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Running Back Opportunity Analysis

The Running Back Opportunity Analysis – Tier 4

The Running Back Opportunity Analysis

 

If you haven’t read the The Running Back Opportunity Analysis check it out before reading the articles on the tiers. Check out the Tier 1, 2, and 3 breakdowns.

 

Tier 4 – These are players who were under 10 touches a game who performed well in RBOM. Players in this tier have proven to be productive when given the opportunities. If we hear any off-season buzz about them getting more playing time, then we should move them up draft boards.

This tier is littered  with pass catching running backs who in some cases have proven in the past to be RB2 assets including Tarik Cohen and James White. That being said, this group typically has a cap on their touches which limits their upside. It will be important to evaluate their 2020 opportunities to see if they any can become fantasy viable this season. Let’s dive into the fourth Running Back Opportunity Analysis tier.

 

Tier 4

Elite2019 Touches Per Game2019 Points Per Game
Derrius Guice9.810.8
Boston Scott9.49.7
James White9.310.9
Rashaad Penny7.37.3
Dare Ogunbowale2.93.7
Honorable Mention2019 Touches Per Game2019 Points Per Game
Tarik Cohen8.97.8
Chris Thompson7.26.6
Nyheim Hines6.05.4
Ryquell Armstead3.53.2

 

Elite Tier 4 Running Backs

 

Boston Scott

    • Jordan Howard left in free agency
    • Brandon Brooks on Injured Reserve (PFF #1 Guard)
    • Drafted Jalen Reagor
    • DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery return from injury

 

Boston Scott carved out a solid role down the stretch of 2019 seeing roughly 9-13 touches per game behind Miles Sanders. It is notable that the Eagles haven’t brought in much competition this year at running back as it looks like Scott will be the RB2 heading into 2020.

However, the Eagles look to have DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery (presumably) back from injury along with drafting first round pick Jalen Reagor. These additions are notable as Scott made his mark in the passing game last season. In the games Scott was utilized Greg Ward was the only wide receiver getting more than two targets per game, which will change if Jackson, Jeffery, and Reagor all start the season healthy.

2020 Draft Recommendation

Currently being drafted in the back of the 10th round at pick 119, Scott’s value is tied to the health of the supporting cast around him. If we begin to see the injuries piling up at any of the skill positions, Scott would be next in line to fill the void.

Knowing all this it might be best to pivot away from Scott in drafts as he might get off to a slow start with the team relatively healthy heading into the season.

 

James White

    • Tom Brady left in free agency
    • Signed Cam Newton
    • Signed Lamar Miller
    • Center Ted Karras left in free agency (PFF #19 Center)
    • David Andrews returns from injury (PFF #8 Center in 2018)

 

The loss of Tom Brady will be a major blow to James White’s production as the built-in chemistry and lack of mobility from Brady gave him an ideal role as Brady’s check-down option. Not all is lost as Cam Newton has changed his tune over the last few seasons, peppering Christian McCaffrey with over 100 targets in 2017 and 2018.

It is important to note that in those two seasons only one other player had over 100 targets: Devin Funchess. This helped prop up McCaffrey’s receiving totals.

Currently, Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu are the only proven pass catchers on the team and should demand enough attention from Newton to both be around 100 targets this season. It will also be important for White’s value to see how the development goes for N’Keal Harry and the young tight ends as White should be the third option in 2020.

2020 Draft Recommendation

James White is going in the 7th round right around a lot of quality wide receivers including Jarvis Landry, Marvin Jones, and Will Fuller. All these players offer a much higher ceiling but a much lower floor. If you get to this point in the draft, a pick like White offers a nice floor as a low-end RB2.

Personally I would take the chance at this point in the draft on higher upside wide receivers discussed above. This probably means I won’t have a lot of White in 2020.

 

Rashaad Penny

    • Recovering from ACL injury
    • Signed Carlos Hyde
    • Three offensive linemen replaced

 

Rashaad Penny is the only back that fell into the elite category in Tier 4 that isn’t viewed as solely a pass catching back. After the Week 11 bye, the Seahawks started to get Penny more involved by giving him 15 and 20 touches before an ACL injury ended his season.

In those games Penny started to flash why he was a first round pick, piling up 236 yards and three scores while nearly doubling Chris Carson’s production. Penny is currently on the PUP list to start camp, but if he is cleared before the season starts he could become a late-round flyer.

2020 Draft Recommendation

Penny is off the re-draft radar at the moment, but he is a name to monitor. If he does get cleared before the season starts, Penny could be a name to stash on your bench in deeper leagues

 

Dare Ogunbowale

    • Signed Tom Brady
    • Signed Rob Gronkowski
    • Signed LeSean McCoy
    • Lost Tackle Demar Dotson (PFF #32 Tackle)
    • Drafted Tackle Tristan Wirfs

 

Dare Ogunbowale carved out a nice role as a third-down back last season while also getting seven carries inside the five yard line in the process. When Peyton Barber left in free agency, it looked like he was ready to take on a sizable workload as a runner to go along with his pass game usage.

However, with newly signed LeSean McCoy now in the fold allegedly for passing downs, the hope of him getting an increase in workload is now in flux.

It will be interesting to see if McCoy has anything left in the tank as this role does have perks. Brady has consistently used James White over the past few seasons, giving him around 100 targets. The only problem with that philosophy is Brady didn’t have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and O.J. Howard so maybe that role had more to do with weaker talent than a preference to throw to a running back.

2020 Draft Recommendation

Unless McCoy gets cut or injured before the season, Ogunbowale should only be drafted in 14 team PPR leagues with deep benches.

 

Honorable Mentions Tier 4 Running Backs

 

Chris Thompson

    • Signed with Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Jay Gruden joins as offensive coordinator

 

Chris Thompson followed Jay Gruden down to Jacksonville to continue his role as the passing down back in Gruden’s scheme. Thompson hasn’t been a big fantasy asset in this role consistently, but back in 2017 he was on his way to a breakout season averaging over 13 points per game in .5 PPR which was RB11 that year.

That season was clearly an outlier, but his play hasn’t fallen off much as he still very viable in RBOM. Thompson’s presence becomes a bigger impact to Leonard Fournette’s fantasy outlook then his own as he will clearly eat into Fournette’s passing game role in 2020.

2020 Draft Recommendation

Thompson is an intriguing late-round flyer in deeper PPR leagues as Jacksonville could be playing from behind a lot this season. In that 2017 season where Thompson played his best, the Redskins were 27th in the NFL in scoring defense.

Last year the Jaguars fell outside the top 20 in defensive scoring and continued to lose veteran talent over the off-season. All of this could lead to the Jaguars playing from behind which could land Thompson on the flex radar in 2020.

 

Nyheim Hines

    • Philip Rivers signed in free agrency
    • Drafted Jonathan Taylor
    • Drafted Jalen Reagor
    • DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery return from injury

 

Nyheim Hines has carved out a nice role as the third down back for the Colts over the past two seasons. In 2018, this led to a top 30 RB finish while averaging double-digit fantasy points in PPR. A common theme for all the players in Tier 4 is they primarily play on third down and Hines’ role won’t change with Jonathan Taylor is on board.

New QB Philip Rivers has done wonders for pass catching backs in the past making players like Danny Woodhead and Austin Ekeler viable for fantasy under his watch. Finally, Rivers presence will allow the Colts to throw more than they did in 2019 which should boost Hines numbers closer to his 2018 top 30 finish.

2020 Draft Recommendation

Right now Hines should only be drafted in deeper 14 team PPR leagues with deep benches. If injuries hit key skill players then Hines could immediately benefit.

 

Tarik Cohen

    • Signed Nick Foles

 

Tarik Cohen has shown a solid ceiling. In 2018 he finished inside the top 15 in PPR on a points per game basis. In 2019 we probably saw his floor as Mitch Trubisky struggled and Cohen fell to RB38 in ppg. Heading into 2020 with Nick Foles now in the fold, it will be interesting to see if he can win the starting job.

Foles heavily utilized Leonard Fournette in the pass game in his lone season with Jacksonville. In the four games Foles played in, Fournette led the team in targets. This would bode well for Cohen as a more efficient passer would help him bounce back; his yards per reception dropped from 10.2 to 5.8.

2020 Draft Recommendation

Currently being drafted in round seven, Cohen is right in line with James White and you can view them both in the same way. Neither Cohen or White will return back to the levels of 2018, but both players can be viable flex asset especially in PPR.

Overall, I would prefer to take my chances with the wide receivers in this range, but pulling the trigger on Cohen in the 7th won’t lose you your league.

 

*Sources Expand The Boxscore, Pro Football Focus, and Pro Football Reference