Running Back Committees 2020: Fantasy Football Draft Considerations

In the modern NFL, it’s far less likely for teams to utilize a singular running back in their offense. In 2009, the top-ten running backs in total carries had 298.1 carries on average. In 2019, that number dropped to 275.4 on average for the top ten guys with just three players surpassing that top-ten average from 2009. Most teams will now deploy one primary back with additional role-players seeing snaps behind them. Running backs are also far more involved in the passing game now than they were ten years ago, so more running backs are fantasy-relevant around the NFL. Several teams utilize a Running Back by Committee (RBBC) approach, with multiple players seeing significant playing time throughout the season. For the purposes of this article, I’ll be breaking down all of the backfields in which I don’t project any one running back seeing more than 50% of the team’s carries.

San Francisco 49ers

The presumed starter for the Niners heading into this season is Raheem Mostert, although his future with the team is up in the air after his recent trade request. He’s only set to make $2.5 million this season, which is the rate of pay for a special teams player. Although he’s under contract for another two years in San Francisco, he’s demanded a restructuring of his contract and extension with the team. He led the league in yards-per-carry last year and became the starter down the stretch with his highlight coming in a 220-yard, 4-touchdown display against the Packers in the NFC Championship. The Niners traded away Matt Breida this offseason and will hope to work things out with Mostert. Behind him is Tevin Coleman, who had 544 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns in 2019. Jerick McKinnon, who hasn’t stepped on a football field since 2017, is also on the roster and is reportedly healthy. He could end up making a huge impact in the rushing and receiving game for the team. He was particularly dynamic in the receiving game before and I have McKinnon leading the team’s running backs in receptions. Jeff Wilson should also be somewhat involved. Kyle Shanahan’s offenses have always produced strong fantasy value from the running back position, but who it will be this season in San Francisco is very much up in the air.

Raheem Mostert197945.6825.8288.63215.213.5
Tevin Coleman109490.5413.6115.41104.26.5
Jerick McKinnon101444.4433.4343.53154.29.7
Jeff Wilson34142.823.944.1034.62.2

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens had the most productive rushing offense in the NFL last season and compiled the most rushing yardage as a team of all time, a good amount of which was powered by Lamar Jackson, who rushed for 1,206 yards, breaking Michael Vick’s previous record. Elite rushing quarterbacks are always a fantasy boon to their backfield running mates, and that proved true last season as Mark Ingram finished as the RB11 in PPR scoring. The Ravens also drafted, JK Dobbins this offseason, and the former Ohio State product has all kinds of upside in this offense. However, I still expect Ingram to be the starter this season. With Gus Edwards and Justice Hill still in tow, it’s hard to project where the team’s rushing attempts will end up. Mark Ingram is likely to be very productive once again and it’s more likely Dobbins eats into Gus Edwards’s 133 carries from last season than Ingram’s 202. I have Ingram ranked as my RB21 for PPR leagues, and I see that as his absolute baseline so I’m happy to draft him in the 4th round. I don’t hate the seventh-round draft price for Dobbins, but I’m more likely to load up on running backs early and use those middle rounds to take a few wide receivers or a tight end.

Mark Ingram2021007.9829.1211.93217.013.6
JK Dobbins109512.3429.9226.52139.78.8
Gus Edwards69365.724.730.2056.33.5
Justice Hill36151.216.354.9032.92.1

Los Angeles Chargers

After Melvin Gordon departed from the Chargers over the offseason, Austin Ekeler is the presumed starter. However, Ekeler saw his career-high in carries last season with just 132. He may not be built to be a workhorse back and I expect both third-year veteran Justin Jackson and rookie Joshua Kelley to be involved this season. Ekeler will likely be the starter in LA, but Jackson and Kelley could both have some touchdown-dependent flex upside depending on how the situation plays out. Jackson has an impressive career 5.1 yards-per-carry mark and has some explosiveness in his rushing style which makes him a highlight waiting to happen. Kelley is more of a bruiser at the position and could be the leading red-zone guy on the team. Ekeler’s play generates elite efficiency and he’s one of the best-receiving backs in the NFL, so he’s well-worth a second-round pick. Just don’t be surprised if Ekeler isn’t a true workhorse – I have him down for under 200 carries – and one of Jackson or Kelley could end up being surprisingly valuable for fantasy owners.

Austin Ekeler193907.1662.8571.43264.716.6
Justin Jackson96441.6218.9118.6192.95.8
Joshua Kelley76311.628.745.9056.43.6

Washington Redskins

When the Redskins drafted Derrius Guice in the second round in 2018, he was expected to turn into one of the best players at his position in the NFL. However, an ACL tear kept him out of his entire 2018 season in Washington and an MCL strain ended his 2019 season after five games. Guice hopes to be healthy this season and he’ll likely be the team’s starter if he is, but the odds of him recovering from a string of knee issues to turn in a highly productive fantasy season are not high. In his stead last season, Adrian Peterson kept churning out production with 211 carries for 898 yards and 5 touchdowns, but Peterson is now 35 years old and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to keep it going for too much longer. Peyton Barber would likely be the next man up after those two, but I believe rookie Antonio Gibson has higher upside as a WR/RB who could produce in a variety of ways for the Redskins this season. I’m a big proponent of taking a late-round flier on Gibson due to the uncertainty in the backfield ahead of him as well as his talent. I’m staying away from both Guice and Peterson at their current ADP.

Adrian Peterson122524.6412.9107.80100.16.3
Derrius Guice114547.2525.2223.91138.38.7
Peyton Barber53196.119.9315.8042.92.7
Antonio Gibson65279.6227.7315.82111.36.9

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins had the fewest rushing yards of any NFL team last season, and in one of my favorite trivia question answers of the past season, were one of two teams whose quarterback led the team in rushing. Lamar Jackson did it with over 1,200 yards, Ryan Fitzpatrick did it with 243. That should change significantly in 2020, though, as Miami brought in both Jordan Howard and Matt Breida over the offseason. Howard is the more established back with three career 900+ rushing yard seasons under his belt, but he’s never established himself as a true passing-game threat through his time with the Bears and Eagles. Breida was measured as the fastest running back in the NFL last season, has a career 5.0 yards-per-carry rate, and is likely the better pass-catching option. It’s difficult to discern who has more fantasy value between the two players, as Howard’s red-zone potential and Breida’s pass-catching upside will likely make both of them productive this season. I have Howard ranked as my RB28 and Breida as my RB31, but I would likely rather have Breida in the 9th round than Howard in the 7th. Patrick Laird and Kalen Ballage are also on this roster, but I see both guys as part-time players. The Dolphins wouldn’t have brought in Howard and Breida if they didn’t plan to use both of them extensively.

Jordan Howard219919.9915.5120.61179.511.3
Matt Breida121520.3359.9503.22192.312.1
Patrick Laird2789.1114.250.9251.23.2

Denver Broncos

The Broncos‘ leading rusher in 2019 was Phillip Lindsay with 1,011 rushing yards, but the team opted to bring in Melvin Gordon during the offseason. Gordon had a very productive career with the Chargers and finished as a top-ten running back in PPR scoring three straight times from 2016-18. Denver signed Gordon to a two-year contract, suggesting their thought that he will be the starting RB. It’s also worth noting that head coach Vic Fangio was not with the team when Philip Lindsay was drafted (or rather, undrafted). Both players are likely to be involved, but deciphering how the carry count will be split is difficult. If Gordon is at his best, he can fill a three-down role with rushing, receiving, pass-blocking – he can do it all. Lindsay has been awesome in his two years in the NFL, though, with a career 4.9 yards-per-carry mark and two 1,000+ yard rushing seasons. The Broncos have stated their desire to become more of a run-heavy team on multiple occasions to pair with their dominant defense, and Melvin Gordon could be the key to that effort. I currently have Gordon down for 187 carries to Lindsay’s 173 and 40 catches to Lindsay’s 31, but any outcome in the Denver backfield wouldn’t necessarily surprise me. Royce Freeman, the Broncos’ third-round pick in 2018, is pretty much out of the picture now. I currently have Gordon ranked as my RB25 and Lindsay as my RB30. I’d much rather have Lindsay in the 9th round than Gordon in the 3rd.

Melvin Gordon187804.1839.9286.91202.912.7
Phillip Lindsay173830.4730.9210.51183.111.4
Royce Freeman48196.8121.8116.5059.33.7

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts didn’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft, but they wasted little time in taking Jonathan Taylor early in the second round, even trading up to secure him. Taylor was one of the most productive collegiate running backs of all time with 6,174 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons at Wisconsin. He’ll find himself running behind PFF’s top-rated offensive line heading into the 2020 season in Indy, which is a match made in heaven for his physical, downhill rushing style. However, Marlon Mack may be the starter at the beginning of the season after a 1,000-yard campaign in 2019. Mack is a free agent following this season, and there’s little doubt that Taylor is the future of the running back position in Indianapolis, but this may be more of a time-share in Year One. Additionally, Nyheim Hines is a dynamic pass-catcher at the running back position and should see the bulk of the third-down work this season. If Marlon Mack were not in the picture, I would likely buy into Taylor as a first-round pick, but the presence of Mack in the backfield complicates things for this season. I wouldn’t be shocked if Hines ends up the most productive of the bunch for PPR leagues – I have him with 64 catches as Philip Rivers loves to throw to his running backs. There’s a strong chance Taylor breaks out as the season goes on and produces monster numbers over the second half of the season.

Marlon Mack182782.6610.959.20131.28.2
Jonathan Taylor206988.9916.485.31183.811.5
Nyheim Hines53217.3263.4513.73166.510.4

Buffalo Bills

Devin Singletary is going to be listed with Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders as a second-year breakout candidate, but I’m less bullish on the Bills‘ running back than most. Why? I believe that Zack Moss, likely the most underappreciated running back in his class, is going to be a real difference-maker in his rookie season. Moss had a career 5.7 yards-per-carry average at Utah and rushed for 15 touchdowns in 2019. Moss was brought in to replace Frank Gore in the Buffalo offense, who had 166 carries in 2019. I’m not thrilled about Singletary’s current fourth-round draft price as he’s ranked at #29 among my running backs in PPR scoring at the moment. Singletary is going to be a very efficient per-touch player this season, but I’m not sure how many touches he’ll actually end up with. I do have some interest in Zack Moss in the 10th round, though, as I think he has the kind of three-down upside that Singletary doesn’t possess at just 5’7″, 203 lbs. Moss has about 3 inches and 20 pounds on Singletary and is the more physical runner. There’s a strong chance he sees the early-down work and he also had 66 college receptions with a 10.4 yards per reception average, so Moss could end up with more receptions than expected as well. T.J. Yeldon is the third player on the depth chart, and while he’s been somewhat of a productive player in the past, I don’t see him being too involved this season.

Devin Singletary181923.1437.9253.92191.611.9
Zack Moss165792.0627.5197.81168.510.5
T.J. Yeldon1868.4012.5118.7137.22.3

Detroit Lions

Detroit head coach Matt Patricia has spoken to his desire to use multiple running backs this season, an approach he watched work wonders when he was the defensive coordinator for the Patriots. Beyond D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson, the Lions also have Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, and Wes Hills on the roster. Scarbrough started a handful of games last season in place of Kerryon Johnson, and ended the year with 89 carries for 377 yards and a touchdown, although he wasn’t involved in the receiving game at all. Ty Johnson took on that role, ending last season with 24 receptions for 109 yards. However, D’Andre Swift is by far the highest-upside player of the bunch, which is reflected in his lofty 5th-round ADP. Swift was a stud at Georgia with a 6.6 yards-per-carry average, and he also flashed high-level receiving ability. However, the presence of Kerryon Johnson could hamper any kind of elite fantasy scoring from Swift. Johnson missed eight games in 2019 after missing six games in his rookie season, but he’s still a talented player, and not having to handle the full starting workload should keep him from being injured. It’s been a while since the Lions have had a high-end rushing offense, but that could change this season. I’m bullish on Swift’s long-term potential and he certainly has some solid upside for this season, but I’m staying away from both Swift and Johnson at their current ADPs.

Kerryon Johnson158711419.1154.71135.78.5
D'Andre Swift143729.3443.6400.92192.612.1
Bo Scarbrough52213.215.932.1036.52.3
Ty Johnson34139.4112.981.8041.12.6

Tampa Bay Buccaneers


The Buccaneers had perhaps the biggest offseason for any team in recent memory with the free-agency addition of the 6-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady. Tampa already had the 3rd-highest-scoring offense in 2019, but Brady will be a major boon to the team’s overall efficiency. Ronald Jones was the team’s leading rusher last season with 724 yards on the ground, but he and Peyton Barber did not get it done as the team finished with the eighth-fewest rushing yards in the NFL. The Bucs drafted Ke’Shawn Vaughn out of Vanderbilt in the third round, who is perhaps the most underrated rookie running back in his class. Vaughn is coming off two straight 1,000+ yard seasons at Vanderbilt after a slow start to his collegiate career at Illinois. In two seasons as the starter at Vanderbilt, he had 21 rushing touchdowns. Interestingly enough, Vaughn is older than Jones. Ronald Jones will likely begin the season as the starter, but he was drafted by a prior regime in Tampa and he was given a short leash by Arians last year due to his issues with pass-blocking and receiving. If he’s unable to fix those issues, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Vaughn end up being the lead guy. Those roles are even more important now with Brady on the team, a player who has historically utilized his running backs in the passing game. Both Vaughn and Jones are likely to be involved this season and have significant fantasy upside. I’m giving Vaughn the slight edge at the moment, but I would consider drafting either at their current ADP. Dare Ogunbowale rounds out the Bucs’ running back depth chart, but he isn’t expected to be significantly involved beyond taking some receiving work away from Vaughn and Jones. I currently have Vaughn ranked as my RB26 and Jones as my RB30 in PPR leagues – if either guy establishes a foothold on the backfield work, they would be a highly valuable fantasy asset.

Ronald Jones186781.2634.2297.41184.111.5
Ke'Shawn Vaughn188808.4638.3337.21194.912.2
Dare Ogunbowale36190.8123.7187.2067.54.2

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams‘ former starting running back Todd Gurley went from a unanimous first overall pick in fantasy to a cap casualty this offseason as he was cut. The Rams drafted Cam Akers in the second round to help replace that lost production, but Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown are likely to be involved as well. The 2nd-round draft capital invested in Akers suggests the team would like him to become the starter in short order. His production last season at Florida State was incredibly impressive, especially on an offense with little in the way of talent around him – he rushed for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns behind a terrible offensive line. He’ll be running behind a similarly challenged offensive line in Los Angeles, but I believe he has an immense upside for this season. However, the downside is real as well with the possibility for a three-headed monster that frustrates fantasy owners all year long. Malcolm Brown is entering his sixth season in the NFL and has never had more than 70 carries in a season, so I don’t see him as a real threat to earn significant work this season. His career 3.9 yards-per-carry is pretty uninspiring. Darrell Henderson was hyped up by the fantasy football community heading into last season, but his potential never came to fruition as Todd Gurley stayed relatively healthy. However, the team used a third-round pick on him just last season and I doubt the team will give up on him after one year. Fantasy players who draft Akers hoping he will see the same level of work as Gurley did could be disappointed by the continued involvement of Henderson, particularly in the passing game. If there’s one guy among these three who I think could become the workhorse, it’s definitely Akers, but I’m wary of drafting him in the fifth round, which is where he’s currently going off the board.

I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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