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2019 Fantasy Football Recap: Top 25 running backs

A brief summary of the top fantasy running backs of 2019

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Welcome to the second part of my end of season fantasy review. I’ve taken some time since the end of the regular season to dig into the top-25 fantasy players by position to understand why they finished as high as they did, what we can learn for 2020 and any advice for use in the off-season in your dynasty leagues. I’ve also had a look into those players we drafted in the top-25 by position, but who under-performed for your fantasy team and whether there’s anything we can learn from those players for next season. This recap is as much for me as it is for you dear readers and will help to jog my memory come draft time in 2020.

2019 saw a whopping 16 players break the 1,000-yard rushing yard mark, with Lamar Jackson being the one non-running back. This is up from 9 in each of the previous 2 seasons. Otherwise the total running back rushing stats were pretty level with 2018, with total rushing yards less than 1% up year on year and rushing touchdowns down by just 2 (352 vs 354 in 2018).

What we did see was one of the truly exceptional fantasy seasons from Christian McCaffrey, who finished with 471.2 fantasy points, an incredible 150 fantasy points more than the next highest scoring running back. He was just the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season, and jointly led the league with 19 total touchdowns. And all this without Cam Newton who went out after Week 2.

1. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers — 2019 ADP: RB2

Not much to say here other than McCaffrey posted one of the top fantasy seasons of all time and will be the consensus number one pick in 2020.

2. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers — 2019 ADP: RB15

Jones jointly led the NFL in touchdowns with McCaffrey with 19 and yet felt under utilised in the passing game, despite seeing a career high 68 targets. Feels like touchdown regression is coming his way in 2020.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys — 2019 ADP: RB4

You got what you drafted with Elliot in 2019. a stud runner with only one game where he underperformed. Super high floor and should be the same again in 2020.

4. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers — 2019 ADP: RB27

Got off to a flying start with Melvin Gordon’s self-imposed absence and didn’t look back. With Gordon almost certainly gone in 2020, will Ekeler be a priority to resign after a breakout year as his 2019 performance likely makes him a late first round pick in 2020?

5. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans — 2019 ADP: RB19

The league’s leading rusher smashed it down the fantasy stretch with 5 straight 20+ point games. Just 18 receptions means he will get overdrafted in 2020 due to likely touchdown regression.

6. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings — 2019 ADP: RB10

Injury curtailed what was set to be a top 3 fantasy season. No great shakes in the passing game and no receiving touchdowns but he will be a top 5 pick in 2020.

7. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars — 2019 ADP: RB12

Was all of the Jags offense taking 48% of the total touches and 70% of the rushes. Saw an incredible 100 targets in the passing game too! With the coaching staff returning for 2020, he’ll surely be on track for 300+ touches again.

8. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns — 2019 ADP: RB8

The second leading rusher but a non-factor in the passing game, especially once Kareem Hunt became available. With Hunt likely to leave in free agency, can the Browns dial up Chubb’s all-round role?

9. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints — 2019 ADP: RB3

What to make of Kamara this season? He seemed to lose his touch in the red zone the ability to make people miss in space like his first 2 years. Drafted as the RB3, he was still very productive and will hope for some positive TD regression next season after dropping from 14 to 5 this year.

10. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants — 2019 ADP: RB1

Plagued by a high ankle sprain in his second season, he still finished 7th in points per game and if you were lucky enough to make the playoffs, he was a league winner in Weeks 15 and 16 with 74.2 points over those weeks. Will still be a top 2 pick in 2020.

11. Mark Ingram II, Baltimore Ravens — 2019 ADP: RB22

Ingram thrived in the most prolific running attack the NFL has ever seen and his 15 total touchdowns were the most of his career. In a world of disappointing free agent moves, this one hit better than any other in 2019.

12. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks — 2019 ADP: RB16

A solid season for Carson who now has back-to-back 1000-yard rushing seasons. His season ending hip injury in Week 16 is one to watch over the offseason and his 7 fumbles are something he needs to rectify in 2020.

13. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals — 2019 ADP: RB11

Mixon was the standout on a terrible Bengals team this year and though his points per game were only 19th, he truly came into his own down the stretch as he doubled his Week 1-7 average from Week 8 onwards. Buy Mixon in Dynasty for 2020 with Joe Burrow likely on the way in the draft.

14. Todd Gurley II, Los Angeles Rams — 2019 ADP: RB9

Will we ever find out whats happening with Todd Gurley? Some absolute stinking weeks early on but finished with 6 touchdowns over his last 4 weeks where he looked much more like his old self. Malcom Brown stole some goal-line TDs but Gurley was still the main man. An enigma ahead of the 2020 season.

15. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles — 2019 ADP: RB29

The top scoring rookie back who repsonded well to taking a full load over the final few weeks, including 60 points across Weeks 15 and 16. I thought he’d be the starter sooner this season but should be locked in for 2020.

16. Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets — 2019 ADP: RB6

Oh dear, this isn’t what we thought we’d be getting from Bell this season after a year off. Poor offensive line play didn’t help but he just didn’t look like his former self. Just 50 catches and 4 total touchdowns this season means he could find himself out of New York after just a year. I had him pegged for 300+ touches but it just never happened. I’ll be swerving on him in 2020 unless something major changes.

17. Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals — 2019 ADP: RB32

So he can play then? After languishing in Miami and the league’s worst rushing offense, the trade to Arizona unleased the beast in him. He relegated David Johnson to a minor role and absolutely smashed the fantasy playoffs with 6 touchdowns and 73 fantasy points across Weeks 15 and 16. Will definitely be over drafted in 2020 but there looks to be some upside in an improving offense if they look to extend him.

18. James White, New England Patriots — 2019 ADP: RB28

A solid year for White who could have pushed for career numbers if it weren’t for (rightfully) taking a personal absence for the birth of his child. His usage did drop from Week 11 except for a big game against the Texans in Week 13 (177 total yards, 2 TDs) so his outlook for 2020 is typically uncertain when considering a Patriots backfield. That 5 catch floor is always enticing though as a mid-round pickup.

19. Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos — 2019 ADP: RB25

A nice 1000-yard season from Lindsay who was much more in a time share with Royce Freeman (RB36) this season. Freeman was favoured slightly in the passing game and into 2020 there’s no reason to think that will change, depsite Lindsay clearly being the better runner.

20. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons — 2019 ADP: RB18

I was hopeful for more from Freeman as he returned to the Falcons starting role but got off to a slow start and again missed time through injury in the middle of the season. Some better performances through the final few weeks but essentially finished where he was drafted.

21. Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders — 2019 ADP: RB17

A solid rookie campaign and but for a serious shoulder injury, we would have been a favorite for offensive rookie of the year. Finished in the top-15 in points per game so justified his 3rd round draft stock. I’ll have no hesitation to look at him in the second round in 2020.

22. Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts — 2019 ADP: RB21

Without the hand injury suffered in Week 11, Mack was on track to overperform his draft stock this year. He remains a non-factor in the passing game so his floor and ceiling are lowered somewhat. A perfect RB2 with RB1 upside.

23. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers — 2019 ADP: RB24

After returning from his holdout in Week 5, Gordon took a few weeks to get going as Austin Ekeler was playing so well. Bar a poor Week 15, Gordon was a solid start over the second half of the season. The major question for 2020 is where he lands as all indications are his future lies away from the Chargers. The talent is there but it depends on the landing spot.

24. David Montgomery, Chicago Bears — 2019 ADP: RB20

A very mixed and slightly disappointing rookie season where Montgomery’s usage varied massively by week. His second half of the season failed to deliver as he averaged just 8.6 PPG vs 12.2 PPG over the first half so his arrow will be pointing down heading into 2020. A possible buy low candidate for dynasty leagues.

25. Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 2019 ADP: RB52

A hugely improved second season for Jones who was by far the better runner in Tampa but just didn’t seem to get enough touches. If the Bucs ever committed to Jones as the lead back, then he could easily break into the top 15 in 2020.

Top 25 Running Back Draft Busts

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers — 2019 ADP: RB5

Conner was exactly who you drafted through the first 8 weeks of the season, averaging 17.5 points per game. However shoulder and quad injuries curtailed his season. Health a major factor but talent is there to justify an early second round pick.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals — 2019 ADP: RB7

Ankle and back injuries kept Johnson out for multiple weeks and he eventually lost his job to Kenyan Drake. Johnson was averaging over 20 points per game through the first 6 weeks so the explosiveness is still there but with a high salary cap charge in 2020, he may end up being traded before the new season.

Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs — 2019 ADP: RB13

Hands up if you saw this one coming? I always felt his ADP was way too high for the limited game time we’d seen and then the Chiefs signed Lesean McCoy just before the season opener and immediately split carries. Injuries also made Williams miss 5 games and his ADP will tumble heading into 2020. I’m avoiding again next seasonunless something major changes.