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Ian Allan

Backup running backs

Mike Davis has been the best of the insurance policy backs

It hasn’t been a good year for backup running backs. That’s a position that I always put a priority on in drafts, trying to latch onto players who are an injury away from being valuable fantasy assets. But most of those guys missed this season.

Benny Snell, Alexander Mattison, Chase Edmonds, Carlos Hyde. Those were four in particular that I stacked onto many of my rosters, thinking that there would be some top-10 running back stretches in them. But that group combined has started only five games, and with only one productive game (Hyde against Arizona).

Jamaal Williams was only slightly better, with a couple of good starts for the Packers.

Further down the pecking order, there were a number of lesser backups thrown into promising situations. I’m thinking of Devontae Booker (Raiders) against the Jets, Giovani Bernard against Dallas, DeAndre Washington (Miami) against Kansas City and Boston Scott against Washington. They all misfired in those promising situations.

Duke Johnson got some replacement starts for Houston but didn’t do much with them.

LeVeon Bell got to fill in for Clyde Edwards-Helaire for one game and didn’t make much of an impact at all.

I’m not altering my strategy. I’ll be stocking up on backup running backs again next year. But 2020 comes down as a miss on this front.

The two winners in this category, oddly, were two backups that were available in the last round of the vast majority of drafts: Mike Davis and Wayne Gallman. If we wind the clock back to May, I think most were expecting Reggie Bonnafon and Dion Lewis to be the backup tailbacks on those teams. Both Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley got hurt early, and Davis (pictured) and Gallman were more effective than expected filling in.

Especially Davis. Using PPR scoring, he’s had four of the five most productive games authored by backup running backs.

On this table, I’m not including change-of-pace running backs happening to come up with a big game (think James White or J.D. McKissic catching 8 passes). Instead, it’s a listing of the weeks where a regular starter for a team was out with an injury, with the insurance-policy back behind him then elevated into a short-term featured role.

PlayerOppResultRecsRu YdRe YdTo YdsTDPPR
Mike Davis, Atl.W 23-1698960149129.9
Mike Davis, Car.Den.L 27-325514293226.3
Mike Davis, LACW 21-168464591123.1
Giovani Bernard, Cin.Ten.W 31-203621678222.8
Mike Davis, Car.Ariz.W 31-2158427111122.1
Jamaal Williams, Hou.W 35-2047737114121.4
Giovani Bernard, Cin.Clev.L 34-375375996120.6
• Wayne Gallman, NYGPhil.W 27-17153760219.0
Boston Scott, Phil.NYGW 22-213464692118.2
• Wayne Gallman, NYGat Cin.W 19-17394-391118.1
Carlos Hyde, Sea.Ariz.W 28-212791695117.5
Duke Johnson, Det.W 41-253374380117.0
Jamaal Williams, G.B.Min.L 22-2867527102016.2
Salvon Ahmed, Mia.LACW 29-21185590116.0
Mike Davis, Car.Det.W 20-02641579115.9
• Wayne Gallman, NYGat Was.W 23-20168977114.7
• Wayne Gallman, NYGat Sea.W 17-1201350135013.5
Mike Davis, Car.Chi.L 16-23252355113.5
• Wayne Gallman, NYGT.B.L 23-251441862113.2
Salvon Ahmed, Den.L 13-205433174012.4
Benny Snell, Pitt.Balt.W 19-143603393012.3
Chase Edmonds, Ariz.Mia.L 31-343701888011.8
Mike Davis, Min.L 27-283552479010.9
• Wayne Gallman, NYGAriz.L 7-263571673010.3
Boston Scott, Phil.Dall.W 23-927097909.9
Duke Johnson, Chi.L 7-36226537909.9
Giovani Bernard, Was.L 9-20418375509.5
Duke Johnson, Hou.Ind.L 20-2668243209.2
Mike Davis, Car.Atl.L 17-25166117708.7
Giovani Bernard, Pitt.L 10-36430174708.7
Mike Davis, N.O.L 24-27512243608.6
Mike Davis, Car.T.B.L 23-46432124408.4
Mike Davis, G.B.L 16-2425926108.1
LeVeon Bell, K.C.Den.W 22-16240155507.5
Boston Scott, Was.L 17-27235195407.4
DeAndre Washington, Mia.K.C.L 27-33235175207.2
Cor. Patterson, Chi.Min.L 13-19230194906.9
Giovani Bernard, Cin.NYGL 17-19232174906.9
Duke Johnson, Hou.N.E.W 27-20315203506.5
Devontae Booker, NYJW 31-2815015106.1
Duke Johnson, Clev.L 7-1005405405.4
Giovani Bernard, Cin.Dall.L 7-3038152305.3
Giovani Bernard, Mia.L 7-19230-12904.9
Alexander Mattison, Min.Atl.L 23-4012643004.0
Benny Snell, Pitt.Was.L 17-232551003.0

—Ian Allan

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