Step up Sophomore – The RB Edition

A player’s second season, also known as their sophomore year can be a tricky time. Get it right and you are more likely to stick around in the league a little longer.

In this piece, I look at 3 RBs who have just finished their rookie season and will be looking to do just that. In the systems they are in, stepping up is what’s needed. Knowing this could help you find some fantasy help during your drafts or at least some sleepers to keep an eye on.

Darrell Henderson – Los Angeles Rams.

Henderson’s rookie season wasn’t all that was hoped for but then again, neither was the Rams season. His stats were not dazzling, rushing only 39 times for 147 yards with 0 TDs.

Henderson was hoping that with all the speculation about Gurley and his potential injury before the 2019 season, he might get his shot to become the main man in the Rams backfield. Unfortunately for Henderson, Gurley was still there as the Rams main RB. Picking up 1064 total scrimmage yards and 14 total TDs.

Step up for 2020

Just in case anyone missed the Rams news this off-season, Gurley is no longer with the franchise and is now heading up the backfield over at the Falcons. This opens up a huge hole to fill in the Rams offence.

Unfortunately, the Rams decided to use their 2nd round pick on a good RB named Cam Akers. Don’t give up hope on Henderson just yet.

Henderson still has everything to be that guy. You just need to look at his college stats to see he can ball.
Sophomore year, 2017- 130 attempts, 1154 yards averaging 8.9 yards per attempt and 9 TDs.
Junior year, 2018- 214 attempts, 1909 yards averaging 8.9 yards per attempt getting a huge 22 TDs.

Add Henderson’s receptions onto his 2018 season totals and he went 2204 yards averaging a massive 9.5 yards every time he touched the ball. Even Gurley’s best season with the Rams only saw him average 6.1 yards every time he touched the ball.

Now that Gurley has gone, those scrimmage touches need to be taken by someone and Henderson has all the production to step up and fill the big shoes left by Gurley.

On top of that, the Rams traded two 3rd round picks to move up to 70th overall to go get Henderson in the 3rd round. The LA Rams obviously like him a lot and will want to get back what they paid by utilising his ability.

ADP steal!

There has been word that the Rams want to use more than one workhorse back. So yes, Akers was drafted but Henderson would still get work and he will be trying to prove his worth to the Rams. Meaning this would bring some value.

Especially when you look at his ADP. Right now he’s going off the board as the 100th pick overall and the 36th running back. With the massive potential that comes with Henderson and the fact that he can fight to be the lead back is a great value.

David Montgomery – Chicago Bears

2019 held so much promise. The hype train was running at full steam before the season started and as a rookie, Montgomery had an ADP of 38th which was the rb20. We expected him to take over the No1 RB slot in Chicago after the Bears traded away Jordan Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Technically he was seen as the No1 but was nowhere near as prolific as we had projected. Montgomery finished the season with 889 rushing yards and 185 receiving yards giving him a total of 1074 total scrimmage yards. Not a bad total for his first season in the NFL but that offence was held back by a troubled season at the QB position.

DM tallied 6 rushing TDs and 1 receiving TD this season but his stats didn’t live up to the hype. With a questionable QB running things behind centre, Montgomery wasn’t finding it easy to get moving. Only bagging 496 yards before contact averaging only 2 yards per attempt. He managed the rest of his yardage, 393 yards, after contact averaging 1.6 per attempt.

College production.

Montgomery has proven that he can ball. In college, he produced some good numbers, but the one stat line that makes me believe that he has the ability for us to want him is the Yards after contact stat.

Just compare his stats to Josh Jacobs and Devin Singletary. Both enjoyed a nice rookie season in 2019

Jacobs in college went for 1491 yards. Of those he had 1032 yards after contact, giving him a ratio YAC of 68.2%. Good stats that transferred to the NFL.

Singletary in college went crazy with 4287 yards. Of those he had 2885 yards after contact, giving him a ratio YAC of 67.3%

Montgomery in college went for 2925 yards. Of those he had 2176 yards after contact, giving him a better YAC ratio than both players above at 74.4%

The NFL D-line will always be on you fast. So being able to create yards after contact is a massive plus to have.

2020 hope.

As things stand, Montgomery’s ADP for 2020 is the 58th pick overall as the RB20. A high-end RB 3 or A low-end RB 2, depending on drafts. Not a bad price for the potential volume he may get this season. This is where things get more enticing.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace has already spoken about Montgomery being the teams featured running back and collecting a heavier load in 2020. He has shown last season that when given the heavier load, his production rises.

In week 8, he had 27 attempts and got his first 100-yard game finishing on 135 yards and a TD. Then in week 17 against a Vikings team that needed a win for the playoffs, he was handed the ball 23 times to get his second 100-yard game with a TD. (I get fantasy doesn’t play week 17 but for this purpose, it’s showing how volume is key for Montgomery)

Qb is key

Free agency had many people chatting about the QB position at the Bears. The talk varied. Do they keep Mitch Trubisky and they stay as it is? Do they bring in a veteran to help Montgomery progress, but also compete for the job and put the pressure on?

The Bears went with the latter. Trading for Nick Foles from Jacksonville. As things stand the QB position is open and both QBs will compete for the starters job.

No matter what the plan is, it has to be better than last year. Better QB play contributes to the RB having a better chance and as they have already mentioned Montgomery’s volume, 2020 looks brighter for DM.

What about Cohen?

Yes, Tarik Cohen can eat into Montgomery’s volume but looking at the stats I don’t think we have much of an issue. Last season neither performed well and out of the two, Montgomery got the work.

Cohen didn’t get a rushing TD and only picked up 3 receiving TDs. If anything Montgomery started to eat into Cohen’s role by being targeted 35 times as a receiver and getting a receiving TD himself.

2019 was a mess for the Bears and with another offseason to work together and build the team, things can only improve.

Miles Sanders – Philadelphia Eagles

The rookie season for Sanders wasn’t bad at all. In fact, the only thing that was disappointing was picking up only 3 rushing TDs. In fairness, he did pick up 3 receiving too so it wasn’t really that bad.

One big factor was having to share the backfield with Jordan Howard. Howard was on the field for 280 snaps before he was injured in week 9 and was taking the majority of the workload.

Before week 9, Sanders was in single figure rushing attempts for most game weeks bar a couple that just hit 10 or 11. Once Howard went down, that workload then shot right up into double figures every week, almost doubling his workload.

Step up for 2020.

Two big things have gone in Sanders’ favour. Jordan Howard was a free agent and left for Miami opening up the snap count for Sanders to dominate.
On top of that, the Eagles didn’t draft an RB which gives us a clear indication that they are very happy with Sanders being their guy.

Now that Sanders has a green light he can push on from 2019 and take a big step into a top RB in his Sophomore year. His stats were pretty good to say he was sharing the backfield with Howard for half the season.

He had a steady 179 rush attempts for 818 yards giving him a healthy 4.6 yards per attempt. This can only go up with the volume increase. You get a nice bonus with Sanders too. He can catch!
In 2019, the ball was thrown to him 63 times. He caught 50 of those for 509 yards giving him a nice average of 10.2 yards per catch.

ADP price tag.

Because Sanders had a good 2019 and his volume will increase, his ADP is already high. Right now his ADP is the 22nd pick off the board and going as the RB 13. Turn that into your advantage though.

Picking up a RB in the late second early 3rd round that will give you high volume rushing with an added bonus of great production from receptions too is a win in my eyes.

So there you have it Rush nation. 3 sophomore RBs that need to step up in 2020. Knowing this could help you find a gem in your fantasy league.

As always, Keep Rushing

Pittsy – @PittsyNFL

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