FANTASY FOOTBALL: A summertime look at the top 60 PPR tailbacks for 2020

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In 2019, Jaguars tailback Leonard Fournette enjoyed personal-best highs with rushing yards (1,152), receptions (76), targets (100), receiving yards (522) and scrimmage yards (1,674).
  1. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
  2. Dalvin Cook, Vikings
  3. Saquon Barkley, Giants
  4. Aaron Jones, Packers
  5. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
  6. Josh Jacobs, Raiders
  7. Derrick Henry, Titans
  8. Alvin Kamara, Saints
  9. Austin Ekeler, Chargers
  10. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars
  11. Chris Carson, Seahawks
  12. Joe Mixon, Bengals
  13. Nick Chubb, Browns
  14. Raheem Mostert, 49ers
  15. Kenyan Drake, Cardinals
  16. Mark Ingram, Ravens
  17. Miles Sanders, Eagles
  18. James Conner, Steelers
  19. Le’Veon Bell, Jets
  20. Todd Gurley, Falcons
  21. Melvin Gordon, Broncos
  22. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs
  23. David Montgomery, Bears
  24. Devin Singletary, Bills
  25. Sony Michel, Patriots
  26. D’Andre Swift, Lions
  27. Derrius Guice, Redskins
  28. David Johnson, Texans
  29. Marlon Mack, Colts
  30. Damien Williams, Chiefs
  31. Phillip Lindsay, Broncos
  32. Cam Akers, Rams
  33. Ronald Jones, Buccaneers
  34. Kareem Hunt, Browns
  35. Rashaad Penny, Seahawks
  36. Tevin Coleman, 49ers
  37. James White, Patriots
  38. Jonathan Taylor, Colts
  39. Kerryon Johnson, Lions
  40. Matt Breida, Dolphins
  41. Alexander Mattison, Vikings
  42. Jordan Howard, Dolphins
  43. Latavius Murray, Saints
  44. Duke Johnson, Texans
  45. Adrian Peterson, Redskins
  46. J.K. Dobbins, Ravens
  47. Chase Edmonds, Cardinals
  48. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Buccaneers
  49. Boston Scott, Eagles
  50. Nyheim Hines, Colts
  51. Zack Moss, Bills
  52. Tarik Cohen, Bears
  53. Darrell Henderson, Rams
  54. Tony Pollard, Cowboys
  55. Justin Jackson, Chargers
  56. Jamaal Williams, Packers
  57. Ito Smith, Falcons
  58. Jalen Richard, Raiders
  59. Darrynton Evans, Titans
  60. AJ Dillon, Packers

POSITIONAL RANKINGS

QB-STARTER RANKINGS

TOP 75 PPR WIDE RECEIVERS

TOP 30 PPR TIGHT ENDS

TOP 150 PPR PLAYMAKERS

BREAKDOWN

a) Christian McCaffrey was the runaway choice for Fantasy MVP honors last year, the happy result of 2,392 scrimmage yards, 19 touchdowns and 116 receptions — the NFL single-season record for tailback catches.

McCaffrey’s fortuitous owners, many of whom scooped C-Mac up at picks 4-6 in Round 1, supremely benefited from his otherworldly production and bedrock consistency, accounting for 130 total yards and/or one touchdown 14 times.

Put it all together, and McCaffrey should be the No. 1 overall pick in 99.9 percent of 2020 drafts.

Of course, with the Panthers undergoing a regime change at the top (head coach Matt Rhule, offensive coordinator Joe Brady), there’s no guarantee of McCaffrey matching last season’s tallies with catches, targets (142) or receiving yards (1,005).

In fact, it’s implausible to believe McCaffrey will eclipse his scorching averages of 9.7 receptions/11.8 targets from the final seven regular-season outings.

Especially with receiver DJ Moore seemingly ready for a greater workload.

So, prepare yourself to be somewhat underwhelmed, compared to the massive numbers of 2019.

b) From a totality perspective, Saquon Barkley (1,441 total yards, 8 TDs last year) fell short of the sky-high expectations reserved for a No. 1 overall draft choice.

However, when extrapolating his per-game averages of 111 total yards and 0.62 touchdowns over a full season, it shakes out to 1,776 total yards and 10 TDs; and that includes Barkley leaving the Buccaneers game in the first half with a gruesome ankle injury.

All told, we’re talking about top-five numbers (among tailbacks) for a physical freak who should be a yearly candidate for 2,000 total yards and double-digit touchdowns.

As for the No. 2 ranking, we’re putting a lot of stock into Barkley’s finishing kick for Weeks 15-17, enjoying otherworldly averages of 180 total yards and 1.7 TDs.

c) Fantasy owners can expect a variance with Cook rankings. I have the Florida State product at No. 2 … but others might have Dalvin barely holding down the fort in Round 1.

The primary knock here: Cook has yet to play a full season in the pros, with last year’s output of 14 games serving as the career high.

Personally speaking, there are minimal worries about Cook’s longevity or sustainability:

****For his first 13 games in 2019, Cook reached the elite-level threshold of 110 total yards and/or one touchdown 13 times; and against NFC North foes, the Vikings star owned stellar averages of 121 total yards and 1.3 TDs.

****Citing the NFL’s eight worst rushing defenses from last year, in terms of touchdowns allowed, the Vikings will encounter six of the unique opponents in 2020 (nine games total) — including two meetings apiece with the Packers, Bears and Lions.

d) The top-five battle of Aaron Jones vs. Ezekiel Elliott represents a virtual coin flip.

For 2019, Elliott enjoyed the head-to-head edge with carries (301), rushing yards (1,357), total yards (1,777), catches (54) and targets (71); whereas Jones prevailed with yards per carry (4.6), receiving yards (474), rushing touchdowns (16), receiving scores (3) and total touchdowns (19).

The tiebreaker for 2020: Similar to Dalvin Cook, Jones should greatly benefit from a schedule that includes the Panthers (NFL-worst 27 rushing TDs allowed last year), Jaguars (bottom-5 ranking with rushing yards/rushing TDs surrendered) and Lions (bottom-10 with rushing yards/rushing TDs allowed).

Two more bonus tracks:

****In his final six outings last season (including the playoffs), Jones posted supreme averages of 116 total yards and 1.5 touchdowns.

****Last season, Elliott nearly doubled Jones’ amount of red-zone carries (59-33 disparity); and yet, the latter finished with more rushing touchdowns inside the 20 (14-11 advantage).

e) Last summer, I took social-media flak for minimizing Josh Jacobs’ Year 1 potential with the Raiders, believing his Alabama teammate Damien Harris might have been placed into a better backfield situation (Patriots).

In hindsight, that was an incredibly stupid declaration on my part, a mistake that won’t be repeated in 2020.

In just 13 games last year, Jacobs rolled for 1,316 total yards (1,150 rushing) and seven touchdowns; and if we extrapolate these rock-solid numbers, it converts to a 16-game campaign of 1,526 total yards and eight scores.

Here’s another slice of fantasy goodness: According to Pro Football Reference, Jacobs missed three games last season … and still earned top-10 marks (among tailbacks) with red-zone rushing attempts (8th), red-zone rushing yards (5th) and red-zone rushing scores (10th).

f) It’ll be interesting to see how fantasy pundits gauge Raheem Mostert, moving forward.

On the down side, Mostert will likely remain embroiled in a time-share situation, divvying carries and touches among the likes of Tevin Coleman, Jeff Wilson Jr. or Jerick McKinnon, a lightning-fast asset who’s been plagued by major injuries for back-to-back seasons.

That said, it’s impossible to ignore Mostert’s absurd finishing kick to last season.

Citing his final nine games (including the playoffs), Mostert accounted for 13 total touchdowns … without toting more than 20 carries in a single outing.

And during that prolific span, Mostert held sublime averages of 95.4 total yards and 1.4 TDs.

g) I owned Joe Mixon in seven different leagues last season, happily investing a second- or third-round pick in every draft opportunity.

For September and most of October, this all-in endorsement had the makings of a disastrous decision; but things turned for the better, once the Bengals returned from a London game against the Rams.

For Cincinnati’s final seven outings, Mixon stealthily averaged 124 total yards and 0.62 TDs; and for his final nine games, Mixon eclipsed 100 total yards and/or one TD seven times.

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out NBA.com, MLB.com, PGATour.com, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with SI.com‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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