With the majority of fantasy football prospects either signed or waiting for the right opportunity, our second post-free agency stock report looks at how trades and 2020 NFL free agency have impacted dynasty running back rankings.
Running backs are often devalued in the modern NFL game, but those values can change dramatically in the right landing spot. Even with running backs much more valuable early in their career, fantasy players desperate for RB depth can use free agency to find sleepers being overlooked in pre-draft fantasy football dynasty rankings.
Our post-free agency running back stock report looks at how the franchise/transition tags were ideal for Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake fantasy owners, Melvin Gordon’s new loaded backfield in Denver, plus a glimpse at other dynasty prospects directly impacted by 2020 NFL free agency. You can find our first post-free agency dynasty rankings stock report on quarterbacks HERE.
Running backs that saw their dynasty fantasy football rankings increase post-free agency include:
Franchise/Transition Tagged Running Backs
After inking quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a four-year, $118 million contract extension, the Tennessee Titans kept their 2019 backfield together for at least one more season by franchise tagging 2019 NFL leading-rusher Derrick Henry. Tannehill’s former teammate in Miami, Kenyan Drake, was also transition tagged by the Arizona Cardinals.
Henry and Drake could potentially lose millions in long-term money by being tagged by their respective teams, but maintaining the status quo was the best-case scenario for dynasty owners everywhere.
The Titans have a solid offensive line and a commitment to using Henry as the main centerpiece of their offense. Henry finished 2019 as the NFL’s leading rusher and a top-five fantasy running back despite being hobbled in Week’s 15-16.
After being traded from Miami to Arizona at mid-season, Drake was a natural fit in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s up-tempo Air Raid system. In eight total games in Arizona, Drake averaged 19.9 PPR points per game. Drake staying in Arizona pushes him up to RB2 status in PFN’s Tommy Garrett’s 2020 post-free agency dynasty fantasy football rankings.
Melvin Gordon’s misguided holdout opened the door for backup pass-catching specialist Austin Ekeler to state his case as the Los Angeles Chargers’ number one running back. The undrafted RB from Division II Western State responded with a Top 10 (#4 PPR, #7 standard) fantasy finish in 2019.
While he has some apparent deficiencies as an inside runner, Ekeler’s work through the air is strong enough to overcome it in fantasy football. He finished 2019 with only 557 rushing yards, but his 92-993-8 TD receiving line pushed him up with the fantasy elites. Even if the Chargers pair Ekeler with a 2020 NFL Draft draftee, Ekeler is only 24 years old with a fantasy-friendly skillset.
When the Los Angeles Rams traded up to #70 in the 2019 NFL Draft to select Darrell Henderson, we never could have imagined a scenario where the former Memphis standout was their projected starter heading into the 2020 NFL season.
After all, the Rams had just signed the 2017 Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley to a four-year, $60 million contract extension in July of 2018. Coming off a Super Bowl loss in which Gurley finished with 34 total yards on 11 touches, maybe the writing was on the wall, and we just forgot to read it. Gurley is still only 25 years old, but the running back’s arthritic knee has drained the 2x All-Pro of his wiggle and burst.
With Gurley headed to Atlanta, Henderson will have every opportunity to take the reins of the Rams backfield. While the Los Angeles backfield could form into a timeshare between Henderson and Malcolm Brown, the former Memphis running back has the talent and team support to lead the group.
Running backs that saw their dynasty fantasy football rankings decrease post-free agency include:
We mentioned Melvin Gordon’s ill-advised holdout in the Austin Ekeler blurb, and now we look at the former Wisconsin Badgers standout’s new home. After testing free agency, Gordon decided to keep it in the division by signing with the AFC West rival Denver Broncos.
Phillip Lindsay handled 63% of Denver’s running back carries a season ago en route to his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. As good as Gordon is, a player with that talent isn’t just going away. Barring a surprising Lindsay trade, the pair of former Pro Bowl running backs seem destined for a 55/45 type of split. Both running backs have seen a dip in early ADP and 2020 dynasty fantasy football rankings.
In simple terms, New England Patriots’ running back James White’s fantasy stock was probably hurt the most by Tom Brady leaving town. Pass-catching specialist White benefited from Brady’s late-career tendency to check down more than most.
With Brady in Tampa Bay and the current New England quarterback depth chart featuring Jarrett Stidham and journeyman Brian Hoyer, the Patriots’ offense is very much a question mark heading into the 2020 NFL season. Until we know the full plan for the QB position, it’s hard not to drop White and the Patriots pass-catchers down in the 2020 post-free agency dynasty fantasy football rankings.
Jordan Woodson is a writer for PFN covering dynasty fantasy football. Follow him on Twitter @Jordan_Woodson.