Over the last week, various prospect and team fits have been analyzed. Most of the breakdowns following the 2020 NFL Draft will tell you the role each rookie can have on their respective teams and how they complement the overall goal of the franchise.
But who cares about real football and winning real titles; fantasy football titles are where it's at.
Every year there are rookies who, despite not playing a down in the NFL, get drafted in the first few rounds of fantasy football drafts because of the points they can potentially accumulate.
Running backs hold the keys in fantasy; with that, grabbing a top first-year rusher can make or break fantasy drafts. Correctly valuing and drafting rookies in fantasy football can make or break seasons.
Here are five running backs that could be difference makers in fantasy football.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
The fantasy rushers that normally dominate are the bell cows who get a lot of carries on a run-heavy team. The Chiefs' offense is built around quarterback Patrick Mahomes and their passing attack. No one is arguing this. But the reason why Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the first running back off the board is the same reason why he'll be a valuable fantasy back, even in Year 1.
Edwards-Helaire is a great complement to the passing game. For points-per-reception (PPR) formats, he'll still hold plenty of value, even if he might not get as many straight carries as other backs. Edwards-Helaire caught 55 passes for 453 receiving yards to go along with 1,400 rushing yards with 16 rushing touchdowns.
D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
Many were shocked when the Lions invested such a high second-round pick in a position they already have a solidified starter they believe in with Kerryon Johnson. But Johnson, for as good as he is, has only started in 14 games over the last two years, largely due to health concerns.
Johnson will likely be the starting running back for Detroit to start the season, but D’Andre Swift will still get on the field in passing situations since he is such a good receiver. If Johnson were to unfortunately miss any time moving forward, Swift would step in and then become a feature back.
Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
With a myriad of needs along both trenches, most would not have predicted the Rams going running back with their first choice in the draft, but that's just what they did, betting on the talented Cam Akers.
Los Angeles moved on from Todd Gurley due to long-term concerns both with his health and the value relative to what he was about to get paid. The running back room needed some new blood. The Rams had young talent in Darrell Henderson, who they drafted in the third round last year. They could lean on him in 2020, but using such a high pick on a back means they likely have big plans for Akers, even in Year 1.
Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills
As the second day of the draft was winding down, it seemed like fans of teams were begging for their organization to take Zack Moss. Moss was one of the best running backs in college football and truly a fan favorite when it came to the draft. But his injury history and medical outlook scared teams away. Buffalo took the bait; when it's all said and done, it might have been the best-case scenario.
The Bills have Devin Singletary, who they like. However, they're losing the determined running style Frank Gore gave them last season. Moss can step in and immediately be that player, health permitting.
Moss has a chance to rack up a good amount of touchdowns on the ground in his first year.
Anthony McFarland, Pittsburgh Steelers
Anthony McFarland landed in an interesting spot in Pittsburgh. James Conner still seems to be the Steelers’ top rusher for now, but it doesn't seem to be set in stone. They like what they have in backup Benny Snell and now adding McFarland to the mix gives them a new dynamic weapon they might take advantage of.
McFarland didn't get much help at Maryland; the offense around him didn't give him much relief when it came to defenses stacking the box or much daylight to find through the offensive line. But McFarland has true home-run speed and takes contact better than people think. He did not have many receptions in college, so a passing-downs role isn't a guarantee. But if he has a good preseason and breaks a few runs open for big gains, the Steelers could emphasize getting his skillset on the field.