RB1 Opportunity Share Series: NFC West

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 West

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 in Atlanta), 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 for each NFL division. Let’s examine with the NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals

2019 RB1: Kenyan Drake
Games: 8
Rushes: 61.19 percent
Rushing Yards: 60.78 percent
Targets: 14.06 percent
Receptions: 16.57 percent
Receiving Yards: 9.45 percent
Touchdowns: 34.78 percent
Projected 2020 RB1:  Kenyan Drake

Outlook:  Over the last eight games of the season, Drake ranked as the overall RB4 in total fantasy points. His percentage of team receptions (16.57 percent) was 10th most among all running backs. Drake’s relatively low 9.45 percent of the team receiving yards provides potential room for growth. Tallying eight of Arizona’s 23 total touchdowns during those games, Drake projects as an integral part of the Cardinals offense this season. Chase Edmonds and rookie Eno Benjamin pose little threat to his 61.2 percent of the rushing attempts, which likely represents his floor in 2020. He is a safe RB1 pick that is available in the early to second round of redraft leagues. At 26 years old entering his fifth season, Drake has secured the best fantasy opportunity for his career.

Los Angeles Rams

2019 RB: Todd Gurley
Games: 15
Rushes: 58.84 percent
Rushing Yards: 61.65 percent
Targets: 8.33 percent
Receptions: 8.07 percent
Receiving Yards: 4.51 percent
Touchdowns: 29.17 percent
2020 RB1: Cam Akers

Outlook:  While there is precipitous dropoff from Todd Gurley to rookie Cam Akers from an RB1 opportunity share standpoint, the projected percentages could be similar. Gurley only received 58.84 percent of the rushing attempts due to chronic knee tendonitis. Akers somehow found efficiency at Florida State behind a poor offensive line, but must now compete with both Malcolm Brown and second-year back Darrell Henderson. The biggest concern with Akers is the uncertainty of goal-line work. General manager Les Snead highlighted Brown’s short-yardage ability in a recent interview.  Akers demonstrated superior pass-catching ability with 30 receptions as a senior for the Seminoles. However, with Brown and Henderson stealing carries, the goal line work will be key to justifying an early-round fantasy investment in an ambiguous backfield.

San Francisco 49ers

2019 RB: Raheem Mostert
Games: 5
Rushes: 50.39 percent
Rushing Yards: 53.91 percent
Targets: 6.52 percent
Receptions: 4.84 percent
Receiving Yards: 5.38 percent
Touchdowns: 43.75 percent
2020 RB1: Raheem Mostert

Outlook:  Mostert only provided five regular-season games as the 49ers starting running back. From Weeks 13-17, he ranked second at the position with six touchdowns. The main concern is a crowded 49ers backfield that includes Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, and goal-line specialist Jeff Wilson. If head coach Kyle Shanahan gives Mostert over 55 percent of the rushing attempts, he will smash his ADP of RB23. While he will likely start the season as the lead San Francisco running back, his tenuous hold on the position makes me apt to avoid Mostert at his current price. 

Seattle Seahawks

2019 RB: Chris Carson
Games:  15
Rushes: 61.64 percent
Rushing Yards: 59.28 percent
Targets: 10.31 percent
Receptions: 11.71 percent
Receiving Yards: 6.86 percent
Touchdowns: 20.93 percent
2020 RB1: Chris Carson

Outlook:  Most fantasy players fail to realize Chris Carson has ranked fifth in total rushing yards in each of the past two seasons. The former seventh-round pick worked through fumbling issues to finish with seven RB1 weekly performances in 2019. He was featured more in the passing game, finishing Top 25 in both running back targets and receptions. Backup Rashaad Penny is likely out until midseason recovering from ACL surgery, and veteran Carlos Hyde‘s presence is more to support than supplant. Assuming fumbling problems are behind him, Carson’s RB22 ADP is one of the best overall values in Best Ball and seasonal leagues. 

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