Fantasy Football RB Preview: True Workhorse Backs
Justin Vreeland breaks down the true workhorse backs for your fantasy football teams this year and what to expect from their workload.
Welcome to the second edition of the RB previews! This week I am going to break down the true workhorses of the NFL, guys who get the volume both on the ground and in the passing game. Sure, guys like Chubb and Henry get large volume on the ground, but their lack of usage in the passing game makes them more one-dimensional. For this breakdown I am looking at backs who averaged over 15 carries per game last season while also hauling in at least 50 receptions. As it turns out, only six and a half (more on that half later) running backs met that requirement. We want this type of back in fantasy as they provide a high weekly floor with big upside as well. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) 17.9 carries per game, 116 total receptions – Nobody is a better example of a true workhorse back than CMC. He had at least 200 carries and 100 receptions for the second straight season and nearly racked up 2500 total yards (over 1000 yards both on the ground and through the air) while finding the end zone 19 times! I doubt he can keep this type of volume going for too many more seasons, but it shouldn’t be an issue in 2020 and he is worth every penny of his number one overall ADP.
Leonard Fournette (Jaguars) 17.7 carries per game, 75 total receptions – Fournette has been a high-volume back since being drafted fourth overall by Jacksonville in 2017, but last season was his first year of meeting this requirement. He made a huge leap as a pass-catcher last season, setting new career highs in targets (100), receptions, receiving yards (522), and receptions that resulted in a first down (23). He demolished his old marks in all of those categories (48 targets, 36 receptions, 302 receiving yards, and 18 receptions for first downs were his previous bests). The Jags will lean heavily on Fournette once again this season as he heads into the final year of his rookie contract. High volume and a strong weekly floor can be expected out of him and that is worth the price of his current ADP of 20.2.
Saquon Barkley (Giants) 16.7 carries per game, 52 total receptions – Despite missing three games Barkley still managed to reach the 50 reception threshold. However, he was worse across the board last season in comparison to his stellar 2018 rookie campaign. It seemed like he may have come back a bit too early from his high ankle sprain, but he found his groove down the stretch racking up 539 total yards and five touchdowns across the final three games. He will be back in elite form this season and once again see heavy volume, making him a no-brainer second overall pick behind CMC.
Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys) 18.8 carries per game, 54 total receptions – Zeke continues to be an every-down back for Dallas, but he did take a big step backwards as a pass-catcher last season after hauling in 77 passes in 2018. He did see fewer targets, but his catch percentage also dropped five percent. One cause for concern with Zeke is that he has already racked up 1,169 carries in his four years in the league with three 300-plus carry seasons under his belt already. That type of volume will catch up with him quickly. With that being said, he should be fine for at least another year or two and he is worthy of his selection as the number three overall pick.
Dalvin Cook (Vikings) 17.9 carries per game, 53 total receptions – Cook was finally able to stay healthy (for the most part, as he still missed a pair of games) and he did not disappoint. He racked up 1135 yards on the ground with 13 touchdowns while also bringing 513 receiving yards to the table. He is currently being drafted as the number four overall player, but that is a bit risky for me considering he has already missed 19 games in his three years in the league. The upside is certainly there however and he should have fresh legs considering he only has 457 rush attempts under his belt to this point. He will be the focal point of the Vikings offense and should see massive volume once again.
Le'Veon Bell (Jets) 16.3 carries per game, 66 total receptions – It’s painful to the eyes to see the stats that Bell produced last season despite the volume he had. He only had 789 rush yards and three touchdowns while averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. In the passing game he added 461 yards but that only resulted in one touchdown, giving him four total touchdowns across 15 games. He is now 28-years old and the Jets have shown that they are ready to move on from him, so it will be interesting to see if he gets dealt. A trade would immediately increase his value; it’s just a matter of how much (based on what team he ends up on, if he is in fact traded). His current ADP of 43 is very interesting for a back with this type of volume and he could be a steal if he is able to find his old form, but that is no sure thing.
Kenyan Drake (Cardinals) 15.4 carries per game, 50 total receptions – Cheated a bit here on the inclusion of Drake (hence the half in the intro), as he actually averaged 11.9 carries per game for the season, but that number includes his weird time in Miami to begin the year and then he averaged over 15.4 carries per game across his eight games with Arizona. He will remain with Arizona in 2020 and with the performances he put together last season; we have every reason to believe he will be a workhorse for them once again this year. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and found the end zone eight times across those eight games for the Cardinals. I loved this landing spot for him and he did not disappoint; he is the perfect type of back for their offensive style/scheme. His current ADP has him going just inside the top-20 of drafts and I have no issue with that price.