My 2020 fantasy football rankings first hit the website back in early June after the initial release of Draft Buddy. Numerous updates later, it is past time to add player commentary to the rankings. These are my 2020 running back rankings, top 12 for redraft fantasy football leagues. Average Draft Position (ADP) data shown for FFPC as of August 25th.
2020 Running Back Rankings Tier 1
ADP 1.01 (1st overall; high 1 to low 2)
What a season. No one should expect a repeat, especially with so much change on the Carolina Panthers, but CMC is going number one overall in most drafts and I’ve got him number one overall. He isn’t alone in the top tier though as I take a more cerebral approach to ranking players, especially running backs, where things can change quickly. CMC is good – really good – but so are these other guys ranked next to him.
ADP 1.02 (2nd overall; high 1 to low 4)
Barkley started fine last season, got injured in Week 3 with a high ankle sprain and missed the next three games. Returning Week 7 it took him until Week 15 to hit 100 yards rushing. The earlier than expected return from injury was admirable, but makes it difficult to know how much the ankle or shoddy QB or OL play contributed to his down season. Barkley is supremely talented and the best bet to unseat CMC for the top ranked player in fantasy.
ADP 1.03 (3rd overall; high 2 to low 7)
Elliott held out for a new contract last season and signed only four days prior to the start of the season. Fantasy players were rightfully concerned about injury from his training camp absence, but he started Week 1 (played only 54% of snaps) and then didn’t miss a beat after that. The Cowboys stellar OL is starting to show some chinks in the armor but Elliott is still well positioned for another 300 carry, double-digit TD season.
ADP 1.04 (4th overall; high 3 to low 7)
Kamara was pretty disappointing last season as a consensus top 3-4 pick who dropped from 13 TD in 2017 and 18 in 2018 all the way down to six in 2019. His snaps, carries and receptions were consistent with prior seasons. Kamara tweeted this offseason he played most of 2019, “on 1 leg… at 75%.” I believe him, which keeps him ranked in the top tier. He is one of the league’s most dynamic running backs.
2020 Running Back Rankings Tier 2
ADP 1.08 (8th overall; high 4 to low 17)
The Titans finally figured out the more Henry gets the ball the better the results. After back-to-back seasons earning 40% of team snaps, they cranked it up to 63% last year resulting in 303 attempts that turned into over 1,500 rushing yards and 16 TD. He doesn’t catch the ball much, so the Titans need to maintain positive game scripts for his success.
ADP 1.06 (6th overall; high 2 to low 10)
Cook stayed healthy! Mostly. He missed two games, recording 250 carries plus 53 catches in the 14 he played. A shoulder injury knocked him out of their Week 15 game and sidelined him the next two. It looks like the Vikings eased him off Week 13 and 14 at only ~45% of the snaps. Very talented back, good situation, but higher than average injury risk keeps him out of the top tier. Cook still doesn’t have a contract extension from the Vikings. It is more punitive for players to holdout now but there is still some concern Cook tries to limit his onfield risk until this contract situation is resolved.
ADP 1.11 (11th overall; high 7 to low 20)
Like Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon wants a long term contract and is threatening to holdout. Fantasy players are pretty bullish on Mixon after back-to-back strong seasons on a terrible team, and optimism with a new QB and HC Zac Taylor’s anticipated Rams-esque offense. Joe Burrow is still a rookie and this is still the Bengals we are talking about. Mixon is good but I want to keep expectations in check. Mixon happens to rank this high because of a more established track record or warning bells for players ranked below him.
All-in-all this tier, as tiers should be by design, is pretty fluid. As we get closer to the season with no contract change for Mixon or Cook, I could certainly see drafting Josh Jacobs or Miles Sanders ahead on one or both potential holdouts.
ADP 2.03 (15th overall; high 5 to low 22)
My initial rankings did not have Jacobs in the top 12, but I’ve since come around in a big way. Jacobs’ rookie season was extremely impressive with a 4.75 yards per rush, and he finished tops in the league in missed tackles per touch. He played only 56% of snaps due to a lack of use in the passing game. More than a few news reports indicate Jacobs wants more involvement in the passing game. Why not get such a dynamic player more opportunity out in space? Jon Gruden is a smart offensive coach and should do the right thing by Jacobs. I can’t help but remember huge receiving years by Charlie Garner in Gruden’s earlier Raiders stint.
ADP 1.10 (10th overall; high 1 to low 19)
The Philadelphia Eagles say Miles Sanders is the guy. While I remain a bit skeptical given Doug Pederson’s history splitting up RB touches, the depth chart continues to support, “the guy” narrative more than it does not. Sanders was forced into being the guy last season when Jordan Howard went down, and by all accounts Sanders performed well on an otherwise pretty dismal offense. He exceeded 80% of the snaps in four of six games Weeks 11 through 16 (Week 17 was a blowout win). He received five or more targets every game from Week 12 through the playoffs. The offense will be better with wide receivers who can stretch the defense as opposed to the rag-tag group cobbled together last season due to injuries. That helps Sanders build off his rookie season.
ADP 2.07 (19th overall; high 10 to low 28)
A lot of pro-Browns propaganda, and discounting the fact Kareem Hunt was set to join the team after a 10-week suspension, pushed Chubb into the first round of drafts last year. Well, the Browns offense was a mess and Hunt did impact Chubb’s snaps late in the season, but he still finished RB6 in standard, RB8 in PPR scoring. Admittedly, he was RB13 standard, RB16 PPR from Week 11 through 17 after Hunt returned. I am following the talent with this ranking. From Matt Waldman’s 2020 Rookie Scouting Portfolio combined 2018-20 RB rankings (which is a very cool feature): “[Saquon] Barkley is the consensus top back but Chubb uses his power better, makes wiser decisions, and is not far off as an athlete. Might be the top back I’ve scouted since the combo of Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch.”
ADP 2.02 (14th overall; high 8 to low 19)
Fantasy owners shout a collective, “I knew it!” Drake just needed an opportunity that the Miami Dolphins never afforded him. A four TD game in Week 15 boosted his season numbers – or half a season numbers with the Cardinals – but don’t let that dissuade you from putting faith in Drake. We are expecting pretty big things from this offense and the primary RB earning 70% of the snaps is due to excel. Drake is better than the 2019 version of David Johnson, and DJ was RB10 in PPR scoring Week 1 through Week 8 last season. Recent news indicates Drake is in a walking boot at training camp, the coach deems, “precautionary”, so keep tabs on his status.
2020 Running Back Rankings Tier 3
ADP 1.07 (7th overall; high 2 to low 13)
Since Damien Williams opted-out of the 2020 NFL season, Edwards-Helaire vaulted from an overvalued 2nd round pick to now an overvalued mid-1st round pick. I certainly understand the appeal, given the offense and Andy Reid’s history of success at running back. See Brian Westbrook, Jamaal Charles, and Kareem Hunt to name a few. But, he is a rookie, and with no preseason to even get his feet wet, I have a very hard time imagining the coaches trust him to step right in and protect their $450 million dollar investment. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t take CEH in the right spot, as it is an amazing opportunity for fantasy success, but I’m more willing late first or early second now than mid-first ahead of more established veterans.