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Fantasy football: McCaffrey, Elliott lead Top 75 running back rankings

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Aug. 21 (UPI) — Christian McCaffrey is one of the most-versatile weapons in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers playmaker is also my No. 1 rated running back ahead of the 2020 fantasy football season.

McCaffrey edges Dallas Cowboys playmaker Ezekiel Elliott and New York Giants workhorse Saquon Barkley for the No. 1 spot in my Top 75 rankings for the position.

Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara also rank inside my Top 5 at the position. Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, Derrick Henry and Aaron Jones also are among the players I expect to post RB1 production in 2020.

I split my top targets of the 75 ranked players into five tiers: Hall of Fame, All-Pro, Pro Bowl, Just Napping (early to mid-round targets) and Deep Sleepers (mid- to late-round sleepers). The full rankings are below.

Hall of Fame

1. Christian McCaffrey, 2. Ezekiel Elliott

As a personal rule, I prefer players on my fantasy team who are on good teams in real life, but you should make an exception this year for Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers running back had 2,392 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns last season. He also set the NFL single-season record with 116 receptions, the most ever for a running back.

McCaffrey’s dynamic play results in an abundance of fantasy production. He is the projected No. 1 pick on most fantasy football websites for good reason.

Don’t look past Ezekiel Elliott if you have a Top 3 pick in your fantasy football draft. The Cowboys star likely will be a key part of a prolific offense. The Cowboys also should have a solid season and use Elliott to grind out the clock late in games.

Elliott had 1,777 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns last season, but I expect his numbers to be even better in 2020. Elliott should be able to boost his receiving total by at least 100 yards and push his receptions total up by 10 or 15 catches.

I also expect the Cowboys’ improved passing attack to help balance their offense and give Elliott more opportunities. I have no issue with Elliott as the No. 1 overall selection for your fantasy squad if you prefer his upside and the safety of knowing his team will likely compete this year for a division title, while the Panthers are unlikely to do so.

All-Pro

3. Saquon Barkley, 4. Dalvin Cook

Saquon Barkley always deserves consideration as the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy football drafts, but is another player who has been on a struggling team. Barkley is still a safe option as your No. 1 pick if you draw a selection in the Top 5.

The Giants will need to depend on their best player throughout the season, which means Barkley will touch the ball a lot and have plenty of chances to post fantasy points.

Like McCaffrey, Barkley also has tremendous upside as a pass catcher. I expect the Giants Pro Bowler to push McCaffrey and Elliott as the top fantasy football running back in 2020.

But there is one stat to consider before selecting Barkley early in your draft and it might cause you to get off to a slow start.

The Giants have five matchups in 2020 against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for allowing the fewest amount of fantasy points to opposing running backs. Two of those matchups take place in the first three weeks of the season when the Giants take on the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is my No. 4 option at the position in 2020. Cook has been one of the most-talented running backs in the NFL since he entered the league in 2017, but has yet to stay healthy for an entire season. Despite the question of availability, he has a great opportunity to have a monster fantasy football campaign in 2020.

The Vikings could opt to return to more of a run-based offense this year after the team traded wide receiver Stefon Diggs this off-season. Cook had 1,765 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 14 games last season. He should improve on those numbers if he is able to play at least 14 games again in 2020.

Minnesota also has five matchups in 13 games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for allowing the most fantasy points to running backs.

I would still select Cook in that first group of running backs in the first round before the first wide receiver is off the board.

Pro Bowl

6. Josh Jacobs, 9. Derrick Henry

Raiders running back Josh Jacobs is among the players you should still consider taking over a wide receiver in the first round if your league is highly-dependent on running back production.

Jacobs had 1,316 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns as a rookie last season. He will be the main workhorse once again this season, but the Raiders’ off-season additions of multiple pass catchers should balance their offense.

I expect Jacobs — my No. 6 running back — to close in on 1,500 yards from scrimmage and score at least 10 touchdowns in 2020.

Titans running back Derrick Henry was one of the most-dominant players in the NFL last season, but fantasy team owners shouldn’t draft players based only on last year’s statistics.

Henry remains a safe pick in the first round if you want a workhorse-style running back, but I think his statistics decline in 2020 based on his high usage last season and a less-productive passing game this year.

The Titans also don’t have an easy schedule for fantasy football running backs. Tennessee has five games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2019. Two of those matchups are in the first four weeks of the season.

Henry is my No. 9 running back, but don’t be afraid to draft a wide receiver in the first round instead of the Titans running back if you aren’t confident in the pick.

Just Napping

15. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 16. David Johnson

Fantasy football team owners will see Clyde Edwards-Helaire selected very early this year in drafts, but I wouldn’t overspend on the Kansas City Chiefs rookie. Edwards-Helaire has a ton of talent and a terrific opportunity to produce fantasy points in the Patrick Mahomes led offense, but he still carries some risk.

I would prefer to select a safer option in the first round and snag Edwards-Helaire in the second round if possible. Make sure to grab plenty of additional running backs later in your draft to stabilize the position if you do take the chance and draft the rookie in the first round. The former LSU running back is my No. 15 option at the position.

David Johnson is my No. 16 running back in 2020 and could be one of the best value picks in your draft if you can get him any time after the second round. The new Houston Texans running back had a down year in 2019, but is only a few seasons removed from being considered one of the best running backs in fantasy football.

I would target Johnson in the second round after selecting a wide receiver in the first round or take him in the third round after taking two wide receivers early. His skillset and opportunity should provide solid RB1 value all season if he can stay healthy.

Deep Sleepers

17. Mark Ingram, 19. Todd Gurley, 38. Tevin Coleman

The Baltimore Ravens made a splash this off-season when they drafted J.K. Dobbins out of Ohio State, but Mark Ingram is still the main man in the backfield. I think he will provide plenty of fantasy football value in the offense despite Dobbins’ presence.

Ingram had 1,265 yards from scrimmage and a career-high 15 touchdowns last season. I see the veteran ball carrier scoring another 10-plus touchdowns in 2020 and posting another season with at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage.

The Ravens should have enough carriers for Dobbins and Ingram as they attempt to limit quarterback Lamar Jackson‘s exposure to injuries during runs. Ingram is my No. 17 running back and should be picked as an RB2, but has RB1 upside in good matchups.

The Ravens also have one of the best early-season schedules for fantasy football running backs. Baltimore’s first five games are all against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for allowing the most fantasy points to running backs.

Todd Gurley is another running back just a few seasons removed from being considered one of the elite fantasy football options at the position. The former Los Angeles Rams star signed with the Atlanta Falcons this off-season and should fit nicely into his new offense.

I wouldn’t be super excited to have Gurley as my RB1, but he does have the opportunity to produce solid fantasy stats in good matchups. He is my No. 19 option at running back and should produce at least 10 touchdowns and eclipse 1,200 yards from scrimmage in the Matt Ryan and Julio Jones led attack.

Top 75 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings for 2020

1. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers, Bye Week 13

2. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys, Bye Week 10

3. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants, Bye Week 11

4. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings, Bye Week 7

5. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints, Bye Week 6

6. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders, Bye Week 6

7. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns, Bye Week 9

8. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals, Bye Week 9

9. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans, Bye Week 7

10. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers, Bye Week 5

11. Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals, Bye Week 8

12. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks, Bye Week 6

13. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers, Bye Week 10

14. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers, Bye Week 8

15. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs, Bye Week 10

16. David Johnson, Houston Texans, Bye Week 8

17. Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens, Bye Week 8

18. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles, Bye Week 9

19. Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons Bye Week 10

20. Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers, Bye Week 11

21. Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets, Bye Week 11

22. Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns, Bye Week 9

23. James White, New England Patriots, Bye Week 6

24. Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos, Bye Week 8

25. Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills, Bye Week 11

26. Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions, Bye Week 5

27. Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears, Bye Week 11

28. J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens, Bye Week 8

29. Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts, Bye Week 7

30. Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bye Week 13

31. Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bye Week 13

32. Jordan Howard, Miami Dolphins, Bye Week 11

33. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts, Bye Week 7

34. Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos, Bye Week 8

35. Matt Breida, Miami Dolphins, Bye Week 11

36. David Montgomery, Chicago Bears, Bye Week 11

37. Sony Michel, New England Patriots, Bye Week 6

38. Tevin Coleman, San Francisco 49ers, Bye Week 11

39. Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team, Bye Week 8

40. Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints, Bye Week 6

41. Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams, Bye Week 9

42. Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings, Bye Week 7

43. Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams, Bye Week 9

44. D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions, Bye Week 5

45. Boston Scott, Philadelphia Eagles, Bye Week 9

46. Chris Thompson, Jacksonville Jaguars, Bye Week 7

47. Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers, Bye Week 5

48. Duke Johnson, Houston Texans, Bye Week 8

49. Ryquell Armstead, Jacksonville Jaguars, Bye Week 7

50. Bryce Love, Washington Football Team, Bye Week 8

51. Darrel Williams, Kansas City Chiefs, Bye Week 10

52. Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers, Bye Week 10

53. Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams, Bye Week 9

54. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys, Bye Week 10

55. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals, Bye Week 9

56. Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals, Bye Week 8

57. Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers, Bye Week 10

58. Ito Smith, Atlanta Falcons, Bye Week 10

59. Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills, Bye Week 11

60. Darrynton Evans, Tennessee Titans, Bye Week 7

61. Anthony McFarland, Pittsburgh Steelers, Bye Week 8

62. A.J. Dillon, Green Bay Packers, Bye Week 5

63. Carlos Hyde, Seattle Seahawks, Bye Week 6

64. Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts, Bye Week 7

65. Jalen Richard, Las Vegas Raiders, Bye Week 6

66. Benny Snell Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers, Bye Week 8

67. Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers, Bye Week 11

68. Damien Harris, New England Patriots, Bye Week 6

69. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bye Week 13

70. Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots, Bye Week 6

71. Devine Ozigbo, Jacksonville Jaguars, Bye Week 7

72. Adrian Peterson, Detroit Lions, Bye Week 5

73. James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars, Bye Week 7

74. Frank Gore, New York Jets, Bye Week 11

75. Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos, Bye Week 8



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U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open

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Sept. 17 (UPI) — Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, who won the 2020 U.S. Open last week, announced Thursday night that she will skip this month’s French Open.

Osaka — ranked third in the world — said she decided to withdraw from the upcoming major because of a lingering left hamstring injury and a lack of preparation time on the clay surface.

“Unfortunately I won’t be able to play the French Open this year,” Osaka wrote on social media. “My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have enough time to prepare for the clay — these two tournaments came too close to each other for me this time. I wish the organizers and players all the best.”

The French Open is set to begin Sept. 27 in Paris after being rescheduled from its traditional spring dates due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Osaka, 22, has never advanced past the third round of the French tournament.

Osaka, who had her hamstring taped throughout the U.S. Open, earned her third major title in New York after a three-set comeback win over Victoria Azarenka.



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Chicago White Sox beat Minnesota Twins to clinch AL playoff spot

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Sept. 17 (UPI) — The Chicago White Sox are back in the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade after earning a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.

With the victory, the White Sox clinched their first postseason berth since 2008. It is only the franchise’s second trip to the playoffs since the club won the World Series in 2005.

The White Sox are the first American League team to clinch a spot in the 2020 postseason. On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers became the first NL club to punch their ticket to the playoffs.

“Everybody in there is extremely happy,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work over the years. Hopefully, it’s just a first step, and we continue to move forward.”

White Sox slugger Jose Abreu fueled the win with his 17th home run of the season. The homer — which tied the game at one run apiece in the fourth inning — gave Abreu 50 RBIs in the team’s first 50 games this year, making him the first MLB player to reach 50 RBIs in 2020 and the first to do it in 50 contests since the Detroit TigersMiguel Cabrera in 2013.

Abreu tied the game again in the seventh inning when he legged out an infield single to score Jarrod Dyson from third. That sequence set up the winner — a line drive double to left field by Eloy Jimenez to plate pinch runner Yolmer Sanchez.

“For me, that was a really special moment,” Jimenez said. “It’s really fun, you know. At the beginning of the year, I would have been disappointed if we didn’t make the playoffs. Now, we’ve made it, and we have to continue to play hard and win our division.”

“We’re not done,” Renteria said. “This is just one phase of it. Hopefully, we’re continuing to be better.”

This week in Major League Baseball

New York Yankees Luke Voit (L) celebrates with Aaron Hicks after hitting a solo home run against the Toronto Blue Jays in New York City on Thursday. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 10-7. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo



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Miami Heat rally past Boston Celtics for 2-0 series lead

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Sept. 17 (UPI) — The Miami Heat mounted another comeback to beat the Boston Celtics 106-101 and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night.

The Heat were down by as much as 17 points in the second quarter and trailed the Celtics by 13 at halftime before exploding for 37 points in the third frame. Miami had been 0-21 in postseason games when trailing by at least that many at the half.

The Heat are now 1-21 in such games and sit two wins away from their first NBA finals since 2014.

“We like to make it hard on ourselves,” Heat star Jimmy Butler said. “We like being down double digits and being the comeback kids.”

Goran Dragic led the Heat with 25 points and five assists. Bam Adebayo, who had a clutch block in the closing seconds of Game 1, recorded 21 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson scored 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting from 3-point range to end his offensive woes. In the Heat’s last two playoff games, he was 2 of 9 from deep and scored a combined eight points.

Butler finished with 14 points, four rebounds, four steals and three assists. Jae Crowder scored 12 points, and Tyler Herro added 11 off the bench.

Kemba Walker had a team-best 23 points for the Celtics, who also got 21 apiece from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Brown failed to make a corner 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 15 seconds left, and Butler sealed it with two free throws with 7.4 seconds left.

Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is set for Saturday.



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