Here are your TOP 5 Rookie Running backs for 2020 Fantasy Football. The Counselor and Walter discuss their potential landing spots, strengths, and weaknesses of these young guys! Here is the list and we will dive in deep about the details of each player in this Fantasy Football Podcast.
Top 5 Rookie Running Backs 2020
- Jonathan Taylor
- D’Andre Swift
- JK Dobbins
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire
- Cam Akers
Joseph Robert: Welcome to the show, everybody. Joseph Robert, the fantasy football counselor. Today we’re talking about the top five rookie running backs coming into the NFL this season, the fantasy impact, the strength, the weaknesses, everything in this show. Special guest on, and he’s not even a special guest. He’s more of a recurring guest right now, Walter from Walter Football. How are ya?
Walter: I’m good. Thanks for having me on again. Excited to talk about these rookie running backs.
Joseph Robert: I’m excited too. This is very important. This is my favorite position. I think there’s a lot of people who share a position because these guys can have a significant fantasy football impact predicated on where they land. Now we are looking for the next Saquon, the next CMC, the next Zeke Elliot. You’ve got a lot of insight on this. Now, I have a really good sixth sense for spotting rookie running backs that breakout, but a lot of this is predicated again where they land. Where they land is really going to help because we know where the depth charts are. Are they going to be the committee? Are they going to be the full workhorse? That’s going to make a huge difference in these young players here.
You’ve got a lot of insight because what is it … Can you tell us a little bit briefly about your site for the people who aren’t aware of you? What do you do? I know you’ve got feet on the street and they’ve been at the Combine, they’ve seen these players, they go to college games. Can you explain who you’ve got on the street there looking at this stuff?
Walter: Yeah. I run WalterFootball.com. We’ve been around since 1999, and we’ve covered the NFL draft since 2001. We have multiple mock drafts on the site, so we currently have a six-rounder for me and a four-rounder from Charlie Campbell, who in my opinion does the best draft reporting on the internet. He’s great. He talks to NFL teams so he gets the inside information. By the time the draft rolls around or like a week beforehand, we kind of know what a lot of teams are going to do. But Charlie talks to a lot of teams and scouts and stuff like that, so he has a good idea of where the players will be drafted right now. Yeah, you can go to WalterFootball.com. We have tons of draft information plus fantasy football content and free picks. We’re going to be grading every single free agency signing. So check us out. All the content is free
Joseph Robert: Right. I like to fill in my weaknesses, and how I work, because I do watch some college but not on your level, I’m not at all the college games, I don’t go to the Combine too often or at all, I may go in the future, but I wanted to get that hands-on, eyes experience, you guys are there, that input on the show. With me, it’s more just watching a lot of tape, looking at some college games, looking at the scouting reports and then seeing where they land. So I do all of this stuff after college, where they land. It’s going to be two perspectives here. Let’s go into this, the top five, and, again, I’m going to lay it out in my order.
We talked before the show. There is a couple of guys here that were debating about who we like. The first guy I think should be Jonathan Taylor. Definitely a first-rounder. Well, my question to you … Let’s talk about him. Let’s talk about his strengths first, and then we’re going to talk about where he lands, his weaknesses, all that stuff.
Now I like him. He ran a 4.39 dash, 5’10”, 220. Looks like your prototypical workhorse running back, your Saquon, your Zeke. My concern again is the pass-catching. I guess he’s not as good a pass catcher. That’s what I want to go over with you. Can you give me your thoughts on Jonathan Taylor? I don’t think you think he’s number one, right? According to the top five that we’ve got here. All right, let’s talk about him.
Walter: Yeah, he’s number two. He’s right behind D’Andre Swift, and we’ll get to him in a little bit. But Jonathan Taylor, he tested more athletically than Swift, so he has that going for him. He’s a power runner. He has great acceleration. He compares, I would say, to Marshawn Lynch, maybe. Lynch was never a great receiver out of the backfield. He could catch some passes here and there, but he was never going to be a great PPR back. So that’s kind of where Jonathan Taylor is for me. Another concern I have with him is the workload he’s handled over the past couple of years at Wisconsin. Now, I think we discussed this in a previous episode where-
This is not going to affect Taylor in his first, second, third year, etc., although some injuries might result from it. It’s going to affect him longterm. I would say the average good running back retires at 30, 31. He may have to retire like 28, 29, which is a shame that they ran them into the ground like that in Wisconsin, but he could have left early, so you can’t really blame all the coaches for that. But, yeah, Taylor is going to be … I think he’s going to be a very good running back in the NFL, maybe a great running back. It really depends on where he goes. As you said, it’s all about where they land. We don’t know that yet, but he should be a star.
Joseph Robert: This is what I want to see though. I want to see … In 2017, 299 attempts just under 2000 yards, and in 2018, 2019, 2000 plus yard seasons, a ton of volume. I’m looking at 320 attempts back in 2019, 307 in 2018. This is what I want to see. I want the NFL to realize this guy is a workhorse and hopefully, for fantasy purposes, he is used as a workhorse. So I look at it as a plus. So if you’re looking at dynasty, maybe we’re thinking, according to what Walter is saying, yes he has been worked hard. That may play a factor, but we’ve got him solid hopefully for at least three to four years I think before it really starts taking a toll hopefully. But, again, vision, power, pretty good speed, workhorse ability, everything that we want in a prototypical running back.
Now, let’s talk about that weakness again. You say maybe he’s worn, which I think is actually a plus that he’s got that workload, but what about that ball … a little bit of ball security and the pass-catching? Is that going to be a big factor? Is ball security going to be an issue?
Walter: It depends on how bad it is. If he fumbles once every eight games or so, not a huge deal, but if he does fumble more often than that, he might get pulled. We’ve seen that before from running backs, especially if Tom Coughlin’s coaching him because he’s renowned for benching running backs for that. But, yeah, the receiving ability isn’t up to where it should be, but that’s something that can always improve. I would say Josh Jacobs is an example this year. He barely caught the ball. He was barely on the field on third down, but he was still a very good running back because he played all the first and second downs. It shouldn’t affect Taylor too much. If you’re in PPR, maybe that’s something you should consider, but overall Taylor should be very good running back his first year.
Joseph Robert: All right. He’s kind of my number one right now. I need to see more of D’Andre Swift and see where he lands because he could definitely be my number one. D’Andre Swift ran a 4.48, 5’9″, 259 at Georgia. I like Georgia running backs. Now, from what I’m reading and what I saw, he does actually look like the most complete back, very shifty, amazing vision. I think he’s very complete. Again, the pass-catching, he can catch the ball. He’s got that really good initial burst, good pass protection, very versatile, but again I love that shiftiness, stops, cuts, runs, just very versatile. I feel really comfortable having this guy as my workhorse running back. Why do you have him at number one? Is it because of everything I said? Is there any other things that I’m missing on what makes him ahead of Jonathan Taylor in your opinion?
Walter: I think you said it mostly. He’s the more complete back. He catches passes better. I think his vision is better than Taylor’s. Vision is so underrated for running backs. He has great cutting ability. He can go the distance anytime he touches the ball. He’s like LeSean McCoy, I think.
Joseph Robert: Right.
Walter: Yeah, I just think he’s the more complete back, but it’s so close with him and Taylor, so you can’t go wrong. I imagine some teams have Swift higher than Taylor. Some teams might have Taylor higher than Swift. I think you can’t go wrong with these guys, but I’d rather have the three down back, and I’d rather have the guy who wasn’t run into the ground in college.
Joseph Robert: Right. Yeah, Jonathan Taylor does definitely look more of a physical specimen when you’re watching him on the field if you were to put them side by side. Yeah, it’s going to be a coin toss between these two, but do you believe that they’re going to go one and two, like either way for sure, there’s no doubt?
Walter: Yeah. Yeah. One or the other. I think that there are going to be two running backs in the first round, and I think they’ll be the two.
Joseph Robert: Okay, perfect. Next one I got, again, this order may vary for you. This is kind of how I’ve got them laid out, but I’ve got J.K. Dobbins at three. Ran a 4.45 at Ohio, 5’10”, 216. This guy gets it done from what I saw on tape. Strong between tackles, very impressive. Good vision, good patience, natural receiver. From what I read from the scouting reports, he does lack that third year in the big plays. That’s what I’m reading here. What do you see with him? Do you see him being a workhorse running back and a real fantasy impact in the first year?
Walter: Yeah, I think he can be a workhorse on first and second downs, kind of like Josh Jacobs. He can run through contact. He has great explosion. He can go the distance whenever he touches the ball. I would say he’s like a slightly larger Devonta Freeman, but the issue with him is the pass protection. He’s a good receiver out of the backfield, but the pass protection might keep him off the field and third downs, which is a concern for me.
Joseph Robert: Yeah, what I’m reading also and what I saw on tape, he’s very reliable, but he’s not flashy. I don’t know how much of a fantasy impact he’s going to be. Just a guy that gets it done is what I got from the tape. Do you agree with that?
Walter: Yeah. I would say so. He definitely has homerun ability, but, yeah, sometimes it’s a little lacking, but I think the pass protection is the big thing. Coaches won’t play running backs in third-down no matter how good they are as receivers if they can’t pass protect at all, and that’s a problem for him that he has to improve, but that’s something that he can get better at.
Joseph Robert: All right now was he your number three, would you say?
Walter: Yeah, he’s my number three. I have him in the second round to the Lions.
Joseph Robert: Okay. That’s interesting. I’m afraid of anyone going to the Lions or Miami, I’ve got to be honest with you. I hope to God they improve their O line, get some good quarterbacks. Well, not so much Lions, but Miami. I just don’t want anyone to have the fate of Miami and not have that O line improved and the situation around them. I just hate it when good running backs come in to die for fantasy football.
Got a perfect example, Sony Michel, a guy that could have been definitely utilized as a three-down back, ends up in New England and is part of a committee. Just not a good situation. That was a real heartbreaker for me because I really had high hopes for him, and I hope it doesn’t happen … And it will happen to at least a couple of these guys, unfortunately. They’ll be in a situation where it’s just not really fantasy favorable, I would say.
Walter: Yeah. Well, there might be more heartbreaks because I have Swift going to Miami as you just said, and then I have Taylor going to Baltimore, so that’s another committee.
Joseph Robert: Oh, that hurts.
Walter: Yeah. No good situations yet, but the next guy might be a good situation.
Joseph Robert: Okay. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, is that who you have at four?
Walter: Yeah. Yeah, that’s correct.
Joseph Robert: All right, 5’8, 210, low center of gravity. Very compact. Great vision. Receptions were good, right? So the only thing, again, the knocks him is that he is shorter, he is smaller, which is also kind of an advantage because of that low center of gravity. A guy that has, from what I saw on tape, a nose for the end zone. He ran a 4.60. He’s out of LSU. What do you think of this guy? A little smaller. Who would you compare him to right now in the NFL, and do you see him being a workhorse running back? Because of the height and the weight I’m a little concerned. More the height, actually.
Walter: Yeah, I think the size is definitely the concern. I think that’s the biggest weakness is if he can handle a full workload. I think that’s the big problem I have, but he’s such an explosive play-maker. He can catch a ton of passes out on the backfield, so if you’re playing a PPR, I think that’s something you have to consider. Maybe you even put him ahead of Dobbins if you’re in PPR. So, yeah, the ability to handle the workload. I have him compared to Brian Westbrook. That was the bugaboo with Westbrook coming out of Villanova was if he could handle the full workload because he was kind of a smaller back. Maybe he can. He can surprise us. I’m a little skeptical right now, but players have proven us wrong before. Maybe like a Philip Lindsay. People thought he can he only handle 10 carries per game, but he’s shown that he can do it, and I think Clyde Edwards-Helaire can do it, too.
Joseph Robert: All right, next guy, number five. Cam Akers, 5’11, 215. From what I’m seeing here, homerun speed, pass catcher, changes direction quickly. I like him. Now, apparently he played behind a bad O line. Am I right? And he had some fumbling issues. Is that going to be a concern? If he’s on a good team he should be fine, right? But did he do well considering he was behind a bad O line?
Walter: Yeah. He’s a very talented runner. He has great cutting ability and very good vision, too. Yeah, I think the fumbling is definitely a big question mark. If he starts fumbling a lot, he’s going to get benched. Pass protection is also a big issue, too, so he may not be on the field on third downs. That’s definitely going to be a problem that he has to fix. I guess you can fix pass protection so he can get better in that regard.
Joseph Robert: Right.
Walter: But, yeah, he’s a talented runner. He should go in the second round. Yeah, not too much wrong with him outside of those two things.
Joseph Robert: Are you okay with these top five that I came up with, and is there anyone else that could potentially slide in or is there anything else you’d change on this?
Walter: No, that’s the same top five I had except I had Swift first ahead of Taylor.
Joseph Robert: Okay.
Walter: But you can’t really go wrong with either of those guys. I think someone who could sneak in is Zack Moss from Utah.
Joseph Robert: Right.
Walter: I have him in the third round. He’s a tough runner. Good receiving ability, good quickness. Not too athletic, so he’s going to be limited to the late second, third round, but he’s definitely another guy who could do well. Usually, we see running backs chosen in the third round who come out of nowhere and become great rookies.
Joseph Robert: Right.
Walter: So he could be one of those guys.
Joseph Robert: Okay, so let’s go over this. Jonathan Taylor at number one. You have him at two, but where do you see … you said … Let’s recap where do you think these guys were going to end up potentially because you’ve done a lot of mock drafts and looked at that. So you think Jonathan Taylor ends up in Baltimore?
Walter: Yeah. I have Taylor slotted to Baltimore right now. That’s definitely going to change throughout the pre-draft process. I know Baltimore is in the market for a running back. Mark Ingram is getting … I think he’s about to hit 30, and he has a lot of tread on his tires, so I think the Ravens want a new running back. They weren’t very impressed with Justice Hill. Yeah, I have Taylor going to Baltimore and I have Swift going to Miami. Obviously the dolphins need a running back, but I heard today that they were interested in Melvin Gorden, so that could definitely change things.
Joseph Robert: Would they get Swift in the first round? Wouldn’t they be focused on a quarterback or something?
Walter: Yeah. Right now the Dolphins have three picks, five-
Joseph Robert: Oh, they have three picks, yeah, that’s right.
Walter: Yeah, they have 5, 18, and 26. So at 5, I think they take either Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa. I think they’d prefer Herbert, from what I hear. So at 18 they could a running back or they could draft the tackle. I think 18 and 26 it goes either way. I think they need a tackle and then they go running back or vice versa unless they signed Melvin Gordon.
Joseph Robert: I hope to God, man, that Swift doesn’t end up there. I really do. I don’t want to see him there. I don’t want to see any running back there. What a disaster. Where do you see J.K. Dobbins ending up?
Walter: I have a J.K. Dobbins going in the second round to Detroit. The lions have Kerryon Johnson, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Bo Scarborough looked okay at the end of last year. He’s not special. I think they’re going to be interested in a running back in the second, third, maybe fourth round.
Joseph Robert: Clyde Edwards. Where do you think he ends up?
Walter: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, I have him to Kansas City. They were not happy with what LeSean McCoy gave them. Darwin Thompson was a disappointment. He played at the end of the year, but he wasn’t anything special. I think they expected more from him. Andy Reid has never seemed to be a big fan of Damien Williams. It’s always looking like he wants to replace Damien Williams despite what Williams has done in the Superbowl, so I think that the Chiefs go after a running back.
Joseph Robert: I think he’d be a good fit there, actually. I really do. I think Clyde Edwards would be a great fit there. I think he’d have more of a fantasy impact there than pretty much anywhere else.
Walter: Yeah. If it went according to plan, I think he might be number one, at least in his first year.
Joseph Robert: And where do you see Cam Akers ending up?
Walter: I have him going to Tampa. Obviously the Buccaneers need a running back. Peyton Barbers is pretty pedestrian. Ronald Jones, he’s had some good games here and there, but it doesn’t seem like Bruce Arians likes him, so Tampa obviously needs a running back.
Joseph Robert: Man, I’m a little concerned about Jonathan Taylor now, and I’m wondering if they’re going to bring Jonathan Taylor in to take a load off of Lamar Jackson because he’s got to stop running. I know everyone’s like, “Yeah, he’s got to keep running for fantasy.” I get it, but, man, he had a lot of rushing attempts and a lot of yards, over 1200 yards. He’s putting himself at risk. He’s not a running back. It’s going to catch up with him. I don’t see it being well, but do you see the reason why aside from Ingram being older?
Walter: Yeah. They run the ball so much and they can only give Mark Ingram a certain number of carries. After Ingram, okay, what do you do? Obviously Lamar Jackson is going to run too, and you want that to be, like you said, slightly less, because you don’t want him to get hurt. So you still have a ton of carries to go around. Do you want to give those to Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, or do you want to give them to Jonathan Taylor?
Yeah. The Ravens don’t have that many weaknesses. They’re pretty strong all around. They need an end rush, they need a guard with Marshal Yanda retiring, but other than that they really … end receiver, I guess, but other than that they really don’t have that many weaknesses, so they can bolster strength, and Ingram in a year or two, he may not be able to play anymore, so they need a running back for the future.
Joseph Robert: You’ve been around longer than me in regards to the fantasy industry and watching … or playing fantasy, I should say. I’ve been watching football since I was a kid, as well. But what I wanted to ask you, do you think that from your trends, do you think that the trend is moving towards getting rid of the workhorse running back more or less and going more to a committee? Are you seeing this more of a trend than it was let’s say 12, 15 years ago?
Walter: Well, yeah. I remember in the early and mid-2000s if a running back didn’t get 20 touchdowns you were disappointed with him. It’s so weird how things have changed. I don’t think teams want to do this. I just think there’s so many running backs, good players who can play running back around, that teams are forced into doing this. If that weren’t the case, you would see guys like Mark Ingram run into the ground. They’d have 300 plus carries every single year and they’d get 15 plus touchdowns. It’s just not the case anymore because there are so many good guys to the position that you can afford to rotate the carries between them and keep them fresh.
Joseph Robert: This is what I hate. I’ve actually got to stop putting my emotions, because I get angry, especially when I have a running back I’m invested in and I think they could be a workhorse back, and someone else comes in and passes away the carries or the goal-line work. So my focus is honestly to try to get those workhorse running backs. But I get so angry every year. So I load up on my guys that I think are going to be top guys, your Saquon, your Derek Henry. I had a combo of Saquon, Derrick Henry. I had a couple of combos of David Johnson and Henry. We don’t want to talk about David Johnson, that’s a whole other story. But when I was going third running back, I thought David Montgomery would have been a workhorse.
But every time I saw Tarik Cohen come in, I wanted to smash my TV. It’s not like Tarik Cohen‘s better. He couldn’t even catch the ball and he led the team in dropped passes. He was dropping everything. He’s not that good, but yet they would take … They’d even take Montgomery out near the goal line for Tarik Cohen. I would legitimately get angry at this. I wish there was a way for this to stop. I wish there was a way for just the workhorses to come in and just be the main guy. I think it’s, I don’t know, it’s bothering me a lot.
Walter: Yeah, things have changed a lot, and the workhorse running backs are pretty rare. That’s why I was happy to see that Josh Jacobs is going to catch passes now. He’s going to play on third down so that at least is good news. Yeah, Damon Montgomery was such a big disappointment last year. He just didn’t play very well, but some of that I think was the offensive line. Chicago’s offensive line took a major hit last year when he got hurt and then some of their tackles didn’t play as well. That kind of factored into Montgomery disappointing. That’s something to consider. If the Bears improve their offensive line this offseason, I think Montgomery could be a goodbye little guy.
Joseph Robert: I think he gets more work. All right, guys, so that’s. I don’t want to get too off tangent here, off-target here, but Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins, Clyde Edwards, and Cam Akers are your top five rookie running backs of the season. Again, be careful because some of these guys may land on teams that will not help them for fantasy football. This is what we’re going to determine after the draft, and also some of the guys below these guys could emerge and be in better positions for fantasy football that you may want to draft as well to mid to later rounds. But I’m excited, and I’ve got to ask you this. I know, again, it depends on where they land. Pick one running back here that you think … Well, I think you’re going to go a Swift here, but anyway I want to hear it, that could crack the top 10. Is it going to be Swift?
Walter: Yeah. It depends on where he goes. If Swift goes to Miami, I think he can get again into the top 10. The dolphins have … I know you’re concerned with the Dolphins and rightfully so. They’ve been terrible recently, but they have so many drafts picks and they have the most money to spend on free agency that I have to believe that they’re going to upgrade the offensive line.
Joseph Robert: They have to.
Walter: Yeah. So right now it might seem like a terrible situation, but if they add two good lineman and free agency and they draft a good tackle in the first round, suddenly that’ll look pretty good, so I like Swift a lot.
Joseph Robert: And a good quarterback and a good running back. Yeah, all line running back and quarterback. I mean, let’s go. What about defense? How much does that have to be addressed with Miami?
Walter: They have a lot of defensive holes, but I know that this is not a one-year rebuild for them. It’s a two-year rebuild. They have multiple first-rounders next year as well, so they can focus on defense next year. Their defense is going to be horrible again probably next year. I think they’re focusing on their offense this year because they want to draft a quarterback, so next year they’re going to focus on defense, and next year is defensive classes of springs.
Joseph Robert: Well, yeah, if you get a quarterback you’ve got to protect him, right? Cincinnati has to do that as well. I think Cincinnati has the same type of problem except they do have a running back. I’m not really crazy on Mixon, but better than what Miami has right now.
Walter: That’s true.
Joseph Robert: All right. Thanks, Walter, for being on, man. I’m excited about the season, and I don’t know what’s going on, man, with this Corona thing. Did you hear anything about the draft being pushed back to May? Have you heard anything about that?
Walter: I saw a report yesterday that they said the NFL is considering pushing it back to late May or June, but the NFL hasn’t really confirmed that yet, so we don’t know. I have to believe that something will be pushed back, whether it’s or the draft because it’s a pretty bleak situation.
Joseph Robert: Yep. I hope this all blows over. I really do. Thanks for being on guys. Check them out, WalterFootball.com, and I appreciate everyone being here. Smashed thumbs up, and subscribe. And we are out. Thanks, Walter for being on.
Walter: All right. Thanks so much for having me on.
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