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Ranking the 2019 Rookie RBs
The running back position has come into a new era of sorts over the past few years. An influx of talent primarily focused on backs who can both run and catch has infused the position with new fantasy life The 2019 crop of backs brought us more of that spark. How do they stack up after a season of play?
1. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles,53rd NFL Draft Pick
179 attempts, 818 yds, 3 TD
50 receptions, 509 yds, 3 TD
There will be a healthy debate as to which running back should be valued highest, Miles Sanders or Josh Jacobs. The answer is unequivocably Sanders.
Sanders entered the league as a committee-back, working in with a stopgap rusher in Jordan Howard. However, Howard got hurt midway through the year and let Sanders take over the workhorse role. He never looked back.
From Week 11 until the end of the post-season, the Eagles' rookie averaged 14.6 carries for 68.9 yards. Most importantly, he also averaged 3.9 catches for 26.5 yards. He scored .5 times per game over this span.
At those rates, Sanders would go for more than 1,500 total yards in a 16 game season. No rookie back embodied the modern bell-cow like Sanders did in his first season. In dynasty, he's an immediate buy, even given the steep asking price.
2. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders, 24th NFL Draft Pick
242 attempts, 1,150 yds, 7 TD
20 receptions, 166 yds
Jacobs posted very similar numbers to Sanders and he did so in three fewer games. He ended the season with one more touchdown and 11 fewer yards. The big difference was his lackluster reception total of 20.
Jacobs was touted as a talented receiver coming out of Alabama but the Oakland stuff consistently took him off the field to get DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard passing-down reps. Richard is under contract for the next two seasons so the Raiders will need to see major improvement in the passing game from Jacobs for things to change. If that does happen, he'd be in lockstep with Sanders. Until then, he's just a talented between-the-tackles back with little upside over the course of an entire season.
3. Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills, 74th NFL Draft Pick
151 attempts, 775 yds, 2 TD
29 receptions, 194 yds, 2 TD
Heading into the 2019 season, most rookie drafts had a tier of two running backs at the top: Jacobs ad Sanders. After that, things got murkier.
Devin Singletary was often left out of the conversation for who should go next because of his athleticism. He ran a 4.66 Forty-yard dash at the diminutive size of 5'7", 203 lbs. He also recorded low measures in the agility and burst drills at the combine.
Singletary crushed the narratives of his disappointing physical abilities by evading more tackles per touch than al but two running backs in 2019. After catching nine passes during his final season at Florida Atlanta, he caught 29 in 12 games as an NFL rookie.
Much like Sanders, Singletary also broke out in the second half of the season. He suffered an injury that cost him a few games early in the year. Once he got his feet under him in upon returning, the Buffalo backfield was all his.
Frank Gore is no longer under contract so Singletary could be in line for a full complement of touches. If that comes to fruition, he has a very real shot at leading his class in fantasy points next season.
4. David Montgomery, Chicago Bear, 73rd NFL Draft Pick
242 attempts, 889 yds, 6 TD
25 receptions, 185 yds, 1 TD
Like every other piece of the Chicago Bears offense, David Montgomery appeared to be moving in quicksand for most of last season. Averaging 3.7 yards per carry, Montgomery owned the worst YPC for a rookie back with at least 50 totes.
He had two carries over 20 yards and three under negative two yards. Mongomery carried the ball 242 times and 81% of those carries resulted in a gain of five yards or less. He was a player who was able to get what was blocked for him and not much more. If things were going to be turning around in Chicago, it might be an okay time to be a Montgomery investor. It looks like things are going to go from bad to worse though.
The Bears have PFF's 25th-best offensive line, Mitchell Trubisky under center, a lone second-round pick in the first four rounds of the draft this year, and the 27th-most cap space.
We may never know Montgomery's true talent as he's drug down to the depths of mediocrity by his inept franchise. He makes a great sell candidate right now because of the limited upside inherent in any Bears player.
5. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys, 128th NFL Draft Pi
ck 86 attempts, 455 yds, 2 TD
29 receptions, 194 yds, 2 TD
If this was a list of rushers by pure talent without any factor of expected fantasy production, Tony Pollard would have a solid argument to be the first-ranked back. Sitting behind Ezekiel Elliott, Pollard was given very few opportunities to make an impact as a rookie. Despite his criminal underuse, the rookie from Memphis balled out.
He averaged 5.3 yards per carry and hit the century mark on the ground twice without being given a single start. He showed off game-breaking speed and agility in his short time on the field.
The only chance Pollard has at weekly fantasy relevance (save for a Zeke injury) is if Mike McCarthy's new offensive philosophies translate to utilizing his electric backup rusher in unique ways. It's possible but backups to three-down backs rarely ascend to weekly starter status in fantasy.
6. Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings, 102nd NFL Draft Pick
100 attempts, 462 yds, 1 TD
10 receptions, 82 yds
Alexander Mattison is in a similar situation to Pollard but didn't nearly flash the same upside in his limited action. He only caught 11 passes in 13 regular seasons and two playoff games. Mattison also saw double-digit carries in as many games a Pollard but capped out at 63 rushing yards.
Dalvin Cook is entering the final year of his rookie contract but he'll likely get a fifth-year option and then an extension. That would push Mattison's nearest date of relevancy to his own free agency which is years away.
7. Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams, 70th NFL Draft Pick
39 attempts, 147 yds
4 receptions, 37 yds
Darrell Henderson rushed for 1,909 yards and 22 scores as a junior at Memphis and caught 19 passes for an additional 295 yards. He did this all while holding Tony Pollard back from getting much playing time. His college resume speaks for itself but the numbers he posted as a rookie set him on a career path that quickly leads to obscurity.
The only upshot is that he sits behind Todd Gurley who, as far as our current guard of running backs goes, is pretty much done for. Beyond Henderson, most backs are a push to stay on dynasty roster once rookie drafts get underway.