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Commissioner’s Corner: Top 5 running back watch list

Rojo on top of the watch list

Houston Texans v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay running back Ronald Jones II running during a 2019 game against the Houston Texans
Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images

As fantasy owners continue to analyze their rosters for week 1, there are a few picks you should be looking at a little closer. I started looking at some of the running backs that were picked up in rounds 2 and lower that I think should render a little more watch than play.

These could be potential running back-by-committees, injury or situational concerns.

No. 1 watch list - Ronald Jones II (RB26)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp
Tampa Bay running backs Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy and Ronald Jones II during the 2020 training camp
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Let’s start off with one of the biggest question marks. Will Rojo be an effective fantasy running back with the overflowing running back room that they created in Tampa Bay?

This group could easily turn into a running back-by-committee. There’s a role being carved out for each back that will be dictated by the situation. Arians has already stated that Fournette will have a role heading into week 1, as reported by Pewterreport.com.

Rojo was picked up by 88% of ESPN teams and he’s only projected to score 9 FPTS in week 1. The Saints have a strong defensive line led by Cam Jordan. Plus, this could end up being a shoot out to keep the lead with both teams, and Rojo unfortunately finds himself on the negative side of pass catching.

I wouldn’t start him in week 1. He’s a watch and see fantasy back. You probably picked him up around rounds 4 and 5 as your RB2, but he’s only worthy of a flex play for right now. I just prefer to see how the situation unfolds in Tampa first.

No. 2 watch list - Chris Carson (RB12)

Seattle Seahawks v Carolina Panthers
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson during a 2019 match up against the Carolina Panthers
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Carson was a fantastic fantasy back last season easily becoming a RB1 option for most owners. If you’re in a deeper league, Chris Carson was likely your starting running back selection this season. He was picked up towards the end of round 1 or in the beginning of round 2. You’ll likely want to start him, but you should consider a couple of things with this watch listed player.

Matthew Berry of ESPN really likes Carson. He puts Carson as a top-15 fantasy running back and thinks he may even be too low on him. He doesn’t understand why he’s not being picked up higher by fantasy managers.

He’s the lead back on one of the most explosive offenses in the league. He’s 5th in carries per game last season, and is expected to net some decent productivity results.

What I’m a little concerned about is his hip injury. I know analysts are saying it’s minor and it won’t play a factor, but it’s something to watch out for. The Seahawks also brought in Carlos Hyde in the off season. Hyde ran for the 13th most yards in 2019 for the Texans. I have Carson in my line up in week 1 as my starting running back, but I plan on keeping an eye on him and how well he does throughout the first few weeks.

No. 3 watch list - Melvin Gordon III (RB22)

Denver Broncos Training Camp
Bronco running backs Melvin Gordon III and Philip Lindsay during training camp
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Gordon left his home in LA as a free agent to sign with the Denver Broncos. Given Gordon’s historic stat line, he would be a natural starter, but the move to Denver is disastrous for any fantasy value for any Denver running back owners.

As Patrik Walker of CBS Sports reports, Melvin Gordon attempted the same flex as Dallas Cowboy’s running back Ezekiel Elliott, but apparently Gordon’s opt-out muscle wasn’t nearly as big.

Gordon joins the Broncos alongside Philip Lindsay, who raked in 185 FPTS himself ending with an impressive 19th PRK. The former Charger ended his 2019 campaign at 22nd overall. Both backs are considered starters for the Broncos, and the one yielding the best results that week will get the call. That’s horrendous for any fantasy ownership reliability. Given the new dynamic duo in Denver, I would reserve any expectations for either back in 2020. They are both on my watch list.

No. 4 watch list - Devin Singletary (RB33)

Wild Card Round - Buffalo Bills v Houston Texans
Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary carries the ball during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Houston Texans
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Buffalo backfield has officially been named a running back-by-committee by ESPN fantasy analysts Matthew Berry and Field Yates. Berry has Singletary as a high end flex, ranked as a RB23. This is another situation where both backs are worth a watch list spot.

The rookie out of Utah, Zack Moss, came in and carved out a role for himself. In some leagues Moss was drafted higher than Singletary. The collegiate pass catching phenom ranked 2nd in the nation with 89 missed tackles and ranked 8th with 1,042 yard after contact, as reported by Sports Illustrated.

The Bills will likely split carries 50/50, so this is yet another situation to watch and reserve expectations. Singletary is rostered in 94% of teams, and Moss in only 77%. I think Moss could more likely be the primary back surpassing Singletary, but as I stated, it’s a wait and see.

No. 5 watch list - Raheem Mostert (RB25)

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
San Francisco 49’ers running back Raheem Mostert carrying the ball during Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

My last pick for this week’s watch list is out of San Francisco. The NFC Champs have high expectations of themselves to make it back to the big game, but fantasy owners again find themselves with more question marks around which 49’er running back they can trust to bring them to their own fantasy championship.

Last year the Niners had the 3-headed monster in Coleman, Mostert and Breida. Breida is no longer in San Fran, which leaves Mostert, Coleman and now McKinnon. McKinnon appears to only be situational as the pass-catching back, while Coleman and Mostert share the carries.

Coleman found himself in the No. 3 depth spot last season behind Mostert, so perhaps he’ll see an increase in carries. The former Falcon is the main concern for Mostert owners. They both averaged a little over 9 FPTS per game in 2019, but fantasy owners seem to be putting a lot more faith in Mostert with him being on 93% of ESPN rosters compared to Coleman’s 69%.

Hopefully we’ll see the game plan shake out from week to week, and it could likely be completely situational. If so, Mostert may only be worthy of a high end Flex option rather than a weekly starter. Keep an eye out for injuries as well. If either goes down, the other will be sure to benefit and flourish.