Missing out on an entire section of talented players can leave you scrambling to fill the void, so utilizing a tiers system is the most efficient way of drafting. In the second installment of our 2020 fantasy football tier rankings, we’ll take a look at which RB’s to target in your upcoming fantasy football drafts. In case you missed it, you can find my fantasy QB tiers here.
We would all love to live in a perfect world where we take our top-ranked player at every selection, but that’s just not realistic when building a formidable fantasy football squad. Each position has a different point where there’s a considerable drop-off in talent and opportunity. Understanding which round that drop-off comes depends on scoring settings and the flow of each individual draft, so always remain fluid as your draft shifts from one position run to the next. For now, let’s take a look at my RB tiers for the 2020 fantasy football season.
Christian McCaffrey is in a RB tier of his own in 2020 fantasy football drafts
Tier One: Christian McCaffrey
It isn’t exactly a hot-take to note that stumbling into the No. 1 overall pick in 2020 fantasy drafts is one of the biggest advantages in recent history. While you can seriously debate the order of just about any running back on this list, there is zero debate about Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey’s standing on this list.
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After outscoring the next highest-scoring running back in 2019 by more than 150 PPR fantasy points, McCaffrey stands in a class of his own in Tier One of my RB rankings. To further drive home just how dominating McCaffrey was in PPR formats, just look at any list of top overall scorers in 2019. 11 of the top 12 scorers in 2019 were quarterbacks, with the exception being McCaffrey at No. 2 overall in total points.
Although a tier below Christian McCaffrey, Tier Two RB’s are elite fantasy producers
Tier Two: Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara
Even though McCaffery is in a tier of his own, the three Tier Two running backs are consistently elite fantasy football producers that can help you on your way to your league championship.
Ezekiel Elliott lost some rushing volume in 2019 to the Cowboys No. 1 overall passing attack, but the former Ohio State running back once again finished top-five at his position. With a top-five finish in every season except his suspension-shortened 2017 season, Elliott is the poster child of PFN Fantasy Analyst Phillip Caldwell’s Consistency Score.
Saquon Barkley is considered by most to be the most physically gifted running back in football, but he was never fully healthy in 2019 after battling through a painful high-ankle sprain. Saints running back Alvin Kamara also struggled with a pretty serious knee injury last season, so we’re betting on a bounce-back year in 2020 for both talented running backs.
Tier Three running backs have huge upside, but less consistency
Tier Three: Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Miles Sanders, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Joe Mixon, Kenyan Drake
With an extensive injury history and inconsistency in his first two seasons, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is just a notch below the top four running backs in my rankings. While I did consider putting Cook in Tier Two due to his overwhelming talent, there are just more question marks around his ability to repeat his 2019 performance.
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Derrick Henry is one of the most physically-imposing runners in football on an offense built around his skill set, but his lack of passing volume drops the 2019 leading-rusher down a tier. Miles Sanders, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Joe Mixon, and Kenyan Drake are high-upside running backs with little-to-no competition behind them. All four are potential passing-game target monsters on offenses expected to be above the league-average.
For various reasons, Tier Four RB’s carry more risk than Top 10
Tier Four: Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones, Austin Ekeler
Tier Four RB’s are going in the second-round of 2020 fantasy drafts, but are they worth the risk? Running backs Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones, and Austin Ekeler are talented RB1’s with question marks about their 2020 fantasy production.
Jacobs and Chubb are talented rushers whose respective teams prefer to avoid in the passing game. Chubb saw a significant decrease in fantasy production in 2019 after Kareem Hunt returned from his suspension, while Las Vegas’s depth chart behind Jacobs (Jalen Richard, Theo Riddick, Lynn Bowden Jr.) is stock-full of capable NFL pass-catchers.
Jones and Ekeler, on the other hand, are both capable pass-catching running backs in-line for a regression in fantasy football production. With ball-control extraordinaire Tyrod Taylor replacing the free-slinging Philip Rivers, the Chargers offense is expected to take a significant step back. Jones is highly unlikely to repeat his 19 touchdown performance from a season ago, but the Packers decision to completely ignore the wide receiver position could work in his favor.
Tier Five running backs are looking to bounce back from injuries
Tier Five: James Conner, Chris Carson, Todd Gurley
Starting in Tier Five, we see a significant drop from the 14 running backs mentioned in Tiers 1-4. Tier Five RB’s have the potential to outplay their current ADP in 2020 fantasy football drafts, but each comes with their own significant injury concern.
James Conner has averaged an elite 18.05 PPR points-per-game over the past two seasons, but he’s only been healthy enough to start 23 out of a possible 32 games. Seattle’s Chris Carson has been a steady-cog in the Seahawks’ backfield, but the running back suffered through fumbling issues and a tricky hip injury a season ago.
2017 Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley’s knee issues have led to a dramatic decrease in production, but a bounce-back year is possible in Atlanta’s high-powered offense. If he can remain healthy (I know that’s a big if), Gurley is in store for a huge workload for a Falcons offense lacking true running back depth.
Tier Six running backs are solid RB2 or RB3’s
Tier Six: Jonathan Taylor, Melvin Gordon, David Montgomery, Le’Veon Bell, Mark Ingram, Kareem Hunt
Tier Six RB’s are solid low-upside RB2’s that would need everything to fall in their favor in order to reach RB1 status. Jonathan Taylor is an extremely talented rusher, but his questionable hands should keep Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines involved.
David Montgomery was a below-average running back in 2019, but he was in-line for massive volume before his recent groin injury. With Montgomery likely out 2-4 weeks, the running back is extremely questionable for the Chicago’s Week One contest against the Detroit Lions.
Melvin Gordon, Mark Ingram, Kareem Hunt, and Le’Veon Bell have each produced RB1 seasons over the past three seasons, but volume is a legitimate concern on offenses also featuring Phillip Lindsay, J.K. Dobbins, Nick Chubb, and Adam Gase’s incompetence.
With several risky players, Tier Seven is a potential landmine to avoid
Tier Seven: Leonard Fournette, Devin Singletary, Ronald Jones, David Johnson, Raheem Mostert
If you’re looking for your RB2 at this point, you’re probably going to be at a disadvantage heading into the 2020 regular season. While each of these running backs offers RB2 upside, they also carry the highest bust-risk among starting running backs.
I’m okay with these players as a speculative RB3 on your roster, but anything else is a detriment to your fantasy team. Make sure to take at least two running backs before you reach this point in the draft. Otherwise, you might be better off skipping this entire tier to load up at other positions.
The best value can be found in Tier Eight of our RB rankings
Tier Eight: D’Andre Swift, James White, JK Dobbins, Chase Edmonds, Cam Akers, Zack Moss, Antonio Gibson, Damien Harris, Tevin Coleman, Phillip Lindsay, Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard, Tony Pollard, Alex Mattison
While I think Tier Seven offers the worst value at the position, my Tier Eight RB’s are some of my favorite running backs to target in 2020 fantasy football drafts. There’s a legitimate question about their Week One workload, but each of these running backs has league-winning potential.
If you’re looking for running back depth on your teams, Tier Eight has you covered with passing-game specialists (James White, Tarik Cohen), talented rookies (D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins, Cam Akers, Zack Moss, Antonio Gibson), elite handcuffs (Tony Pollard, Alex Mattison, Chase Edmonds, Tevin Coleman, Phillip Lindsay) and possible goal-line vultures (Damien Harris, Jordan Howard).
Tier Nine features low-upside running back handcuffs
Tier Nine: Matt Breida, Kerryon Johnson, Duke Johnson, Marlon Mack, Darrell Henderson Jr., Ke’Shawn Vaughn, De’Andre Washington, Boston Scott
Tier Nine are low-upside backups or handcuffs. They are worth a speculative draft pick as a fourth or fifth running back, but don’t be afraid to look for an upgrade once waiver-season is in full swing. Kerryon Johnson, Marlon Mack, and Matt Breida are the likeliest to be involved in Week One.