The Derrius Guice experiment in Washington is officially over after two years of injuries and off-field conduct overshadowing his on-field play. The Washington Football Team is now set to enter the 2020 NFL season with a 35-year-old Adrian Peterson as their lead back.
However, a former Heisman Trophy runner-up may prove to be the fantasy football running back to own in D.C., as Bryce Love is finally healthy and turning heads.
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Bryce Love Staking Claim to Washington’s Backfield?
The 23-year-old Love is coming off what was essentially a redshirt rookie season with Washington after an ACL injury in his senior year at Stanford plummeted the first-round hopeful into the fourth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
However, Love is now a year and a half removed from his injury and beginning to make some noise in the Washington backfield.
“Keep an eye on Bryce Love, the former Stanford running back,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport noted when breaking down the release of Guice earlier this month. “He is looking really good, feeling healthy, and could be a surprise there in the backfield.”
It’s easy to see why one would get excited about Love. In his Junior season, as the heir apparent to Christian McCaffrey in the Stanford backfield (a player his new head coach, Ron Rivera, is fairly familiar with), Love took the college football world by storm. The North Carolina native was a big play waiting to happen, setting the FBS records with 13 plays over 50 yards in 2017, flaunting his reported 4.3 speed with regularity. His laundry list of accomplishments includes finishing second in the nation in rushing yards (2,118) and joining Reggie Bush as the only Pac-12 player to ever post back-to-back 250 rushing yard performances.
Love’s ADP, Schedule & Washington’s Rushing Prowess
While the talent is obviously there for Love, it’s the combination of his ADP along with Washington’s ability to pound the rock which makes him so appealing. Love is currently slated as the RB80 in PPR scoring formats and RB81 in standard. This, despite the fact that according to FantasyPros, Love owns the 11th-easiest schedule for running backs in 2020.
Yet, most important in why Love is worthy of a late-round flyer is Washington’s success rate when committing to the ground game. In 2019, from Week 5 on without Jay Gruden at the helm, the team rushed the ball 20-plus times in all but one game. In those games, Washington averaged 118.1 yards per game, a number that would have ranked them within the top-14 of rushing offenses over the entirety of the year.
The Antonio Gibson Factor
Love’s biggest drawback is his unknown in the passing game. Are we saying he can’t shine as a receiver out of the backfield? Certainly not. With that said, he’s yet to prove so, catching no more than 20 receptions in any of his four collegiate seasons.
Antonio Gibson, on the other hand, is a uber-talented playmaker, who had more receptions than rushing attempts during his time at Memphis.
Expect Gibson to man the role left behind by receiving-back Chris Thompson. However, his limitation as a pass blocker and in-between the tackles running ability may limit his usage in year one.
Love, AP or Gibson?
In terms of fantasy value, Peterson is clearly the most trustworthy back in Washington’s backfield at the moment. Yet, his ceiling is seriously limited, he won’t wow you with numbers, as he failed to score more than 15.9 PPR points in any game last season, while also scoring in single-digits seven times in 2019. Gibson will have games similar to ones the aforementioned Thompson has had in the past, racking up six or seven receptions and 50 to 60 total yards, but that production will likely be sporadic.
If you are looking for a Washington running back with potential fantasy starting ability down the road with a late-round draft tag, look no further than Love.
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