Now that the first wave of free agency has passed and the NFL Draft has officially been put in the books, we have a near full layout of what NFL rosters are going to look like for the upcoming season. With that, we have a host of rookie content and freshly updated ranks for season-long and dynasty formats already up in our 2020 fantasy football content hub.
With the draft, a number of veteran players had their 2020 fantasy dynamics impacted for better or worse. Throughout the week, we are going to highlight some of the biggest winners and losers from the draft from each position. We are already touched on the quarterbacks who won, the quarterbacks that lost, and the running backs who won. Now it is time to cover some of the running backs who had their fantasy stock take a hit during the draft.
Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs
We will start in draft order with the backs that had their team invest in one of our top-five running backs pre-draft, all of which were a clear tier ahead of the rest of the rookie backs. The Chiefs were the first team to get into the backfield pool, selecting Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the final pick the first round. Over his final seven full games played, Williams played 77% of the snaps, handled 82% of the backfield touches, and averaged 110.4 YFS and 22.9 fantasy points per game. With that usage thoroughly compromised, Williams is now a 28-year-old running back with a career-high of 711 yards from scrimmage in a single season and is in a contract year. The 225-pound back should still be a goal line threat and have a role, but falls back to FLEX status while this is expected to be his final season with the Chiefs.
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
It was the next day and the next round, but the Lions selected D’Andre Swift just three draft slots after Edwards-Helaire was picked. Just two years earlier, the Lions selected Johnson in nearly the exact same spot (43rd overall). In 2019, Johnson struggled with just 4.3 yards per touch while active in his second season, but staying active has been his largest obstacle. Missing six and eight games over his first two seasons, the Lions wanted to add insurance and a tandem for Johnson.
Matt Patricia has not been shy about his desire to want multiple backs involved in the offense simultaneously and the Detroit running back depth chart was exposed last season. Johnson still has two years left on his rookie contract and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is a run-first play-caller by nature to keep Johnson involved, but Swift is a threat in every capacity of Johnson’s game.
Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts
With Edwards-Helaire and Swift off the board, the Colts traded up to the No. 41 spot to select Jonathan Taylor. Taylor was the best interior runner in this class and has a resume unmatched by anyone rookie in this class. While at Wisconsin over the 2017-2019 seasons, Taylor had 1,715 more rushing yards than the next highest player in college over those years. Mack was a solid hit for the Colts after taking him in the fourth round (143rd overall) of the 2017 draft. Mack has posted 1,011 and 1,173 yards from scrimmage in each of the past two seasons. But he enters the 2020 season in the final year of his contract.
Taylor could arguably already be an upgrade on what Mack does for this offense while he came with supremely higher draft capital (plus a trade up). Mack has ranked sixth and eighth in rushing points per game over the past two years, but also 59th and 79th in receiving points per game with a combined 31-185-1 receiving line, giving him little wiggle room for production in a timeshare of “rushing-only” opportunities.
Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams
Just a year ago, the Rams traded up in the third round to select Henderson at No. 70 overall. A hyper-explosive back at Memphis, Henderson struggled to grasp the Rams’ zone-blocking scheme and was only able to net 43 touches total over his rookie season for just 4.3 yards per touch. A year later, and the Rams selected Cam Akers nearly a full round higher than where they invested into Henderson. There is committee potential for Henderson on his rookie contract, but the early signals from his rookie-season usage and production paired with the immediate investment into Akers are significantly damaging to the hopes that he would be in line for a breakout season in his second year in the league.
Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens
Rounding out the best five backs that were available in this class, the Ravens had J.K. Dobbins sitting on the board for them at pick No. 55 and did not pass up the chance to add him to their elite rushing attack. Dobbins is the most experienced back in this class in RPO rushing opportunities and lived off of runs from the shotgun. The Ravens led the league in both.
Ingram was excellent in his first season with the Ravens. He averaged a career-high 5.5 yards per touch and scored a career-high 15 touchdowns to go along with 1,265 yards from scrimmage. But Ingram’s efficiency greatly exceeded his usage, ranking 10th in PPR points per game (16.2), but 24th among running backs in touches per game (15.2). Ingram will also turn 31 years old this December. Ingram is still in the best immediate shape of the backs we have talked about so far for 2020 fantasy appeal since he still is a favorite to lead the Baltimore backfield in touches and scoring opportunities, but he was already due for regression and now has better competition to press him for touches than he did a year ago.
Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jones took step forward as he went from 77 total yards on 30 touches in 2018 as a rookie up to 1,033 yards on 203 touches a year ago. But he never fully got the coaching staff in Tampa Bay to just let him take unrelenting control of the backfield, conceding 170 touches to Peyton Barber and passing-game usage to Dare Ogunbowale, two undrafted players.
In the third round, the Buccaneers selected Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who could step right in and be major competition for Jones. In 2019, nearly no back in this was asked to do as much as Vaughn across the board for his team’s offense. He accounted for 70.7% of the team non-QB carries (second in this class), 69.7% of the non-QB rushing yards (second), 36.2% of the team yards from scrimmage (third), 13.9% of the receptions (second), and scored 47.6% of the team touchdowns (second). Vaughn is solid in pass protection and as a pass catcher, the two largest areas of concern for Jones making a jump into receiving work in his third season.
Outside of the top moves in this draft, a number of dynasty depth backs had their roles and fantasy stock take on water this weekend. Running through them in a condensed fashion, here are those backs that now a step closer to being potential roster cloggers.
Justice Hill: The fourth-round selection from a year ago managed just 66 touches as a rookie and was outplayed by Gus Edwards in the running game. Hill could hang on as an ancillary piece for the Baltimore backfield if Ingram is not retained after the 2020 season, but the hopes of his ascending and being an actual handcuff to large opportunity took a major hit.
Justin Jackson: With two undersized backs on the roster, the Chargers were a team that was always a target to pursue a bigger-bodied back to add as a compliment and potential short-yardage option. They did just that when they selected Joshua Kelley in the fourth round (112 overall). Jackson has averaged 5.2 yards and 5.8 yards per touch over his first two seasons, but the former seventh-round pick in 2018 had his track to being the second option in the Charger backfield compromised.
Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels: The way the Steelers used both Snell and Samuels when James Conner missed time last season was in a way that made it seem like they wish the two backs could be merged as one. Snell did the dirty work as an early-down banger while Samuels was used out of the backfield as a pass catcher. By selecting Anthony McFarland in the third round (124th overall), Pittsburgh may have gotten a back that can serve both of their roles in one package. McFarland is a superior pass catcher to Snell while offering higher rushing upside than Samuels. Conner is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season, which could keep the lights on for someone like Snell, but as a limited back in the passing game, his upside is marginal.
Malcolm Brown: In a contract year, Brown is a soon-to-be 27-year-old back with fewer than 1,000 yards from scrimmage combined over five NFL seasons.