Updated: Aug 29, 2020
(Photo Credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images)
This article suggests a not too popular fantasy strategy which might just turn out to be the safest way to help navigate the most tumultuous fantasy season we have ever encountered.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say, and if ever there has been a year to be thinking outside the box when drafting your fantasy team, then this is it! 2020 Is the year to discard some of your normal drafting strategies, ignore the perennial narratives and generally go against the grain of the fantasy community.
Everyone knows that McCaffrey, Barkley, Elliott and Kamara are the first four running backs you should draft without hesitation in Fantasy Football. But are they really the safest options this year? What if, in 2020 you don’t always look to draft the best running back but the NFL backfield that will give you the greatest chance of winning? All players this year could end up missing time due to testing positive for COVID-19 or any type of injury sustained during the season. This could happen more often due to offseason and preseason being so radically different than normal and so physical player preparation for the long hard season ahead may not be sufficient leading to increased chance of injury.
This article makes the case that the following 5 teams have the backfields with the highest upside if you draft their top two running backs. By locking up any of these teams’ backfields you can rest easy that you have security in one of your RB slots for the duration of the season.
5. Ravens – I tried so hard not to include the Ravens in the Top 5, mainly because I am placing a lot of faith on a rookie but also because we are looking at a very congested backfield with Ingram, Dobbins, Edwards and Hill. Ultimately the combination of Ingram’s consistency and promise of Dobbins as a 3 down back with excellent hands makes it very hard to pass on this duo if you can draft both players. Also working in their favor is the fact that they play for a team that is absolutely committed to the running game with the most dangerous mobile QB in the game who opens up the running game for the backs.
4. Vikings – Dalvin Cook showing up to training camp made it very easy for me to include the Viking backfield on this list. When healthy, Cook is a top 5 Fantasy RB and the Vikings offense should be built around him. Yes, there are some injury concerns but, being able to have Alexander Mattison on your bench would give you greater piece of mind than most handcuffs. Mattison looked good when called upon to perform in his rookie season and at worst should guarantee solid RB2 numbers in an offence that values the run should Cook miss time.
3. Saints – Alvin Kamara is one of the most electrifying players in the league. A player any fantasy player would love to have on their team especially in PPR but also in standard formats. He can score at any point and from anywhere on the field and I can think of few players that bring more excitement to your season if they are on your fantasy team. Having said that, Kamara’s smaller build combined with his high usage does raise some injury concerns and that is where a veteran who has proven to be effective wherever he has played comes into the conversation. Latavius Murray is a bigger back who filled in for Kamara very nicely and was productive in Weeks 7 and 8 during the 2019 season when the latter was sidelined with injury. The Offensive Line makes the proposition of drafting these two players even more enticing. Ensuring both players are on your team could give you precious piece of mind.
2. Cowboys – Let me start by acknowledging that we have no way of knowing 100% whether players can or cannot be infected with Covid-19 multiple times. Having said that, I have to be honest and admit that knowing that Zeke Elliott will enter the season having tested positive for the virus prior to September, does make me more comfortable drafting him. Coronavirus aside, Elliott has been as safe as it gets from an injury perspective when drafting RB during the last few years. Extremely high use, yet somehow defying the odds durable, he is a great option as a top of the first round fantasy pick. Knowing that his backup is Tony Pollard and having seen quite a bit of promise from his limited action so far makes it so much easier to buy into this backfield as a top option for this coming year and once again, the solid Offensive Line adds to the temptation.
1. Browns – Over the last couple of years, Nick Chubb according to PFF, has the highest overall grade and rushing grade amongst NFL Running Backs. He is showing no signs of slowing down. Entering his third season, he is a huge part of the Browns offense and should continue to produce at a high level. He has never missed a game in his professional career but having Kareem Hunt on the bench makes locking up this backfield a slam dunk. Hunt was taking the league by storm in his first couple of seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs before he managed to derail his own career. A couple of years later, there is no reason to believe that the talent we all witnessed is no longer there. He may be in Chubb’s shadow right now but if given the opportunity, it is very likely that he can re-establish himself as a top fantasy option.
Drafting both starters and their backups has not been a popular fantasy strategy in a very, very long time. It is nevertheless a strategy…one that relies on the fantasy manager buying into the overall talent of an NFL team’s backfield, whilst at the same time considering the offensive scheme, as well as the O-Line of the teams in question. And to be clear, no one is suggesting that anyone should draft Ingram over Barkley. Players still need to be drafted relevant to their ADPs. The argument put forward is that this year, of all years, it may be prudent to consider the backfield as a whole when making picks and to take an Elliott or a Kamara along with their backups over a McCaffrey or a Saquon with or without the #2 RB on their teams’ depth charts. In a sense, the backfield could work as a tiebreaker when one is faced with a tough decision.
Desperate times call for desperate measures…