News & Analysis

Evaluating the fantasy landing spots of the top-drafted rookie running backs

By Scott Barrett
Apr 30, 2019

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Nov 10, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Miles Sanders (24) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Wisconsin 22-10. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Every February, fantasy football analysts start building out a set of rankings for the incoming class of rookies and continue to adjust it up until the draft. Once the draft hits, those ranking become dangerously wrong. While original evaluations should always play a major role in rankings, landing spot becomes the biggest factor.

Not only is team landing spot important, but so too is where in the draft a player is selected. The higher a player is drafted, the more likely he is to achieve fantasy success. It makes sense in theory too — teams have more invested in these players, and thus, are more invested in seeing them succeed.

Taking these factors into account, here is a look at the prognoses for the 2019 draft’s most-notable fantasy running backs.

Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders (1.24)

During the pre-draft process, I noted that Jacobs had all the makings of a future bell-cow running back. He excelled in short yardage situations and as a pass-catcher. 41.0% of Jacobs’ carries resulted in either a first down or a touchdown in 2018, the highest rate in the country. He also led all combine-invite running backs in career yards per target average (10.4) and yards per route run (2.06).

During Oakland’s Day 1 post-draft press conference, GM Mike Mayock agreed with this assessment, calling him a “three-down running back.” Head coach Jon Gruden was even more effusive in praise and added, “I think he’s going to be a centerpiece at some point.” When asked if Jacobs could be a featured back, Gruden responded, “My expectation for him — if you’re listening, Josh — I encourage you to get some rest because we’re going to run you a lot. We’re going to give you a great opportunity.”

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