Déjà vu… the feeling that you’ve been part of the current situation in a previous experience” - Kev White, now & before...
In this article I’ll be exploring the 2020 RB Rookie Class in comparison to the 2019 RB Rookie Class. I will be highlighting similarities between the prospects in both drafts and making a comparison between last year’s rookie RB prospects to this year’s rookie RB prospects - with the idea of providing support & guidance as to how you should view these prospects in dynasty rookie drafts & beyond.
Let’s jump in…
Clyde Edwards-Helaire - The 'Jacobs'
Like we saw in the 2019 NFL Draft when the Raiders selected Josh Jacobs, Clyde Edwards-Helaire became the only RB taken with first round draft capital when the Chiefs took him at pick 32. With this type of investment, it guarantees volume / opportunity in the short term, provides a high-floor on a weekly basis & stability in the longer term. Whilst these two players are very different in the way they win (Jacobs - rush production, Edwards-Helaire - pass production) & how they look physically, both were viewed very similarly within the dynasty community in their respective drafts - a film grinders dream & an analytics nightmare. Both of these prospects had question marks regarding athleticism & overall college production, however both landed in superb situations to produce with guaranteed opportunity through draft capital. These prospects dazzled in film review, standing out on the various game tapes they compiled in their collegiate careers - at the elite programs of Alabama & LSU. Like I said before, CEH has the pass game upside, which makes him a safer prospect for fantasy than Jacobs.
Advice: CEH has to be in your top tier of rookie rankings alongside stud RB Jonathan Taylor - he’s a better fantasy prospect than Jacobs, through his projected pass game usage in an elite offense. He should be in consideration from any point after the first five RBs in dynasty start ups.
D'Andre Swift - The 'Sanders'
It’s easy to see the initial comparison between Swift & Miles Sanders - beginning from their days in college, where they were both initially stuck behind future studs in Saquon Barkley for Sanders & Sony Michel... (just kidding) Nick Chubb for Swift. Both of these prospects come in with 2nd round draft capital & begin their NFL career in a split backfield situation. Whilst it’s certain that Swift will be in a RBBC (running back by committee) to begin with, the injury concerns of Kerryon Johnson could open up a pathway similar to the explosion Sanders experienced with the injury to Jordan Howard last season. I have no doubt that Sanders can be a three down RB in the NFL & I’m fully onboard with Swift having this ability as well - should the opportunity arise. Whilst it could be frustrating for Swift owners initially, I’m a firm believer that talent wins out in the longer term. Comparing the prospects, I feel Swift has more talent, Sanders had a better landing spot with the Eagles but overall I see these as similar assets in dynasty in the not too distant future. To add further weight to this comparison, check out Swift’s best comparable player at Player Profiler here… heads up, it’s Miles Sanders.
Advice: My RB2 pre-draft, don’t be moving Swift too far down your rookie draft boards, his talent is outstanding & he belongs firmly in the second tier, no lower than 1.07 in SF rookie drafts. Initially he needs to be considered a high end RB2 in dynasty start ups.
Cam Akers - The 'Montgomery'
From their time playing as dual-threat QBs at their respective high school programs to their journey into the NFL, Akers is the 2020 version of David Montgomery. Both of these prospects began their NFL career with a ton of opportunity - Montgomery entering a backfield with 270 vacated touches from Jordan Howard & Akers entering a backfield with 254 vacated touches from Todd Gurley. Both of these prospects have legit three down RB ability, however in the shorter term it looks likely that there will be some sort of split backfield situation. In terms of how they look & perform physically, they are of similar stature - with Akers measuring slightly smaller but making up for it with improved agility & athleticism. Both Akers & Montgomery had similar situations & results in college - playing behind poor offensive lines which resulted in a low yards per carry. There was similarity in their strengths with strong vision, plus pass blocking ability & substantial pass catching target shares at Florida State (Akers) & Iowa State (Montgomery) respectively. Whilst both of these players have shared a similar journey to the NFL - I see Akers as a better overall prospect than Montgomery.
Advice: With one of the best projected rookie volumes, Akers can be confidently selected in the second tier of rookie drafts - alongside Swift & Dobbins. He is in a similar range to Swift, as a high end RB2 in dynasty start up drafts.
J.K Dobbins - The 'Henderson'
This comparison will not sit well with Ravens & Dobbins fans, let’s just be clear though - Dobbins is a more talented player than Henderson, however Dobbins situation does not correlate with the unreal hype he is receiving with the post draft landing spot in Baltimore. Looking back to the 2019 class, Henderson solidified his spot towards the top of rookie draft boards with the perceived elite landing spot with the Rams (top 2 in points & yards the previous year). This links in to Dobbins’ landing spot with the Ravens - who were 1st in points scored & 2nd in total yards in 2019. Players drafting Henderson last year knew it would be a split with an RB1 initially (Gurley), with the hopes of leading the backfield in year two - sounds similar to Ingram & the Ravens right? The Ravens just lost a key piece of their interior run game with the retirement of Marshall Yanda, similar to the Rams losing Rodger Saffold last year. We all saw what happened with the Rams offense last season, the regression was foreseeable & the landing spot not as amazing as previously thought. Henderson struggled to outproduce veteran replacement-level RB Malcolm Brown, could the same be about to happen with Dobbins & Gus Edwards / Justice Hill? There’s also the comparison that these perceived elite landing spots for both players offer little pass game opportunity - the Rams with a plethora of weapons, the Ravens with dual-threat QB unlikely to check down. Fantasy players expecting Dobbins to come in & dominate in his rookie season are in for a shock, much like the optimistic drafters of Henderson a year ago.
Advice: With the opportunity cost of holding a rookie RB in year one, my view is the community needs to be realistic with Dobbins & not overvalue his landing spot. He’s a top 5 rookie RB, but belongs in the 3-5 range, not alongside Jonathan Taylor & Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Don't be fooled and take him as a top 10 RB in dynasty start ups which include rookies in the main draft.