Potential Fantasy Impact of NFL Team Taking 1st Round RB

NFL Draft D'Andre Swift

How many running backs come off the board in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft? No one knows for sure, but the consensus seems to be either one or zero. The over/under at most major sportsbooks offering a prop bet is 0.5, with heavy juice on the over.

The 2020 NFL Draft is chock-full of quality wide receivers, offensive tackles and quarterbacks, all poised to soak up a large portion of teams’ first-round capital. In my own projections, 15 of the 32 first-round selections will come from just those three positions. Given that, and the overall devaluation of the running back position as a whole, it’s tough to imagine more than one team taking the plunge and taking one of the uber-talented backs on Day 1.

But what if a team does? After all, sportsbooks favor at least one running back’s name being called on the NFL Draft’s opening night?

The favorite to be the first running back off the board is Georgia’s D’Andre Swift. While Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins both have a shot at being the top player taken at their position as well.

There are really only two spots in the first round that I see having a decent possibility of a running back being taken: No. 26 (Miami) or No. 32 (Kansas City). Let’s explore those opportunities.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins signed running back Jordan Howard to a two-year deal earlier in the offseason. Here’s part of what I said when the signing happened:

It feels reasonable to assume that Howard will be sharing some duties with a rookie running back, but it’s unlikely that player will overtake Howard in 2020 unless the Dolphins spend one of their three first-round picks on one. 

That last part is key, because everything that precedes that changes if Swift gets taken at pick No. 26. Swift becomes part of a timeshare early on and would be a trendy mid-round pick in fantasy drafts. The concern comes from Howard taking the lion’s share of the goal line work away from the rookie. Swift also isn’t a plug-and-play passing down back quite yet either, so there’s no guaranteed role there either.

Long-term this is a solid landing spot, but the Howard signing complicates things for any Day 1 or Day 2 back the Dolphins are poised to take.

Kansas City Chiefs

This is the dream landing spot for all fantasy football managers. There’s a clear need for a complement to Damien Williams in Kansas City’s backfield and the offense itself is spectacular. This would still be a timeshare, but the per-snap fantasy production for Swift would be higher in KC than it would be in Miami and there’s a clearer role for him—playing on certain series, playing early downs, injury fill-in, etc.

I can see Swift being taken around where Miles Sanders went in fantasy drafts last year in this scenario. Given Andy Reid’s penchant for getting the most out of his running backs, Williams’ injury history and the overall effectiveness of the Chiefs’ offense, this is the ideal landing spot for Swift or any of the top running back prospects.


Do you think a running back goes in Round 1? If so, who and how many? Let us know over on the Forums.

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