It’s NFL Scouting Combine week! In celebration I’ll be wearing the same clothes all week (no pants) while eating only pizza, ice cream and tequila. I’ll also be dropping my top 40 dynasty running backs for 2020 fantasy football which includes this year’s rookie running back class. Of course, these draft prospect running backs are currently unemployed which makes their valuations a bit more challenging and unpredictable. But even without homes it’s fun to think about where to value these youngsters relative to the more experienced backs. All of our fantasy football rankings including positional and overall NFL draft prospect rankings, dynasty rankings and eventually redraft rankings can be found on our 2020 Fantasy Football Rankings page as they’re released. Anyway, here’s my top 20 dynasty running backs for 2020 PPR fantasy football:
1. Christian McCaffrey – This tier goes from here until Saquon. I call this tier, “Two Wild & Crazy Guys.” McCaffrey is the Steve Martin of the Wild & Crazy Guys duo. You can’t go wrong with Steve Martin, he does it all. Same goes for McCaffrey: he can run, catch and tell a joke that won’t make your parents cringe. Let’s just hope there’s no holdouts in his future.
2. Saquon Barkley – If McCaffrey is Steve Martin then Saquon is Dan Aykroyd; a little younger and slightly more risky in the joke department. I’m banking on a career that’s more Ghost Busters than Blues Brothers.
3. Dalvin Cook – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here until Kamara. I call this tier, “Forever 25 with Chubb (and now Taylor too!).” All these fellas are heading into their age 25 season except Nick’s Chubb (24). Cook’s in the perfect situation in the run heavy Minnesota offense, but note he’s set to hit free agency after this season. For this reason, I almost moved Cook down below Zeke, and still might in future iterations.
4. Nick Chubb – Haters have doubted Chubb at every thrust. First it was his robotic knee, then it was the second half Kareem Hunt threat in Cleveland. Whatever the next negative narrative is, don’t buy it. It’s the Chubb show in Browntown.
5. Ezekiel Elliott – I highlighted my long-term concerns over Zeke’s workload in my Top 25 Dynasty Football Rankings back in December. But short-term, he’ll be fed til he bursts. And who knows, maybe Zeke was forged in the rare Frank Gore/Adrian Peterson mold.
6. Jonathan Taylor – The kid from Home Improvement? I believe so. *Checks notes* Guess it’s actually his brother. Last week Alfred gave you his Pre-Combine Rookie Running Back Rankings where he slotted Taylor in as his #1 rookie RB saying, “I am not sure what else one could possibly want from a prospect. Immediate and elite production sustained over 3 years, early entry, and no notable injuries. He caught enough passes (23 in his final season) to ensure he’s not a zero in that department. The tape even shows legit breakaway ability, even though that’s more of a cherry on top than a critical asset to me. He won’t go later than the second round in the NFL draft. Every box is double checked with Taylor. If he’s not your RB1, you’re overthinking this thing. I’m talking about you, big dumb animal Donkey Teeth.” Hey, that’s uncalled for, Alf! Remember, my rankings are geared towards PPR leagues and I give Swift the edge in the passing game. B_Don was also a little more reserved on JT in his Jonathan Taylor 2020 NFL Draft Preview last week. Seems like I’m the middle donkey on Taylor here. UPDATE 3/2/20: Taylor just dominated the combine, posting a beautiful 4.39 forty time and impressing in every other drill. I’ve moved him all the way up from #12 to #6. Some will claim this is an overreaction, but I believe Taylor has shown to be an elite talent and secured himself a 1st round draft pick. Expect him to land in a fantasy friendly situation out of the gates. Get excited folks.
7. Alvin Kamara – In 2019 we saw major touchdown regression from Kamara (18 in 2018 down to 6 in 2019), but he still managed the #8 PPR running back season. Brees will be back for another go but, like Cook, Kamara’s set to hit free agency in 2021 which almost bumped him down to my next tier.
8. Josh Jacobs – This is a new tier. This tier goes from here to Jones. I call this tier, “What Jackass Put Kerryon in the Same Tier as Jacobs, Henry and Jones?!” We saw the return of the Jon Gruden feature back in 2019 and it was glorious until Jacobs got banged up down the stretch. He’s still only 22 this season and as long as he calls Vegas home he’ll be one of the best bets in the house.
9. Kerryon Johnson – I’m so far out on this Kerryon limb. Donkeys really shouldn’t be climbing trees. Just note, I’m not ranking based on what I think the current market is for these guys, I’m ranking based on where I think the market is headed. I went over my Wayward Son in my Kerryon Johnson Dynasty Outlook a few weeks back.
10. Derrick Henry – No player’s stock rose more in the late season than Derrick Henry’s. His playoff destruction of the Patriots’ and Ravens’ defenses was eye opening. I know it feels like I’m selling Henry a little short here, but he finished the year with nearly 400 carries including the playoffs and don’t forget these are PPR rankings—Henry isn’t a huge threat in the pass game. UPDATE 3/16/20: The Titans have used their franchise tag on Henry and Tannehill has been resigned as their QB. Almost best case scenario for Henry’s dynasty owners.
11. Aaron Jones – Jones is only 25 and just posted 19 touchdowns and the #2 PPR RB season. So why is he #10 on this list? We saw just how volatile touchdown numbers can be when looking at Alvin Kamara. The Jones talent is very real but it don’t fully trust the Packers/Matt LaFleur in their running back usage and 2021 free agency looms.
12. D’Andre Swift – This is a new tier. It goes from here to Dobbins. I call this tier, “Ohhhhh so shiny!” Depending on landing spot, all three of these 2020 rookies could—and likely will—jump 4 spots in either direction on this list. I’ll reassess post-draft but tentatively here’s where I’m valuing them. B_Don gave you his D’Andre Swift 2020 NFL Draft Preview a couple weeks ago where he said, “There’s a decent chance Swift is my #1 RB for the 2020 draft class regardless of his NFL landing spot.” He’s currently my #1 also, but I won’t go as far as to say ‘regardless of landing spot’ because these next two guys are very talented as well . . .
13. J.K. Dobbins – Here’s what Alfred had to say about Dobbins last week, “This is where some eyebrows will likely get raised, as Dobbins is probably RB3 or below for most people. Once I stepped back and looked at the numbers it made no sense for him to be anything but RB2. Like JT, he broke out as a freshman and never looked back. Dobbins checks every meaningful box to me as long as he’s a day 2 selection or better which seems very likely. I wouldn’t even be shocked if he winds up the best of this class.” Truth of the matter is, any one of these three rookies could separate themselves as the top back from this class. Some will even throw Cam Akers into the discussion. One thing’s for sure, there’s an injection of exciting youth entering the league this year.
14. Joe Mixon – This is a new tier. It goes from here to Fournette. I call this tier, “Fried Pickle Chips.” Some people love their fried pickles in chip form. There’s nothing wrong with that. Others prefer fried pickle spears. That’s cool too. It’s all personal preference. I like that crunch of the full spear (Kerryon Johnson). I’m aware this Mixon ranking is my most controversial ranking outside of Kerryon. I get it, Mixon is only 24 this coming season and he might escape the Bungles in 2021. But last year he took a whopping 278 carries (5th most in the league) and was only able to post the #13 RB numbers in PPR formats. I see him going off the board middle of the first round in the redraft best ball leagues I’ve been drafting and don’t understand it. I don’t doubt he could be a delicious pickle chip in the right situation (with proper dipping sauces) but Cincy isn’t the right situation and there’s no guarantees his long-term landing spot is ideal either.
15. Leonard Fournette – It looked like Leo might actually post a full 16 game season last year but he ended up missing week 17 with a neck injury. Somehow he only scored three touchdowns in his 15 games, seems almost impossible. If a near full season is the new Fournette norm then those touchdown numbers will normalize, I just think he’s more likely to play 10 games than 15 games in 2021. There’s also a strange rumor spreading that the Jags may not pick up his option for this season. I’m skeptical but also don’t love uncertainty.
16. Austin Ekeler – This is a new tier. It goes from here to Akers. I call this tier, “Bitcoin Backs.” Remember the 2017 Bitcoin craze when the cryptocurrency skyrocketed in value from $900 to $19,000. This tier has the potential to make a similar explosion in fantasy value. I gave you my Austin Ekeler Dynasty Outlook a couple weeks back. Ekeler already made a Bitcoin move in 2019 as he posted the #3 PPR RB season, but there’s still room for him to follow through, silence the doubters and solidify himself among the elite PPR backs. UPDATE 3/6/20: The Chargers have ponied up and paid Ekeler to the tune of 24.5 million over four years. You love to see a team willing to commit to your dynasty running back on level.
17. Miles Sanders – In the four games from week 12 – 15, Sanders averaged 17.75 carries for 82 rushing yards, 5 receptions for 43 receiving yards and 1 touchdown per game. It’s hard to fully trust Doug Peterson with running backs but if this is a sneak peak at Sanders’ future usage then we’re easily looking at a top 10 dynasty back.
18. Cam Akers – Toughest player for me to rank in this top 20 and could easily drop out of the top 20 once the NFL draft dust settles. He has all the tools to become a feature back in the NFL and if a team ponies up to invest a 2nd round draft pick in the Florida State product then this feels like a fair ranking assuming it’s a decent landing spot. If teams allow him to slip to the late 3rd or 4th round in the NFL draft then I’ll likely move him down a bit, depending on which team that happens to be. UPDATE 3/1/20: Akers shined at the combine where he ran a 4.47 forty and excelled in the passing drills. He’s locked in as my #4 RB in this year’s class and should be off the board before the end of the second round in the NFL draft.
19. David Montgomery – This is a new tier. It goes from here into the top 40 dynasty running backs. I call this tier, “We Aren’t in Kansas City, Missouri Anymore.” Kansas City, Missouri is a big city. Kansas City, Kansas is about 1/3 the size. KC, KS is still a big city, but it’s a decent step down from it’s sister. The first 18 running backs each have elite upside in the right situation, but then there’s drop off. Monty is a solid young back in a good situation, just don’t think he has that elite upside. If Tarik Cohen happens to leave town after 2020 it would help Montgomery’s fantasy outlook.
20. Marlon Mack – Another player approaching free agency in 2021 which could drastically affect his long-term dynasty outlook. Short-term, his workload in Indy feels relatively secure but it’d be nice to see him utilized a little more in the passing game where he’s only averaged 15.5 receptions for 92.5 yards over the past two seasons.