Pre-Combine Top 12 Dynasty Rookie Running Backs
Here are my Top 12 Dynasty Rookie Running Backs in the upcoming 2020 draft from a fantasy perspective. These are my Pre-Combine rankings. The combine usually doesn’t alter my judgment unless someone runs a 4.8 forty-yard dash, the medicals comes back negatively, or a player bombs the interview part of the process. The draft will be the main determination as to where these players ultimately rank as scheme, coaching, and opportunity can catapult any of these players.
1. D’Andre Swift – Georgia
Although Swift isn’t my top overall (reality) running back in the class, he is my number 1 fantasy running back at this point in my evaluation. The reasoning is quite simple. He offers more in the passing game than Dobbins and Taylor and he gives you the highest ceiling because of his untapped potential. I believe the top 4 backs on this list are close in talent. But Swift’s ability to make defenders miss in the open field coupled with what I call Kamara-like tendencies to take on contact and “Gumby” his way to additional yardage stands out most about his game. He’s not a finished product, which makes his ceiling even more enticing.
2. J.K Dobbins – Ohio State
Dobbins is one of the most complete backs in this draft class and probably most likely to come off the board first in the 2020 NFL Draft. You have to follow the draft capital invested to determine which running back will get the first opportunity to get the bulk of the carries in their respective offense. Dobbins has a thick, compact build with a three-down skill set to handle a large workload. His feet in the hole before hitting the line of scrimmage, ability to gain tough yardage inside due to his pad level, and balance to break tackles in the open field are all reasons to love Dobbins in your dynasty rookie drafts.
3. Jonathan Taylor – Wisconsin
Although Taylor will be my RB1 in my (reality) draft rankings, I dropped him a couple slots for fantasy purposes, as I am not positive as to how he will be utilized in the passing game at the next level. However, Taylor demonstrated growth in the pass game in 2019. If this trend continues, he will be a draft day steal. Taylor makes it look easy using patience and subtle movements before he finds the hole and gains huge chunks of yardage. He reminds me of one of my favorite backs in the league, Nick Chubb, as he is a bruiser that can handle heavy workloads and put the jets on in the open field. His detractors will point to his “lack” of athleticism, passing game involvement, and large workload in college (925 carries) but Taylor is far more advanced as a runner than any other back in the class.
4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire – LSU
Honestly, I wouldn’t be upset if CEH is someone’s number 1 back in the class. As I mentioned above, the top 4 backs in the class are all close in terms of talent. There were more wow moments watching Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s tape than any other back I watched as he has an uncanny ability to make the first defender miss. CEH’s agility in small areas is comparable to Swift. His pass catching and route running ability is ahead of Dobbins. His patience, low center of gravity and propensity to break tackles is reminiscent of Taylor. CEH is like a combination of all three of the backs above him in my rankings but folks might be skeptical due to his 1-year production and pass blocking.
5. Zack Moss – Utah
After the top 4 backs in the class there is a sharp drop-off in talent. At this point it’s more about picking your flavor now. Moss is a throwback type of runner that gets stronger as the game progresses. His “wision” (wiggle + vision) sets up defenders as he uses his smooth running style and lateral agility to gain yardage despite not being overly fast. Moss’ biggest asset is his contact balance as he bounces off defenders gaining yardage after contact. Moss isn’t sexy but his ability to decipher and patiently gain yardage between the tackles sets him up for NFL and fantasy success.
6. Anthony McFarland – Maryland
I have McFarland this high on my rankings mainly because he gives me Dalvin Cook vibes when he gets going (Cook is a favorite of mine). McFarland is not as advanced of a ball carrier as Cook, but he is a one-cut dynamo that accelerates quickly after cutting and converts speed-to-power to easily run through tackles. He also offers a dual threat skill-set, which is music to a fantasy football owner’s ears. He needs a little space to build up speed to do his thing but if he ends up in a situation with an established offensive line then it could be fireworks.
7. Salvon Ahmed – Washington
I didn’t know much about Ahmed until I watched his tape, but I came away impressed with his skill-set. He reminds me of Miles Sanders as he has a three-down skill set and is very dangerous in space. However, like Sanders, there is inconsistency in terms of vision. It will take a creative offense with an outside zone running scheme to unlock Ahmed’s potential. Ahmed is very effective moving East and West before he sticks his foot in the ground and explodes into the open field. He’s also very effective catching the football out of the backfield and has home run speed to kill angles and break for long gains.
8. Cam Akers – Florida State
Akers has a chance to become a better pro than collegiate back as he was stuck behind a terrible offensive line and poor coaching at Florida State. Akers is a power runner that runs through contact due to his lower body strength. He also has the ability to make a difference as a pass catcher. My main concern with Akers is his ability to consistently make a defenders miss as he relies more on strength than agility in the open field.
9. Darius Anderson – TCU
Anderson started the season hot in 2019 before taking a back seat to Sewo Olonilus. However, the one game I keep going back to is his 2018 performance against Ohio State. He displayed his downhill slashing style hitting the hole quick, fast, and in a hurry. Once he gets in the open field, Anderson is slippery utilizing his contact balance. For a smaller back Darius Anderson runs inside with plus power carrying piles forward. The knock on Anderson however, is the fact that he has been part of a timeshare and he didn’t really have to use much vision playing in TCU’s RPO based offense. Get him in a similar offense at the next level and he can be an explosive force on your fantasy team.
10. Eno Benjamin – Arizona State
Talking about comps, Benjamin’s ability to cut laterally with no wasted movement or speed is reminiscent of Devin Singletary. His jump cut ability to accelerate through the hole, wiggle to elude defenders, pad level, and toughness are all enticing. However, Benjamin’s patience leaves a lot to be desired. He at times rushes to activate his moves early causing him to run into the back of his blockers. I don’t think he will have success immediately out of the gates, but with time and coaching Benjamin can become a starter in the league.
11. J.J. Taylor – Arizona
I call him “Mighty Mouse” as Taylor might be small in stature but when he accelerates and lower his shoulders, he can lower the boom on defenders. Taylor is a quick, twitched-up running back that makes guys miss in the open field. He can thrive as a change of pace back at the next level due to his receiving prowess and running style.
12. JaMycal Hasty – Baylor
Here’s a guy that was exciting to watch in his limited carries at Baylor. Hasty’s feet and change of direction stands out but his size should relegate him to pass catching/change of pace duties at the next level. I think he has more to offer as a runner as he is always playing on the balls of his feet, which allows him to start and stop proficiently for huge gains. At the very least Hasty will be a great weapon in the passing game at the next level when teams fall behind and need a spark to get their offense going.