Fantasy Football: 3 Third Year Breakout RBs

Myles Gaskin is a Big Name to Watch in Miami

By: Teddy Ricketson

For drafted NFL players entering into their third year, they are playing for that second contract. There is added pressure to perform, and there is a stigma about paying RBs a lucrative long-term deal because they quickly deteriorate. For fantasy football though, this is the time where these third-year running backs have a chance to breakout trying to earn that contract, which hopefully can result in some sneaky value to help you win a fantasy football championship. 

Here are three of my favorite RBs that are entering their third year and could breakout. 

  1. Myles Gaskin (Miami Dolphins)

The final RB taken in the 2019 draft (7th round, #234) all of a sudden has the starting RB role in Miami. Finishing as RB28 in PPR scoring, Gaskin played in 10 games, and amassed 142 rushes for 584 yards and three touchdowns. In the receiving game, Gaskin caught 41/47 targets for 388 yards and two more touchdowns. For players that played at least 10 games, Gaskin finished as the RB10 on a points per game basis. Gaskin averaged 4.1 yards per attempt this season on the ground as well as 9.5 yard per reception. He also finished as the Dolphins best back, and their third best receiver in terms of receptions and receiving yards. 

So let’s look at the rest of his backfield at the moment. Salvon Ahmed is a rookie who only started to get time when Gaskin went down with injury. Matt Brieda was brought in from San Francisco and only had 59 rushes. And Patrick Laird, who is a fullback. Gaskin performed really well in the games he was active in and if you combine that with Tua as his QB who has vowed to be much better in 2021, he is poised for a big year this upcoming season. 

  1. Tony Pollard (Dallas Cowboys)

Tony Pollard was drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL draft out of Memphis where he was a dual-threat position player swapping between RB and WR roles. His use as a WR explains why he has such good hands (43/60 targets for his two-year career) and his route running ability. While he is slightly slower than his teammate, Ezekiel Elliot, he is the leaner of the two and is considered the change of pace back from Zeke’s ability to ground and pound. 

Dak Prescott going down this season took the Cowboys out of contention, but in fantasy it correlated to a drop in consistent production for Elliot. It’s tough to hitch your wagon to a back-up, but when Zeke struggled and was banged up, Tony Pollard went off. Specifically, against the 49ers in Week 15, Pollard had 12 carries for 69 yards and two TDs, but added 6 receptions for 63 yards through the air. When it comes to back-up running backs, Pollard could make a case for the top-three with his situation so if Zeke isn’t able to stay on the field, Pollard would be the RB to have in Dallas. 

  1. Ty Johnson (New York Jets)

I know it looks suspect picking a RB from the Jets, but it comes from production when given the opportunity and from the backfield situation. 

Johnson was drafted in 2019 in the 6th round by the Lions out of Maryland, but was waived by the team on October 1st last season. The next day, the Jets signed him as a backup to Frank Gore. When Frank Gore was unable to take the field in week 11 against the Las Vegas Raiders, it was Johnson who assumed the lead back role for the Jets. Johnson totaled 22 carries for 104 yards and a TD rushing and caught both of his targets for an additional 13 yards receiving. In week 15 against the Rams, Johnson had three carries for 16 yards (5.3 yards per carry), but caught all six of his targets for 39 yards and a touchdown. The Jets let Frank Gore resume his starting role when he was healthy, but he was on a one year deal. The Gang Green have a number of problems to fix as they approach free agency and the draft this year, but RB doesn’t have to be toward the top of the priority list. Johnson runs a 4.4 40 and so he can be the lead back that has the chance to break off a big run. The Jets’ backfield is young, but La’Michael Perine missed a lot of the season with injury and when he was given a chance, Johnson seemed like the back to have. 

Honorable Mentions: 

Alexander Mattison (Minnesota Vikings) and Benny Snell Jr. (Pittsburgh Steelers) are both one injury away from being the starter in their backfield. Emphasis on Mattison who has shown that he is capable of handling the lead back duties while filling in in the past, but Snell is still young and showed *some* promise in the role this season when Conner struggled to stay healthy. 

Damien Harris (New England Patriots)- if he was on any other team he would’ve made the podium, but because he is part of a Patriots backfield, you know he can’t be fully trusted.  

Darrell Henderson (Los Angeles Rams)- Looked solid at times, but Cam Akers is the clear better back for this team. 

Devin Singletary (Buffalo Bills)- has real promise, but can’t seem to be consistent enough to take full lead-back duties and for now will split with Zack Moss.

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