As the final night of Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season winds to a close, I find myself updating Razzball’s top 60 running back rankings with some unusual sights dancing in front of my eyes. Stephen Gostkowski has missed three kicks and a field goal, Noah Fant looked like the best player on the field in the first half, Corey Davis is shredding the Broncos defense and my dog is licking his butt in the corner of the room as I scream about all of these things. Also on Monday were some unusual running back performances, highlighted by Saquon Barkley’s six-yard game on the ground and a breakout day for Benny Snell of Pittsburgh. Oddly enough, it looked for a little while like we really might see a 50-50 workload split in Denver before Melvin Gordon took over in the fourth quarter. If you’re already losing your mind over realities such as these, it might be a long 16 weeks to follow for you. On the plus side, we’re here to help you navigate the rest of the way with your running backs, as the weekly top 60 picks back up today with some drastic changes including some movement inside the top 10. First, let’s take a quick trip around the league.
Saquon Barkley – As mentioned in the lede, Barkley rushed for just six yards on 15 carries against a stout Steelers defense. For half-PPR and full-PPR formats, he also added six catches for 60 yards in the air, which helped salvage some value. He’s still a slam-dunk top three running back for the remaining 16 weeks of the season.
Alvin Kamara – Those who kept their cool and used the fourth overall pick on Kamara the final few weeks of draft season were rewarded on Sunday, as he found pay dirt two times while catching five passes for 51 yards in the air. On the down side, he carried 12 times for just 16 yards while Latavius Murray saw 15 carries. He’s still the clear-cut No. 4 back in half-PPR formats, as Kamara will continue to see a healthy amount of targets and touches moving forward — he simply isn’t getting enough groundwork to be ranked ahead of Ezekiel Elliott or Saquon Barkley.
Josh Jacobs – Although Jacobs averaged just 3.72 yards-per-carry, he racked up 93 yards on 25 attempts on top of four receptions and 46 yards receiving. He was also productive in the green zone, totaling three scores when the Raiders were calling plays inside the 10. I have friends that have scored that many times total dating back to 2005. Jacobs is the focal point of this offensive, and can be expected to be heavily involved in the run game, pass game and goal line work so long as he’s healthy. He’s a top-seven back until we see anything drastic to think differently.
Kenyan Drake – As the feature back in Arizona, Drake continues to have an incredible amount of weekly fantasy upside thanks to the tempo and explosiveness of the Cardinal offense. He tallied 60 yards on 16 carries on the ground in Week 1, even finding the end zone against the 49ers defense. Also with two receptions for five yards, Drake remains a top eight back with the potential to boom into the top three on a weekly basis. Dropping just like another Drake single — hold onto this Hotline Bling.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire – Many reacted drastically to CEH’s opening night performance, as he set the record for most carries in an NFL debut with 25. Edwards-Helaire even translated that workload into 138 yards on the ground and one touchdown, but the strong fantasy night didn’t tell the whole story. CEH was irrelevant in the pass game, finishing with zero catches. He also had trouble holding up in pass protection and failed to convert any of his carries in the green zone into touchdowns, as his lone score came from 27 yards out. If he continues to be inconsistent in the red zone with little value in the passing game, he’ll lack the touchdown upside that Jacobs, Drake and Derrick Henry all posses — which is why he’s down at No. 9 heading into Week 2.
Nick Chubb – Yes, he was out-carried by Kareem Hunt in Week 1, but the Browns trailed in this one by a wide margin from the second quarter onward. Chubb is still a top-15 play as Cleveland progresses into more favorable match-ups. Nixing Chubb after just one blowout loss would be worse than a Nick’d Chubb.
Jonathan Taylor – With Marlon Mack out for the season, Taylor will step in and handle the bulk of the duties on the ground for Indianapolis. It’s worth noting that Nyheim Hines tallied seven carries for 28 yards awhile adding eight receptions for 45 yards, scoring both on the ground and through the air. Although this brings Hines into weekly top 40 consideration and an RB3/Flex asset as a future bye week option, Taylor is the back to own as a weekly top 20 play.
Joe Mixon – Mixon is not in the conversation as a top ten weekly play until the Bengals offense proves he can be capable of that degree of upside. He’s largely a one-dimensional back from a fantasy perspective, although he does come with a decent floor as the undisputed feature back in the offense. After 19 rushes for 69 yards against an underrated Chargers defense, he’s at No. 15 moving forward — but if you can show me a championship roster at the end of the year in which he was a team’s undisputed RB2 — I’d be more shocked than a Lions fan watching football in January.
David Johnson – Coming into the season with durability concerns, Johnson looked fresh in Week 1 as he averaged seven yards per carry. The veteran finished with 77 yards on 11 attempts, adding one touchdown and being a threat in the passing game (three catches for 32 yards). He’s certainly in the weekly top 20 conversation with the potential to be an RB1 depending on the weekly match-up.
Melvin Gordon – At one point, Gordon and Phillip Lindsay really were sharing a 50-50 split of touches as both backs had seven carries part-way through Monday night’s game. From that point forward, Gordon added eight more carries while Lindsay saw none, and the former finished with 78 yards on 15 carries while also catching three passes for another eight yards. There should be no doubt that Gordon is an RB2, but he lacks top-tier RB1 upside week-to-week.
J.K. Dobbins – It is going to be wondrous when Dobbins the take-it-to-the-house elf (patent pending) is named the No. 1 back in Baltimore. You should still expect Ingram to receive the heftier portion of the carry share over the next couple weeks, but Dobbins has standalone value even without an Ingram injury as a weekly Flex option, and remains a league winner if he ever takes the lead role. Dobbins has come to protect, even if he does have to shut his ears in the oven door.
James Conner – For much of Monday night’s win over the Giants, Benny Snell — not Conner — appeared to be the lead back in Pittsburgh. Snell received significantly more carries (19) than James Conner (six), who lasted only one quarter before leaving the game with an ankle injury. We don’t yet know the severity of the injury, so I won’t be overreacting to the point of flip-flopping the two after just one game. Still, I carried more beers (from the fridge to the couch) than Conner carried footballs during Monday’s game, so I’m definitely downgrading him even as someone who has numerous shares. Those who used a third-to-fifth round pick on Conner have to be concerned.
Ronald Jones – RJIII did his best to prove that all head coaches aren’t entirely full of shit when they express confidence in a running back they weren’t part of drafting as their feature back. Jones saw 17 carries compared to Leonard Fournette’s five and was the more productive back with 66 yards to Fournette’s five. I thought Leonard looked 32 in college, so what does that make him now? Even so, we need to see if Bruce Arians slowly involves him more as he gets more familiar with the offense in Week 2.
Cam Akers – Malcolm Brown scored two touchdowns in Week 1 last season and 2019 was by no means a coming-out party for the former undrafted free agent out of Texas. Akers still saw 15 touches in a big early-season win for the Rams, so he remains the guy to own in this backfield. If we see two-plus more weeks of Brown leading the charge, that would change things.
Le’Veon Bell – According to head coach Adam Gase, Bell will be out for a “couple of weeks.” Gase didn’t want to get in more details because he didn’t want to upset Bell, which is strange given Gase’s natural propensity to do so with his players in the past. Some things change, and Bell being a reliable fantasy option is one of them. Bell will need to return to the field and produce before garnering RB2 consideration.
James Robinson – With Ryquell Armstead and Devine Ozigbo both out, Robinson rushed the ball 16 times for 62 yards, also adding a single 28-yard reception to his resume. This backfield is as uninspiring as an episode of Real Housewives of New York, but Robinson has replaced Armstead as the Jaguars RB to own for the time being. Armstead is out of the top 60, but could still obtain relevancy if given a role upon his return to health.
Peyton Barber – Yeah, safe to say those Week 1 depth charts meant about as much as a marriage proposal after eight-plus tequila shots. Barber paced the Washington Ribbed Lambskins with 17 carries and although he was only able to translate that into 29 yards, he rushed for two touchdowns to help push the Fighting Dwaynes to victory. Antonio Gibson might still be the sexier, higher upside guy to own here, but it’s hard to overlook how much Ron Rivera leaned on Barber in Week 1.
DeAndre Swift – Making sense of the Detroit backfield might be even worse than we thought. Adrian Peterson paced the way with 14 carries, totaling 93 yards and even adding three catches. Kerryon Johnson saw seven carries. Swift registered the most snaps, but saw only three carries for eight yards. Luckily (and unluckily if you’re a Lions fan), Swift also hauled in three catches and was even the go-to back in crunch time, when he dropped the would-be game winning touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford. The fact that Swift was on the field in that scenario and was being targeted should tell us something, therefore it’s Swift, Peterson and then Johnson — in that order — moving forward.
Projections are constructed for half-PPR fantasy scoring.
And there you have it: the top 60 as we leave Week 1 in the dust and head bravely and naively into Week 2. As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.