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2020 Regression Candidates – RB Edition

@Halbs4 is back with more regression candidates for the 2020 season. This time he dives into three running backs who could see their dynasty value drop.

Nick Chubb

The Ranks:

  • Current Start-up ADP (PPR) – 5 (RB4)
  • Dynasty Nerds Ranking (PPR) – 10 (RB6)
  • 2019 PPR Finish – 27 (RB8)

The Situation:

Heading into the third year of his four-year rookie contract Nick Chubb is an interesting prospect to analyze. He’s only 24 years old and has two years of presumed “lead back” duties in an offense that some think could be due for a better season. He broke out last year and vaulted himself into the mid-tier of RB1’s even though the Browns and Baker Mayfield had a mediocre season. Entering the NFL, many teams were afraid to draft Chubb because of a severe knee injury he suffered during his Georgia Bulldog days. Still, so far in his NFL career, he has been able to stay on the field.

So how exactly is Chubb a regression candidate? Kareem Hunt. Both of these running backs are incredibly talented and can handle all three downs of work. Hunt is only tied to the Browns for another season. Still, every season counts when it comes to elite production at the running back position. It’s hard for the upcoming 2020 season to see a situation where either of these backs will become true top-10 backs every week.

The Stats:

WeekNick ChubbKareem Hunt
AVG (1-9)18.930.00
AVG (10-17)12.9812.68

*Bye week was week 7
All stats provided via Pro-Football-Reference

The mere presence of Kareem Hunt in this backfield saw immediate effects on Nick Chubb’s fantasy production. From weeks 1-9, when Hunt was suspended, Chubb was in double figures in PPR scoring every week and had huge games of 39.3 and 28.9 points. When Hunt returned to the team, Chubb scored less than ten PPR points in four out of eight games. He did have big games of 23.8 and 25.4, but he became more of a boom or bust player.

His per-game average decreased by almost six points when Hunt returned, and from weeks 10-17, he only outscored Hunt by .30 points per game. On a per-game basis from weeks, 1-9 Chubb was on pace to be RB5 on the year with 302.88 PPR points. From weeks 10-17, Chubb was putting up mid-tier RB2 numbers and over a 16-game season would have scored 207.68 points. That would have ranked him at RB17 and put him just ahead of James White.

We must ask ourselves, what makes an elite running back truly elite? The simple answer is being used in all aspects of the game. In weeks 1-9, Chubb was averaging about 3.5 targets a game. In weeks 10-16, Chubb saw only 2.1 targets per game, while Hunt saw 5.7. Reducing his work on passing downs hurts Chubb’s value and clearly showed a negative effect on his fantasy production.

The Move:

Heading into the 2020 season, I sense the Browns will use their running back duo similar to what we saw in the second half of the season in 2019. This makes now the perfect time to sell Chubb when he can net you a top-10 RB value. Looking for a trade partner for Chubb should not be a difficult task as a young RB1 is hard to come by in most leagues. Selling Chubb for a package deal or a one for one trade are both wins in this situation as you will likely be able to get top 10 RB value for him.

This year’s rookie class is loaded with RB talent, and getting one of those top players and some extra ’21 draft capital is the type of deal I would be most inclined to look for as if I were selling Chubb. If either of these backs should fall to an injury, the remaining healthy back is immediately vaulted in RB1 territory. However, with both of them healthy and involved, Chubb is a very risky RB1 play at his current price and more of a low-end RB1/fringe RB2. At the same time, Kareem Hunt remains a viable flex option and is the much cheaper option of the two.

Leonard Fournette

Credit: Jaguars.com

The Ranks:

  • Current Start-up ADP (PPR) – 15 (RB8)
  • Dynasty Nerds Ranking (PPR) – 24 (RB12)
  • 2019 PPR Finish – 25 (RB7)

The Situation:

Coming off a season-best in terms of fantasy production, there may not be a better sell high candidate than Leonard Fournette this offseason. If you are a podcast listener and member of the #NerdHerd (if not, I highly suggest you consider joining), you have heard the phrase #2-3yearwindow time and time again. This phrase applies directly to the situation Fournette finds himself in. He has had two highly productive fantasy seasons, and he is heading into the fourth year of his rookie deal. The Jaguars declined his fifth-year option. Trade rumors surrounded him the entire offseason, meaning the team is more than likely to move on from him following the 2020 season. We’ve seen it time and time again; once these running backs are past their rookie deal, their fantasy stock and NFL stock plummet. Fournette can, by all means, be a great running back to own this season and will likely put up solid numbers. Still, his dynasty stock will take a massive blow once he hits the free-agent market or even during the 2020 season.

The Stats:

In 2019 Leonard Fournette was a true workhorse running back. He averaged 17.67 attempts and 6.67 targets in the 15 games that he played. The only thing that stopped him from being a top-5 running back was a lack of touchdowns with only three on the year. He is a bounce-back candidate in that regard. Where his regression is bound to come is through overall usage. The Jaguars have second-year back Ryquell Armstead waiting in the stables and brought in pass-catcher Chris Thompson this offseason.

In his time with Washington, Thompson saw nearly 50 or more targets in five straight seasons, from 2015 to 2019. Yes, even last year, Thompson was targeted a total of 58 times over only 11 games. Thompson was brought in to be a third-down specialist for the Jaguars, which is going to take away from Fournette’s passing game production massively. If the trend of Thompson holds and he gets 50 targets over a full season (which is probably on the conservative side), that would cut Fournette’s target volume entirely in half. Instead of posting 76 receptions for 522 yards, Fournette is more likely to be in the 35 receptions for 250-yard range. A decrease of nearly 70 fantasy points. If you took away 70 fantasy points from his 2019 season, Fournette would have finished the year as RB22 in PPR formats.

Fournette’s rushing value will likely still hold good value this season. His touchdown production should rise as a result of an overall better offense. There is one concern in this area; the presence of Ryquell Armstead. Armstead is by no means a highly-touted prospect or the next “franchise back,” but he is someone to keep an eye on. Last season Armstead ran the ball only 35 times and had 24 targets on the season. I would expect these numbers to increase as the Jaguars don’t see Fournette being on their roster past 2020. They would be smart to give Armstead some more work to see what they have in him and if they need to address the position in the draft the following year.

Fournette ranked seventh in both attempts and yardage last season and fifth in receptions by a running back. In the 2020 season, expect all of these numbers to take a hit due to increased competition and overall situation.

The Move:

Currently being taken as RB8 in PPR startup drafts, our Nerds team has him ranked a little lower as RB12. In a redraft league, these ranks are almost spot on to what we can expect from Fournette in 2020. However, this is dynasty fantasy football. One good year of elite production might not be what you are looking for on your team. The move here is a complete sell now and in the early part of the season. Fournette should net a pretty penny in return as well. As I mentioned with Nick Chubb, this rookie class of running backs is exceptionally talented. Getting one of those backs or a Josh Jacobs/Miles Sanders type player in return would be more than manageable. The best time to sell Fournette is now, and his window is closing. By this time next year, Fournette may be the new Devonta Freeman.

Mark Ingram

Credit: ESPN

The Ranks:

  • Current Start-up ADP (PPR) – 72 (RB28)
  • Dynasty Nerds Ranking (PPR) – 105 (RB32)
  • 2019 PPR Finish – 39 (RB11)

The Situation:

Entering his tenth NFL season, Mark Ingram has officially hit the dreaded age of 30. He will be turning 31 during the 2020 season. The Ravens boast one of the league’s best rushing offenses, and Ingram thrived in his role last season, posting one of his best years to date. Ingram still has two years left on his contract, but there is an out in after the 2020 season that would save the Ravens five million dollars.

The Ravens also took one of the best running backs in the 2020 NFL draft in J.K. Dobbins. It would not be a surprise if the Ravens decided to move on from Ingram following the 2020 season and hand the lead back duties to Dobbins. This would make Ingram almost obsolete in terms of fantasy value, which makes the time to sell now when he has at least one more year of production left in him.

The Stats:

Mark Ingram turned in a reasonably unexpected fantasy season as a whole, finishing as RB11 in PPR formats. The Ravens’ rushing attack last season was somewhat surprising, with Lamar Jackson posting 162.6 of his fantasy points from the ground game. With that rushing threat coming from the QB position, it opens up lanes for the running back spot.

What makes Ingram a prime candidate to regress on his own was his efficiency and touchdown production last year. Ingram averaged a healthy 5.0 yards per carry last season, which is good enough to tie for seventh with Nick Chubb. That kind of efficiency is hard to repeat every year, but with Lamar at the helm, it is possible. Ingram scored 15 total touchdowns last season. The only other running backs to score 15 or more total touchdowns were Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones, and Derrick Henry. That’s a pretty select group of guys who are all due to regress in touchdown production. The real difference from Ingram to those three is the number of carries and receptions each player had. McCaffrey lead the way with 403 carries plus receptions, Henry had 321, Jones had 285, and Ingram had 228. In terms of TD% (the number of touchdowns each player scored per touch), McCaffery scored on 4.7% of his touches, Henry on 5.6%, Jones on 6.6%, and Ingram on 6.6%. That kind of touchdown production is near impossible to repeat.

Overall, Ingram’s usage should fall, as well. Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, the two other backs, had a combined 191 carries last season. Both of those players are returning next year. The addition of J.K. Dobbins also figures to eat into the workload next season as well. With four mouths to feed in a backfield, five if you count Lamar, it is hard to see Ingram turning in another season where he sees 200+ touches. Combine the decrease in usage with the reduction in efficiency and touchdown production that is expected, Ingram will likely fall out of RB1 territory and could go as far down as an RB3/Flex play.

The Move:

Ingram will probably still be involved in this offense, and having any piece of the pie from the Ravens has value on its own. It’s just that the pie is cut up into many pieces at the moment, and Ingram carved out every ounce of fantasy production he could with his opportunities last season.

The ideal trade scenario for Mark Ingram is when a contender for a championship next year loses some depth at the running back position either from poor play or injury. Then selling Ingram to said contender would be able to net some decent draft capital in the 2021 draft. However, with Ingram now in one of the more crowded backfields in the league and having him reach the age of 30+, I would be happy to get a 2nd or even 3rd round pick from him. Also, trading him for a high upside player from this 2020 class would be a win scenario. Guys like DeeJay Dallas or Anthony McFarland come to mind in this range. Either way, there is no time like the present to cash in on what value Mark Ingram has left.

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