It’s the most important position in fantasy football: running back.
While some teams employ a committee of capable backs, spreading out carries and scattering the workload, there are certainly others who rely more heavily on one player to lead the ground game. Fantasy football owners should be looking to draft the latter in the early rounds while filling out depth with those who could make an impact in perhaps more of a smaller sample size.
With those aspects taken into consideration, let’s look at the top running backs entering the 2020 fantasy football season:
1. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (Bye Week: 13)
The 24-year-old McCaffrey put together a monster 2019 season with almost 2,400 yards from scrimmage — 1,387 rushing and 1,005 receiving. He’s a two-way back that will be fed the ball at a high clip (287 rushing attempts, 116 receptions) and counted on in the redone (19 touchdowns in 2019).
2. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (Bye Week: 11)
Not only is Barkley a very good in his own right, but the Giants are limited when it comes to skill players besides him. It’s why Barkley has a pair of 1,000 yard seasons since entering the league. And if the 23-year-old is able to have a greater impact in the passing game, you certainly won’t regret this pick.
3. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (Bye Week: 10)
You know how we just said Barkley benefits from no other skill position players around him? Well, Elliot is almost the total opposite of that with the cast of Cowboys receivers. Even still, Dallas has long been a run-first team and they’ll certainly look to the three-time Pro Bowler to shoulder the offensive load.
4. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (Bye Week: 6)
The Saints kept their Thunder-Lightning twosome in tact with Kamara and Latavius Murray, but if the former is able to put together a healthy season, he should be counted as one of the best two-way backs. Kamara recorded 1,230 yards from scrimmage last season (14 games).
5. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings (Bye Week: 7)
The 25-year-old put together a breakout season in 2019 with 1,135 yards rushing (4.5 per rush) and 519 yards receiving in 14 games. Cook also totaled 13 touchdowns for the Vikings offense, who could rely on the ground game more with the loss of receiver Stefon Diggs.
6. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (Bye Week: 7)
The NFL’s 2019 rushing champion put together a breakout season, running for 1,540 yards on 303 attempts (5.1 yards per rush). Henry’s downfall, though, is the fact Tennessee hasn’t yet got him involved in the passing game, but his ground production (16 touchdowns) makes up for it.
7. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers (Bye Week: 10)
Ekeler impressed during Melvin Gordon’s holdout in 2019, so much so the Chargers moved on from Gordon. And while Ekeler is widely known for his pass-catching ability (92 rec., 993 yards in 2019), taking over the ground work will help his rushing numbers (132 rushes, 557 yards).
8. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns (Bye Week: 9)
Chubb will lead the 1-2 tandem featuring Kareem Hunt, but the 2019 Pro Bowler’s workload should remain heavy. Chubb earned just shy of 300 carries last season, compiling nearly 1,500 yards while also catching 36 passes.
9. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (Bye Week: 5)
The 25-year-old Jones recorded his first 1,000 yard season in 2019, doing so with a noteworthy 16 rushing touchdowns and 4.6 yard-per-rush average. Jones was also among the handful of impressive pass-catching backs — 49 receptions for 474 yards in 2019.
10. Joe Mixon, Cincinatti Bengals (Bye Week: 9)
Mixon is among the more underrated backs, but that hasn’t impacted his production. He’s recorded 1,100-plus yards rushing in each of the last two seasons and now with the Bengals QB Joe Burrow and receiver A.J. Green, it should open up some extra space for Mixon.
11. Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders (Bye Week: 6)
Jacobs will enter his second NFL season after being snubbed for the 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The former first-round pick rushed for 1,150 yards with seven touchdowns in 13 games. His game could reach a new level if he’s able to contribute more as a pass-catching back, too.
12. Clyde Edwards-Halaire, Kansas City Chiefs (Bye Week: 10)
The 2019 first-round pick joins an already high-powered offense, and the fact that Kansas City starter Damien Williams opted out of the season means he’ll get the lion’s share of carries. Despite limited NFL experience, Edwards-Halaire is a tackle-breaking machine.
13. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles (Bye Week: 9)
Sanders will not only benefit from having one year in the Eagles offense, but also the departure of Philadelphia’s leading rusher Jordan Howard. And Sanders, who compiled more than 1,300 yards of offense as a rookie, has the tools to make a major impact.
14. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks (Bye Week: 6)
Carson is looking for a third straight season of 1,150-plus yards. He’s scored 18 touchdowns over the last two seasons in Seattle and with QB Russell Wilson constantly making defenses fear the passing game, Carson should be in line for another strong campaign.
15. Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals (Bye Week: 8)
It was a long three-plus seasons in Miami for Drake, but he looked like his most productive self during just eight games in Arizona in 2019. Drake averaged more than 100 yards of offense per game (80.4 rushing, 21.4 receiving), and now will benefit by the arrival of DeAndre Hopkins.
16. Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos (Bye Week: 8)
Gordon’s main downfall, especially in regards to fantasy football, has been his health. He played just one 16-game season in his five-year tenure with the Chargers. Gordon, though, could recharge himself in a strong 1-2 tandem with Phillip Lindsay, along with an offense that has potential.
17. Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets (Bye Week: 11)
Head coach Adam Gase sounds like he’ll get Bell more involved in the Jets offense. In his first year in New York, Bell ran the ball 245 times for 789 yard and caught 66 passes for 461 yards. They’re far away from the numbers he used to compile with the Steelers, but Bell still has plenty of tread on the tires.
18. D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions (Bye Week: 5)
Swift will enter his rookie season as the current leader on the depth chart, ahead of Kerryon Johnson. While the two could split reps to start, Swift is a very good dual-threat back. The second-rounder has the capability of winning the position battle and rushing for 1,000 yards.
19. Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons (Bye Week: 10)
Gurley needed a change of scenery and he got it in Atlanta. The two-time All-Pro remains in the midst of his prime and we’re thinking he’ll bounce back after recording just over 1,000 yards of total offense. After all, the 26-year-old is three years removed of a 2017 season in which he doubled that.
20. Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills (Bye Week: 11)
Following a promising rookie season (151 rushes, 775 yards), Singletary is expected to be the team’s leading rusher as he has the experience factor over 2020 third-rounder Zack Moss.
21. Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens (Bye Week: 8)
Ingram is coming off among his most productive seasons (1,018 yards rushing, 5.0 yard per rush average) and we’re expecting much of the same for the high-powered Baltimore offense. Of course, with Baltimore selecting J.K. Dobbins in the second round, Ingram may see less third-down situations.
22. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonsville Jaguars (Bye Week: 7)
Fournette enters the final year of his rookie contract after the Jaguars declined his fifth-year option, perhaps adding even more motivation. Fournette recorded just shy of 1,700 yards of offense in 15 games in 2019, but his fantasy numbers were impacted with just three touchdowns.
23. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers (Bye Week: 8)
Conner missed six games in 2019 as the Steelers’ ground game was impacted greatly without QB Ben Roethlisberger. Conner, though, is looking to return to form from his nearly 1,500 yard season (13 games) the year prior.
24. Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams (Bye Week: 9)
The Florida State product certainly could break through for the Rams and ultimately take over as the leader in backfield, especially after the departure of Todd Gurley. The second-rounder compiled just shy of 1,400 yards of offense in his final season with the Seminoles.
25. Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bye Week: 13)
Jones enters his third season in Tampa Bay, but the first with Tom Brady under center. It surely will open up the running game as defenses have to respect the countless Buccaneer pass catchers. Jones eclipsed 1,000 yards of offense in nine starts last season.
26. Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers (Bye Week: 11)
Mostert had far an away his best season in 2019 (137 rushes, 772 yards; 180 yards receiving) the problem is the 49ers are just so deep at the position with Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon. Mostert has the potential to be a fairly reliable RB2 and strong RB3, though.
27. David Johnson, Houston Texans (Bye Week: 8)
Johnson should benefit from the play of QB Deshaun Watson as he looks to put together his second full season in the last four campaigns. When healthy, of course, Johnson is a gifted back that can have impact the game in multiple facets.
28. David Montgomery, Chicago Bears (Bye Week: 11)
The second-year back had a fairly impressive rookie season (242 rushes, 889 yards) and all signs point to him seeing the majority of carries with the team using Tarik Cohen more in passing situations.
29. Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts (Bye Week: 7)
Mack enters 2019 as the starter after a career-high 1,091 rushing yards on 247 attempts in 2019. The 2017 fourth-rounder, though, isn’t as productive in the passing game (14 rec., 82 yards in 2019) making teammate Jonathan Taylor, a second-round pick from Wisconsin, an attractive option to share snaps.
30. Jordan Howard, Miami Dolphins (Bye Week: 11)
The first-year Dolphin was successful in his time with Chicago before last year in Philadelphia. Howard, who played 10 games (four starts) in 2019, ran for a modest 525 yards with a 4.4 yard-per-carry average. He leads the depth chart in front of fellow RB Matt Breida.
— Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns
— Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos
— Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
— James White, New England Patriots
— Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
— J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens