Looking ahead to the start of the season, I wanted to find five running backs who will beat their finish from last year. We’ll consider each running back based on fantasy points per game (FPTS/G) for players who played at least eight games in 2019. It should be noted these rankings are based on half a point per reception.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
2019 FPTS/G Rank: #4
2019 Full Season Rank: RB2
Current ADP: RB11
Last year, Aaron Jones made up for the infuriating stint under Mike McCarthy in 2018. That year, I dropped Jones for Andy Dalton the week before he became the mainstay. Needless to say, I was furious with myself (and the ribbing from the rest of the league didn’t help). Since I dropped him, Jones has been one of the top backs in the game. I still expect him to produce some great fantasy stats, but I doubt he scores 19 total touchdowns this season. Even a modest regression still allows for a big impact. Based on his ADP, I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know.
[Side Bar: the points difference between Christian McCaffrey and Aaron Jones in 2019 would have finished as #42 based on FPTS/G!]
Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
2019 FPTS/G Rank: #7
2019 Full Season Rank: RB6
Current ADP: RB13
Ekeler is another player whose ADP tells me that I’m in the same camp as everyone else. Ekeler had a sweetheart situation last year while Melvin Gordon held out. Ekeler will still provide value as the lead back in this offense, but the change at quarterback reduces the potency of the offense as a whole. Perhaps the new quarterbacks continue to target running backs at an obscene rate, which will stabilize his value in PPR leagues.
Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
2019 FPTS/G Rank: #10
2019 Full Season Rank: RB7
Current ADP: RB8
If you read my quarterbacks who will improve article, you know I think Baker Mayfield will rebound this season. The entire Browns offense is one of the more interesting options this season. However, all of that comes at the expense of Nick Chubb.
Last season, Chubb benefited from Kareem Hunt being sidelined for a large portion of the season. Chubb was the RB5 through the Browns’ first eight games of the season (prior to Hunt entering the mix). The last eight weeks of the season, Chubb was the RB15.
I guess I’m breaking my rule about avoiding players who have had obvious changes that will diminish their potential, but Chubb is still being drafted as if he is the only back in the Browns backfield. But the fact remains that there are more mouths to feed in Cleveland now. Even with an uptake in offensive production, Chubb won’t top last season’s production.
Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos
2019 FPTS/G Rank: #16
2019 Full Season Rank: RB23
Current ADP: RB18
Speaking of Melvin Gordon, I think he’ll play more of a back-end RB2 role in the coming season. The Broncos backfield with Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, and Royce Freeman is more crowded than the one he left in LA. Gordon’s 2018 season is the only season in which he’s averaged more than 4.0 YPC. He too was a beneficiary of checkdown-happy Philip Rivers. Freeman and Lindsay had a combined 78 receptions last year, while Ekeler and Gordon had 134. More importantly, Gordon has always been touchdown-dependent. The Broncos finished in the bottom five in scoring last year. All together, I’d expect a reasonable floor and a limited ceiling.
James White, New England Patriots
2019 FPTS/G Rank: #26
2019 Full Season Rank: RB22
Current ADP: RB33
White has produced at a pretty high level in PPR leagues the past few years. It’s hard to know the impact Cam Newton will have on the New England offense. Prior to Run-CMC joining Cam in Carolina, Mike Tolbert set the high-water mark for running back receptions at 27. Since James White is not Christian McCaffrey, we’ll assume his reception total will be closer to Tolbert’s than to McCaffrey’s numbers the past few years. Even if the receptions stay steady, New England’s offense will likely struggle to put up points. While White’s five scores from a year ago aren’t that much, the weaker offense will not help his cause in trying to match that number. At the end of the day, he may flash RB2 numbers throughout the season, but he’s looking more like a flex or bye week option.