As free agency comes to end and the draft inches closer, several running backs switched teams or signed contract extensions. The fantasy implications may be hard to keep up with. To make things easier, I wrote an article breaking down the AFC running back movement and an article for the NFC running back movement. Each division is highlighted with the biggest signings that will directly impact their running back projections. These notes will help get you in the ballpark of how to think of these backs barring any drastic changes in the draft.
Arizona Cardinals transition tagged Kenyan Drake:
From week 15 on, he finished with 17 points or higher in every game. This reminds me of Chris Carson‘s end of 2018 before he exploded for the 2019 season. I still have some reservations about the off-and-on-again Drake productivity, but excited for his new role as the feature back in Arizona. They will be a talented offensive especially if they draft a plug and play offensive lineman in the draft like they are projected to do
Los Angeles Rams move on from Todd Gurley:
Last year we saw a shift focused more on the passing game and arm talent of Jared Goff. That offensive shift did not start well in year one… The Rams need to do more to improve their O-line because Goff struggled under pressure. The Rams did resign Andrew Whitworth to a big 3-year contract, but more improvements still need to be made on the O-line.
Darrell Henderson likely takes over the starting RB position for now if they don’t draft another back this year. He could be a good value for his average draft position (ADP), but the running back position on this team scares me a bit until they bolster their O-line. The offensive philosophy is more pass-oriented than it’s ever been, especially after letting Gurley go.
San Francisco 49ers restructure Jerick McKinnon‘s deal to bring him back:
Why does Kyle Shanahan hate fantasy football? Does he really need 5 RBs?! Up to his old Shenanigans again. Who am I to question a brilliant Super Bowl attending coach? He schemes RBs so well and utilizes all his backs at any point in the season. McKinnon leapfrogs Jeff Wilson on backs I would prefer to have, but remains behind Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Matt Breida. Mostert is the only back I am hopeful emerges but with Shanahan’s run schemes working so well with whoever he has in, that may be wishful thinking.
Atlanta Falcons sign Todd Gurley:
His usage was severely diminished compared to his 2018 season. How badly has the arthritis affected his play? He was visibly less explosive; his chunk plays of over 20 yards dramatically fell from 11 times in 2018 to 5 times in 2019. But his TD production was still one of the best. He was top 5 in TDs with 12 TDs.
I think Gurley still has some in the tank and will get to prove it in an offense that will check down to him often. Last year, Freeman was top 10 in targets for RBs, with 70 targets. At the right price, I would invest in Gurley but as of now, he’s outside of my top 14 RBs, no longer an RB1 this year.
Washington Redskins sign Peyton Barber and JD McKissic:
This is a muddied backfield. Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice remain higher on the depth chart but the wheels have to fall off of Peterson someday soon and Guice is just as difficult to trust after being placed on Injured Reserve three times in the past two seasons.
Guice is the back with the biggest upside but comes with that injury risk. McKissic will likely serve as a rotational third-down back while Barber is likely only there as an insurance policy for two risky starters. Bryce Love is also under contract in this muddied RB field.
For the Bucs O-line, they franchise tagged Guard Brandon Scherff and are still looking to trade Tackle Trent Williams.
The Redskins have one of the worst offensive rosters in the league. The only playmaker I’m actively seeking is Terry McLaurin and even he comes with risk because of the inept nature of this offense.
New York Giants sign Dion Lewis.
Brought in to give Saquon Barkley a breather, won’t affect Barkley at all. The biggest moves for the Giants was on the defensive side of the ball instead. The Giants had one of the worst defenses in the league last year. To help improve that side of the ball the Giants signed James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, David Mayo to long-term deals and franchise-tagged Leonard Williams.
Detroit Lions sign Halapoulivaati Vaitai:
The north didn’t have any signings that directly impacted the running back position, but the Lions did sign a strong right tackle replacement in Vaitai. The Lions had a terrific O-line last year, ranking top 11 in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Their right guard and right tackle left in free agency, so the Lions replaced their right tackle with another strong free agent in Vaitai. Vaitai should help improve their run blocking and provide similar pass blocking skills as before.