2020 Fantasy Football Running Back Tiers, Part 2

Marlon Mack Indianapolis Colts

Yesterday, we took a look at part one of the running back tiers by average draft position. This took us through five of eleven tiers and the first half of round six. Today, we finish the running back tiers by taking a look at tiers six through eleven. Unfortunately, I had to cut the sixth round in half because the first two tiers today are both split timers.

Fantasy Football Running Backs Tier 6: Split Timers, Part 1
ADP RB-# Player Team 12-Team
65 RB-27 D’Andre Swift DET 6.05
67 RB-28 Kareem Hunt CLE 6.07
68 RB-29 Cam Akers LAR 6.08
74 RB-30 Ronald Jones TB 7.02

These guys make for a great tier break between the “things get spicy” tier at the end of yesterday’s article, and the split timers, part 2 below. These guys are split time backs who have a clear and easy path into a good workload that should provide fantasy football managers with a valuable little piece to their rosters sooner or later.

D’Andre Swift’s only competition for touches in Detroit is Kerryon Johnson, who hasn’t played 50%+ snaps in five straight games without going on IR yet, and Swift is already better than Kerryon… according to Kerryon. The other three guys in this tier were my early draft season “triple tap” as they had ADP in the sixth, seventh, and eighth rounds, respectively. Hunt in the sixth as an RB3 when he was an RB2 last season in a worse offensive system is a steal. Akers and Jones have had their ADPs rise during camp due to different factors. The collective delusion surrounding Darrell Henderson falling apart has boosted Akers’ ADP slightly, but the Ronald Jones Hype Machine is out of control. Jones has been the beneficiary of being “not Ke’Shawn Vaughn” at Bucs Training Camp.

At this point, my triple-tap has been downgraded to a double, or even single, tap. I can usually still get Cam Akers in the seventh round, and if I can do Hunt/Akers in the sixth and seventh, then we are off to the races.

Fantasy Football Running Backs Tier 7: Split Timers, Part 2 AKA “Squint Your Eyes and Tilt Your Head”
ADP RB-# Player Team 12-Team
86 RB-31 J.K. Dobbins BAL 8.02
89 RB-32 James White NE 8.05
90 RB-33 Marlon Mack IND 8.06
94 RB-34 Kerryon Johnson DET 8.10
96 RB-35 Tarik Cohen CHI 8.12
98 RB-36 Phillip Lindsay DEN 9.02
99 RB-37 Jordan Howard MIA 9.03
103 RB-38 Matt Breida MIA 9.07
104 RB-39 Tevin Coleman SF 9.08

I love Dobbins for 2021 and beyond, but the hypertalented rookie has to contend with Mark Ingram this season. Still, the Ravens gave over 200 touches to two less talented players last season (Justice Hill & Gus Edwards).

Everyone else you can make a story for a path forward for them… but you kind of have to squint your eyes and tilt your head. James White can be a top-fifteen PPR back because of his usage in the offense and Cam’s history with running backs (as long as you ignore all running backs before Christian McCaffrey). Mack can relegate Jonathan Taylor to backup duties with a strong start… but probably not. Kerryon… nevermind, maybe not everyone has top upside.

Anyway, Matt Nagy offenses have been in the top-25% in RB targets, giving Cohen a great upside. The Broncos desperately tried for a one-two punch last season, meaning maybe we’ve gone too far on Phillip Lindsay (if we ignore Denver’s non-commitment to him).

Let’s stop at Howard and Breida. Both these guys could have value in a Jordan Howard/Tarik Cohen sort of mold. Chan Gailey loves to throw to RBs, so we could have a thunder and lightning situation on our hands… until Breida gets hurt.

Do not draft Tevin Coleman, he has the least upside out of all 49ers’ running backs and is just going to be a roster clog for you at RB39.

Fantasy Football Running Backs Tier 8: These Sure Are Some Backs
ADP RB-# Player Team 12-Team
117 RB-40 Latavius Murray NO 10.09
118 RB-41 Zack Moss BUF 10.10
120 RB-42 Darrell Henderson LAR 10.12
121 RB-43 Sony Michel NE 11.01
123 RB-44 Alexander Mattison MIN 11.03
128 RB-45 Ke’Shawn Vaughn TB 11.08
130 RB-46 Antonio Gibson WAS 11.10
137 RB-47 Tony Pollard DAL 12.05

I’m not sure what to make of this tier. It’s a hodgepodge of handcuffs (Pollard, Mattison, and Murray), falling knives (Henderson, Michel, and Vaughn) and hype bunnies (Moss & Gibson).

I’m staying away from the falling knives, named so for the phrase “trying to catch a falling knife.” You can get the implications from there; they might work or you might slice off the tip of your thumb! Let my scar be an example to you to not try to catch a falling knife!

My absolute favorite player to get in this tier is Zack Moss. He’s set up for the “Frank Gore role” according to Buffalo coaches, which was 14+ touches per game until he proved himself unworthy of the role. Plus, they’re working him in as a pass-catcher. Yes, please!

I was in on Antonio Gibson until his ADP started to shoot up. He’s a fun player and it would be incredible if he hit, but we don’t know if he’s Percy Harvin or Dexter McCluster at this point. It’s most likely that he’s Cordarrelle Patterson. A fun Swiss Army knife player for the Football Team who never does much in fantasy.

Everyone else is a handcuff; and here is my philosophy on handcuffs: don’t. If Zeke gets hurt, you’re boned either way. Ditto for Cook & Kamara. Instead, snag other handcuffs as upside stashes. This is how you play to win, when most people play to not lose.

Running Backs Tier 9: “Alright I need a fifth running back, who is left?”
ADP RB-# Player Team 12-Team
146 RB-48 Duke Johnson HOU 13.02
149 RB-49 Adrian Peterson WAS 13.05
160 RB-50 Boston Scott PHI 14.04
164 RB-51 A.J. Dillon GB 14.08
165 RB-52 Chase Edmonds ARI 14.09
179 RB-53 Damien Harris NE 15.11

This tier really feels like the tier where people start betting against other players. Duke Johnson hasn’t done a whole lot in the league, but if you’re betting against David Johnson, he’s your man. AP is the biggest name in Washington so this is a bet he staves off Bryce Love.

Boston Scott and A.J. Dillon are fun players to own as upside picks. Miles Sanders is already hurt again and Scott scored three touchdowns in the second half of a week seventeen game against the Giants. Dillon has big beautiful legs so the thiccRB community is all hot and bothered about Baby Derrick Henry.

Chase Edmonds is a fun play because Kenyan Drake has never had more than 170 carries in a season and is already in a walking boot. He’s a draft-and-stash guy a tier down from the three handcuffs in tier 8.

Then we get Damien Harris, who everyone is falling all over themselves to draft because… Well, I’m not sure why. The Patriots RB situation is a mess, and he is getting camp hype as the best RB in camp… while the guys ahead of him on the depth chart nurse injuries. He’s worth a dart throw because he had a good college career, but trade him when he shows out because that backfield is going to be messy.

Running Backs Tier 10: “Hey I know these names”
ADP RB-# Player Team 12-Team
185 RB-54 Justin Jackson LAC 16.05
192 RB-55 LeSean McCoy TB 16.12
193 RB-56 Carlos Hyde SEA 17.01
195 RB-57 Jerick McKinnon SF 17.03
202 RB-58 Nyheim Hines IND 17.10
204 RB-59 Derrius Guice 17.12
205 RB-60 Devonta Freeman 18.01

First and foremost, it has to suck to be in the next tier down. Derrius Guice is going to have more court appearances than carries this season, and Devonta Freeman is sitting next to his phone. Don’t fall for the vet running backs in new places, as we saw Shady McCoy and Carlos Hyde be middling-to-bad over the course of 2019.

Justin Jackson, Jerick McKinnon and Nyheim Hines are the intriguing names on this list, with Hines as my favorite. Philip Rivers has spent an entire career giving one running back 14% of his targets every single season, and that appears to be Hines in 2020. McKinnon is the running back that the 49ers always wanted, and appears to be healthy for the first time in San Francisco (that sound is me knocking every available piece of wood). Justin Jackson is a contender for the 1b role with the Chargers, but it seems as though Josh Kelley has run away with that role.

Running Backs Tier 11: Why
ADP RB-# Player Team 12-Team
218 RB-61 Damien Williams KC 19.02
224 RB-62 Jamaal Williams GB 19.08
231 RB-63 Anthony McFarland PIT 20.03
232 RB-64 Darrynton Evans TEN 20.04
243 RB-65 Jalen Richard LV 21.03

These are purely deep league roster stashes because when you get past pick 200, things get bleak in a hurry. Damien Williams is a wasted pick since he will have zero carries or snaps in 2020. Jamaal Williams is third on his depth chart and people are still chasing the Jalen Richard Dragon, apparently. Anthony McFarland and Darrynton Evans are cheap backdoors into the Steelers’ and Titans’ running games. If you think Henry will get hurt, pick up Evans; ditto James Conner and Anthony McFarland.

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About Jeff Krisko

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