2020 NFL Draft Winners and Losers: Running backs

2020 NFL Draft Winners and Losers: Running backs

The 2020 draft is in the books, and boy was it a doozy. The virus forcing it to be virtual, will be what everyone will remember, but the amount of offensive skill players will be a close second. The top five running backs taken have a lot of similarities to the great running back draft class of 2017. The landing spots of the top running backs are always what affect our dynasty draft orders the most. These are the 2020 NFL draft’s biggest winners and losers from the running back position.

This is part 2 in my post-draft winners and losers series.  Check out my other 2020 NFL Draft Winners and Losers:

QB | RB | WR | TE

Veteran Winners:

These running backs are already in the league and have benefitted from their team’s decisions in the 2020 draft.

Josh Jacobs (LVR) / Melvin Gordon (DEN) / Ezekiel Elliot (DAL)

These running backs might not have needed the help, but their teams went out and did it anyway. The top three wide receivers in the draft are now their teammates and they will surely open up more running lanes by keeping eight men out of the box.

Miles Sanders (PHI)

Sanders had a good rookie year last season, but Eagles coach Doug Pederson prefers a running back by committee approach and there was a fear that he would draft one of the top five backs. Instead, he decided to draft a quarterback in the second round along with adding some much-needed help at the wide receiver position. Pederson will certainly not run Sanders into the ground, but his draft has solidified Sanders as the clear-cut number one running back.

Jordan Howard / Matt Breida (MIA)

The Dolphins traded for Breida during the draft. This move seems like it would hurt both running backs, and maybe it will hurt one of them, but for now I think it actually bumps both of their values up a little. Miami was expected to draft a top five back which would have hurt Howard’s value much more than bringing in Breida. Breida was buried behind Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman in San Francisco. He now has a better chance to compete for snaps and perhaps even win the starting job.

Le’Veon Bell (NYJ)

Bell had a disappointing season in his first year playing in New York. His value has dipped and at age 28, he is no longer the player that was once heavily targeted in dynasty leagues. That being said, The Jets drafted one of the top left tackles in the first round in Mekhi Becton, and the blazing fast wide receiver Denzel Mims in the second. I don’t know if Bell is working hard to prove that last year was a fluke, but I do know that his team has added some complimentary pieces for him in the draft. They did draft running back La’mical Perine out of Florida in the fourth round, but I wouldn’t consider him a threat to surpass Bell on the depth chart or to even cut into his workload all that much.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

some more running backs whose team either added more offensive line and/or wide receiver help or didn’t draft a legitimate future replacement.

Dalvin Cook (MIN), David Johnson (HOU), Raheem Mostert (SFO), Kenyan Drake (ARZ)

Rookie Winners:

These rookie running backs have landed in some really great spots and in doing so, their dynasty draft stock has risen.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KCC

CEH was surprisingly the first running back taken in the draft with the final pick in the first round. The Chiefs were arguably the best landing spot for a rookie running back and former LSU Tiger, Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s game should be a perfect fit in their system. Kansas City already boasts the best offense in the league and even with many mouths to feed, Helaire will be fully fed.

Jonathan Taylor (IND)

Marlon Mack has been the Colts lead back for a couple years now, but the beastly running back Jonathan Taylor out of Wisconsin should take over that role rather quickly. Taylor was one of the best running backs in the draft and Indianapolis was one of the top running back landing spots. This makes Taylor a surefire top three pick in rookie drafts.

J.K. Dobbins (BAL)

Some might think that Baltimore is a bad landing spot for the former Ohio State feature back because of their entrenched pro bowl starting running back Mark Ingram, but it’s actually a great one. Dobbins will most likely start the season spelling the 30 years old Ingram, but could eventually surpass him; think Alvin Kamara in New Orleans. Dobbins is in a sneaky good spot.

Cam Akers (LAR)

Akers was a really good talent playing on a not so talented team in Florida State. The Rams released their former pro bowl bell cow back Todd Gurley, leaving them with veteran running back Malcom Brown and second year player Darrell Henderson to handle the load. Akers will not be handed the starting job right away, but it will just be a matter of time before his talent is rewarded with majority snap counts. 

Ke’Shawn Vaughn (TBB)

The Bucs drafted former Vanderbilt Commodore Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round. He is a North-South runner with good speed and athleticism. If Vaughn starts off well, he could win the starting job over Ronald Jones II, and be a big part of an already explosive offense. He may not be one of the top five running backs in the draft, but his landing spot puts him at the top of the next tier.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

These running backs might not be at the top of the rookie rankings, but their landing spots could get them on the field sooner rather than later.

Zach Moss (BUF), Darrynton Evans (TEN), DeeJay Dallas (SEA), Eno Benjamin (ARZ)

Veteran Losers:

These are the running backs already in the league that took the biggest hit by their team’s decisions in the 2020 draft.

Kerryon Johnson / Ty Johnson (DET)

It looks as if the Lions have decided to completely revamp the running back position when they drafted one of the top backs D’andre Swift early in the second round, and third down back/kick returner Jason Huntley in the fifth. While the blazing fast Huntley out of New Mexico State was a surprise pick, Swift out of Georgia was one of the top-rated players in the entire draft. All of the running backs on the Detroit Lions roster have been put on notice.

Marlon Mack (IND)

Once the name Jonathan Taylor came out of the mouth of commissioner Roger Goodell, there was a collective sigh by all of the Marlon Mack owners in dynasty leagues across the globe. Mack has been a better than average runner for the Colts, but he never became the bell cow back that some thought he could be. He is now merely the handcuff to one of the top rookie running backs in the league.

Mark Ingram / Justice Hill / Gus Edwards (BAL)

The moment the Ravens drafted former Ohio State Buckeye running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round, all three Baltimore backs experienced varying degrees of loss in value. Ingram lost future value, Hill lost immediate value, and Edwards lost all value. Mark Ingram will start the season as the lead back, but Dobbins is really good and he will cut into Ingram’s workload sooner rather than later. There is a good chance that by the end of the season, Dobbins will receive equal to, to even more rushing attempts per game than Ingram.

Devin Singletary (BUF)

The argument of whether Devin Singletary can carry the load as a three down back has been going on since before he was drafted last year. Buffalo drafted running back Zach Moss out of Utah in the third round and many believe that he is much more suited to play that role. Singletary showed improvements and flashes of greatness during his rookie campaign, but he will have stronger competition going into 2020.

Aaron Jones (GBP)

The Packers surprised the entire draft audience in the first round when they moved up to select quarterback Jordan Love and then again when they drafted running back A.J. Dillon in the second. Love and Dillon are both good players, but the quarterback and running back positions were far from an essential team need. Jones is one of the most productive running backs in the game and there is no chance that he loses his job, but his sixteen rushing touchdowns last season were a little bit of an anomaly. Dillon is a power back and there is a good chance that he vultures a good chunk of short yardage touchdowns moving forward.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Other running backs whose teams either drafted their potential replacements or just muddied the waters.

Damien Williams (KCC), Ronald Jones II (TBB), Malcolm Brown (LAR), Darrell Henderson (LAR)

Rookie Losers:

These rookie running backs will have to first overcome their subpar landing spots. In dynasty, talent trumps situations, so if you like these players don’t let their new uniforms cloud your judgement.

D’andre Swift (DET)

With the final pick in the first round the Chiefs select running back… Clyde Edwards-Helaire. That was unexpected because most experts predicted that D’andre Swift out of Georgia would be the first running back off the board. Instead, three picks later he was exiled to the running back wasteland known as Detroit. It seems as though the Lions have given up on third year player Kerryon Johnson, so at least Swift should get an immediate opportunity. Swift may have dropped a couple spots from his projected dynasty draft position, but with his “Barry Sanders” type elusiveness, there is a chance that perhaps Detroit was the perfect landing spot.

A.J. Dillon (GBP)

Aaron Jones made the veteran player loser list because of A.J. Dillon’s opportunity to vulture short yardage touchdowns from him. Dillon makes the list because that is about all he will be doing for Green Bay. Dillon is a power back out of Boston College with good speed, but not a ton of agility. The pick for the Packers was a little surprising because they had a big need at the wide receiver position and opted to take a seemingly unneeded running back. They did struggle in short yardage situations last year, so most likely that was the thought process. The biggest problem for Dillon is the lack of opportunity to compete for the starting job.

Anthony McFarland (PIT)

The Steelers selected Anthony McFarland out of Maryland in the fourth round. There are a lot of questions in Pittsburgh about whether running back James Conner can stay healthy enough to be the lead back, so it’s not the worst landing spot for a player like McFarland, who does have a three down back skillset. The issue is more about the number of quality running backs on the roster. James Conner, Bennie Snell, and Jaylen Samuels are all in the mix along with McFarland now, so it’s anybody’s guess who will come out on top. If you like the talent, then draft him, but only if you have the room on your bench to wait and see what happens.

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