Moderation is always the key. It's as true in fantasy football as it is with Fireball Whisky. You never want to overindulge. I mention this because the Zero RB draft strategy was all the rage with you kids just a few years ago. But people have taken it a little too far. And I'll even admit that I lean toward Zero RB (not drafting a running back in the first six rounds of your fantasy draft), but I'm not a full-blown disciple of it by any means. Moderation. Always the key.
Last year, we used the third round for values like Aaron Jones, Chris Carson and some others. Maybe Derrick Henry slipped in your home leagues. And it worked out pretty well. Especially when gems like Raheem Mostert presented themselves. I would like to use this time right now to give you some of the best, worst and sleeper running back values for 2020. I will say, if you land a top-four pick in fantasy this year, you should go with one of The Quad – Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott or Alvin Kamara. But here are some values for you.
Best running back values
Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs had a draft position of roughly the third round way back in April. But he's suddenly climbing to the top of the second round. And even if you follow the industry drafts that are happening right now – and yes, I understand how pretentious it sounds to say industry drafts – but he's going at the top of the second round, sometimes even the first. It might be too late. Like if you all of a sudden wanted to start investing in Amazon. The reason? Jacobs has no competition to be a No. 1 back. He's the goal-line back, even with the signing of Jeremy Hill. And there is a story going around on The Athletic that Jon Gruden was so mad Jacobs didn't win Rookie of the Year, he's going to get more carries and more receptions this season. And I don't know if that's true. But if there is one kind of Gruden I absolutely love, it's vengeful Gruden. Look. If he is on the field on third down this season (and remember, he had no third-down receptions last year), he could be a top-three running back this year. Maybe No. 1.
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
Here is another player who is just outside the first round who could end up giving you first-round production this season. He's polarizing because many feel Sanders won't get the volume in Doug Pederson's offense. But over the final seven games of last season, he averaged close to 100 scrimmage yards per game and scored four touchdowns. He was the RB3 over that time. He got his opportunity in the absence of Jordan Howard last year. And look, Howard is in Miami. That leaves Boston Scott behind him. And no disrespect to Boston Scott, but it sounds like a nickname Michael Scott created in the Dunder Mifflin conference room. Running backs coach Duce Staley wants to use Miles extensively. If he can maintain 18 to 20 touches per game this season, he's going to be a solid RB1 and a better value than a lot of the guys going ahead of him.
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
Speaking of Dunder Mifflin, remember the time Michael Scott asked everyone if they wanted a little bit of really good pizza or all you can eat of mediocre pizza? Well, Leonard is the Pizza by Alfredo of NFL running backs. We love the volume. We also love that he had 76 receptions last year. Seventy-Six! More receptions than Larry Fitz. OBJ. And look, Jay Gruden is the new coordinator. Chris Thompson is there. And 76 seems like an extremely high goal. But if he can get around 50, and counter-balance this by getting more than three rushing touchdowns, you can have a solid RB2 here.
Other solid running back values: Kareem Hunt is a RB1 in terms of talent. Could be a league-winner with an expanded role. … Love J.K. Dobbins this year. The Ravens love to run the football. He could be the Alvin Kamara of this year, usurping Mark Ingram.
Worst running back values
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
Don't take it from me. Take it from the Packers general manager who drafted A.J. Dillon this year. He wasn't smitten with Jones' 19 touchdowns last year, and you shouldn't be either. I know a lot of you will be tempted. But realize his touchdowns came in bunches last year. He scored 15 times in six games. Four came in a game when Davante Adams was out. That's an unsustainable pace. And if Dillon comes in to take goal-line work from him, Jones could end up with low-end RB2 value, but with a second-round price tag. You don't want to overspend for him.
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Cook is a great player, but he's battled injuries through his entire NFL career. He played in a career-high 14 games last season. But again, he struggled down the stretch. He averaged just 10 fantasy points per game from Weeks 11-15 (he missed Week 16) and was the RB25 over that time period, which is the fantasy playoffs for most people. Again, with a player being drafted as high as No. 4 in some drafts, I would rather look at more reliable options.
Some other players I'm worried about: Le'Veon Bell, who hasn't been able to capture the magic again since leaving Pittsburgh. The Jets did invest in the offensive line, but I'm worried about Adam Gase, too. … Devin Singletary was great last year as a rookie, but the team has now also invested in Zack Moss, who takes over the Frank Gore role in this offense … And Sony Michel had surgery in the offseason. The Patriots are down James Devlin (retired) and Danny Vitale (opt-out) at the fullback position, which also hurts his value.
Damien Harris, New England Patriots
Speaking of the Patriots, if Michel can't go, that could open the door for Harris. And I know I said it's risky to take a Patriots running back just a moment ago, but you have to look at the price tag for Harris, which is a super-late pick. It's like the Nordstrom Rack effect. I might not pay $75 for this pair of jeans at Nordstrom. But if you have it discounted to $19.99 at the Rack, I might give it a look. I also like the idea of Josh McDaniels using the run-pass option with Cam Newton at quarterback -- assuming he wins the job.
Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I was really excited for Jones this season and was more than happy to scoop him up in the sixth or seventh round of my drafts. Obviously the team signed LeSean McCoy. But don't read too much into that. It's like Brady wanted more people his own age on the roster. McCoy is more Facebook and Jones is TikTok. It really comes down to how much Bruce Arians would like to split time with his running backs. The biggest key is how Jones works in pass protection, because Brady is not going to put up with any missed assignments. If Jones can improve there, he could see himself on the field for extended periods of time.
Some sleeper running backs to keep an eye on: The Lions will want to feature the run more this year, which means D'Andre Swift could make a huge impact. And we like him along with some other rooking running backs like Dillon and Cam Akers. In addition to what was said about Jones above, Dillon could end up being the Derrick Henry for Packers coach Matt LaFleur. And it wouldn't be a huge shock if he took over the role by the end of the season.