RB1 Opportunity Share Series: NFC South

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 South

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 South.

 

Atlanta Falcons

2019 RB1: Devonta Freeman
Games:  13
Rushes: 61.48%
Rushing Yards: 55.83%
Targets: 12.24%
Receptions: 14.40%
Receiving Yards: 9.46%
Touchdowns: 18.48%
2020 RB1:  Todd Gurley

Outlook:  Atlanta plays fast and gains a lot of yards. As a result, Todd Gurley is in the ideal fantasy situation, but is his knee healthy? The Los Angeles Rams managed his workload perfectly in 2019, getting maximum efficiency despite only a 58.84% (20th among running backs) carry rate. At 6-foot-1, 227 lbs, Gurley will always get the goal-line work. His 29.17% touchdown rate tied for with Ezekiel Elliott for 11th best on this list. Look for an uptick in his receiving stats, as Freeman tallied 12.2% of Atlanta’s targets and 14.4% of their receptions. With limited touch competition from Brian Hill and Ito Smith, there is a Top-10 fantasy finish in Gurley’s range of outcomes. As the current RB15, his all-around skill set is the perfect match in an explosive Atlanta Falcons offense.

 

Carolina Panthers

2019 RB: Christian McCaffrey
Games: 16
Rushes: 74.35%
Rushing Yards: 76.25%
Targets: 23.67%
Receptions: 30.37%
Receiving Yards: 24.31%
Touchdowns: 51.35%
2020 RB1:  Christian McCaffrey

Outlook:  McCaffrey had an incredible 2019 season. He was the entire focus of the Carolina Panthers offense and produced at historic levels despite mediocre quarterback play from Kyle Allen. He led all running backs on this list in Target, Reception, and Receiving Yards percentages. McCaffrey ranked second in both rushing categories while scoring 19 of the Panthers 37 total touchdowns. It’s worth noting that no running back has finished as the overall PPR RB1 in consecutive seasons since Priest Holmes in 2002 and 2003. Also, there is slight uncertainty with both head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady having no prior NFL experience. Regardless, McCaffrey is a fantastic early first-round pick with the highest of fantasy floors.

 

New Orleans Saints

2019 RB: Alvin Kamara
Games: 14
Rushes: 50.15%
Rushing Yards: 54.97%
Targets: 20.21%
Receptions: 22.44%
Receiving Yards: 14.11%
Touchdowns: 15%
2020 RB1: Alvin Kamara

Outlook:  Kamara’s superior receiving skills sustain a high fantasy floor. He has tallied exactly 81 receptions in each of his first three seasons with an average of 99.6 targets per year. Last season, Kamara still managed the overall PPR RB8 season with minimal touchdown production (six). Head coach Sean Payton is prudent with Kamara’s rushing usage, giving him only 50.15% of the team rushing attempts in 2019 (sixth-fewest of any RB1). His current RB4 ADP is easily attainable with more scoring opportunities. The New Orleans Saints offensive system, indoor home field, and future Hall of Fame quarterback align for an ideal fantasy setting. 

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2019 RB: Ronald Jones
Games:  11
Rushes:49.04%
Rushing Yards: 54.06%
Targets: 9.45%
Receptions: 11.54%
Receiving Yards: 7.65%
Touchdowns: 19.05%
2020 RB1: Ronald Jones

Outlook:  It is hard to believe, but Ronald Jones could be the best running back value in fantasy football. In the 11 games he played fully and was not injured, Jones accumulated 26 targets and 21 receptions. That projects to 37 targets and 30.5 receptions across a full season. Those numbers would place him favorably among elite RB1s like Joe Mixon and Chris Carson, with much cheaper fantasy draft capital. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers third-round selection of Ke’Shawn Vaughn is scary, but will only come into play if Jones falters early. Last season, Jones saw a stacked front 30.8% of the time, sixth-most among all running backs. With Tom Brady under center, look for Jones to have more opportunities for breakaway runs. Currently valued as the RB35, Jones’ ADP is actually later than Vaughn. I am grabbing as much Ronald Jones as possible in all fantasy formats.

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