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Best Ball Strategy

Updated Best-Ball RB Tiers

by John Daigle
Updated On: July 24, 2020, 6:05 pm ET

Jump to: QB Tiers I WR Tiers I TE Tiers


Tier One


Christian McCaffrey (RB1) -- Unlike last year, there is no debate as to who should be universally crowned the No. 1 overall pick in every format. Back-to-back seasons with 200-plus carries and 100 catches entrench McCaffrey as such until further notice.

Saquon Barkley (RB2) -- The overall RB1 over the final three weeks of the year, Barkley punished the Giants’ opponents in that stretch with a 63/393/4 (6.24 YPC) rushing line. His additional 11.2 yards per target (11/146/1) in that span buried any lingering concerns regarding his high-ankle sprain (which hindered him mid-year).

Ezekiel Elliott (RB3) -- 300 carries and 15 starts in 3-of-4 seasons since joining the Cowboys in 2016. An ironman glued to the field with a $90 million bottle of Elmer's, Elliott also projects for increased targets underneath given the absences of Jason Witten, Randall Cobb, and Tavon Austin.

Alvin Kamara (RB4) -- Kamara's elusiveness diminished upon returning from his high-ankle sprain as he avoided a tackle every 7.3 touches from Week 10 on compared to every 3.1 touches before injury. Career-high (and nice) 69 percent snap rate in 2019 still a win in his first year without Mark Ingram.

Dalvin Cook (RB5) -- Cook broke out with 19.2 fantasy points per game in his first 11 starts before battling through chest and shoulder pains to close the year. Stefon Diggs' departure is quietly a plus for the holdout, who averaged an increased 5.3 targets in six games without Adam Thielen last season. Still possible Minnesota signs the 24-year-old to a long-term deal prior to Week 1.

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Tier Two               


Derrick Henry (RB6) -- Impressively averaged 21.5/116.8/1.1 rushing over his last 22 starts, but Henry's 32 total targets in that span are further proof the 26-year-old can be game-scripted out of contests with ease. Doesn’t help that No. 93 overall pick Darrynton Evans’ skill set seamlessly transitions into Dion Lewis’ vacated role.

Miles Sanders (RB7) -- It took several injuries for Sanders to steal the spotlight, but his 72 percent snap rate in Philadelphia's last eight games (including 14.6 carries and 5.1 targets per outing) pave the way for an increased role in 2020. Only Boston Scott, Elijah Holyfield, and Corey Clement remain under contract behind the second-year stud for this upcoming season.

Kenyan Drake (RB8) -- Drake buoyed coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense into 18.9 touches, 101.8 yards, and 19.5 fantasy points per game as the overall RB4 upon joining Arizona for eight starts at the trade deadline. Seventh-round RB Eno Benjamin was the team’s only runner added this offseason.

Joe Mixon (RB9) -- Much like Melvin Gordon’s contract situation (which eventually led to his holdout) last summer, Mixon’s looming negotiations will be the offseason’s most impactful domino to fall, whenever that may be. If he eventually signs, a reminder the 23-year-old careered with 313 touches and 3.15 yards after contact per attempt as the overall RB11 behind Cincinnati's Swiss cheese O-line last year. Jonah Williams' return should improve the team's blocking in one fell swoop.

Austin Ekeler (RB10) -- Ekeler was the No. 1 overall player in fantasy leagues with 56/220/3 rushing and 24/270/3 receiving through the first month of the year before Melvin Gordon re-joined the team in Week 5. While his eight receiving scores from the backfield are bound to regress, Ekeler should still settle in as a low-end RB1 with Gordon officially signed in Denver.

Nick Chubb (RB11) -- Chubb's 22.4 touches per game (and life as the overall RB6) through October dwindled to 20.1 and an RB17 ranking once Kareem Hunt joined the party from Week 10 on. Chubb is a positive regression candidate after scoring on just 4-of-32 touches inside the 10-yard line last year, but his minute share of backfield targets will likely be eviscerated altogether.

Josh Jacobs (RB12) -- Jacobs' 18.6 carries per game were a plus in his first year under coach Jon Gruden, but both Jalen Richard and third-round rookie Lynn Bowden will likely limit the former’s ceiling as he stays pigeon-holed as an early-down grinder in his sophomore campaign.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB13) -- A pro-ready prospect who caught 55-of-64 targets in his final year at LSU, Edwards-Helaire’s (5'8/209) strengths are a dream fit in Andy Reid’s offense. His current 2.05 ADP (albeit a hefty price tag) reflects as much, with box scores versus Alabama (29/180/4) and Clemson (21/164) representing his potential ceiling. Keep in mind Chiefs GM Brett Veach’s proclamation that Damien Williams will remain the starter before overconfidently pulling the trigger on CEH.

Aaron Jones (RB14) -- Scored the second-most touchdowns (19) in Green Bay's illustrious franchise history due in part to a career-high 285 touches with Jamaal Williams consistently banged up. Jones will undoubtedly keep involved in the Packers’ run-oriented attack this year, but overall touch count and scores project to subside with No. 62 overall pick AJ Dillon sharing the load. Jones, due $2.1 million in the final year of his contract, is also approaching a potential holdout.

Todd Gurley (RB15) -- Lucked into the best-case scenario in returning to Georgia since Devonta Freeman's release freed up 17.3 touches per game. The latter also averaged 4.6 targets from Matt Ryan last year, a shade above Gurley's receiving opportunity (3.1) with the Rams. No added competition or general wear and tear (which would usually stem from OTAs) cement the 25-year-old as a post-draft rocket ship.

Chris Carson (RB16) -- Bell-cow 19.3 carries per game on 72 percent of Seattle's offensive snaps even with Rashaad Penny healthy for most of the year. Carson remains entrenched as the Hawks' Week 1 starter given reports that Penny will begin on the team’s PUP list.

Melvin Gordon (RB17) -- Took a full month to get himself into game shape following a holdout through September, but Gordon closed the year as fantasy's RB6 ahead of teammate Austin Ekeler from Week 9 on. “Belief” is Gordon will work as Denver's 1A option over Phillip Lindsay as he’s historically been more reliable both through the air (224 career catches) and around pay dirt (23 touchdowns on 48 carries inside the five the past four seasons).

Jonathan Taylor (RB18) -- Reportedly envisioned as part of a one-two punch with Marlon Mack, the fact is the organization traded up to add Taylor with the No. 41 overall pick. Mack’s inability to take a stranglehold of lead duties the last two years makes Taylor an all-too-obvious candidate to seize that role by season’s end.


Tier Three


Leonard Fournette (RB19) -- Somehow translated the seventh-most carries (265) and fourth-most targets (100) at his position into two measly touchdowns. Fournette enters 2020 with zilch for competition behind him ... assuming he sticks in Jacksonville. His outright release would create $4.2 million in cap space this upcoming year.

David Johnson (RB20) -- Johnson averaged 17.7 touches per game as the overall RB6 through Week 6 before nagging ankle and back injuries had the 28-year-old mimicking an escape from quicksand in his last seven games. Even if his best days are behind him, the Texans boast a league-high 254 unaccounted for carries ripe for the picking from last year.

James Conner (RB21) -- Conner's occasional availability on game days caused more trouble than it was worth as he exited early on five separate occasions. Pittsburgh’s addition of home-run hitter Anthony McFarland (only one year after the team added fourth-round RB Benny Snell) is another clear message that the organization will “cut back” Conner’s touches in the final year of his contract.

Le'Veon Bell (RB22) -- Pros: Bell was one of just nine backs to total 300-plus touches in 2019, playing 83 percent of New York's offensive snaps in his first year under coach Adam Gase. Cons: The 28-year-old lacked any semblance of juice following his yearlong holdout, comically punching in his only three rushing scores from two-, one-, and one-yard out. Unfortunately, Frank Gore's recent arrival also figures to cut into Bell's workload since the former was infamously Gase's preferred target in free agency before ex-GM Mike Maccagnan went behind the coach's back to ink Bell to a four-year deal. For what it's worth, Gore previously led the Dolphins in carries (156) and rushing yards (722) under Gase in 2018.

Cam Akers (RB23) -- The youngest runner (20.7) among this year's class, Los Angeles’ mediocre run-blocking will be nothing new to Akers as he totaled 261/1,369/18 behind Florida State's shaky O-line in his final collegiate year. He projects as one of only a handful of rookies who could conceivably exceed 250-plus touches this year given the team’s second-round investment.

Raheem Mostert (RB24) -- Didn't truly burst onto the scene until Week 13, but did so in spectacular fashion with 117/715/11 and 6.1 yards per carry over the Niners’ last eight games (absurd 53/336/5 postseason run included). Mostert’s touchdown deodorant repelled the stench of 25 total targets and an ongoing hot-hand approach across 19 appearances.

David Montgomery (RB25) -- The third-rounder's 15th-percentile SPARQ measurement was a precautionary tale for his 55 avoided tackles on 267 touches — the third-fewest forced whiffs among the 14 backs that handled the ball 260-plus times. Bears GM Ryan Pace offered positive reassurance at the Combine, confirming Montgomery can "carry a heavier load" despite his pedestrian numbers on the ground (242/889/6) last year.

Devin Singletary (RB26) -- Singletary was quietly handed the torch from Week 16 on, straddling 35 of Buffalo's 43 backfield touches in his last two games. Frank Gore’s absence vacates 166 carries and a team-high 11 totes inside the five-yard line, but Zack Moss (5’9/233) figures to siphon any fruitful reps in goal-line territory.

Kareem Hunt (RB27) -- Hunt primarily returned value in PPR formats as his 44 targets after joining Cleveland in Week 10 paced for the seventh-most (88) among running backs over a 16-game span.

Mark Ingram (RB28) -- 30-year-old Ingram jumps off the page as the only RB2 that could be on the outside looking in for wall-related reasons. Ravens also hold a team-friendly out for 2021, inevitably taking on $1.3 million in dead cap to make room for ...

J.K. Dobbins (RB29) -- Dobbins (ankle) declined to participate in on-field workouts during Combine week but previously tested as a 99th-percentile SPARQ freak at Nike's 'Opening Finals' drills out of high school. With at least 22 receptions in all three seasons at Ohio State, Dobbins will force his way into a role among Baltimore’s stacked backfield.


Tier Four


Matt Breida (RB30) -- Neither Jordan Howard or Patrick Laird offer the same downhill speed as Breida, who projects for a team-high share of carries the moment he steps foot in Miami. Expect the other two to soak up goal-line and third-down reps, respectively.

Tevin Coleman (RB31) -- Failed to eclipse six touches in 7-of-8 contests from Week 13 on but still participated in 29 percent of San Francisco's snaps behind Raheem Mostert (59%) in that stretch. Coleman will arguably sprinkle in for a handful of starts when healthy given coach Kyle Shanahan’s insistent hot-hand approach behind Jimmy Garoppolo.

Damien Williams (RB32) -- Much like his 2018 breakout, Williams closed Kansas City's Super Bowl run with 14.5 carries and 6.7 targets per game on 85 percent of the team's offensive snaps across four postseason contests. He’ll have a role as the team’s “starter” this upcoming season, but the Chiefs' first-round capital in CEH ultimately limits Williams’ ceiling in his contract year.

D'Andre Swift (RB33) -- Swift, who recorded just three drops and 9.1 yards per catch across 73 career receptions throughout Georgia’s formation, will undoubtedly open the year with a more fantasy-friendly role over teammate Kerryon Johnson.

Alexander Mattison (RB34) -- Recent update accounts for a handful of starts if Dalvin Cook stays away through the first 10 weeks. Last year's No. 102 overall pick, Mattison averaged 8.5 touches per game in 13 appearances as the team's true handcuff.

Jordan Howard (RB35) -- Gifted $4.75 million guaranteed before the organization shipped a fifth-rounder for Matt Breida mid-draft. Howard could still conceivably run for double-digit scores as the Dolphins’ goal-line thumper.

Ronald Jones (RB36) -- Peyton Barber's departure to Washington leaves 154 carries and a team-high eight rushes inside the five-yard line for both Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Jones to fight over. Anything less than last year’s 172/724/6 rushing campaign would be a gut-punching loss for the 22-year-old as he still projects to split carries then come off the field for Vaughn/Dare Ogunbowale on passing downs.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB37) -- Vaughn (5’10/214) profiles similar to Ronald Jones but enters the league fresh off a collegiate-high 28 catches in his final year at Vanderbilt. The 23-year-old rookie gets the benefit of the doubt for the Bucs’ receiving-game role if only because coach Bruce Arians has already seen (and disapproved of) Jones’ handful of attempts at blocking oncoming pass rushers.

Derrius Guice (RB38) -- Teased with an explosive 49/324/3 and 6.6 yards per touch in five appearances before being shelved for the second straight year. Coach Ron Rivera told ESPN's Matthew Berry that Adrian Peterson, Bryce Love, and Guice would all have roles in 2020.

Marlon Mack (RB39) -- Career-high 247 carries this past year included a pedestrian number of targets (17) and receiving yards (82) as Mack saw his routes run plummet from 19 per game in 2018 to 13.5 last season. Minimal upside unless coach Frank Reich suddenly recalls that Mack hauled in 65 balls as a receiving threat across three seasons with South Florida.

Kerryon Johnson (RB40) -- Regardless of talent, Johnson has missed 14 of a possible 32 games with multiple prolonged knee injuries since joining the Lions as their No. 43 overall pick in '18. Should still open the year as the team’s explosive early-down bruiser over rookie D’Andre Swift.