Dynasty Rookie Rankings: Top 10 Running Backs (Pre-Draft Edition)

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by Will Overton

As of right now the word from the NFL is that the draft will proceed as planned in a few weeks, though it will look much different than what we are used to. The draft has become a much bigger deal in fantasy football circles recently as dynasty formats have taken off in popularity.

With that in mind let’s start looking at this year’s crop of potential fantasy talent with the dynasty format in mind. These rankings will certainly change after the draft, but I am looking at them as rookie rankings for dynasty purposes so keep that in mind as you read:

  1. D’Andre Swift – Georgia – While Swift’s college stats aren’t as eye popping as the next two guys on this list, it is likely in his favor to some aspects when it comes to his dynasty projections. He carried the ball a little less than half as much as Jonathan Taylor did throughout his college career and had almost 300 fewer carries than J.K. Dobbins. Based on workload Swift has almost two full seasons less under his belt, which does make a big difference in dynasty formats. While Swift’s overall numbers won’t jump off the page, his tape does. He has good size and he held his own at the combine in terms of speed. Scouts believe Swift to be faster than his predecessor at Georgia, Nick Chubb, as well as a more proficient pass catcher. I think Swift is destined to be a Top 10 dynasty for the next several years.
  2. Jonathan Taylor – Wisconsin It was hard for me to not have Jonathan Taylor at #1 on this list, and without considering landing spot I would likely have him first among rookies in a redraft format or short term keeper league. The struggle I am having is that he carried the ball 926 times in college, which is an extraordinary workload to come into the NFL with. Taylor’s combination of size and the speed that he showed at the combine put him over the top when you also look at his full body of work in college. The combine answered a lot of questions about whether he had the speed needed to be a star in the NFL when he ran a 4.39 40, leading to an astounding 121.7 speed score. The other question was answered in his senior season when he took his receiving game up a notch, catching 26 passes for 252 yards and 5 TD. Taylor is a future star and could be a three down stud immediately.
  3. J.K. Dobbins – Ohio State – I do think Dobbins is just a cut below the top two on this list, but if I were to put this into tiers he’d belong more in the top one than the next. He is another guy who is built like a prototypical three down back and based on what we saw from him in college we have no reason to believe otherwise. There are some concerns about his ability to pass protect, which has nothing to do being afraid of getting hit, but has been more about missing guys. This could affect his ability to be out there on third downs, but I’m not letting it get me too concerned. Dobbins has a knack for staying on his feet after contact, as well as the elusiveness to make defenders miss in open space. I don’t see him getting to the top of this list after the draft, but if the chips fall just right it isn’t impossible.
  4. Cam Akers – Florida State – I’m giving Akers the nod at number four based on the upside he possesses. In terms of raw talent and potential to hit an elite level he isn’t far off from the three guys above and he is a step above everyone below. There are questions surrounding him that keeps him in the next tier under the big three. Akers never had a chance to play behind the kind of offensive lines or in the kind of dynamic offenses many of these other guys did, and so it feels like we haven’t really seen what he’s fully capable of. He has work to do in pass protection and route running to be a three down back, and we don’t know enough about his ability to find the holes because there weren’t many created for him. What we do know is he has a size/speed combination that rivals Taylor and Swift, he isn’t afraid of contact and there is a real chance that he blossoms into a top 10–15 running back in the right offense and right coaching.
  5. Clyde Edwards-Helaire – Louisiana State – Nowhere near the radars of NFL scouts before the 2019 season began, Edwards-Helaire was an integral part of the LSU’s championship run and historically great offense. He has become a darling of many fantasy analysts and for good reason, though seeing some have him as high as #2 or 3 is something I personally can’t see. He has a high IQ with good vision and a strong ability to make guys miss in the open field. His biggest asset is his ability as a pass blocker and pass catcher, running pristine routes for a running back and catching just about anything close. The negative is his top end speed and the fact that he can and does get caught from behind. When you watch his tape he has a lot of quickness, but the top end speed may limit his upside.
  6. Anthony McFarland – Maryland – There is definitely some work to be done, and if McFarland will be a three down back he has a lot to learn about pass protection. On the flipside, while he may be a raw talent there is significant upside. There may be no better big play threat in this draft than McFarland who could break it every time he touches the ball. If he ends up in the right system and someone can harness his talent, he could be the steal of your rookie draft if you have patience.
  7. Zack Moss – Utah – At first glance it’s easy to write Moss off as the big bruiser that will be utilized for short yardage situations and not much else, but when you watch the tape there’s more to him. He has a knack for finding the holes and hit them quick and hard to get to the second level of the defense. He is a solid pass blocker, who also showed last season he can be a pass catcher too. Moss has enough speed to make an impact right away in the NFL and fantasy football, but the ceiling just isn’t as high as those above (and maybe some below).
  8. Ke’Shawn Vaughn – Vanderbilt – When you read scouting reports on Vaughn you hear him labeled as someone who doesn’t have a lot of upside and who is destined to be a special teams guy. I’m not convinced. I don’t think he’s an every down back, but he could be a strong compliment in a committee approach. Vaughn is strong and hits the hole hard and has better speed than you’d expect as evidenced by his 40 time at the combine (4.51). He is a much better north-south runner and shouldn’t be used much on the outside, but on the right team where he can have the role of a between the tackles back he could hold value.
  9. Darrynton Evans – Appalachian State – We’ve seen the argument about a guy padding his stats against unimpressive opposition proven wrong and you shouldn’t let the school he went to sway you away from Evans. There are holes, as he doesn’t stand up great against contact and lacks ability to pick the right holes between the tackles at times. What he has is big play ability, a track record of making big plays and when you watch his tape he’s incredibly smooth on his feet. At this point you want a guy who has a role and I think Evans can have one in a committee as a change of pace with a bit of upside for more if he puts on some more weight.
  10. A.J. Dillon – Boston College – There may have been no running back who was helped more by the combine. Dillon is a 247 pound back who was already being labeled as a short yard specialist, but he turned heads at the combine. He ran a 4.53 40, finished Top 10 at the position in the 3 cone drill and had the best vertical and broad jump among running backs. Dillon is hardly a workout warrior alone with his 1,685 rushing yards last year. He lacks some burst, but he can do enough that he shouldn’t just be assumed to be a 4–5 carry a game guy as he could fit nicely in a committee on the right team.

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 Fantasy Baseball preseason rankings:

PositionLast Updated
Catchers02/10/20
First Basemen02/13/20
Second Basemen02/18/20
Third Basemen02/21/20
Shortstops02/24/20
Outfielders03/06/20
Starting Pitchers03/09/20
Relief Pitchers03/03/20

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