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Breakout or bust: Second year running backs

Fantasy football is back for 2020! We take a look at five second-year RBs and breakdown their fantasy football value.

Devin Singletary #26 of the Buffalo Bills runs with the ball against Vince Williams #98 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half in the game at Heinz Field on December 15, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

After a year of NFL football under their belt, these second-year players should be ready to take on the league at full speed. For fantasy, second-year breakouts can often be had later in drafts if you get them right. In the NFL, even getting to the second season as a viable option for your team is an accomplishment.

Below, we’ll take a look at some second-year running backs who will get a chance to shine this season.

Devin Singletary, Bills

Singletary had an early season injury that hurt his workload, but by Week 9 he was the lead back and averaged 18.9 touches in the final eight weeks of the season. If he had started the season with those touches, he would have totaled around 1,478 yards and 40 receptions. Unfortunately, his touchdown numbers might not have taken off, as Frank Gore and Josh Allen were preferred around the end zone.

Now that Gore is gone, Singletary’s goal line carries should increase, but Allen isn’t going away and he is adept at scoring. The Bills also brought in Zack Moss, who is a talented back and could win enough work to limit Singletary’s upside.

Miles Sanders, Eagles

Sanders split time with Jordan Howard until Howard’s season ended with a shoulder injury. Sanders then took over the lead job, averaging 18.7 touches with Howard out. Boston Scott did see his work increase as Sanders’ backup, but there was no doubt that the rookie became the main back, averaging 98 yards per game, four receptions and scoring four touchdowns in the seven games without Howard. Extrapolated out to 16 games, that Howard-less stretch would have looked something like 235 carries for 1,102 yards (5.7 ypc), five rushing touchdowns and 64 receptions on 82 targets for 466 yards and five more touchdowns. Those are numbers any fantasy player can enjoy.

David Montgomery, Bears

Montgomery was the starter for the Bears in his rookie year, but did not make good on his opportunities. He ended up rushing 242 times for 889 yards (3.7 ypc) and scoring six rushing touchdowns while catching 25 of 35 targets for 185 yards and one more touchdown. Will he better in 2020? Well, he couldn’t be that much worse and the team doesn’t have anyone ready to take over if he doesn’t live up to their hopes.

Tarik Cohen will continue to see the bulk of receiving work, so Montgomery’s upside is still low compared to other backs who see more targets. The good news is that you can get Montgomery for cheap and he is locked in as the starter who will again top 250 touches if healthy.

Josh Jacobs, Raiders

Jacobs likely would have won rookie of the year if an injury hadn’t slowed him down in the second half of the season. As it is, he managed to put up strong numbers, as he rushed 242 times for 1,150 yards (4.75 ypc) for seven touchdowns through 13 games. His 20 receptions on 27 targets was underwhelming and is something I believe will get better this season.

A similar season this year should be his baseline when projection his fantasy output. But, if we get a full and healthy season out of him, along with an uptick in receiving work, he’s well on his way to a strong sophomore fantasy season.

Damien Harris, Patriots

Harris was drafted in the third-round last season, but ended up with just four carries total. Injuries were part of his limited work, but even when healthy he often didn’t suit up. The Patriots have a lot of running backs on their roster but Sony Michel has led the way the last two seasons. Michel has shown some good signs, especially in the 2018 playoffs, but he’s mostly been average at best. He’s also had chronic knee issues and had foot surgery this offseason.

All signs point toward the Patriots needing someone to outplay Michel and win the job and the most likely candidate is Harris. We don’t have much to go on unfortunately. Harris will need to prove himself early and often to beat out the group for touches. The good news is that he’s super cheap and if he remains low in the pecking order, you can drop him for another flier.