to expect weekly RB1 production from him.
Joe Mixon – Missed Sunday’s game with a foot injury. It’s currently unknown whether Mixon will be able to suit up in Week 8 against Tennessee, but I’m going to assume the Bengals keep him out an additional week with their bye week coming up in Week 9. From there, it’s Pittsburgh in Week 10, which doesn’t exactly represent an attractive match-up for fantasy owners, as it’s smart to temper expectations to begin with in any player’s first week coming back off an injury. Although I’ve been low on Mixon all season long already, he’s been downgraded slightly as a result. In his absence, Giovani Bernard (13 carries, 37 yards; 5 receptions, 59 yards) can be started as a high-end RB2 in confidence. Bernard finished as RB7 overall with 18.1 half-PPR points in Mixon’s absence last week.
David Johnson – 14 carries, 42 yards; four receptions (four targets), 42 yards, one receiving TD. Listen, I’ve got nothing personal against DJ. He seems like a good dude and I want the best for hi — but this just seems like an incredibly Johnson-esque stat line. He averaged just three YPC, but caught four passes — one for a touchdown — which allowed him to provide fringe RB1/RB2 production with 14.4 half-PPR points. Surprisingly enough, DJ is actually averaging more YPC in 2020 (3.9) than he has in any season dating back to 2016, when he ran for 4.2 YPC en route to his only career Pro Bowl appearance. Long story short — DJ continues to bore me, but he’s nonetheless deployable as a mid-to-bottom tier RB2. As I said last week, I encourage owners to trade DJ now before he gets into a ridiculously difficult schedule during fantasy playoff season.
Antonio Gibson – 20 carries, 128 yards, one rushing TD; zero receptions (one target). For the first time all season, Gibson eclipsed the 20-carry threshold. As a result, he totaled 18.7 half-PPR points and finished as the RB5 alongside Alvin Kamara. The volume was somewhat surprising, as his previous season-high in rush attempts was 13. The lack of involvement in the passing game wasn’t ideal, but Gibson saw five targets in each of the previous three weeks, so owners should expect that aspect of his game to tick back up in the weeks ahead. It’s safe to assume Gibson will receive 15+ carries and three-plus targets regularly after the Football Team comes out of their Week 9 bye. It is, right? Ron Rivera is a smart guy. I’m confident Riverboat Ron is going to let Gibson roll moving forward, especially considering J.D McKissic (five carries, 35 yards; two receptions, two targets, 16 yards) didn’t do anything to alter that narrative. Side note: an incredibly encouraging and thrilling sight to see Rivera wrapping up his cancer treatment this week. Best of luck, Ron.
Ronald Jones – 13 carries, 34 yards, one rushing TD; one reception (two targets), two yards. After three-straight 100-yard rushing games in which he averaged 16.4 half-PPR points (RB9 over that period), Jones settled for a bottom-end RB2 finish against the Raiders with 10.1 points. With Leonard Fournette (11 carries, 50 yards; six receptions, seven targets, 47 yards) healthy, Jones saw his involvement drop from the 23.7 touches-per-game he experienced over the previous three weeks to a measly 14. Although Jones remains the better option between the two backs, it’s clear Fournette is going to eat into his weekly upside when he’s healthy. Jones is a high-end Flex for ROS that can be installed as a bottom-end RB2 if absolutely necessary — whereas Fournette is an RB3/Flex option.
D’Andre Swift – Nine carries, 27 yards, one rushing TD; four receptions (five targets), 21 yards. After moving Swift up to RB29 last week, I fielded some questions about why he wasn’t even higher. Specifically, how he could be below a name like Devonta Freeman on my list. My response was that often times, we expect NFL coaching staffs to manage backfields logically, which is rarely the case. In this instance, the logical response to Swift’s monster Week 6 (17 touches, 25.8 half-PPR points) would be to give him an equally substantial role in Week 7, if not larger. Well, Swift was handed fewer carries (nine) than Adrian Peterson (11 carries, 29 yards; one reception, one yard) this past week, though he did out-touch the veteran 13-to-12. Fantasy owners should be hesitant to install Swift as anything other than a back-end RB2, but he continues to trend upward due to his heavy usage in the passing game. Even dating back to Week 1 when he dropped the would-be game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, the Lions have gone almost exclusively to Swift as their back in the passing game. He has seen four-plus targets in every game except for Week 3 against the Cardinals, a much-needed component that guided him to a mid-tier RB2 finish with 12.8 half-PPR points this past week. After Swift gets past the Colts front seven in Week 8, his only tough match-ups remaining are against the Bears (Week 13) and Buccaneers (Week 16). I would start him as a high-end Flex/low-end RB2 in every other match-up outside of those two weeks.
Melvin Gordon – 17 carries, 68 yards, one rushing TD; two receptions (four targets), 12 yards. Gordon finished as RB18 in Week 7, but Phillip Lindsay (nine carries, 79 yards; zero targets) once again looked excellent on the ground. The third-year back out of Colorado led Denver in rushing and was far more effective than Gordon, rattling off 8.8 YPC while Gordon managed just four yards per attempt. Unfortunately, Lindsay left the game early with a concussion, which makes his availability for Week 8 against the Chargers cloudy. Gordon receives a minor boost in the interim, though Lindsay likely won’t miss more than a week (if at all). Royce Freeman can be left on the waiver wire. *rolls past Royce*
Kenyan Drake – 14 carries, 34 yards; one reception (two targets), seven yards. Although this looks like your typical early-season line from Mr. Drake, he suffered a fourth quarter ankle injury as well. Visibly in pain following the injury, Drake needed to be carted off the field. X-rays came back negative, but an MRI revealed a slight ligature tear in the ankle. He’ll be sidelined “a few weeks” as a result. Here we go again. This is good news for Chase Edmonds (five carries, 58 yards; seven receptions, 84 yards) owners — who has been more efficient and looked more dynamic than Drake all season long. With Arizona facing Miami and Buffalo in Weeks 9 and 10, it’s certainly possible that this could become Edmonds’ backfield for good. At the very least, Edmonds has league-winning ROS potential and should be held even if Drake’s injury outlook brightens.
Austin Ekeler – Not expected to be activated when eligible to come off IR, which would be this week against Denver. Ekeler remains without a timetable to return, as head coach Anthony Lynn referred to his hamstring injury as “very serious.” It’s reasonable to assume he might miss another three weeks. A Week 11 return against the Jets seems reasonable, although Week 10 versus the Dolphins is also possible. Week 9 seems like a long shot at this point, so expect at least another two weeks of Justin Jackson (five carries, 12 yards; five receptions, six targets, 43 yards) and Joshua Kelley (12 carries, 29 yards; five receptions, five targets, 24 yards). Although Kelley out-touched Jackson 17-to-10 last week, he was far less efficient even with the latter playing through a knee injury. I’m considerably lower on both backs than consensus and will be starting neither in my weekly lineups.
Devonta Freeman – Three carries, eight yards; zero receptions (one target). Judging by Freeman’s line, one would assume he left the game relatively early with an injury. That was half true, as Freeman exited the game with an ankle injury — in the third quarter. Wayne Gallman (10 carries, 34 yards, one rushing TD; five receptions, 20 yards) provided high-end RB2 output in his absence, except not a soul in the world started him except for Nostradamus. Bee-tee-dubs, that dude is a fantasy football wunderkind. The Giants don’t play again until next Monday night, so Freeman should have ample time to heal up. However, they play Tampa Bay on MNF, so fantasy managers should look elsewhere even if he suits up. It would be wise to stay away from this backfield for the remainder of this season, as they don’t have any truly attractive options remaining — and Freeman was already a match-up reliant weapon to begin with.
Jeff Wilson – 17 carries, 112 yards, three rushing TD; two receptions (two targets), eight yards. Although Jerick McKinnon (three carries, -1 yard; zero targets) thrived in Raheem Mostert’s absence earlier this season, it was Wilson who assumed lead-back duties this time around. Amazingly enough, Wilson finished as the RB1 overall in Week 7, racking up 31 half-PPR points on 6.6 YPC while rushing for three touchdowns. YAY!!! However, he suffered a high-ankle sprain and is expected to be sidelined for four-to-six weeks. NO!!! What an emotional roller coaster this 49ers backfield has been. Hell, you could build a new human being from scratch with all the injured body parts they have lying around. Does this now become McKinnon’s backfield? Not so fast. It was in fact JaMycal Hasty (nine carries, 57 yards; one reception, 16 yards) who played second fiddle to Wilson in Week 7, not McKinnon. That said, both players represent risky Flex options in the interim. McKinnon would have been downgraded significantly if not for the Wilson injury, but as long as he has a chance to fall back into his early-season role, he remains a fringe RB3. Mostert is eligible to be activated off IR in Week 10, but with San Francisco’s bye coming in Week 11, it’s probably safest to expect him back in Week 12. For those teams who are pretty much penciled into the playoffs, I would urge you to consider buying low on Mostert for a playoff run. I already added one share last week, acquiring Jonathan Taylor and Mostert in exchange for Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks.
Boston Scott – 12 carries, 46 yards; three receptions (five targets), 46 yards, one receiving TD. With Miles Sanders out for the week, Scott actually returned usable fantasy output — something that was not the case in Week 1. Scott finished as a bottom-end RB1 with 16.7 half-PPR points, while Corey Clement (two carries, nine yards; one reception, 12 yards) was more like Corey Cement, as his three touches indicate he’s going absolutely nowhere. It’s not yet known whether Sanders will return to face the Cowboys in Week 8, but he’ll be back for the team’s Week 10 game against the Giants at the very least following Philadelphia’s Week 9 bye. Scott would represent an RB2 with upside against Dallas if Sanders is unable to suit up.
Note: Rankings are constructed for half-PPR fantasy scoring. Rest-of-season strength of schedule was considered in these rankings using Fantasy Pros’ Easiest Remaining Schedule feature.
And those, my good, faceless internet friends, are the top 60 running backs to target for the remainder of the 2020 fantasy football season. I began them while casually drinking a beer-mosa on my couch and finished them while watching the original Halloween movie and simultaneously screaming at my phone, begging Jimmy Graham to catch one more pass in the fourth quarter (he did, and I won). Until next time, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.