After a few weeks hiatus, the Five Under 25 is back. Still here, and still helping you prep for your dynasty football drafts with my favorite players at each position under age 25. Next up, those workhorses out of the backfield, the dynasty running backs. Now, before you hit me up on @therealmaday saying I’m an Alvin Kamara or Dalvin Cook hater, I’m not. I just don’t feel comfortable paying the price for them. There are a couple of guys I would rather wait a little bit on. Plus, the other two guys I’ll tell you about in this article are younger than Mr. Cook and Mr. Kamara. Let’s check out these workhorse dynasty running backs!
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Five Under 25 — Running Backs
Christian McCaffrey — Panthers
Even though these guys aren’t ranked in any particular order, it’s no shocker who is first on the list. With over 400 total touches and nearly 2400 yards from scrimmage in 2019, the 24-year-old is the first pick in your dynasty and the guy everyone wants on their teams. Those numbers gave him 149 more total fantasy points than the number two man Green Bay Packers’ runner Aaron Jones. McCaffrey has the athletic ability to post these gaudy numbers, but he also sits in a great spot for opportunity. Unlike many other popular fantasy backs, McCaffrey doesn’t share the load with anyone. His main backup, Reggie Bonnafon won’t be taking his job any time soon. Expect a similar workload moving forward. The Carolina run game figures to be helped by the inside zone scheme of the new coaching staff, mainly Joe Brady who will be heading to town fresh off a season for the ages at LSU. The Panthers played the third-most snaps in the league while trailing in 2019. Tampa Bay and New Orleans are looking like contenders in the division. The Panther defense is going to give up plenty, so McCaffrey stands to get a large share of work through the air in 2020. His difference-making ability from a fantasy standpoint is comparable to the impact Lamar Jackson has from the quarterback spot. Both guys are like having studs at two separate spots based on their skill sets.
Saquon Barkley — Giants
I don’t like picking on injured guys, but Barkley’s 2019 was a bit of a letdown considering he was being drafted just after McCaffrey everywhere. The 23-year-old missed three games and wasn’t healthy upon his return. His final totals of 1441 yards from scrimmage and eight total touchdowns were nothing to scoff at but weren’t a solid return on the high draft capital spent. Heading into 2020 and beyond, I’m confident when healthy, Barkley will be the consensus number two dynasty running back. Much like Christian McCaffrey, Barkley will benefit from a skimpy depth chart behind him. He also figures to benefit from being on a team with a less than stellar defense. The Giants will trail quite a bit in the near future, and Barkley figures to be a check-down, move the chains option. Daniel Jones at quarterback is a bit scary as he ranked near the bottom of quarterbacks in check-down throws in 2019. Hopefully, a full offseason as the starter and a bit of off-season film study will help with this. The offensive line was a clear priority with the fourth overall pick spent on tackle Andrew Thomas, who can help right away. I feel their line can be a bit better than people expect, but won’t be mistaken for the best in the league anytime soon. Draft Barkley with the utmost confidence of having a dynasty stud on your squad.
Ezekiel Elliott — Cowboys
Of all the guys on this list, Elliott is the only one who caused me to do a double-take in terms of age. The 24-year-old will turn 25 before the season begins, but for my purposes, he counts! I think a case can be made for him to be the number three dynasty running back. He’s as consistent as they come, finishing as a top-five fantasy back in three of his first four years in the league. 2019 was no different, as Elliott and Derrick Henry were the only backs to top 300 carries. In addition to his workload on the ground, Elliott tallied 54 receptions on 68 targets in the passing game. He also benefits from having the best quarterback on this list, and one that understands his value in the passing game. The Cowboys depth chart is a bit better than the first two teams I looked at. Tony Pollard is capable of stealing a touch here and there and is a great handcuff. However, there is no question whose job this will be as long as Zeke is in town. The Dallas offensive line remains a top-five unit, making it the best of any team mentioned in this article. So if you draft Zeke, just be smart and get you a Tony Pollard handcuff later and lock in that production!
Nick Chubb — Browns
As I mentioned before, Kamara and Cook are fine choices, I just like my next two guys’ price tags a bit better. In 2019, Chubb was the highest-graded running back in Pro Football Focus’ system at 90.2. Keep in mind Kareem Hunt joined the lineup mid-season after serving a suspension. That said, Chubb still finished just shy of 1500 yards. In addition to giving up touches to Hunt, the Browns had an offensive line that ranked near the bottom of the league. The offensive line was clearly at the top of the wish list this offseason as the Browns signed Jack Conklin to a three-year deal. Cleveland also devoted the 10th overall pick for monster tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. Hunt being available at the beginning of the season will eat into Chubb’s touches, especially his receptions. He is still one of my favorites in dynasty drafts, and at 24, he’s still got plenty of tread on the tires to lead your dynasty backfield.
Josh Jacobs — Raiders
At just 22 years old, Jacobs is the baby of the bunch. There was nothing little about his first-year numbers, however. Ending 2019 as the top rookie runner in the class, Jacobs finished with 1150 yards and seven scores. While there weren’t a ton of negatives about his rookie performance, his 20 receptions are likely the reason he falls a bit in most of the overall fantasy running back rankings you will see. Jacobs will benefit from the departure of DeAndre Washington and his 36 receptions from the running back spot. It’s rumored the coaching staff wants to get the ball in his hands more, and they want to do this through the passing game. With the rest of the division beefing up their offenses, I can just picture Coach Gruden drawing up those Spider 2 Y Banana’s and saying, “yeah man, were gonna get the ball to this Jacobs kid man.” Oh it’s going to be a pretty sight. Expect an uptick in targets for Jacobs, and as long as he’s healthy you can expect an uptick in rushing yards by a much improved offensive line that could finish as one the top ten in the league.
Got a beef with Ron’s Top 5 dynasty running backs? Let him know about it in the comments below. Also check out Ron’s Top 5 QBs Under 25!
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