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Fantasy Advice (NFL)

RB Winners and Losers of the 2020 Offseason

Aaron Jones. Photo by Elvis Kennedy. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

RISING STOCK

CAM AKERS
Akers couldn’t have landed with a better team. He could have winded up in a city like Green Bay or Buffalo where he’d have to start the season trying to move up the depth chart. But in Los Angeles, he instantly will be supplanted as the heir to Todd Gurley.

Malcolm Brown is your typical backup runner and the Darrell Henderson era may already be over after a subpar rookie season. Akers’ talent far exceeds that of Brown and Henderson and there’s a good likelihood he will open the season as the Rams’ bellcow back.

FANTASY DRAFT VALUE: Second round

AUSTIN EKELER and JUSTIN JACKSON
It’s clear now this is the new 1-2 combo in Los Angeles. There were a lot of discussions the Chargers would go running back with a pick in round 2 or 3 to mix up the backfield, but they stayed hands-off, a clear sign they are content with Ekeler taking over the reigns and Jackson being the complimentary back.

FANTASY DRAFT VALUE: Ekeler late first round (PPR); Jackson Third/Fourth round

RONALD JONES
I’ll be honest, I really thought the Bucs would take J.K. Dobbins or another of the elite college running backs with the second round pick. Dobbins was sitting right there for them. Instead, the Bucs went safety and passed on Dobbins, a huge victory for Ronald Jones who instantly became the Bucs starter with that selection.

The Bucs did take a running back in the third round, Keshawn Vaughn, but Vaughn is more backup material and will likely fill in the vacant role of Peyton Barber while Jones gets an uptick in touches. Raymond Calais, the Bucs seventh-round pick, could enter into the mix as a big play back, but lacks the pass-blocking skills to see substantial playing time.

FANTASY DRAFT VALUE: Late second round

LOSING VALUE

KERRYON JOHNSON
The second round pick from just a couple seasons ago has had a rollercoaster start to his NFL career. When he’s been healthy, he’s had some standout games, but injuries have overshadowed his production. The Lions definitely took notice and drafted D’Andre Swift, who is a dynamic back that should likely take over the starting role.

The Lions will likely ask Kerryon to beef up and become more of the short yardage back, which could help Johnson’s production in the red zone if that’s the case. But Swift will be the Lions back you will want to draft first in your fantasy leagues with Johnson being more of a handcuff.

AARON JONES
I seriously don’t have a clue what was going through the Packers’ mind with their first two picks, but it was a signal that the “Aaron era” (Jones and Rodgers) is nearing its end. Jones had a very productive 2019 season, especially for his fantasy owners, but the Packers obviously weren’t as impressed as they drafted A.J. Dillon, the star running back from Boston College.

Dillion is a work horse and will undoubtedly challenge Jones for the starting job next season. You don’t take a running back in the second round to sit the bench. As for Jamaal Williams, he may be headed out of Green Bay altogether after this selection.

MARK INGRAM
Ingram’s age is already an issue. The 30-year old back is likely down to his last few seasons in the league. However, the failure of Justice Hill to succeed his rookie season was a win for Ingram who saw more touches than he expected a year ago. But Dobbins has a lot more upside than Hill, and he goes along perfect with Lamar Jackson and the style of offense the Ravens run.

Ingram was able to shield off HIll, but it’s going to be much more difficult to stay ahead of Dobbins on the depth chart as the season progresses. Meanwhile, Gus Edwards will be fighting to stay on the roster after the final preseason cuts.

PHILLIP LINDSAY
The trade for Melvin Gordon was a tough moment for Lindsay to absorb. The undrafted Broncos back rose up the depth chart to the starting role his rookie season. His second season was solid, but obviously not good enough. He still will garner a lot of carries, but not as a starter. The trade for Gordon instantly puts Lindsay in the backseat and leaves Royce Freeman fighting for a roster spot.

DAMIEN WILLIAMS
This one could be seen coming, although I was expecting DeAndre Swift with the first pick, not Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Despite a great Super Bowl performance, Williams did not live up to expectations in 2019 and also spent much of the season battling injuries. He still will play a role for the Chiefs in 2020, but now in a more crowded backfield and likely looking up at Edwards-Helaire who should be able to win over the starting job his rookie season. Williams joins Darrell Williams, LeSean McCoy, and Darwin Thompson in fighting for the backup spot in Kansas City.

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