• Andy Will

Next Breakout From The 2020 RB Class

Twitter: @ScottWill2909

This past year brought us some fantastic rookie running backs entering the NFL in an unprecedented season with no pre-season to speak of. It took some rookies a little longer than it might have done during a regular season, however; some took to it like a fish to water. Jonathan Taylor, for example, took his time to get acclimatized but then exploded during the back half of the season, just in time to help carry fantasy players to fantasy championships with fantastic performances week 13 onwards to finish RB 4 in standard and RB 6 in both half and full point PPR formats. James Robinson was arguably the most surprising out of all of the rookie RB’s as the undrafted player proved to be a stud for the vast majority of the season finishing 7th in all fantasy formats. Antonio Gibson was another to shine for most of the season for Washington (14th standard, 12th Half PPR, and 13th Full PPR). We will, however, look at a few other RB’s (some of those who had great seasons) whose situations have changed whether that is for the better or worse is still to be defined.


J.K. Dobbins

(Photo Credit: Tim Nwachukwu)

What Did He Do In 2020?

Fantasy Finishes

  • Standard- 17

  • Half PPR- 21

  • Full PPR- 24

Key Stats

  • Rushes- 134

  • Yards- 805

  • Average- 6.0 yards

  • Rush TD’s- 9

  • Catches- 18 of 24 targets Yards- 120

  • Average- 6.7 yard

  • TD’s- 0

What Is Changing In 2021?

Mark Ingram has left the Ravens, so the path should be clear for Dobbins to see the majority of the touches. Gus Edwards is also a restricted free agent, however, it is thought at this time that he will return for the 2021 season but we will need to wait and see on that one.

Pro’s from 2020

  • After returning from the covid-19 list in week 13, till the end of the season, he was RB 5 in standard, 6 in half PPR, and 10 in full PPR.

  • Double-digit carries in every game after the week 7 bye apart from one.

  • Had the trust from the Ravens coaching staff, so much so Mark Ingram was made a healthy scratch on a few occasions.

  • He scored 7 touchdowns in the last 6 games of the regular season and played the majority of the running back snaps every week after the bye.

Con’s from 2020

  • He was not used heavily in the passing game as he only had 24 targets with 18 of them turning into catches.

  • Lamar Jackson ended the season with double-digit carries in every game he played after the bye week, and the week he didn’t manage 10+ he had 9…This means that Dobbins's opportunities were limited by his quarterback.


It was clear the confidence in Dobbins was high in Baltimore in the second half of the season. The fact he was seeing the majority of the running back snaps was certainly encouraging. He was getting a number of red-zone opportunities which showed by his touchdown return in the 2nd half of the year. The drawbacks are as stated above are his lack of heavy use in the passing game and the fact his quarterback will take chances away at any given time which gives his upside a little hit. His yards per attempt average will probably decrease, however, if he can gain more attempts towards the 200 mark perhaps he could be a low-end rb1 / high-end rb2.


Cam Akers

(Photo Credit: Ashley Landis)

What Did He Do in 2020?

Fantasy Finishes

  • Standard- 42

  • Half PPR- 43

  • Full PPR- 45

Key Stats

  • Rushes- 145

  • Yards- 625

  • Average-4.3 yards

  • Rush TD’s- 2

  • Catches- 11 of 14 targets

  • Yards- 123 Average- 11.2 yards

  • TD’s- 1

What is Changing In 2021?

Malcolm Brown, who carried the ball 101 times and had 23 catches on 33 targets in 2020, is an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and at this point, it is thought that he will not return to the team so there will be one less mouth to feed in the running back’s room. One less running back is one thing but the big news from the Rams so far this off-season was undoubtedly the trade to bring in new quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Pro’s from 2020

  • Between week 12 and 17 Akers saw his workload increase and finished this period as running back 18 in standard even while missing week 16’s trip to Seattle.

  • Out of his 7 games following the week 9 bye, Akers had 5 games where he had double-digit carries. Of the other 2 one, he had 9 carries and the other 5.

  • During his last 4 performances of the season, he had the vast majority of the running back snaps and touches.

Con’s from 2020

  • His use in the passing game was very limited with only 14 targets.

  • The output from his high touch games left a little to be desired, on only one occasion did he manage to hit over 100 yards rushing yards (although this single game was pretty special as he hit 171) which per carry was on average only 3.8, which was lower than his 4.3 yards per carry full-season average.

  • He only scored 2 rushing touchdown’s which was the same number as wide receiver, Robert Woods.


Malcolm Brown saw 472 snaps during the 2020 season and with him not expected back that leaves a substantial gap in the offense. It is thought that Akers will continue his end-of-season workload and lead the Rams running back touches with Darrell Henderson perhaps becoming the change of pace back. With Jared Goff under center teams could often ‘stack the box’ and limit the rushing room for the running backs. With Matthew Stafford taking control, defenses will have to respect the improvement in the passing game which could leave Akers with more space to run. Akers saw an uptake in targets towards the end of the season, with Stafford taking over this should be sustainable which will improve the appeal in half and full-point PPR leagues. Similar to Dobbins this is a 2nd year back who should be able to take over the lead role in his offense. We could hope for low rb1/high rb2 numbers in the 2021 season.


D’Andre Swift

(Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood)

What Did He Do In 2020?

Fantasy Finishes

  • Standard- 20

  • Half PPR- 18

  • Full PPR- 18

Key Stats

  • Rushes- 114

  • Yards- 521

  • Average- 4.6

  • Rush TD’s- 8

  • Catches- 46 of 57 targets

  • Yards- 357

  • Average- 7.8

  • TD’s- 2

What is Changing In 2021?

Where do you start? The Lions at this point don’t have many offense weapons left under contract. Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Danny Amendola, and Adrian Peterson all fall under the category of unrestricted free agents so it is yet to be seen if any of these players return. The most well-known change will undoubtedly be the change at quarterback, however; Matthew Stafford will no longer be the signal-caller after the trade with the Rams which sent Jared Goff to the Lions.

Pro’s from 2020

  • His work in the passing game was excellent with 57 targets out of the backfield which was very consistent throughout the season.

  • After the Lion's week 6 bye, Swift finished inside the top 10 in both half and full PPR formats and only just outside of the top 10 at 13 in standard.

  • Swift finished the season with the most snaps of the Lions running backs with almost 100 more than Peterson.

  • He finished with 10 touchdowns.

Con’s from 2020

  • He only finished with double-digit carries on 6 occasions.

  • In the games where he finished with single-digit carries his average yards per carry was at a low 2.8

  • There was only 1 game where he finished with over 100 yards rushing.


Towards the end of the 2020 season, we began to see the potential of Swift come to the surface once he took the majority of the Lions running back touches. The loss of Stafford is a blow, however, the talk out of Detroit sounds like they will figure in different ways to get Swift the ball, one such way is to move him into the slot position. Swift, himself is lobbying the Lions to bring back Peterson to help the team which could potentially take touches away, however it is difficult to see Peterson taking away as many touches from Swift as he did this year. There is the potential that teams will force Goff to throw the ball and try to take the running game away (especially with lack of receiving options), if the Lions manage to resign one or more of their current receivers this would also help open things up for Swift. The Lions could opt to franchise tag Golladay, however, it is not looking likely that any of the other receivers return. The early rankings have Swift between the RB 12-16 in all formats which sounds fair and if the Lions can add a few extra pieces to help keep things open for Swift to stamp his mark on the offense he could even break that prediction.


A.J. Dillon

(Photo Credit: Game On Wisconsin)

What Did He Do in 2020? Fantasy Finishes

  • Standard- 76

  • Half PPR- 80

  • Full PPR- 84

Key Stats

  • Rushes- 46

  • Yards- 242

  • Average- 5.3

  • Rush TD’s- 2

  • Catches- 2 of 2 targets

  • Yards- 21

  • Average- 10.5

  • TD’s- 0

What Is Changing In 2021? The major changes, when it comes to Dillon are that Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are potentially moving on from Green Bay. Pro’s from 2020?

  • His yards per carry average was solid when he was given opportunities.

  • In his one game with a big workload, Dillon ended as the running back 6 on the week across all point-scoring formats, which included over 124 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns vs the Titans in week 16.

Con’s from 2020?

  • He had hardly any usage through the regular season. The week after his blow-up game he went back to a single carry.

  • His use in the passing game was virtually non-existent.


If things fall Dillon’s way in the off-season the 2021 season could be a break-out year for him. It is looking unlikely that both Jones and Williams will return to the team although it is possible that one of them does. Williams recently fired his agent as he thought this could help him get something figured out with the Packers as he has stated his desire to return to the team. If Williams did return it would be conceivable that Dillon could step into the Jones workload or split the time evenly with Williams. Jones could also still return to Lambeau and if he did this would clearly limit Dillon’s upside as Jones would likely be the lead back. A lot is still to be determined in Green Bay but since the Packers spent a 2nd round pick for Dillon they may decide to move on from Jones and see what they have with the 2nd year back. If he did get the majority workload, it wouldn’t be crazy to see him in the same category as some of the other backs from his 2020 class and reach a high RB2/low RB1 number. It will be interesting to see what happens next there.