Listing and analyzing seven running backs that will surprise and exceed expectations in 2020.
Because running backs are so important to fantasy football, getting a good one in later rounds can win you your league. Below, in order of their current ADP, I have seven running backs who could do just that.
Johnson is currently going as RB20 on ESPN. That is very low for someone who could easily finish in among the top ten for running backs. I'm not guaranteeing that, but just look at the facts: In 2016 he was one of the best backs in fantasy. 2017 a fluke injury limits his season to just one game. 2018 he didn't have a great year, but still finished as RB10. 2019, he basically got benched because his coach didn't like his game.
He is now in Houston with a team that has invested a lot in him (they traded DeAndre Hopkins for him for Peet's sake). Head coach Bill O'Brien is going to feed him the ball because he needs Johnson to succeed just as much as Johnson himself is looking to prove something to the football world. In addition, Carlos Hyde, the team's lead back last year, had over 1,000 yards on the ground. Johnson should be able to put those numbers up easily, while also having a presence in the passing game, and in the red zone.
Bottom line is, Johnson is now in an excellent position to succeed with the Texans, and should 100% be on your radar on draft night.
Simply put, Hunt is one of the most talented players in the game. In his rookie year of 2017, Hunt was the third best player in all of fantasy. He was on pace for another strong season in 2018 before off the field issues derailed his season, and half of 2019. In 2019 with the Browns, in his eight games with the team, he was on the field for 60% of the teams snaps, and fantasy's number 17 RB.
Nick Chubb is still the lead back, but Hunt will do the majority of his damage as a pass catching back. In fact, in his eight games last year, he outscored Chubb in terms of fantasy points in six of those weeks. That is mind-blowing, considering that Chubb is going as RB8, and Hunt as RB27. I am a big fan of taking Hunt for fantasy, and in addition of staying away from Nick Chubb.
Last season, Bears head coach Matt Nagy completely under-utilized Montgomery last season. As we all know, coaching plays a significant role in fantasy production. If Nagy decides to use Montgomery more, in better situations, and in the passing game, he could see a very significant boost to his fantasy value.
Nagy loves using Tarik Cohen in the passing game, which doesn't really make sense to me. Yes, Cohen is pretty elusive, but he also doesn't catch the ball well, which is a pretty important part of receiving. Another variable is who will be starting at quarterback for the Bears, and another whether the team chooses to focus on the running game. I see Montgomery as a high floor, high ceiling kind of guy, who could turn out to be an excellent RB2 on your team.
The big debate with the Rams at running back is between Akers and Darrell Henderson. It is very likely that this could be the dreaded "running back by committee" situation, but in terms of fantasy, Akers is definitely the guy you want to get in LA. The simple fact is that he is a workhorse back, and Henderson is not. Henderson was drafted by the Rams to be a counterpart to Todd Gurley, not a lead back. On the other side, Akers was drafted to lead the way.
Most likely, you will see Akers handle first and second down rushes. Although Henderson was with the Rams last year, Akers still has more experience. He was the lead back for Florida State three years in a row (Henderson led Memphis only one year), and rushed for 1,144 and had 18 total touchdowns despite being on a really poor offense. Akers ceiling is pretty high for 2020, and could be a very valuable RB for fantasy.
Everyone knows that the Bucs offense is once again going to be very explosive, but Vaughn still goes under the radar. He was drafted by Tampa Bay 76th overall, but could play a significant role in this offense. Right now, only Ronald Jones sits above him in the Bucs running back depth chart. While saying that though, Jones struggles mightily in the receiving game and pass protection, but areas that Vaughn excels at.
Pass protection becomes even more important with Tom Brady under center, and Brady also loves receiving backs, meaning that Vaughn could see his time on the field keep increasing as the season progresses. In addition, last year's second and third best rushers on the team Peyton Barber and Jameis Winston are gone, and I don't think Brady is going to be carrying it around a whole lot.
There are a lot of possibilities with Vaughn, but he is still being drafted too low for any of them. He could split with Jones, could go 60-40, or could even be the primary back if Bruce Arians sits Jones. In other words, Vaughn has a very high ceiling for 2020.
The Dolphins rushing game was horrendous last year to say the least. They rushed for by far a league low just 72.3 yards per game. Their leading rusher? Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had a meager 243 yards on the ground. That is shockingly low. This offseason they brought in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida to change things.
Yes, Breida's stats in San Francisco might have benefited from Kyle Shanahan's offense, but he is an explosive runner. Despite having Howard alongside him, Breida will also get a lot more opportunities in Miami. In 2018 he had 1,075 total yards, but was limited in 2019 because of the 49ers depth at the position. I expect Breida to get the ball more than Howard, and could jump up to a RB2 level for fantasy.
Last year, the Bills ran the ball 465 times, sixth most in the league. Frank Gore had 166 rushes, Devin Singletary 151, and Josh Allen 109. Gore is gone, and no doubt the Bills are going to want to run Allen a lot less if they want to keep him healthy. That leaves a lot of available touches for a rookie like Zack Moss. I expect Singletary to gain touches as well, but at just 5'7" and barely over 200lbs, he's not the type of guy that Buffalo can rely on to carry the workload.
Moss is an absolute beast. He is 5'9", and 223 pounds, and "known for his violent running style and going through guys" according to thelastwordonprofootball.com. Singletary is not a good pass catcher, and not a redzone threat as well, so Moss could easily take over both of those roles. He is someone that isn't getting a lot of respect, and is definitely worth a late round flier. He might be the very best sleeper in all of fantasy.