Risers and Fallers

Running Backs

Players drafted in the 2020 NFL draft are not going to be included in this piece as they obviously can only rise due to not having a standing for 2019, although they will be included in my thought process of how many players may fall out of the top 10 and also how many players could rise into the top 10.

Players who finished the 2019 regular season inside the top 10 who might fall outside the top 10 this 2020 season.

Firstly, a major faller could be the number 2 running back in PPR formats from the 2019 season, Aaron Jones for the Green Bay Packers. Although, the Packers did not add any wide receivers during the draft, they did add two offensive players who could have a negative impact of Jones’ performance. These players are the Packers 1st and 2nd round picks, Jordan Love and A.J. Dillon. Jordan Love’s selection has caused a bit of stir with 36-year-old, 15-year veteran, Aaron Rodgers. This could impact the team throughout the off-season, pre-season and the season itself depending how Rodgers reacts to Love being around the team especially with 1st round draft capital being used on him by the organisation. This may impact Jones’ production as Rodgers may opt to throw the ball more to show he still has what it takes to perform at the highest level, taking production away from Jones. The Packers 2nd round pick, A.J. Dillon is a bigger threat to Jones’ production as this may be a change from the organisation going ahead as they may go in the direction of using a powerhouse back similar to Derrick Henry for the Tennessee Titans, especially as Jones’ contract expires after the 2020 season. As well as this, Jamaal Williams is still on the team this year meaning the carries are likely to be split between the three backs. Therefore, I do not believe Jones will be able to repeat his 19 TDs, 1084 yards rushing and 474 receiving yards in the 2020 season and could fall drastically down the rankings for the 2020 season.

Secondly, a running back I believe who could be close to a top 10 running back but surprisingly ultimately fall a little in the rankings for the 2020 season compared to be the number 8th running back in PPR formats, in 2019, is Nick Chubb. I believe this could be due to a change in Head Coach for the Browns, as Kevin Stefanski when in control of the Vikings offensive either in a interim or permanent basis who took a little bit of the workload off Dalvin Cooks shoulders and helped Kirk Cousins performance towards the end of the season. Stefanski being mainly a QB coach has helped QBs such as Kirk Cousins, Brett Favre and Case Keenum who he helped lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2017 season. Therefore, with the receiving talent on the Cleveland Browns with players such as Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry and tight end Austin Hooper, Stefanski could look to help QB Baker Mayfield in the 2020 season after shaky 2019, which could reduce the number attempts Nick Chubb has. As well as this, Kareem Hunt is still on the team as he signed his restricted tender recently. This could mean with Hunt being available this season for week one onwards after missing the first eight weeks last year could lead to more of snaps being shared on the offence including many of the receptions out of the backfield.

Another running back who I expect fall is Minnesota Vikings running back, Dalvin Cook. Although, he finished as the running back 6 in PPR formats in 2019 after only play 14 games I believe he could fall albeit maybe not out of the top 10 it could be close. Multiple factors combined make me think this as one, he is in a contract year therefore he could hold out and miss some games. Two, he is yet to complete a full season as he is unfortunately injured prone. Three, the Vikings offence seemed to improve a little last year but is by no means one of the best in the league and is yet to be seen if the offensive line can meet the demands of the Vikings run first offence. Finally, four, one area I think Cook may struggle is teams stacking the box against him, forcing Cousins to throw without Diggs on the team to open the field up with his speed, after his trade to the Buffalo Bills, causing the team to turn the ball over more often limiting Cooks snaps and production in the 2020 season.

One player who finished outside the top 10 running backs last year who could improve in the 2020 season to finish inside the top 10 is, Cincinnati Bengals running back, Joe Mixon. For a team who finished 2-14 in the 2019 season, Mixon was a ray of hope for what may come finishing the season as the running back 13, with 8 touchdowns for 1,137 yards rushing and 287 yards receiving. With Joe Burrow being picked as the number one pick in the 2020 draft and Tee Higgins being selected with the 33rd overall pick, Mixon may get some help in opening the field and creating lanes for him to run. On top of this, 11th overall pick of the 2019 draft, Jonah Williams will be available after missing the whole of the 2019 season through injury which is a big boost for the Bengals o-line and Mixon’s chances of being a top 10 running back in 2020.

Another player who could become a top 10 running back in 2020 is running back 17 from the 2019 season, Kenyan Drake. The Arizona Cardinals running back finished the 2019 season with 8 touchdowns with 817 rushing yards and 345 receiving yards alongside being traded by the Miami Dolphins after 6 games. Drake hit the ground running in his first game for the Cardinals in week 9 with 110 yards rushing and a touchdown although only went above 50 yards rushing in his next 4 games. The optimism for Drake to rise in the 2020 rankings inside the top 10 running backs comes from albeit a small sample size, weeks 15 and 16 against the Cleveland Browns and the Seattle Seahawks where he rushed for 303 yards and 6 touchdowns combined over the two games. With the addition of DeAndre Hopkins acquired in a trade with the Houston Texans, to an already stacked offence with Kyler Murray at QB, Hall of Fame wide receiver in waiting Larry Fitzgerald and 47th overall pick the 2018 draft Christian Kirk, Drake may be afford extra space to exploit with defences not being afforded the chance to stack the box often with so much talent to be wary of on the other side of the ball.

Finally, one player who could see a rise in his ranking in his second season in his teams new home is, Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs who finished the 2019 season as the running back 21, with 7 touchdowns for 1150 rushing yards and 166 receiving yards. The thought behind Jacobs’ rise in the 2020 running back rankings is Head Coach, Jon Gruden feeding the ball consistently to Jacob. How many of the hits Jacobs can take remains to be seen but with Jalen Richard likely to take some of the receiving work away from him and the addition of Lynn Bowden Jr who is seen as some sort of Swiss army knife as he can be used in multiple roles, which may take some snaps away from Jacobs but may also help to keep him fresh throughout games allowing him to drive the team forward especially with tight end Darren Waller over the middle and 1st round pick in the 2020 draft Henry Ruggs III with a 40 yard dash time of 4.27 seconds at wide receiver, Jacobs could be afforded extra space to run riot in the 2020 season.

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