The Washington Football Team made a major move on Friday, announcing that they had released running back Derrius Guice following domestic violence charges. Looking at this from purely a fantasy football standpoint, this move creates some opportunity in Washington’s backfield. Guice figured to be the primary early-down runner, but now those carries are completely vacated. Running back Antonio Gibson and Bryce Love are the most intriguing pickups following the news, but which player is more likely to take the starting job?
Before we get started, it’s worth noting that these two are not the only ones battling for the starting job. Adrian Peterson is still with the team, and Washington added Peyton Barber in the offseason. Either one of these guys could end up with the job, but both players have a limited ceiling. Gibson and Love are both young and have pass-catching promise. Winning your fantasy football league is all about capturing upside in the late rounds, so we’ll just look at Gibson and Love for now.
Fantasy Football: Antonio Gibson, Bryce Love Outlook Without Derrius Guice
Projecting Antonio Gibson
Based on his college tape, Antonio Gibson is one of the most electric and exciting players in the league. A running back in name, Gibson is a fantastic dual threat that has the ability to make plays as both a runner and a receiver. During his time at Memphis, Gibson averaged an absurd 11.2 yards-per-attempt and scored 14 touchdowns on just 77 attempts – seven of which went for more than 40 yards. The talent is obviously there, and Ron Rivera has a history of getting the most out of this type of running back.
However, there are a few major road blocks standing between Gibson and fantasy stardom. For one, he’s a rookie. First-year players always have a tough time producing for fantasy unless they have early draft capital. Gibson was drafted in the third round, so it’s not completely out of the question for him to produce right out the gate. However, history is not in his favor.
Additionally, Gibson was anything but a workhorse during his time in college. The Memphis product received just 77 touches as a Senior and struggled to find playing time prior to the 2019 campaign. It’s not impossible for a running back to vastly outperform their collegiate production in the NFL, it’s just extremely rare. Outside of Alvin Kamara, it’s hard to think of anyone that played a minor role in a college backfield developing into a true NFL star.
On top of all that, Guice projected as an early-down runner without much pass-catching upside. Gibson, meanwhile, offers more as a receiver than a runner. Gibson should see a slight uptick in carries, but these two are different types of players.
Projecting Bryce Love
Speaking of unrealized talent, second-year running back Bryce Love probably would have been a first-round pick if he had declared for the 2018 NFL Draft. Instead, he returned to school and battled through an injury-riddled campaign. The Stanford product suffered a serious knee injury that cost him his entire first season in the league.
When on the field, however, Love proved to be a capable runner with a three-down skillset. As a Junior, he recorded an absurd eight yards-per-carry on 263 carries, which is far more work than Gibson ever saw. While he might not be as explosive as Gibson, he clearly has the skill to handle the ball on early downs and stay on the field in passing situations.
Like Gibson, Love carries his fair share of risk. For one, we don’t know if he’s completely healthy. The former fourth-round pick passed a physical back in late July, but it’s anyone’s guess if he can ever recapture that old form. Love’s suffered multiple injuries and had to undergo a second surgery for his ACL back in October of 2019. Until we see him on the field, there’s simply no way to know if he’s the same guy from college.
Because of his injury history, there is reason to worry about his ability to carry a full workload. Love suffered an injury in both of his seasons as Stanford’s lead back, and he’ll need to prove he can stay on the field.
Who Do You Draft?
Ultimately, both Antonio Gibson and Bryce Love are talented running backs that carry a fair share of risk. Gibson is probably the more explosive of the two, but both players are capable of making plays as both a runner and a receiver. Gibson never had a full workload and needs to prove that he can handle a featured role in the offense. Love, meanwhile, needs to prove that he’s back to his old self and can stay healthy for an extended period of time.
This isn’t the answer anyone wants to hear, but there isn’t a clear frontrunner. Chances are, Ron Rivera goes with a running back by committee. This committee isn’t limited to just Love and Gibson, as Adrian Peterson will probably see a decent chunk of the early-down carries.
It’s always fun to get excited about new players emerging in fantasy, but a deeper dive shows that Love and Gibson probably won’t do much of anything in 2020. They’re still in a bad offense, and both are facing uphill battles for a three-down starting role. Love will probably have the lower ADP when the dust settles, so I’d target him if I had to choose one. However, it’s probably best to just avoid the backfield altogether.