On Friday the football world was shaken up as news leaked that Derrius Guice, running back for the Washington Football Team, had been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, among other charges. Quickly the team moved to release the running back, who was taken in the Second Round of the 2018 draft. The team hoped he’d be a force at running back, but injuries kept him from playing a key role in his two years. Now, his time in Washington is over and quite possible his NFL career.
It’s a sad story, one all too familiar to NFL fans. But the question for Washington fans and fantasy owners is what happens now? The team had quite a collection of running backs prior to Friday’s release, and that remains true. Washington has veteran Adrian Peterson, free agents Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic, second year back Bryce Love and touted rookie Antonio Gibson still on the roster. So, who is the best bet for production? Let’s look at the options.
Gibson is the hot name right now and has been since the draft. He played two years for Memphis and has talent and potential, but not much experience. In fact, there was debate at the draft about whether he was going to be a receiver or running back. The team said running back, but he carried the ball only 33 times for 369 yards and four TDs in college. His cost is also incredibly high based on the hope he’ll be “the guy,” despite it not being a part of his college resume.
The best returning option is Peterson, who started 15 games for Washington in 2019. He led the team with 898 yards and five TDs, and has been a great and reliable back throughout his career. Barber, who came over from the Buccaneers, is another potential grinder. Last year, splitting time with Ronald Jones, Barber rushed for 460 yards and six TDs. But in 2018, he led the team with 871 yards and five TDs.
The other veteran option is McKissic, who was with Seattle and then the Lions last year. With the Lions in 2019, he only ran for 205 yards, but he caught 34 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. His role might be similar to what Washington got from now departed Chris Thompson. Thompson had 42 receptions for 378 last season, and McKissic could fit the bill as a receiving back. So, too, could Gibson.
Finally, we have the dark horse—Love. Love was a force at Stanford, but injuries ended his last year early and led to him not being available in 2019. But Washington drafted him for his potential, which is exemplified by a junior year in which he rushed for 2,118 yards and 19 TDs. He should be healthy and ready but seems to be the forgotten man in this field.
The Bottom Line
So, who should you bet on? All of them? None of them? One or two of them? The answer is yes. I know that sounds confusing, but this backfield feels like a complete mystery. I could see any of the five remaining backs, or some combination of them, producing for Washington and fantasy in 2020. That being said, you can make some guesses that set you up for success.
Gibson has talent and opportunity, but his price is way too high. Could he lead the team in rushing? Possibly, but it seems more likely he’s a better version of Thompson. I like him as an RB3 in PPR. That runs contrary to his draft price now, making him a stay away. If you got him in the third round of a rookie draft, there is great opportunity to sell high, too.
Peterson seems the logical choice to be the lead rusher and grinder. Getting him nearly free at the end of drafts feels like good value. However, I think the dark horse here in Love is a guy I’d like to bet on right now. He was a back many loved in college that struggled with injuries. That’s somewhat the same story as Guice prior to his legal issues. Love’s flying under-the-radar, going at RB73 in PPR and RB85 in Standard. He’s the one I’m snagging now and hoping to see something big.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.