Fantasy Points Targets: Running Backs

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Fantasy Points Targets: Running Backs

It’s hard to win in fantasy football without drafting the right players. Fortunately, there are a lot of “right players,” and they’re available at various stages of a typical draft. It’s important to go into a draft with a list of players you want, and the points at which they might be available.

Our job at Fantasy Points is to help you with that.

Our Fantasy Points Targets series will highlight players we particularly like at their current ADPs (Average Draft Position). Those players might have legitimate league-winning upside, a rock-solid floor to help the foundation of your team, or might simply present a great value and are being overlooked. It could be a combination of factors.

For these articles, we are using all 12-team ADP over the last month from our friends at the NFFC. We believe high-stakes ADP to be the most important to giving advice, as the sharpest players in the world have been drafting teams for months and have set the market. Given the ADP we are using, the basis for these articles is PPR scoring.

As always, if you want detailed information about all the players listed here — and more — check out our 2020 Fantasy Points Player Profiles.

Players Added to this Update

{{Derrick Henry|RB|TEN)} (Ten)

Damien Harris (NE)

Nyheim Hines (Ind)

Players Removed from this Update

Joe Mixon (Cin) — Mixon’s battle with migraines — and a potential contract issue — has us feeling better about some other players in his range. However, he’s started to slip into the second round of some drafts, where we’d hammer the “draft” button.

David Montgomery (Chi) — Montgomery’s groin injury suffered in camp could knock him out a few weeks into the regular season.

Tevin Coleman (SF) — Coleman has been underwhelming in camp, while Jerick McKinnon is getting a lot of hype after missing two seasons.

Fantasy Points Targets: Running Backs

Round 1

Note: We obviously like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and the other top RBs on the board. But we wanted to draw attention to some late-1st players we particularly like.

TARGET

Derrick Henry (Ten, 8 ADP) — The best bet to get 300 carries in the NFL this year, Henry’s fantasy upside has always been limited by his zero role in the passing game. Could that be changing? Our guy Greg Cosell has heard from someone close to the team that the Titans that they want Henry to get more involved in the screen game going forward. That makes sense, because even though Henry has never caught more than 18 passes in a season, he’s always a threat to house one when he gets in the open field. Is he going to start running sluggo routes and cooking linebackers in the open field like Darren Sproles? No. But even 30 catches would provide more value than we’ve seen from Henry in the past, and increase his already massive rushing floor/ceiling combo.

ALSO CONSIDER…

Miles Sanders (Phi, 10 ADP) — Everything we’ve been told about Sanders this off-season — from our guy Adam Caplan to words that have come out of the mouth of Doug Pederson himself — suggests the Eagles are ready to make Sanders their bell cow, even if they sign a vet. That’s great news for fantasy, because in Weeks 13 through 16 last year — prime fantasy playoff weeks — Sanders scored fewer PPR points than only Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley. One of the best receivers and most explosive runners at his position, Sanders is in a prime spot for a fantasy explosion. Sanders has missed time the last week or so with a mild hamstring injury, but there’s nothing to be concerned about from what we’re being told (Sanders has been doing drills on the side in camp).

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC, 7 ADP) — While we’ve been CEH backers since April given his amazing landing spot, we still had him as a 2nd-round pick because of the presence of Williams. It’s something we no longer have to concern ourselves with. Unfortunately, CEH’s ADP has gone nuclear (he’s gone as high as 2nd overall in high-stakes NFFC drafts). The thing is, it deserved to. He’s an exceptional receiver and bowling-ball runner on whom the Chiefs spent a first-round pick. In 2017, Kansas City had a rookie RB — Kareem Hunt — who led the NFL in rushing. And that was before Patrick Mahomes. CEH has legit top-3 RB upside.

Round 2

TARGET

Kenyan Drake (Ari, 13 ADP) — Drake was once carrying a 1st-round ADP, but now he is extra appealing when he slips into the 2nd round, which happens frequently enough that it should be mentioned (the players going in the 10-16 range are often interchangeable, especially this season). We’re still OK using a late 1st-round pick on him because of his explosive traits and how coach Kliff Kingsbury played to his strengths as a receiver and gap-scheme runner. It wouldn’t be shocking for Drake to get 80 targets this year — he had 35 in eight games a season ago without a full off-season in the Cardinal offense. Drake’s especially interesting to pair with a “Steady Eddie” type of guy, maybe if you take a WR like Michael Thomas or Davante Adams early, because he is more upside than floor. Keep in mind, though, that if you want to handcuff Drake, you’ll have to do so expensively, with Chase Edmonds, and that’s become an important caveat because Drake has been dinged in camp with some sort of foot issue. It appears minor, but he’s been spotted in a walking boot.

ALSO CONSIDER…

Josh Jacobs (LV, 14 ADP) — The concerns with Jacobs are similar to those with Joe Mixon — despite Jacobs having the skills to be a very good receiver out of the backfield, he simply wasn’t used that way (he didn’t have a single target on third down in 2019). Maybe the fact that he was a rookie was part of that reasoning for Jon Gruden, and maybe it’s because Jacobs dealt with a shoulder issue for practically the entire season. The bad news for fantasy is the Raiders re-signed receiving specialist Jalen Richard and drafted Swiss-army-knife Lynn Bowden to potentially take the backfield targets. The good news is Jacobs is a supreme talent, running behind a very good offensive line, and GM Mike Mayock has said he anticipates more receiving work for Jacobs this season. If Jacobs was guaranteed receiving work, he’d be a locked-in top-8 pick. The discount is built in for him, in ways it isn’t for Mixon and Derrick Henry (both of whom we like).

Nick Chubb (Cle, 17 ADP) — If Kareem Hunt didn’t exist, Chubb would be a top-five pick, easily. Of course, that’s a massive if, but drafting Chubb in the 2nd round is a bet on talent. Chubb finished #2 in the NFL in rushing to Derrick Henry last year, despite splitting snaps with Hunt in the second half of 2019. Despite Chubb showcasing strong receiving ability in his two seasons, Hunt was used as a specialist in that area after his 2019 suspension, and that has the potential to cap Chubb's upside. But there are plenty of reasons to throw support behind Chubb, as well. He's supremely gifted, the Browns are going to run the hell out of the ball in new coach Kevin Stefanski's predominantly "12" personnel attack, and they significantly upgraded the offensive line. Chubb is like a “mini Henry” going almost a full round later. He’s a stellar RB2 in an RB/RB start, and an intriguing RB1 for those opening a draft with a WR like Michael Thomas or Davante Adams.

Round 3

TARGET

James Conner (Pit, 28 ADP) — Conner fits the profile as the type of pick for a certain kind of drafter — an all-upside risk-taker who has drafted no more than one RB through the first three rounds. Before missing time with a shoulder injury in Week 9 last season (an injury that plagued him for the remainder of the season) Conner ranked 10th in fantasy points per game, averaging 17.8. And before that, in 2018, he finished seventh, averaging 21.5. He was 8th of 49 qualifying RBs in fantasy points per snap. But games missed are a huge issue for Conner, and the Steelers could be looking to cut his snaps this year. Typically, this is a range where we much prefer the WRs available to the RBs. But if you’ve been drafting “backwards”/Zero RB, this is a guy who has been a verifiable RB1 when he’s been on the field, and he’s being drafted after a handful of more unattractive RB options.

ALSO CONSIDER…

Jonathan Taylor (Ind, 32 ADP) — We’re taking a simple approach with Taylor — the Colts might have the NFL’s best offensive line, they traded up for him, and their receiving corps is thin. They’re going to run the hell out of the football. And Taylor — whom our Greg Cosell compared to Ezekiel Elliott — is their best option to do so. Yes, Taylor is a late-3rd, early-4th round pick because Marlon Mack exists. And Nyheim Hines can take some receptions, as well. But it’s hard to see Taylor’s supreme talent level and not think he could do some serious damage behind this line. He’s simply a better runner than Mack, and a competent enough receiver to produce good numbers in that department. He might be a little slow off the mark, but it’s easy to envision a scenario in which Taylor is an RB1 at some point this season.

Round 4

TARGET

Melvin Gordon (Den, 38 ADP) — There are multiple reasons Gordon is going in the 4th round, on average, after he was mostly a third-round pick this off-season. It’s uncertain how his split with Phillip Lindsay will look this year. The Broncos’ offensive line — already a potential issue — took a huge hit when RT Ja’Wuan James opted out. And just how good will QB Drew Lock be under new OC Pat Shurmur? Gordon also suffered a rib injury in camp that could prove worrisome, though it is looking minor. But it’s also worth noting that two consecutive Broncos coaching staffs — under Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio — have decided Lindsay isn’t a foundation back, and the Broncos gave Gordon a contract that has the 9th-most guaranteed money for any RB in football. Moreover, Gordon has been one of the game’s best goal-line backs and a significantly better receiver than Lindsay and Royce Freeman have been to this point in their careers. He might not play 70% of the offensive snaps, but Gordon has proven in his time together with Austin Ekeler that he can produce in a split backfield. And with his goal-line and receiving prowess, it stands to reason Gordon will get the majority of the calorie-rich fantasy touches.

ALSO CONSIDER…

Chris Carson (Sea, 39 ADP) — Again, this 4th round is an area where we much prefer the WRs at ADP than RBs, but Carson yet again in 2020 is a player the markets don’t know what to do with. He’s someone who has consistently outperformed his ADP, but he’s also been hurt quite a bit in his career (coming off a hip injury). But the Seahawks didn’t do much of note at RB this off-season, and with Rashaad Penny (ACL) unlikely to be ready for Week 1, Carson is in the catbird seat to take the majority of carries here, in an offense that will likely continue to be run-heavy, against the wishes of Seahawks Twitter. He’s also cheap to handcuff with Carlos Hyde, if you’re into that.

Rounds 5-7

TARGET

Cam Akers (LAR, 51 ADP) — Akers will be polarizing in the industry, because he’s a rookie RB in what looks like a crowded backfield, sharing time with Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown, and as a locked-in 5th-round pick, he isn’t cheap. But for aggressive drafters who want to shoot for all upside, we’ll sign off on this pick. Brown is “just a guy,” a coach’s favorite who does everything well but nothing great. Henderson struggled mightily last year, especially running inside, an area in which we believe Akers will flourish. Again, he is by no means a “value,” but his skill set fits Sean McVay’s offense perfectly, and if the Rams are down on Henderson — as the fact that they used a second-round pick on Akers strongly suggests — Akers should get every opportunity to take the “starting” role in this backfield, contributing in the passing game as well. He’s an upside-oriented RB3, ideally, because fantasy drafters might have to be patient with him (like with Miles Sanders last year), but we love the league-winning juice here.

ALSO CONSIDER…

James White (NE, 78 ADP) — While it’s impossible to know exactly what the Patriot offense will look like without Tom Brady for the first time in two decades, we do know the ceiling is raised with Cam Newton there as opposed to Jarrett Stidham competing with Brian Hoyer for the starting job. White, ever the PPR value in fantasy drafts, probably doesn’t have the same floor he’s always had with Brady, but he’s as affordable as ever, and at the least Newton has experience throwing to a great receiving RB (Christian McCaffrey). With Sony Michel and Lamar Miller coming off of surgery and Damien Harris basically a rookie after having played just a handful of snaps in 2019, White is a spectacular bet to lead the Patriot backfield in snaps, even if they run it more this year than they did in years past. It’s hard to argue against him as a rock-solid PPR RB3.

Tarik Cohen (Chi, 84 ADP) — In John Hansen’s Draft Plan, he called Cohen his “ace in the hole” if he needs an RB3 80 or so picks into a draft. Obviously, that’s a PPR recommendation, but the Bears are reportedly excited about Cohen this year, after he had a season with dreadful inefficiency in an offense that was totally broken in 2019 (Cohen averaged just 5.8 YPR, after posting 8.7 over his first two seasons). With the revamped coaching staff, we were optimistic about a bounceback from both Cohen and David Montgomery, though Montgomery’s groin injury put a huge damper on that. Even if Cohen’s role doesn’t increase if Montgomery has to miss some action, keep in mind that since Cohen entered the league, only Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and James White have more receptions at the RB position than his 203. He also admitted he’s motivated by his contract year. He’s the kind of player who can get a really nice deal with a quality season, because he’s the type of scatback who has value to any team.

Rounds 8-10

TARGET

Zack Moss (Buf, 88 ADP) — Our guy Greg Cosell compared Moss to Frank Gore in his NFL Draft Guide before the NFL Draft in April. The Bills must have seen the same thing, because Moss is going to replace Gore in a dual backfield with 2019 rookie Devin Singletary. Unfortunately, that means fewer touchdown opportunities for Singletary, as GM Brandon Beane flat-out confirmed in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio. Ultimately, it may mean fewer TD opportunities for Moss, too, because the Bills’ goal-line back is Josh Allen in much the same way Cam Newton was Carolina’s goal-line back for years (Allen has 17 rushing TD in two NFL seasons). A good receiver who can play on all three downs if needed, Moss will still be splitting time with the explosive Singletary, who led all qualifying RBs (150 or more carries) with 5.13 YPC last season. Gore is vacating 179 touches, which Moss will have a chance to usurp. We are told the Bills love Moss, so a mid-round pick on the rookie is pretty appealing. He’s a better receiver than Singletary, and for months was so much more appealing at his cost than Singletary roughly five rounds earlier, until glowing camp reports about Moss have squeezed their ADPs (Singletary is still, on average, three rounds more expensive).

ALSO CONSIDER…

Jordan Howard (Mia, 96 ADP) — There is absolutely nothing “sexy” about Howard, but if you’re looking for an RB3 in this range, you’re probably just looking for steady play. Howard has a good chance to be a volume back with goal-line work, a rare asset this deep into a draft. The Dolphins’ backfield needed to be totally revamped, and he was signed to a two-year deal to help that transition — they surprisingly didn’t spend a draft pick on a rookie to help their backfield, though they traded one for Matt Breida. The Dolphins seem intent on waiting until more pieces are in place before grabbing a “franchise” back, and Howard is a very good bridge to that (Breida is more of a changeup). Remember, this is a team that Ryan Fitzpatrick led in rushing last year (with just 243 yards). Improvement is a guarantee.

Damien Harris (NE, 112 ADP) — The standout player of Patriot training camp so far, according to just about everyone at practice, has been Harris. Early on, CLNSEvan Lazar suggested Harris “might be New England’s best skill player through two days” of camp. The Athletic’s Jeff Howe agreed, including Harris’ work in the pass game. When Sony Michel (foot) returned from the PUP, he split first-team reps with Harris. Our guy Greg Cosell said just this off-season that he thinks Harris is a better natural runner than Michel. Remember, Harris was Alabama’s top back ahead of Josh Jacobs in college together. There’s still the bizarre fact that Harris couldn’t get on the field as a rookie, but everything is shaping up for him to have a potential breakout campaign in 2020 in an offense that will run it a ton with Cam Newton at QB. The crowded backfield — which also includes James White, Lamar Miller, and Rex Burkhead — is the reason he hasn’t risen higher in ADP.

Chase Edmonds (Ari, 117 ADP) — If you’re a Zero-RB enthusiast, Edmonds has to be one of your favorite picks on the board, given the fact that Kenyan Drake has just half a season of elite production under his belt and Edmonds’ skill set fits the Cardinals’ offense extremely well. An excellent receiver, Edmonds has seen at least 12 touches just once in his 29-game career, but in that game he scored 35.0 fantasy points. Ideally, he profiles as a James White kind of player, but he’s one of the top handcuffs in all of fantasy football, and Drake has already been dinged in camp, skyrocketing Edmonds’ ADP into the 10th round.

Ryquell Armstead (Jax, 195 ADP) — We’re moving Armstead into this range based on our assumption of where he’ll start to get drafted. Before the release of Leonard Fournette, Armstead was going to be on the back end of a lot of our staff’s rosters this season. Now, he’ll probably be more of a middle-round option. The Jags made no significant moves at the RB position in the draft (the Colts traded in front of them to select Jonathan Taylor), and added only scatback Chris Thompson in free agency. We wouldn't call Armstead "powerful" in the way we'd use that term for someone like Ezekiel Ellott, but his competitiveness and vision make him effective in short yardage. And though we have serious problems with the Jaguars' offensive line, Armstead's decisiveness will help him avoid negative runs (an area Fournette really struggled with last season). In limited work as a rookie, Armstead also showed intriguing ability as a receiver (something he did in college when lining up out wide on occasion). However, he’s no longer going to be a “free” pick — if you want that in this backfield, you’ll have to pivot to Thompson or Devine Ozigbo (both of whom are listed in our “Mr. Relevant” piece).

Rounds 11-12

TARGET

Duke Johnson (Hou, 128 ADP) — We cannot quit you, Dookie. While it seems inevitable yet again that the fantasy community will like Duke more than his coaching staff, we’re officially in at his current price. It’s both a bet for Duke’s explosive traits, and a bet against David Johnson, who was running like he was being carried by a forklift in 2019. Despite the Browns spending a third-round pick on Duke, extending him, and then the Texans trading a third-rounder for him, Duke has still never topped the 10 touches per game he received as a rookie in 2015. Our argument is that he should be used like a James White type, but we may be past that point. Still, at cost, he’s a durable (never missed a game), explosive player who can fill in as a PPR FLEX in a pinch and has some upside in the event David looks like a defensive lineman again.

ALSO CONSIDER…

Boston Scott (Phi, 124 ADP) — The “new Darren Sproles” likely isn’t a straight-up handcuff to Miles Sanders (the Eagles remain in the market for a veteran RB after missing out on Carlos Hyde and LeSean McCoy), but he’s an explosive player all the same and could fill in as a PPR FLEX in a pinch, and could see more work in the event Sanders gets dinged up. From Weeks 14-17 in 2019, Scott averaged 9.5 carries, 6.3 targets, and 20.5 fantasy points per game. Scott also ranked second of 48 qualifying running backs in yards per route run (2.34) last season. He’s a player the Eagles will look to get involved. His ADP has risen a bit since Sanders (hamstring) got dinged in camp, however.

Rounds 13+

NOTE: For more appealing deep options, check out our “Mr. Relevant” article.

TARGET

Nyheim Hines (Ind, 146 ADP) — No QB in the NFL checks it down more than Philip Rivers, and Hines could be the main beneficiary — over his two NFL seasons, his 139 targets rank him ninth among all RBs. Now, we admit we’re buying on rookie stud Jonathan Taylor, but if you want to “bookend” this backfield, you can pass on Marlon Mack in the middle rounds and take a shot in your PPR league in adding Hines to the end of your bench — he could catch 6-8 passes any given week with Rivers behind center.

ALSO CONSIDER…

Adrian Peterson (Was, 153 ADP) — Peterson is boring, he’s game-script dependent (on a bad team), he doesn’t catch the ball, and he’s in a crowded backfield (though less crowded following the release of Derrius Guice. He’s also the potential starting RB in Washington, and he’s still cheap despite Guice being gone . Your personal draft plan shouldn’t revolve around drafting him, but sometimes, you’re in a pinch and need to plug someone in your lineup who could grab 15 carries and have a shot at a TD.

Joshua Kelley (LAC, 168 ADP) — While Kelley wasn’t a total standout as a college player, he was used quite a bit under Chip Kelly at UCLA, carrying 454 times for 2303 yards (5.1 YPC) with 24 TD in two years. But a strong Combine with a 4.49 40-yard-dash and solid broad jump suggest he can be a sustaining, downhill runner in the NFL, and he's a favorite of Chargers coach Anthony Lynn. The good news for fantasy is that Kelley’s skillset likely doesn’t impact the role of Austin Ekeler, who’s going to be a top-24 fantasy pick. He’s probably going to compete with Justin Jackson, who is a different style of player, for rotational snaps. If the rookie Kelley picks up the offense, his no-nonsense style could get him 6-8 carries per game and TD opportunities.

Giovani Bernard (Cin, 202 ADP) — We’ll fully admit that Gio is more of a fantasy annoyance at this stage because we want Joe Mixon to catch the ball at least 40 times a season, but it’s hard to ignore that he’s one of the best handcuffs in all of fantasy football and he is quite literally free. Across Bernard's last four games without Mixon on the field, he averages 80% of the team's snaps, 13.0 carries, 5.3 targets, and 19.4 fantasy points per game. That’s RB1 production. One of the appeals of drafting Mixon is that Gio can be had for no cost whatsoever, so long as you have the bench spots to hold him. As for drafting Gio without Mixon? Well, Mixon has already missed time in camp with migraine issues.

Devonta Freeman (FA, 195 ADP) — Freeman did not resemble the overall RB1 he was in 2015 last season, and that’s why the Falcons cut him. But there’s still enough receiving juice here for him to contribute to someone, and once he signs with a team, his ADP is likely to shoot up at least three or four rounds. New agent Drew Rosenhaus has been committed to getting Freeman in a camp. We’re just waiting to see where. There are far worse picks you can make at this stage of your draft.

Malcolm Brown (LAR, 228 ADP) — Brown is a no-frills competitive runner who succeeds in short-yardage situations, and he's also an excellent pass protector who has shown off solid receiving chops in limited work. But he also lacks special traits that would suggest he'd earn a bigger role than the one he already has, and that's why the Rams spent a third-round pick on Darrell Henderson in 2019 and a second-round pick on Cam Akers in 2020. But Brown is the type of back every team likes to have, because he can play on third downs and on special teams. If Akers is slow off the mark given this challenging off-season, and Henderson’s struggles from 2019 continue, Brown will find his way onto the field.

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