If I was given one wish for the 2020 Fantasy Football season, it would be to properly handicap the RB1 opportunity share for every NFL team. That position is the most critical this season, with an overwhelming number of running backs being drafted in the first two rounds. When projecting the opportunity share for the upcoming season, it is important to include several different factors.
Projecting RB1 Opportunity Share for Each NFL Team: AFC South
Most fantasy drafters simply examine the running back opportunity share based on past performance and if a new running back was added to the depth chart. Those factors are not nearly as important as how that running back performed last season in games they were healthy and received the majority of touches. Even if a reduced sample, it provides the best window into the potential opportunity share for the 2020 season.
For each team’s projected starting running back, I listed the opportunity share from the 2019 season in games they started and did not leave due to injury. For players that joined new teams (i.e Todd Gurley in Atlanta), I used the stats from last year’s primary starting running back (i.e. Devonta Freeman). While the skill set may not match perfectly, it gives us a strong projection of usage for 2020.
In this eight-part series, we will examine the projected lead running backs for each NFL division. Let’s examine with the AFC South.
In 2019, Carlos Hyde produced:
-Four RB2 or better wks
-The 12th most total RB rushing yds (1070)
-The 15th most Red Zone touches (37)
-Just 3.1% of the target share
-Microscopic 1.03% of the receiving yards
David Johnson (ADP RB21) should be massive improvement
— Mike Randle (@RandleRant) June 13, 2020
Outlook: David Johnson is a huge fantasy buy this season. He has supplanted a slow, plodding, veteran running back that was ineffective in the passing game. While it appeared Johnson had lost some explosiveness, he battled a back and ankle sprain for the majority of the 2019 season. Prior to those injuries, Johnson ranked sixth overall in fantasy points and second in running back receiving yards. While Duke Johnson will siphon some receiving work, the current ADP value (RB21) on this former No. 1 overall fantasy back is exceptional.
Colts anticipate ‘one-one’ punch with Jonathan Taylor, Marlon Mack | WTTV CBS4Indy https://t.co/5zRFoxXLkt
— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) June 16, 2020
Outlook: Marlon Mack is in a worse situation than Kerryon Johnson. Jonathan Taylor was selected early in the second-round and brings a metrics profile that rivals Saquon Barkley. With a 4.39 40-Yard Dash at 226 lbs, it’s difficult to see Mack holding off the Wisconsin rookie for very long. Mack has been productive for fantasy owners, ranking 22nd and 15th respectively the past two seasons. Mack was an efficient pass-catcher in college, but Taylor’s 76th percentile College Target Share illustrates his workhorse potential as well. While Mack may start the season as the lead running back, it should be a matter of time before the more talented Taylor receives the majority of touches behind the Indianapolis Colts superior offensive line. Drafting a rookie running back in seasonal leagues can be risky, but at RB19 the explosive Taylor is worth the risk.
2019 RB: Leonard Fournette
Rushing Yards: 70.2%
Receiving Yards: 14%
2020 RB1: Leonard Fournette
Looking for an RB1 in Round 2 that can be an anchor for your #fantasyfootball team? @RyanMc23 says to tread carefully with Leonard Fournette, especially with Jay Gruden as the #Jaguars OC @RotoViz Fantasy Football Mailbag ? pic.twitter.com/R8ZoDz0uTg
— Mike Randle (@RandleRant) June 19, 2020
Outlook: Math vs. Narrative. Those are the choices when projecting Fournette’s 2020 season. The “math” illustrates one of only seven running backs on this list that carried over 70% of the games rushing attempts and rushing yards. Fournette also ranks third on this list with 22.55% of the Jacksonville Jaguars receptions. The “narrative” cites his poor touchdown rate (50th among running backs) and his relationship chasm with management. There were even rumors of Fournette being traded or cut prior to the start of the season. It is very difficult to find another projected RB1 with a larger opportunity share than Fournette. Last season, he ranked fourth among all running backs with 100 total targets. While that may not be repeatable, new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden should find a way to keep Fournette as a Top 20 fantasy running back in 2020. With one of the largest projected RB1 opportunity shares on this list, his RB16 ADP has just enough passing game regression factored in to make him worth the bust risk.
2019 RB: Derrick Henry
Rushing Yards: 74.25%
2020 RB1: Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry leads the NFL in forced missed tackles since 2017 with 136pic.twitter.com/Iydm69kmUA
— PFF (@PFF) June 13, 2020
Outlook: Derrick Henry again dominated down the stretch of the fantasy season, totaling six overall top four RB or better performances over his last seven games. He led all running backs in both carries and rushing yards. Henry also experienced increased efficiency in the passing game with 107 more receiving yards than 2018. Tennessee lost All-Pro tackle Jack Conklin to Cleveland in free agency but used a first-round pick on Georgia offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson. Henry is automatic at the goal line, totaling 28 running back touchdowns (28) over the past two seasons, second only to Todd Gurley. The only concern centers around his 66.9% snap share, which ranked just 14th among all running backs. Henry’s goal-line work keeps him as a safe Top 12 positional option, but it is hard to rely on high receiving efficiency to cement his place again as a top five PPR running back.
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