Hot-To-Not – Fantasy Running Backs

Up first it’s Running Backs. Probably the most important position in fantasy so you need to make sure you get this position right in your fantasy draft.

In this article, I will be looking at players who were Hot in fantasy in the 2019 season and will not be in the upcoming 2020 fantasy season.

Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers

With Jones coming off a great fantasy season with GB, most people wouldn’t think he would be top of the list in an article labelled Hot-to-Not. Finishing as the RB2 overall with 290 (half ppr) points is great. However, with his ECR – Expert consensus ranking on is a cumulative ranking of over 45 Fantasy Football Analysts. They average out the number of analysts who rank the players and this gives you ECR. Being 9 overall that’s a little too rich for me. I’m not saying he will be irrelevant in fantasy in 2020 but he won’t live up to his current RB7 price tag.

In 2019 Jones had 236 rushing attempts for 1084 yards and 16 rushing TD’s. He had 19 total TD’s putting him joint top of the leaderboard with C.McCaffrey. With the Packers adding a new head coach last year who liked to run the ball a lot in Tennessee. Rushing the ball more when in the red zone made a lot more sense. Jones scored 14 out of his 16 TD’s when in the red zone.

In previous years the Packers have been one of the highest teams with their percentage of throwing to rushing attempts whilst in the red zone. With Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur now having spent a full year together. Another training camp this spring also. I can see them going back to being a high percentage team of throwing the ball when in the red zone. After all, it’s in the packers DNA.

Crowded Backfield 

Now on to Jamal Williams. In 2019 he was just as productive as Jones, barring rushing TDs. When given his chance he had 107 carries for 460 yards and one rushing touchdown. He seemed to be playing most of the season with niggling injuries. So when healthy it should mean even more playing time. Williams had a better catch rate than Jones (86% to 72%). Which makes me think that he could become the 3rd down back for the packers in 2020. He also had more receiving TD’s (5). Not only is Williams a worry for Jones but the Packers head coach went on record to say so. He said ‘ideally the team would add a third body to the backfield’.

Now onto the last problem for Jones. Davante Adams. Adams is an elite Wide Receiver and had a poor outing in 2019. He only scored 5 TD’s, his lowest total by 50% since the 2015 season. He did miss 4 games out with injury which didn’t help. With Rodgers not trusting in any other Wide Receiver on the Packers roster that could be another reason for them relying heavily on the run game.

Jones’s TD’s should regress in the 2020 season. Only 2 players (Todd Gurley & Marshawn Lynch) have only bettered the seasons before total rushing TD’s when finishing top of the leaderboard in over 15 years. With Williams already there and potentially another body in the backfield this bodes badly for Jones. Couple this with D.Adams playing a full season and the Packers throwing the ball more in the red zone. Don’t get me wrong I would grab him late 3rd/ early 4th round of drafts. I think he will finish in the late RB2 tier early RB3 tier. Pair him with a bell cow Running Back, a stud Wide Receiver and one of the top 3 Tight Ends. Then you’ll have yourself a playoff-bound team. But I would be very wary of having Jones as your Running Back 1.

Austin Ekeler – Los Angeles Chargers

Ekeler, like A.Jones, is another Running Back coming off an exceptional Fantasy season. He finished as the RB6 with 263 (half PPR) points. His ECR is 18 and is the RB11 off the board. Even though he has never rushed more than 132 times in a season. This would make him your RB1 on your fantasy team should you take a stud Wide Receiver with a late 1st round pick. So to put that into perspective you’re taking Ekeler as your top fantasy back. Yet last season he had less rushing attempts and rushing yards than Gus Edwards! For me, it’s a big NO.

In 2019 Ekeler rushed 132 times for 557 yards and 3 TDs. That’s a pretty poor outing for a top 12 Running Back. It was his receiving talent that got him out of trouble with fantasy owners. He had 92 receptions for 993 yards and 8 TDs. That by anybody’s standard is phenomenal. But when the L.A. Chargers head coach spoke at the combine, it put doubt to all those who said Ekeler will be the guy in L.A. Anthony Lynn said “when we started him (Ekeler), we couldn’t use him as a receiver… We need a guy with him”. Whether that be Justin Jackson, who Lynn also stated has better instincts, they draft a Running Back in April or add someone in free agency. It will not be Ekeler’s backfield.

With Ekeler being 5’10” and 200lbs that makes him a much smaller back than most. Since the 2015 season, only 2 other Running Backs have finished in the top 12 Running Backs (fantasy half PPR scoring) being the same size or smaller. That’s Danny Woodhead (5’8″-200lbs) and Phillip Lindsay (5’8″-190lbs). Who was the QB for Woodhead? You guessed it. Philip Rivers! So unless your QB is Rivers, only 1 other Running Back has finished in the RB1 tier in the last 5 seasons when being a smaller back.

The Quarterback issue

Onto the QB situation in L.A. With Rivers moving on from the Chargers to the Colts, not many realise what he does for fantasy Running Backs. In the last 4 seasons, only Brady (28%) and Brees (28%) have targeted their Running Backs more than Rivers (27%). Last season Rivers was top of the charts by 3% when targeting the Running Back position. Since 2006 Rivers has had a top 12 Running Back fantasy-wise 10 out of the 14 seasons. So putting in a Rookie QB or going with Tyrod Taylor, there’s going to be a decline in targets for Ekeler. So, therefore, lack of production.

Let’s say the Chargers do what they say they will and go with Taylor at QB. This for me is bad news for Ekeler. The 3 seasons Taylor started at QB in Buffalo he targeted Running Backs significantly less than Rivers did. Taylor is more mobile than Rivers which usually benefits Running Backs. As it helps to open up space for the Running Back but wait. It seems it only benefits the rushing side, not the pass-catching side which is what Ekeler is all about. Recent research from (see link below) shows that the more mobile the QB (Lamar Jackson) the fewer targets for Running Backs in the passing game. With the least-mobile QB (Philip Rivers) targeting Running Backs most.

Now just like Aaron Jones, Ekeler will be fantasy relevant in the 2020 season. Just like Jones again, it will be perfect to pair him with one of the bell cow Backs like Elliott or Barkley. Ekeler will easily finish the fantasy season in the high-end RB 3 tier. If the Chargers decide not to draft a Running Back, but I think they will, then it will undoubtedly boost his rushing totals. Therefore he will finish in the RB2 tier. But then no doubt that his ECR and ADP (average draft position) will increase. So Ekeler is a fade for me unless he falls into the 4th round of drafts. Then, and only then, I might think about grabbing him.

Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks

For my third and final Running Back, I’m going for another who finished top 12 in the 2019 final fantasy standings. Carson put up great rushing numbers and only played 15 games. He had 278 rushing attempts for 1230 yards and 7 TDs. His receiving is what lets him down as he’s not a passing catching back. Carson had 37 receptions for 266 yards and 2 TDs. This is what limits him in half PPR and full PPR leagues. He finished as the RB11 in half-point PPR 2019 fantasy standings. His ECR is the RB16 and whilst this is lower than Jones and Ekeler, I think Carson is going to break fantasy players hearts the most.

Let’s start things off by talking about his injuries. Carson missed the last few games last year with a fractured hip. Although Pete Carroll said “he doesn’t need surgery” he did say “it’s extensive”. The Seahawks have said he should be ready for the start of the season. I just wouldn’t want to take the risk at his current price. Because who knows how he is going to return, or if there are any setbacks. In the last 5 years, Carson has had a torn ACL, broken thumb, sprained ankle, broken ankle and a fractured hip. His injuries are a major concern for any Fantasy Football owner. He might not even be ready for the start of the season!

Now moving on to his competition. Penny. Penny, in my opinion, is more than capable to be a true 3 down back. He was drafted in the 1st round of the 2018 draft. So the Seahawks obviously think a lot of him to take him so high. Penny rushed 65 times for 370 yards and 3 TD’s in 2019. So let’s say Carson and Penny split the workload last year (171 attempts each). That would give Penny over 950 yards and at least 7 TD’s (based on giving Penny 2.6x more attempts). The two games Penny had 14 rushing attempts or more in 2019 he put up great numbers. Finishing as the RB8 and RB3. Now the big worry for Penny is at the end of last season he tore his ACL. Which leads me to my next point.

Depth Needed

The Seahawks found out the hard way last season with a lack of depth at Running Back. It came back to hurt them for the play-play-offs. With that being said I think it’s a no brainer that they either pick someone up in free agency or draft a Running Back. Carroll stated at the combine when asked about the Running Back situation that they “have to make sure they have enough depth”. With Carson questionable to be ready for the start of the season and Penny being a possibility for the PUP list. There will no doubt be added competition for them both come the start of the 2020 season.

Another issue with Carson is his fumbles. Last year he fumbled the ball 7 times. Which was the highest by any player other than a QB. He fumbled four times in 3 games in week 9,10,12 (week 11 bye). This led to him being benched and replaced by Penny. Seattle ran the ball the 3rd most in 2019. They have always been a run-heavy team, but with the defence a lot weaker for 2020 I can see these numbers decreasing. Lastly, Seattle faced the 11th easiest strength-of-schedule for Running Backs. That’s according to FantasyPros’ strength of schedule.

I think Carson could fall off the fantasy charts in 2020. With his fumbling issues and Penny lurking, it spells trouble for Carson. I would take him as an RB4 in fantasy drafts but his high RB2 price tag is a no go. Depending on his injury he could fall to an early RB3. Just be careful when taking a player who’s fallen because of injury. As there’s a very good reason for this! With potentially a new Running Back being added in the draft and when Penny fully recovers from his injury. This could see Carson fall to third on the depth chart. So for me, Carson is definitely a Hot-To-Not guy for 2020.

I hope you enjoyed my first article Rush Nation! Look out for more in the coming months.

-Josh P @5yardrush

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