Chris Carson Fantasy Outlook & Value 2020

 

The Seahawks have made a clear commitment to their run game, ranking in the top three for rush attempts per game after finishing 21st in 2017. Seattle’s 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny was expected to be the beneficiary of this shift in approach. Still, it has been to Chris Carson’s benefit – the veteran back has finished as a top-15 running back in PPR scoring each of the past two seasons. After Carlos Hyde was added to the backfield this season, should we expect Carson to maintain that elite standing for fantasy football production?

2019 Recap

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
1,2307372662232.615.5

Chris Carson dominated the Seahawks’ backfield in 2019, ranking 5th in the NFL in rush attempts and playing on 65% of the team’s snaps. He was slightly more improved with 37 receptions after 20 the year prior, but he doesn’t profile as a CMC/Kamara/Ekeler-type pass-catcher out of the backfield – that limits his fantasy upside. Carson also had 41 red-zone rushing attempts – no other player on the team had more than 8.

2020 Projections

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
1,030.5632.1243.91201.512.6

I’m pretty disappointed with how my numbers project out for Chris Carson – I owned him everywhere in 2019. After the Seahawks drafted Deejay Dallas and added Carlos Hyde in free agency, though, I can’t see Carson getting the same volume of touches as last season. He was never the type of running back who dominated in the passing game, so he relied on a high amount of touches, which may not be there in 2020. These numbers make him my RB19 in my season-long projections, and while he may not have the same upside in volume as the past couple of seasons, he should still be excellent.

ADP/Auction Value

ADP: 29.5, RB13

Auction Value: $22

Chris Carson was one of my favorite draft values last season as an eventual RB1 who was drafted well after the top-ten at his position. However, as the 13th running back off the board, he’s now become a guy who I think is way overvalued. Carson is being drafted ahead of guys like Todd Gurley, Kenyan Drake, Miles Sanders, and LeVeon Bell, all of whom I would easily take before him. With added competition for touches in the backfield, I don’t see it as particularly likely that Carson returns an excellent value on his current ADP. However, public perception of Carson will likely take a hit over the next couple of months, and I expect his ADP to fall.

Floor

While the Seahawks did add a couple of running backs to compete with Carson for touches this year, I still see him as the clear lead guy as long as he can stay healthy. Carlos Hyde is going to turn 30 in September, and while he rushed for over 1,000 yards on the Texans last season, he’s not a high-level player at this point in his career. Rashaad Penny could be kept out for a while with his ACL injury and is expected to start the season on the PUP list. As long as Carson stays healthy, there’s no way he gets fewer than 200 rushing attempts, and with his career yards-per-carry at 4.5, I would be pretty surprised if he gets under 1,000 rushing yards. However, without an established role in the receiving game, his floor is likely closer to a top-30 RB.

Ceiling

Carson is a volume-dependent fantasy player, and his upside is directly tied to how many carries he gets this year. His 16-game pace of last season was 297 carries and 40 catches, and a few things would need to break his way for him to reach that volume again. Rashaad Penny is expected to be back by Week 6, but if he undergoes some complications in his hopeful return from the ACL injury, he could be kept out for longer than that. I have Penny down for about 90 total touches at the moment, but it’s hard to predict when he’ll be back. There’s a chance Carlos Hyde isn’t on the roster for the entirety of the season if Penny can come back sooner, although I do expect Deejay Dallas to be somewhat involved as well. Caron’s upside came last season when he had about 60% of the team’s total carries, and while he could reach that mark again, it’s unlikely with the talent added in the backfield.

Seattle Seahawks Offense

Seattle SeahawksThe Seahawks ranked third in the NFL in rush attempts per game last year, although their pass-catching corps came together toward the end of last season. DK Metcalf outperformed everyone’s expectations with 58 catches for 900 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie – he should see an uptick from 100 targets this year. Tyler Lockett was heavily involved yet again with 82 receptions for 1,057 yards and eight touchdowns. The tight end corps also have plenty of talent with Will Dissly playing well last year before his injury, and Greg Olsen added to the roster. Russell Wilson has averaged 33.3 touchdowns over the past three years, and this is the most receiving talent he’s had around him in a couple of years. An improved passing game should open up more running room for Chris Carson and his backfield mates. The Seahawks ranked 9th in points per game last year with 25.3 – that has an excellent chance to be higher this year.

Strength of Schedule

The Seahawks will have to deal with playing the 49ers twice this season whose defense ranked as the 3rd-best in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Luckily, though, the Rams (15th) and Cardinals (21st) are less imposing. The Seahawks do also have to play the Patriots (1st), Eagles (7th), Jets (8th), Falcons (11th), Vikings (12th), and Bills (13th), some top-end defenses against fantasy running backs from last season, but games against the Cowboys (14th), Giants (17th), Dolphins (26th), and Redskins (30th) will help balance out their schedule. Chris Carson is a relatively one-dimensional offensive player, so he’s a bit more dependent on the strength of his opponent in traditional running back defense than some of his peers. As long as Carson is getting 20 carries a game like he was last year, the schedule won’t matter quite as much, but I’m not sure if the volume will be there.

Bottom Line

It hurts my soul to have Chris Carson barely ranked inside my top-20 running backs. He was one of my favorite sleeper candidates each of the past two seasons, and it’s tough to swallow that he just doesn’t have the same upside this year. Carlos Hyde, Deejay Dallas, and the eventual return of Rashaad Penny make it very unlikely he gets the same number of carries as last year (278). As a volume-dependent running back, he should still benefit from the Seahawks who have one of the highest rush rates in football, but Carson is probably better viewed as a low-end RB2, high-end RB3 with weekly touchdown upside this season. His ADP will likely take a hit, though, as the offseason progresses, which probably means he’ll be a solid value in drafts.

  
There are few things I love more in this world than the sweet glory of fantasy football. It's a year round sport and championships are won and lost well before the draft. When I was 15 I put together my first fantasy league and I was hooked for life.

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