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Best Ball Strategy

Updated Best-Ball RB Tiers

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

Tier Five

 

Sony Michel (RB41) -- Add offseason foot surgery to Michel's scroll of injuries dating back to high school, including an ACL tear, knee injury during the SEC Championship Game, a knee fluid procedure in his rookie year, and last season's knee scope. His touchdown-or-bust outlook includes an underground bomb shelter as his floor given coach Bill Belichick's propensity to take the third-year pro off the field for passing downs. Has only logged 50 percent of New England's snaps in 2-of-33 career games.

Darrell Henderson (RB42) -- Totaled an invisible 45 touches on 93 snaps in his rookie year despite coach-speak he'd complement Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown. Henderson's 11 avoided tackles (24.4% rate) keep him as a bet-on-talent reclamation project behind No. 52 overall pick Cam Akers.

James White (RB43) -- White's 139 touches as the overall RB20 this past year is closer to expectations than his illustrious 181 touches and top-10 finish in '18. Any reported uptick in Damien Harris' usage this offseason would move White further down the team's pecking order (and thus these ranks).

Latavius Murray (RB44) -- A league-winner with 48/221/3 rushing and 14/86/1 receiving in two spot-starts for Alvin Kamara last year, but Murray's 8.2 touches per game in his surrounding 15 performances leave a lot to be desired for 2020.

Tony Pollard (RB45) -- Among the 61 qualifiers with 70-plus touches in 2019, Pollard led all in Pro Football Focus’ sticky yards after contact per attempt (4.51) metric. Even so, a performance-based increase in usage will likely fall on deaf ears since the $90 million elephant in the room ahead of him hasn't missed a single career game due to injury.

Tarik Cohen (RB46) -- Quietly ran the eighth-most routes (381) among running backs, including a position-high 105 (29%) from the slot. Taylor Gabriel's release vacates an additional 5.3 targets and 34.7 routes per game for Cohen to potentially soak up.

Boston Scott (RB47) -- Scott exploded for 23/138/3 in Philadelphia's Week 17 win-and-in against the Giants, but that opportunity can solely be attributed to Miles Sanders' injury since the former merely handled nine playoff touches on 28 percent of snaps. Jordan Howard's absence leaves 119 carries and a team-high eight farts inside the five-yard line unaccounted for.

Zack Moss (RB48) -- Pro Football Focus charted Moss with the third-highest broken tackle per attempt rate of any back since 2014, but his lengthy injury history (including a tweaked hamstring during combine drills) begs the question of his ability to stay on the field. The thunder to Devin Singletary’s lightning, Moss (5’9/223) still stumbles into goal line reps out the gates in Buffalo.

Ryquell Armstead (RB49) -- Flashed receiving chops in his limited role (150 snaps) off the bench last year, totaling 14/144/2 as the only option behind Leonard Fournette. Sneaky bet to become the summer’s biggest riser as rumors about Fournette’s dwindling shelf life with the organization continue to swirl.

AJ Dillon (RB50) -- A highly-productive power back who averaged 110 rushing yards and one touchdown per game as a three-year starter at Boston College, Dillon’s (6’0/247) ceiling in a two-down committee with Aaron Jones is limited since the rookie recorded three drops on just 24 career targets.

Antonio Gibson (RB51) -- Designated as a wide receiver upon being drafted with the No. 66 overall pick, Gibson still exists in most Best-Ball formats as a running back. The point stands that he’ll find his way onto the field as a multi-purpose weapon after averaging 15.6 yards per touch and leading the nation in yards after contact per attempt (8.0) in his final year at Memphis.

Duke Johnson (RB52) -- Out-touched by Carlos Hyde (255 to 127) in 2019, Duke’s glass will only be broken behind David Johnson in the event of an emergency. It helps that there’s no competition to speak of (Buddy Howell, Karan Higdon) behind him.

Phillip Lindsay (RB53) -- Denver's undrafted gem has darted for 1,000 rushing yards in back-to-back years, but the addition of Melvin Gordon is a mammoth roadblock across the board for Lindsay as the offseason’s biggest faller.

Nyheim Hines (RB54) -- Backfield-high 14.8 routes per game from last year shouldn’t take too drastic of a hit seeing as how that skill set was Jonathan Taylor’s lone weakness (eight drops on 50 targets) with the Badgers.

Justin Jackson (RB55) -- 25-year-old Jackson (6'0/193) quietly averaged 8.0 touches in Los Angeles' first three games before Melvin Gordon returned from his holdout. Threatened by fourth-round rookie Joshua Kelley given the duo’s similar skill sets behind Austin Ekeler.

Chase Edmonds (RB56) -- Buoyed his lone opportunity ahead of David Johnson into an absurd 29/150/3 in Week 7 against the Giants. Only handled two touches over five games behind Kenyan Drake, but 23-year-old Edmonds remains a mandatory handcuff as he's just one injury away from handling 20-plus touches.

 

Tier Six

 

Damien Harris (RB57) -- The incumbent starter if Sony Michel (foot) were to open the year on PUP. The Patriots didn’t invest a third-round pick into Harris just to hand him another four carries in his sophomore season.

Giovani Bernard (RB58) -- The primary beneficiary if Joe Mixon does in fact stay home without a new deal. Unlike the rest of this tier, Bernard is just one plan gone awry from becoming an RB1.

Darrynton Evans (RB59) -- With just three drops across 55 career targets at Appalachian State, Evans (5’10/203) is the dart to roster if betting against Tennessee’s offense (and Ryan Tannehill in particular) sustaining its efficiency this upcoming year.

Chris Thompson (RB60) -- Plagued with injuries the past two seasons, Thompson lands with a familiar face in OC Jay Gruden that previously buoyed the 29-year-old’s reliable hands into 39/510/4 receiving and an overall RB28 finish with Washington in 2017.

Jerick McKinnon (RB61) -- Leading candidate for San Francisco's passing-game role behind Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman.

Carlos Hyde (RB62) -- Stylistically similar to Chris Carson, but the latter has missed three games the past two seasons. Carson is also recovering from offseason hip surgery.

Anthony McFarland (RB63) -- McFarland brings fresh legs to the table as he totaled roughly 500 touches over his high school and collegiate career due to various injuries. His 4.44 40-sprint at 5’8/208 is an eye-popping trait that no one else among Pittsburgh’s backfield (James Conner included) can offer.

Joshua Kelley (RB64) -- Kelley struggled to break tackles while averaging a pedestrian 5.05 yards per carry at UCLA the past two seasons but does offer straight-line speed (4.49 40) among the Chargers’ thin backfield.

Malcolm Brown (RB65) -- Brown out-snapped (222 to 93) and out-touched (71 to 43) Darrell Henderson in their first year together, but the latter is still the player to bet on behind Cam Akers given his sheer tackle-shedding ability.

DeeJay Dallas (RB66) -- Expected to stroll into C.J. Prosise’s former third-role in camp while Rashaad Penny (ACL) rehabs. Dallas sneakily has a path to upside since Travis Homer’s skill set overlaps with Chris Carson’s.

Jamaal Williams (RB67) -- Coach Matt LaFleur's dwindling faith in Williams resulted in the latter totaling 15 touches over Green Bay's last three games, including seven on 23 percent of the team's postseason snaps. Questionable (nonexistent?) role following the Day 2 addition of Boston College bruiser AJ Dillon.

Jaylen Samuels (RB68) -- Averaged nine carries and six targets in four starts for James Conner. Unfortunately, Benny Snell's emergence on 13.3 carries per game over Pittsburgh’s last six bouts strips Samuels of his two-down role moving forward.

Lynn Bowden (RB69) -- A Kentucky legend who secured eight school records over his three years with the Wildcats (including a single-season record 7.9 yards per carry), Bowden, designated as a running back on draft night, is still eyeing an extremely limited role behind Josh Jacobs and Jalen Richard.

Ito Smith (RB70) -- 25 in September, only Brian Hill stands in The Judge’s path as Atlanta’s primary backup to Todd Gurley.

Trayveon Williams (RB71) -- Williams stands to benefit from Joe Mixon’s looming holdout if the organization, for whatever reason, isn’t tied to Giovani Bernard. Reminder Trayveon rushed for a career 600/3,615/34 (6.0 YPC) under Bengals’ current OL coach Jim Turner during their time together with the Texas A&M Aggies.

Justice Hill (RB72) -- Hill’s 4.40 40-time was hung out to dry with a trifling number of catches (8) in his rookie year. The addition of Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins is an outright loss for 22-year-old Hill.

Rashaad Penny (RB73) -- All signs point to Penny opening the year on PUP due to his "more than just a normal" ACL tear from Week 14.

Benny Snell (RB74) -- A 4.66 40 (at 5’10/224, no less) and not an ounce of receiving chops to speak of keeps Snell pinned as a touchdown-or-implode option for later rounds. Averaged an underwhelming 3.8 touches in James Conner’s 10 starts last year.

Reggie Bonnafon (RB75) -- Christian McCaffrey’s direct handcuff.