The 2020 rookie running back class is fairly top-heavy, with about five or six players who really lead the way talent-wise. However, when it comes to drafting rookie running backs, talent doesn’t always translate to immediate fantasy production. Talent, combined with a clear path to touches, is often the formula for success for a rookie. Let’s take a look at a few rookie running backs that landed in ideal situations and are primed for immediate fantasy success.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
Fantasy football is about two things – talent and opportunity. The former LSU running back is arguably the most talented back in the 2020 draft class, and there may not be a better opportunity than possibly becoming the starting running back for a high-powered offense coached by Andy Reid. Damien Williams is the incumbent starter which may limit Edwards-Helaire’s upside early on. However, if Edwards-Helaire is able to take over the starting role and majority of backfield snaps as the season goes on, he could emerge as an RB1 down the stretch.
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Taylor had a prolific career at Wisconsin with back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Taylor was the third running back off the board in the 2020 NFL draft and lands in a great spot behind an offensive line that can be dominant when healthy. Despite the great destination, Taylor will have to compete for touches during his rookie season. Marlon Mack enters the 2020 season atop the Colts’ crowded RB depth chart, but has had issues staying healthy and is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Taylor has elite upside as a rusher and should be able to work into at least a timeshare early in the season, with a chance to be an RB2 by year’s end.
D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
Swift was widely considered the top running back talent in the 2020 NFL Draft. He has three-down skillset and big-play ability but joins a crowded backfield in Detroit with Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough. Additionally, it’s hard to get too excited about any running back on a Matt Patricia led team. Since taking over as Lions head coach, Detroit has been below league average in both rushing yards and rush-play percentage. Swift should have a significant role in the passing game for the Lions, but overall volume might be an issue. Swift is on RB2/flex radar in PPR redraft leagues, but has RB1 upside if Johnson is forced to miss any time.
Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills
The Bills took Moss in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Utah product is a tough inside runner, but he is also serviceable in the passing game, which will certainly help his fantasy value. Devin Singletary should still be heavily involved in the offense, but with Frank Gore out of the picture, Moss could fill the role of the physical, downhill runner in Buffalo. The thunder-and-lightning combination may be frustrating for fantasy owners, but Moss could be useful as a flex position spot start in PPR leagues with immense upside if there’s an injury in front of him.
J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
Dobbins was the fifth running back selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, but many expected him to be a lock as one of the first three backs off the board. The Ohio State standout has three-down ability and is a perfect fit for the run-heavy Ravens, but he will lose plenty of touches to Mark Ingram and Lamar Jackson. Dobbins should be able to carve out a role in Baltimore’s run-heavy offense, which could put him in the flex discussion early in the season. However, if Ingram were to miss any time, Dobbins could have RB1 upside.
Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
Akers was a somewhat surprising pick by the Rams at No. 52 overall in the draft, going ahead of J.K. Dobbins as the fourth running back off the board. The rookie from Florida State landed in a good situation with the Rams, who are looking for Todd Gurley’s replacement. The Rams will likely start the season with a committee approach with Akers, Darrell Henderson Jr., and Malcolm Brown. Henderson profiles more of a change-of-pace back and Malcolm Brown hasn’t proven himself to be anything more than a high-level backup, so there is opportunity for Akers to make an immediate fantasy impact in 2020.