Analyzing 2020 Rookie Running Backs – Four Players Trending Up

by Corbin Young · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

Last week, we looked at three of the most productive 2020 rookie running backs. In this article, we’re diving into a few more, specifically Antonio Gibson, D’Andre Swift, Cam Akers, and J.K. Dobbins. With Gibson and Swift, they both proved relatively efficient. For Akers and Dobbins, the workload keeps trending upwards and helping fantasy managers in the playoffs. As always, when we’re diving into the 2020 rookie running backs, we analyze the advanced metrics to help us take an early look at 2021.

Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team

FFPC 2020 ADP: 65.25

Antonio Gibson came into the league with an intriguing and polarizing NFL draft profile with his athleticism and usage in the running and receiving game. Gibson has a 122.8 (99th-percentile among qualified running backs) Speed Score, 17.4-percent (24th-percentile) College Dominator Rating, and 12.7-percent (87th-percentile) College Target Share. His speed, athleticism, and pass-catching ability have all translated to the pro game.

In 12 games, Gibson has shared snaps and opportunities with J.D. McKissic, but proved efficient with his touches and opportunities. Gibson holds a 45.2-percent (No. 40) Snap Share, 46.3-percent (No. 32) Opportunity Share, and 145.8 (No. 22) Weighted Opportunities. When seeing the high Weighted Opportunities relative to the Opportunity Share, it tells us that he earns a significant amount of targets with 39 (No. 24) on the season. Through 12 weeks, he has logged 659 (No. 19) rushing yards and 233 (No. 20) receiving yards. On the season, he’s scored a touchdown in eight out of 12 games. Before his injury in Week 13, he had scored eight of his 11 (No. 4) total touchdowns in the previous five games.

Check out Antonio Gibson on PlayerProfiler’s New DYNASTY DELUXE Rankings:

It’s no surprise that Gibson’s efficiency metrics back up what we see on film. He holds a +28.0 (No. 4) Production Premium, with a 5.2 (No. 17) Yards Per Touch average, 28.3-percent (No. 8) Juke Rate, and 278 (No. 12) Yards Created. He’s also dominated the team’s total yards and touchdowns with a 29.7-percent (No. 6) Dominator Rating. He creates a ton of yards even with a weak 74.3 (No. 41) Run Blocking Efficiency mark.

Heading into 2021, Gibson will easily smash his 2020 ADP of 65.25, per the FFPC. Although the touchdown rate and efficiency may slightly regress to the league average, he should receive more opportunities in 2021. Assuming he earns more opportunities, paired with the efficient production, he should rank as a high-end RB2, especially in PPR leagues.

D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

FFPC 2020 ADP: 59

Similarly, D’Andre Swift shares opportunities like Antonio Gibson. Swift holds a 47.0-percent (No. 36) Snap Share with a 45.5-percent (No. 34) Opportunity Share and 132.1 (No. 28) Weighted Opportunities. With 49 (No. 15) targets, 39 (No. 14) receptions, and 316 (No. 11) receiving yards, the Lions use him a ton in the passing game. Although he ranks No. 40 with 422 rushing yards, he earns the opportunities and production we love in PPR leagues. He has ranked No. 17 or better in six games of his last seven games, with two top-4 finishes.

Swift has proven extremely efficient with the shared opportunities. In 11 games, he holds a 5.6 (No. 9) Yards Per Touch average and a +27.5 (No. 5) Production Premium. However, he has a 9.2-percent (No. 62) Juke Rate and 138 (No. 41) Yards Created with an 85.1 (No. 14) Run Blocking Efficiency mark. Unlike Gibson, Swift doesn’t display the high Juke Rate and Yards Created marks, but takes advantage of the high Run Blocking Efficiency. With Adrian Peterson on a one-year deal with the Lions, Swift should receive an uptick in opportunities and touches in 2021. Thus, he projects similar to Gibson as an RB2 in PPR scoring for 2021 redraft leagues.

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

FFPC 2020 ADP: 54.5

Over the past three weeks, Cam Akers has received a workhorse running back workload with 22, 31, and 16 touches. Surprisingly, the Rams played from behind the entire game against the Jets, and it’s one reason for the lower touch count. Akers also suffered an ankle injury that caused him to miss time. Regardless, he continued to dominate touches and production as a high-end RB2. Unsurprisingly, his season-long opportunities rank lowly with a 35.0-percent (No. 60) Snap Share, 44.5-percent (No. 37) Opportunity Share and 90.1 (No. 51) Weighted Opportunities. However, over the past three games, he holds a 79.3-percent Opportunity Share and a 76-percent team rushing share, which includes carries from Jared Goff and Robert Woods.

In terms of efficiency, Akers averages 5.1 (No. 21) Yards Per Touch with a 19.8-percent (No. 33) Juke Rate and -20.7 (No. 73) Production Premium. Even with the small sample of a recent spike in touches and opportunities, he has created yards on his own. He’s totaled 217 (No. 21) Yards Created and averages 1.66 (No. 14) Yards Created Per Touch with a 74.8 (No. 40) Run Blocking Efficiency rating.

Akers’ enticing prospect profile includes a 108.7 (89th-percentile) Speed Score, 39.8-percent (89th-percentile) College Dominator Rating, and 10.4-percent (78th-percentile) College Target Share. Hopefully, he assumes this workhorse role in 2021, and if that’s the case, he should rank as an RB2. Unfortunately, he suffered a high-ankle sprain and will miss Week 16. Hopefully, the Rams and Sean McVay don’t make this a messy running back committee again next season.

J.K. Dobbins, Ravens

FFPC 2020 ADP: 64

In early November, I wrote about the split backfields for the Lions and Ravens. In doing so, I highlighted that J.K. Dobbins proved efficient and needed more touches. Although he continues to share opportunities, it’s narrowed down to him and Gus Edwards with Mark Ingram sprinkling in a small amount. Over the past seven games, Dobbins totaled six with double-digit opportunities, but none with more than 17 total carries and targets. On a per-touch basis during that stretch and throughout the season, he has looked efficient. He averages 5.4 (No. 13) Yards Per Touch with a 28.1-percent (No. 10) Juke Rate and +10.1 (No. 16) Production Premium. He has also totaled 216 (No. 22) Yards Created and 1.69 (No. 12) Yards Created Per Touch with an 83.9 (No. 19) Run Blocking Efficiency mark.

J.K. Dobbins 2020 Efficiency Metrics

We can’t overlook the reasons for concern with Dobbins. As mentioned earlier, he has shared opportunities with two other running backs, so it’s not surprising to see the mediocre rankings. On the season, he holds a 49.1-percent (No. 29) Snap Share and 39.1-percent (No. 43) Opportunity Share with 102.1 (No. 42) Weighted Opportunities. There’s a narrative that mobile quarterbacks don’t typically target their running backs, and that holds up with Dobbins receiving 23 (No. 48) targets and logging 120 (No. 52) receiving yards. That doesn’t mean he can’t earn targets, and hopefully he receives more looks in the passing game.

It’s clear that Dobbins needs more opportunities, and it looks like the Ravens realize that as well. Unless he earns more opportunities in 2021 or continues to maintain his efficiency, he probably ranks as a back-end RB2 inside the top-24. However, with the limited targets and receiving production, he looks better suited for non-PPR leagues as a touchdown-dependent RB2 that has averaged 78.6 total yards over the past seven games.