The 2020 rookie running back class is big on talent, but stuck in committees and short on time. In other words, if you're looking for feature-back production from a first-year player on your Fantasy football team, there's not a lot to see.
We'll go over all the rookies you need to know about here, from Clyde Edwards-Helaire to Ke'Shawn Vaughn, highlighting what they're good at, what they need to work at, and ultimately where to draft them regardless of the league you're in. It's good information to have in your mind before Draft Day.
The rookie rushers are listed in the order I would draft them in a PPR league for 2020 redraft leagues.
STRENGTHS: Feisty runner; sweet feet and hands; appears to be the right man in the right place in the right time.
WEAKNESSES: Not a burner; not an overly physical runner; college O-line helped him thrive; does need refinement on his pass protection.
EXPECTED ROLE: Lead rusher for the Chiefs. Coach Andy Reid has been calling plays for decades and has a strong track record of running back success. Edwards-Helaire's zone-style running and quality receiving skills should be easy to outfit in the offense.
COOL STAT BRO: Reid has produced a top-12 RB in PPR points per game in eight of his past 10 seasons, 13 of past 16 seasons, and 15 of his past 21 seasons as a head coach.
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Kareem Hunt's rookie year (1,782 total yards and 11 touchdowns)
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Damien Williams' 2019 16-game pace (1,034 total yards, 10 touchdowns)
DRAFT HIM: As high as sixth overall in PPR, 12th overall in non-PPR. The same range in long-term formats. He's worthy of a top-two pick in rookie-only drafts (first overall in PPR makes sense).
INSURANCE? DeAndre Washington in Round 10-plus sure makes a lot of sense considering the upside of this offense.
STRENGTHS: Decisive zone-scheme runner; good acceleration and speed; very good power balance and jukes; natural hands, can play three downs; pass pro effective, not pretty.
WEAKNESSES: Small size has led to injuries; had 15-plus touches in just 12 college games over three seasons and may not get handed a full workload anytime soon.
EXPECTED ROLE: Part-time split with Kerryon Johnson until Johnson misses time with an injury. Then the hope is Swift will have proven himself by then and begin an illustrious career as the Lions' lead back.
COOL STAT BRO: Swift averaged 6.6 yards per carry and amassed 666 receiving yards over his college career. Spooky!
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Christian McCaffrey's time-sharing rookie year (1,086 total yards and seven touchdowns).
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Joe Mixon's time-sharing rookie year (913 total yards and four touchdowns).
DRAFT HIM: Round 6 at the absolute earliest in seasonal leagues, and you better be patient because he could be really disappointing in the early going. He should go at least a round higher in long-term formats and is a top-seven overall choice in rookie-only drafts.
INSURANCE? There's not a ton to love about Johnson, but if you want to protect yourself from a sudden illness knocking Swift out for a few games, Johnson shouldn't cost more than a Round 8 pick.
STRENGTHS: Cut-back king of the rookie class; good speed and balance; good pass catcher; strong lower body good for pass protection.
WEAKNESSES: 10 fumbles in three seasons at FSU, 10 more fumbles in high school; just 10 plays of 20-plus yards in 2019; may have awareness issues; thrived against bad competition and struggled against tough competition.
EXPECTED ROLE: Could be a regular contributor to the Rams' three-headed run game. Potential is there for him to be the lead back, though coach Sean McVay seems adamant about using a committee approach.
COOL STAT BRO: Despite FSU's terrible O-line last year (ranked second-worst in the nation by Pro Football Focus), Akers was tied for eighth among all rushers with 74 missed tackles forced and 12th in yards after contact. Newsflash: the Rams O-line is not very good.
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: David Montgomery's tandem-limited rookie season (1,074 total yards, seven touchdowns).
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Matt Jones' tandem-limited rookie season (794 total yards, four touchdowns). Fun fact: McVay was Jones' offensive coordinator in his 2015 season.
DRAFT HIM: Either right before or right after Swift in pretty much every format. That means a Round 6 pick in seasonal leagues, a Round 5 pick in Dynasty start-ups and a top-seven overall choice (ahead or behind Swift) in rookie-only drafts.
INSURANCE? Darrell Henderson is a low-cost option that's worth taking just to lock up the two likeliest contributors for the Rams.
STRENGTHS: Elite size/speed combination; nimble and definitely physical; fights forward for extra yards.
WEAKNESSES: Fumbles! (18 in 41 games); inexperienced receiver out of the backfield; inexperienced pass blocker; may have benefitted by good O-line in college.
EXPECTED ROLE: Split rushing downs work with Marlon Mack and not see much action in obvious passing situations. Many folks think he'll dispatch Mack quickly and move in on Nyheim Hines' receiving roles by mid-season, if not sooner.
COOL STAT BRO: Taylor is the only player in FBS history to rack up over 1,900 rushing yards in each of three seasons.
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Leonard Fournette's rookie season (1,342 total yards, 10 touchdowns), though Mack would have to fumble a lot or miss playing time early and often for this to hit.
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Jamaal Williams' rookie season (818 total yards, six touchdowns), where he fights for playing time all year.
DRAFT HIM: If you love him, you'll ignore Mack's presence and grab him before 40th overall. If that seems to soon for a rookie in a crowded backfield, you'll probably lose out on him. It would be a gift if he made it to Round 6. He's worth taking as soon as Round 3 in long-term formats and is the No. 1 overall pick on rookie-only non-PPR drafts (you could take him over Edwards-Helaire in PPR drafts if you wanted).
INSURANCE? Mack in Round 7-plus shouldn't be an afterthought, even if you're openly rooting for Mack to get benched because you want Taylor to dominate.
STRENGTHS: Breakaway speed; good size, vision and anticipation; experienced runner in offense similar to Ravens' offense; good hands; willing pass protector.
WEAKNESSES: Lateral agility is solid, not spectacular; wish he had more power in his runs; small catch radius.
EXPECTED ROLE: He'll be part of the Ravens' merry-go-round of running backs led by Mark Ingram.
COOL STAT BRO: He's the only player in Ohio State history to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a season.
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Nick Chubb's rookie year (1,145 total yards, 10 total touchdowns), though Ingram would have to vanish for Dobbins to even sniff this.
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Marlon Mack's snap-sharing rookie year (583 total yards, four touchdowns).
DRAFT HIM: Round 8 is fine in seasonal leagues, especially if you take Ingram a couple of rounds sooner and you want to lock up this potent backfield. But expect him to go as many as two rounds sooner in Dynasty startups and as soon as third overall in rookie-only drafts. He's got a very bright future.
INSURANCE? He'd be the insurance for Ingram.
STRENGTHS: Incredible versatility thanks to his experience as a wide receiver; impressive speed and lateral agility given his size; great hands and jukes; good vision; willing pass blocker.
WEAKNESSES: Inexperienced ball-carrier (just 33 carries at Memphis, 43 at East Central Community College and 126 at Eagle's Landing High School) and has suspect vision and technique as a result; may be developed slowly so he understands his assignments.
EXPECTED ROLE: Mismatch chess piece on the Washington offense with potential for so much more if Derrius Guice/Adrian Peterson/Bryce Love/J.D. McKissic struggle or miss time. Sounds like a lot of dominos to fall but it's possible! More reliably, he's especially expected to reel in a bunch of short-area catches with the occasional deep lob.
COOL STAT BRO: Had more catches (38) than carries (33), and had twice as many receiving touchdowns (eight) than rushing touchdowns (four) in 2019.
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Nyheim Hines' rookie season (739 total yards, four touchdowns, 63 receptions).
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Jaylen Samuels' rookie season (256 total yards, three touchdowns, 26 receptions).
DRAFT HIM: Round 9 in PPR is passable, Round 11 in non-PPR is likely. It'll be about the same in Dynasty/keeper start-ups. The back-half of Round 2 is the spot in rookie-only drafts.
INSURANCE? None needed, nor is he a reliable insurance back for Guice.
STRENGTHS: Powerful yards-after-contact creator; good lateral agility; built thick and plays like it; good balance.
WEAKNESSES: Speed is good but not great, will get caught from behind; not a reliable third-down back, particularly in pass protection; long injury history (ankle, knee, shoulder, hamstring all hurt within past three years).
COOL STAT BRO: Pro Football Focus has him ranked eighth in yards after contact (1,042) and second in missed tackles forced (87) in all of college football in 2019.
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Sony Michel's rookie season (917 total yards, six touchdowns).
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: The average yardage of Frank Gore's past two seasons (773) with Gore's total touchdowns from 2018-19 (three).
DRAFT HIM: In PPR, he should go in the Round 9 or 10 range, but in non-PPR he could get gobbled up by Round 8. He should go in Round 8 in any long-term format draft and as a top-20 pick in a rookie-only league.
INSURANCE? He's the insurance for Devin Singletary. You can have the Bills running back duo for picks in Rounds 5 and 9. Not bad.
STRENGTHS: Derrick Henry clone — ran 4.53 in the 40 at over 240 pounds; a total bully on the field with a good track record of durability; good vision; startling acceleration considering the size; has the makings of a solid pass catcher and pass protector.
WEAKNESSES: Needs to improve footwork and pad level — not a yards creator; gets stopped a little too easily for a man his size; could be a two-down runner.
EXPECTED ROLE: He should be part of the Packers rotation at running back this year with potential to be a bigger part in 2021. You'd think his gigantic size would make him a cinch for goal-line carries.
COOL STAT BRO: He's Boston College's all-time rushing leader with 4,382 yards in 35 games.
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Jeremy Hill's rookie year (1,339 total yards, nine touchdowns), but that's if he can overcome the timeshare situation like Hill did.
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Mark Ingram's rookie year (474 total yards, five touchdowns), a likely result if he can't get a grip on a lot of touches.
DRAFT HIM: Round 11 in any seasonal format. He could go a round or two higher in long-term leagues. He'll be a mid-Round 2 choice in rookie-only drafts.
INSURANCE? If you take Jones early, you should match him with Dillon since it seems unlikely Jamaal Williams would be that guy.
STRENGTHS: Breakway speed; good vision and feel for rushing lanes; patient zone-scheme runner; good balance; can also play in the slot thanks to refined hands and routes.
WEAKNESSES: Small body, a total 180 of Henry; not a powerful back; may struggle mightily in pass protection.
EXPECTED ROLE: Change-of-pace speedster and likely lead back in a committee in the event of a Henry injury. Also should return kicks.
COOL STAT BRO: Had 31 total touchdowns in his last 27 games at Applachian State.
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Matt Breida's part-time rookie year (645 total yards, three touchdowns).
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Just a backup and special-teams contributor.
DRAFT HIM: Round 12-plus in any seasonal redraft, maybe a round or two higher in Dynasty/keeper leagues. He'll figure to fall into Round 3 in rookie-only drafts.
INSURANCE? He's the best insurance out there for Henry.
STRENGTHS: Strong, physical runner with tackle-breaking ability; good balance; capable pass catcher;
WEAKNESSES: Not overly elusive; inconsistent second gear, will get caught from behind; suspect vision; might be more of a run-through-you than juke-around-you runner; work-in-progress blocker.
COOL STAT BRO: He had 15 carries for 105 yards in the 2020 Senior Bowl, a better rushing total than in all but four of his 2019 games.
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Ekeler's rookie year (539 total yards, five touchdowns), albeit that would come in a very different way than Ekeler compiled.
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Zilch if Jackson beats him for the backup gig.
DRAFT HIM: Late-round pick in all seasonal formats. Same in Dynasty/keeper start-ups. Late Round 2 or early Round 3 choice in rookie-only drafts.
INSURANCE? As of now, he's the insurance for Ekeler.
STRENGTHS: Shades of Kamara and Cook in his game thanks to his shifty running and tackle shedding; best suited for a one-cut zone scheme; great vision; keeps his feet moving; very good speed to outside edges and in open spaces; good lateral agility; willing pass blocker, wasn't bad at it.
WEAKNESSES: Inconsistent power; not special when running between the tackles; small hands; four fumbles over 239 college carries.
COOL STAT BRO: Had three games with 20-plus carries in college and ran for 298, 210 and 132 yards in those games.
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: He wouldn't be unlocked unless Conner missed time. In that case he could rack up as many as 70 total yards per game.
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Several weeks with zero rushing yards.
DRAFT HIM: He's late-round material in seasonal leagues but is worth a Round 12 choice in Dynasty/keeper leagues. Has some top-30 appeal in rookie-only drafts.
INSURANCE? He's good, but he might not even be the best backup running back behind Conner — that would be Snell.
STRENGTHS: Good tackle breaker and evader; good size; solid pass-catcher and blocker.
WEAKNESSES: Very solid in a number of areas but not special in any specific one; iffy vision; not a speedster; disappointing power; began training camp on reserve/COVID-19 list.
EXPECTED ROLE: Figures to be a backup who could replace any of the running backs ahead of him on the depth chart with a defined role.
COOL STAT BRO: He ran for back-to-back 1,300-total-yard, 10-score seasons at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt! That's hard to do when they're among the worst SEC teams!
HIGH-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Royce Freeman's rookie year (593 total yards, five scores).
LOW-END 2020 POTENTIAL: Bupkis because he could be on the bench for a while.
DRAFT HIM: Late-round pick in all seasonal leagues, a Round 9 or 10 pick in Dynasty/keeper start-ups, and a Round 2 or early Round 3 add in rookie-only drafts.
INSURANCE? Potentially the best backup to Ronald Jones.
So what Fantasy football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which WR1 candidate can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get cheat sheets from the model that was all over Derrick Henry's huge season, and find out.