Top Dynasty Startup Running Backs for 2020

PFN Fantasy Analyst Brit Devine goes over his top dynasty startup running backs for 2020 to guide you through the start of your drafts and trades.

After dropping my top 10 dynasty startup quarterbacks last week it’s time to go over my top dynasty startup running backs for 2020.

I mentioned in my quarterbacks’ article that focusing on youth and talent is my preferred dynasty startup strategy and that will continue throughout this four-part series. Let’s get it started!

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Top Dynasty Startup Running Backs for 2020


1. Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey just posted the second-highest PPR scoring season in history, and while I am near 100% certain the 2019 season will be the best fantasy season of his career, he is the clear cut number one dynasty startup running back for me.

He led the league in touches with 403, which was the third-highest amount in the past 10 years and was 48 more than Ezekiel Elliott in 2019, who was second with 355. A new long-term contract assures a full workload through at least 2022 as his cap hit remains $10 million+ until 2023 and with improved quarterback play and a new coaching system, CMC looks poised to remain dominant for the foreseeable future and is my top dynasty startup running back for 2020.

2. Saquon Barkley

Barkley dealt with a high ankle sprain last season which really hampered him as he fought through it, but as the top RB prospect of this generation, it’s impossible for me to drop him any farther than number two in my startup rankings.

There is no one behind him to remotely threaten him for workload share, and he has what I think will be at worst a league-average offense led by Daniel Jones and a plethora of coaching changes in the off-season. The New York Giants adding Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall selection this year is only going to help as well, since the Giants ranked just 25th in adjusted line yards at the position at Football Outsiders.

3. Alvin Kamara

Like Barkley above, Kamara also dealt with a high ankle sprain last year, which caused him to miss two games and likely wasn’t fully healthy for a few more. This caused his fantasy points per touch to drop to .99 in 2019 compared to 2018 when he averaged 1.29 as one of the most efficient running backs in the league. That 1.29 fantasy points per touch would have topped McCaffrey’s 1.17 per touch from his historic 2019 season by the way.

There is some contract doubt with him due to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, but I have little doubt he will remain in New Orleans playing for Sean Payton in a dome for at least nine games a season for the foreseeable future. Speaking of dome/indoor games, he plays in 11 of those this season which is always something I look at for fantasy production and should cement him as an elite option that will hold his fantasy value moving into 2021.

4. Ezekiel Elliott

Feeding Zeke is not going to be a problem for the next few years after he signed a $90 million dollar contract last year. There is no out in his contract until 2023, and he still has enough juice left in him as he enters age 25 this year.

Related | Should you move on from Zeke Elliott in fantasy leagues?

Zeke led the league in touches in 2018, finished second in touches last year, and barring injury should be close to a lock to end up top five in touches in 2020. The main driver of fantasy production at the running back position is simply the opportunity to touch the ball, and there is no question that Zeke has that for the next few years on a very potent offense that is going to score points.

5. Dalvin Cook

I am not scared at all about Cook’s contract situation and instead am focusing on his production in 2019 that saw him finish fourth in the league in touches per game. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is likely to continue heavy usage of Cook behind the league’s seventh-best adjusted line yards offensive linemen unit per Football Outsiders.

A true dual-threat workhorse running back that is still just 25 entering this season, Cook will undoubtedly secure a lucrative second contract either in Minnesota or somewhere else and looks poised for success for the next 2-3 seasons as a dominant player at the position.

6. Miles Sanders

After the Top 5, which should be somewhat standard in most rankings, I think I start to veer with some stronger takes against ADP. Sanders is 11th at the position in the PFN dynasty rankings, but to me, he is no doubt a top 10 player at the position in startups as I have him ranked sixth.

There is much talk of how the Philadelphia Eagles never use a workhorse back, but I lean more into the fact that they have never really had a back capable of dominating the touches like Sanders can. Sanders was 20th in the league in fantasy points per touch last year and saw a nice spike in overall touches to close out the season from Week 13 on. He was 13th in targets at the position last season and will undoubtedly catapult into the top 10 this year as he plays closer to 70%+ of the snaps than the 52% he played in 2019.

7. Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Even though Jonathan Taylor is the superior running back prospect rather easily, it’s impossible for me to ignore the absolute great landing spot that CEH has landed himself in after the 2020 NFL Draft. Not everyone may agree, but landing spot helps put CEH above all other rookies heading into this season.

The ability to catch passes from Patrick Mahomes in an offense led by Andy Reid and an ability to face the lowest amount of stacked boxes in the league when running the ball are a near-perfect match for the skillset that CEH brings to the Chiefs. Five years of near-elite/elite production can be expected, and if you want to take CEH over Sanders I really can’t argue against it.

8. Josh Jacobs

A lack of passing game work has Jacobs in the lower half of my Top 10 dynasty startup running backs, but at just 22-years-old when the 2020 season will end and a 10th place finish in touches per game in 2019, Jacobs is a near can’t miss dynasty asset at this price point for the next few seasons.

Jacobs was ninth in rush attempts per broken tackles per Pro Football Reference and was fifth in the league in yards after contact. Jacobs looks like one of the best rushers in the league despite mediocre athleticism. With first-round draft capital, he will undoubtedly be given every opportunity to succeed for the next four seasons in Las Vegas after a stellar rookie campaign.

9. Jonathan Taylor

Taylor looks like the second-best running back prospect in recent memory behind just Saquon Barkley after posting 6,174 yards rushing over three seasons in college and posting elite athleticism at the combine.

Related | Colts Fantasy RB Battle: Taylor vs. Mack vs. Hines

He now gets to run behind an elite offensive line, but with the three-headed attack at the position, the Indianapolis Colts seem willing to deploy in his rookie season and uncertainty at the quarterback position for the future, I am just a tad lower on Taylor in dynasty than fellow rookie CEH.

10. Joe Mixon

Mixon gets plenty of love in the dynasty community, but I seem to be a little lower on him than most. It’s not so much that I dislike Mixon as a dynasty startup asset, it’s that I simply prefer those ahead of him more.

Mixon was seventh in touches at the position in 2019, gets the first offensive lineman taken in the 2019 draft back with Jonah Williams set to return from injury, and gets Joe Burrow to lead the offense after putting up perhaps the best single-season in college history. As a true three-down back that can excel in the passing game, Mixon is the clear end to the top 10, and a tier above Nick Chubb who would be my 11th ranked running back if I continued down the line here.

Hopefully, my top dynasty startup running backs for 2020 can help you out in upcoming drafts or whatever trades you can pull off before the season starts!

Brit Devine is a fantasy contributor at ProFootballNetwork. Follow him on Twitter @brit_devine as well as @PFN365 and @PFNDynasty for all the latest fantasy news.