RB1 Opportunity Share Series: NFC North

If I was given one wish for the 2020 Fantasy Football season, it would be to properly handicap the RB1 opportunity share for every NFL team. That position is the most critical this season, with an overwhelming number of running backs being drafted in the first two rounds. When projecting the opportunity share for the upcoming season, it is important to include several different factors.

Projecting RB1 Opportunity Share for Each NFL Team: NFC North

Most fantasy drafters simply examine the running back opportunity share based on past performance and if a new running back was added to the depth chart. Those factors are not nearly as important as how that running back performed last season in games they were healthy and received the majority of touches. Even if a reduced sample, it provides the best window into the potential opportunity share for the 2020 season.

For each team’s projected starting running back, I listed the opportunity share from the 2019 season in games they started and did not leave due to injury. For players that joined new teams (i.e Todd Gurley), I used the stats from last year’s primary starting running back (i.e. Devonta Freeman). While the skill set may not match perfectly, it gives us a strong projection of usage for 2020.

In this eight-part series, we will examine the projected lead running backs and RB1 opportunity share for each NFL division. Let’s examine with the NFC North.

 

Chicago Bears

2019 RB: David Montgomery
Games: 16
Rushes: 61.27%
Rushing Yards: 60.97%
Targets: 6.18%
Receptions: 6.74%
Receiving Yards: 5.18%
Touchdowns: 25%
2020 RB1:  David Montgomery

Outlook:  The recency bias against David Montgomery is strong, but he has one of the highest projected opportunity shares of any RB1. His 61.27% of the Chicago Bears team rushing attempts represents his floor with 5-foot-6 Tarik Cohen serving as the primary depth chart competition. Better quarterback play from newly-signed Nick Foles should provide more scoring opportunities for Montgomery’s 25% touchdown rate. His lack of athleticism still draws the ire of metrics-based fantasy experts, which has pushed his ADP outside the Top 24 running backs. With his best comparable player on PlayerProfiler as plodder Carlos Hyde, it’s simply hard to get excited about Montgomery. With improved team offensive efficiency, a guaranteed touch share makes Montgomery a safe Top 24 fantasy running back, with Cohen also worth noting at a microscopic RB39.

 

Detroit Lions

2019 RB: Kerryon Johnson
Games: 7
Rushes: 63.91%
Rushing Yards: 50.73%
Targets: 7.49%
Receptions: 8.85%
Receiving Yards: 9.20%
Touchdowns: 30.77%
2020 RB1: Kerryon Johnson?

Outlook:  The selection of Florida State’s D’Andre Swift in the NFL Draft may not show an immediate impact on Johnson’s opportunity share. Former second-round running back selections such as Nick Chubb, Miles Sanders, and Ronald Jones all suffered from limited production during their rookie seasons. With the ninth-highest touchdown share (in his eight games) on this list, Johnson could see over 60% of the Detroit Lions rushes at the beginning of the year, which would make him a very valuable fantasy asset currently with a microscopic RB40 ADP. It is very possible the fantasy community is greatly overweighting Swift’s role in Year One, especially in the first few weeks.

Green Bay Packers

2019 RB: Aaron Jones
Games: 16
Rushes: 57.42%
Rushing Yards: 60.39%
Targets: 12.55%
Receptions: 13.76%
Receiving Yards: 11.80%
Touchdowns: 43.18%
2020 RB1: Aaron Jones

Outlook:  Jones is a polarizing player in 2020. We all remember the incredible Week 5 performance when he totaled a monstrous 49.2 PPR fantasy points.  Jones enjoyed the second-highest touchdown share (McCaffrey) of any rusher that started over four games. Besides negative touchdown regression, fantasy drafters are now leery of the potential impact of second-round draft pick A.J. Dillon. Those concerns, however, have pushed Jones’ ADP outside the Top 12 running backs. With a 13.76% reception share, Jones’s fantasy production should match that value even with a 50% drop in touchdown production. Dillion is likely to affect backup running back Jamaal Williams touches more than Jones. While his third overall finish in fantasy points per game is an outlier, a high-end RB2 remains a safe valuation for the superior pass-catcher tethered to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

 

Minnesota Vikings

2019 RB: Dalvin Cook
Games: 13
Rushes: 60.71%
Rushing Yards: 62.78%
Targets: 16.30%
Receptions: 18.38%
Receiving Yards: 15.36%
Touchdowns: 25.00%
2020 RB1: Dalvin Cook

Outlook:  The holdout rumors bring uncertainty upon one of fantasy football’s biggest stars last season. Cook thrived under offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski‘s run-heavy, 12 personnel sets. He dominated with 18.38% of the team receptions, ranking sixth-highest among running backs that started at least five games. Cook was efficient in every facet of the offense highlighted by a 4.3% touchdown rate. The holdout history of running backs on their first contract is ominous, with Le’Veon Bell and Melvin Gordon missing several games in similar situations. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak should provide a seamless transition, while the departure of Stefon Diggs actually increases Cook’s upside. The holdout concerns have already started to affect his ADP, dropping him from the overall RB4 to the current RB6 behind Derrick Henry.

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