The NFL Draft has come and gone, and fantasy owners have fully devoted their attention to upcoming (or ongoing) dynasty rookie drafts. Instead of simply ranking the new crop of running backs, I have created some “rookie superlatives” for each.


“Brightest Future”

The answer to this superlative was always most likely to be Jonathan Taylor, and his draft capital and landing spot cemented him as a rookie with as good of a chance as any to have a productive career both for NFL as well as fantasy purposes. 

Since 2000, the five rookie running backs drafted in rounds one or two of the NFL Draft with a college dominator of 40% or greater and at least 4,000 collegiate rushing yards areMatt Forte, Melvin Gordon, Ray Rice, DeAngelo Williams, and now Jonathan Taylor.. While that group of running backs isn’t necessarily the elite of the elite, those four have combined for 21 top-24 fantasy finishes, and eight top-5 finishes while averaging nearly 15 fantasy points per game in their 32 combined seasons. Taylor joins this group with by far the most collegiate rushing yards per game, the second-most collegiate scrimmage yards per touch, and from an athletic profile perspective the highest Body Mass Index and fastest 40 time. Being drafted to a team with a solid offensive line that called run plays at the fourth-highest percentage in the league just further sets up Taylor for success long-term.


“Most Immediate Opportunity Production”

Jonathan Taylor was a consideration for this award too, however Marlon Mack is still on the Colts and coming off of an 1,100 yard season. While Taylor is more talented than Mack, I would not be surprised to see the Colts work in Mack, especially early in the season. In Kansas City, however, Clyde Edwards-Helaire looks poised to see significant playing time from the get-go. 

Consider this: dating back to 2010 in Philadelphia, when Andy Reid’s top running back plays at least 14 games, Reid trusts that back with an average of 73% of the running back touches. The issue in Kansas City in four of the past five seasons is that the top running back in the offense has missed significant time and thus backups have begun splitting the work. 


Year
Lead Running Back
RB Games Played
% of Running Back Touches 
Total Team Running Back Touches
2010
LeSean McCoy
15
73%
392
2011
LeSean McCoy
15
81%
394
2013
Jamaal Charles
15
73%
449
2014
Jamaal Charles
15
58%
423
2017
Kareem Hunt
15
78%
419


If Edwards-Helaire can remain healthy, one would think Reid will plan on using his first-round running back as the lead back in his offense. Assuming Edwards-Helaire sees 73% of the total running back touches (which has averaged 397 the past three years in Kansas City), he could be in line for nearly 290 touches in his rookie campaign. If this is the case, it is hard to imagine Clyde not amassing 1,200 yards in that offense. Opportunity in his rookie season also provides Edwards-Helaire with one of the highest floors in this rookie running back class.


“Biggest Flirt”

As the winner of the biggest flirt award myself in high school, I know a thing or two about leading someone on. In 2020, I expect J.K. Dobbins to be the running back who provides the biggest tease for fantasy owners as a rookie. 

Dobbins has high NFL draft capital and a great landing spot as far as scheme. According to Graham Barfield from Fantasy Points, Dobbins led all incoming rookies in percentage from run attempts coming from Run-Pass Option (RPO) playcalls. Baltimore ran the ball out of RPOs 230 times in 2019, tops in the league. This perfect marriage should yield good fantasy production for Dobbins during his career, as long as Lamar Jackson continues to man that offense.

The concern is whether Dobbins will see enough work to consistently dominate in 2020, with Mark Ingram still in the fold. Splitting carries with Ingram, Jackson, and to a lesser extent Justice Hill and Gus Edwards could lead to some maddening weeks. Think Miles Sanders from 2019: he was a supremely talented back in the Eagles offense yet did not garner 50% of the snaps until Week 7, and on the season finished at just 53% of the team’s total offensive snaps. Sanders averaged 113 total yards per game when he did play at least 70% of the snaps, but unfortunately that only occurred five teams. Dobbins may also struggle to see half of the offensive snaps in Baltimore, but in his limited appearances I fully expect him to flash the elite potential he has.

Stay tuned for the second installment of the series, Rookie Wide Receiver Superlatives, where we will look at a few of the pass-catchers in this rookie class to see what honors they will be graduating with. As always, you can find me on Twitter @_TaylorCornell.