Sophomore Slump or Breakout Season: Running Back Edition
Updated: May 7
The dreaded sophomore slump was discussed in the wide receiver edition so today we're going to dive right in. These second-year backs all finished top 30 so a slump would be a regression or replicated production. Without further ado let's get this thing cracking shall we?
Rank 15 | 13.7 FPTS/G | 218.7 FPTS
179 ATT, 818 YDS, 4.6 YPC, 3 TD, 50 REC, 63 TGTS, 509 YDS, 3 TD
First up we have Miles Sanders, the second-round draft pick out of Penn St. Coming out of the school that produced Saquon Barkley a year removed is no easy task. Sanders was not as highly-touted as Barkley, but that didn't stop him from turning heads. In a backfield so crowded that they would undoubtedly be subject to fines due to social-distancing directives, Miles thrived. That is an issue he won't have to deal with this year. Jordan Howard, who was the biggest threat to rushing attempts has left for Miami. Darren Sproles retired. Who knows where Jay Ajayi went. The only back left standing from last year is Boston Scott and c'mon now, are we worried about him?
The question is, does head coach Doug Pederson bring in more talent to keep implementing a running back-by-committee approach? While that's certainly been his modus operandi in Philadelphia that has not always been the case. Pederson had no quarrels using Jamaal Charles as the featured back while in Kansas City as an offensive coordinator. As it stands now I think Miles Sanders is set to reward fantasy owners with an even better finish than his rookie year. Breakout for sure.
Rank 23 | 10.6 FPTS/G | 170.4 FPTS
242 ATT, 889 YDS, 3.7 YPC, 6 TD, 25 REC, 35 TGTS, 1 TD
David Montgomery's 242 rushing attempts ranks 14th among qualified running backs, so the notion he wasn't being used, is only half true. His 35 targets, on the other hand, were abysmal and that's where that "usage" narrative holds true. The problem is Tarik Cohen is coach Matt Nagy's pass-catcher. Cohen saw 104 targets. In PPR leagues that just isn't going to cut it. Montgomery isn't going to put up the numbers in the ground game like Derrick Henry to make up for below-average usage in the passing game. Bears general manager Ryan Pace thinks he can be the featured back. Montgomery is going to have to improve on his yards per carry. 3.7 just isn't going to cut it.
To make matters worse his quarterback situation hasn't gotten any better. Some might say, "Drew, the Bears traded for a Super Bowl-winning quarterback though", and to that, I just roll my eyes and remind those people of two things: the Jaguars moved on from him after one season in favor of a sixth-rounder. And Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson and William Jeffrey Hostetler won Super Bowls too. Would any of those guys in their prime illicit hope if you were a Bears fan and they came walking through the door? I didn't think so and here is where the problem lies. Sketchy quarterback play. Non-factor in the passing game. Lack of efficiency running the ball. I don't see how Montgomery improves his sophomore year. Slump is written all over his second year.
Rank 29 | 12.3 FPTS/G | 147.9 FPTS
151 ATT, 775 YDS, 5.1 YPC, 2 TD, 29 REC, 41 TGTS, 2 TD
Devin Singletary is someone I was skeptical last season. He's so small, but that didn't seem to matter. Even in the offseason with Frank Gore leaving Bills general manager Brandon Beane thinks Singletary can be the guy. I've always felt like T.J. Yeldon deserved a chance to prove himself, but he has been outshined again. Even though Gore had more rushing attempts keep in mind Singletary missed four games. Another stat to keep in mind is that Devin's yards per carry were nearly two-yards better than Gore's. It's widely believed that Singletary could've eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark if not for that hamstring injury early on.
The Bills aren't one for getting backs too involved in the passing game. Singletary's 41 targets led all backs on the team. Hopefully, that number increases. For a team whose quarterback has a cannon for an arm and likes going deep to speedy receivers or over the middle to big-bodied tight ends that could raise some concerns. The addition of Stefon Diggs doesn't seem like that will help matters. For whatever reason, I think that'll help Singletary more than help. I mean in 12 games he was in the top 30 and that Bills offense is looking like it could become prolific and with teams having to contest with John Brown along with Diggs the possibilities for Singletary are endless. A breakout season is just over the horizon.
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Article Written by Andrew Thompson
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