2020 RUNNING BACKS - Rookies and Redshirts

Fantasy4um is back! Get ready for this year's draft with 2020’s fantasy football rookie and second year running backs.  Value picks, keepers, and sleepers to be had!

Round 1, Pick 32, 32nd overall (Kansas City Chiefs): Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Louisiana State University

38 games played
RUSHING: 370 attempts, 2103 yards, 5.7 yards per carry (ypc), 23TD
RECEIVING: 69 receptions, 595 yards, 8.6 yards per reception, 1TD

Stout is probably the way most scouts will describe Clyde Edwards-Helaire, aka CEH.  At 5’7”, 207lbs, this kid has tree trunks for legs and he has the power to back them up.  He runs with a natural forward lean and a low center of gravity which makes him much more difficult to tackle.  He has phenomenal footwork which helps him keep the ball moving during second efforts to gain those valuable yards after contact.  That same footwork also helps him stay elusive between the tackles and in the open field.  He uses his jump cuts and lateral quickness to improvise and get to another opening if the original gap isn’t there for him to run through.  However, his speed has been questioned.  He’s been chased down from behind and he may lack the speed to house it at the pro level.  Nevertheless, he’s a bowling ball who can pound it between the tackles and make guys pay for trying to bring him down.  He was drafted into a system that will use his strengths.  Andy Reid has praised CEH for being better than Eagles great Brian Westbrook, who logged 10,000 yards and through the air in 8 years playing for Reid.  While CEH will fit well in Reid’s system, his fantasy upside could still be capped by the presence of Damian Williams, unless he wins the starting job outright and Williams is relegated to a backup role.  Still, Edwards-Helaire should be drafted in all dynasty or keeper leagues and Could go as high as the middle rounds in 10 team leagues with a standard format.  He’s worth drafting as a RB2 in PPR leagues.  

Round 2, Pick 3, 35th overall (Detroit Lions): D’Andre Swift, RB, University of Georgia
40 games played
RUSHING: 251 attempts, 1491 yards, 5.9 yards per carry (ypc), 16TD
RECEIVING: 48 receptions, 571 yards, 11.9 yards per reception, 5TD

There’s no doubt about it.  Swift is easily this year’s best and most complete back.  The best way to describe him is explosive.  His stout, 5’9” 215lb frame is compact, powerful, and allows him to run strong.  He’s normally a bit of a scat back and loves using jump cuts and jab steps to make defenders miss, but he’ll lower his shoulder and initiate contact in order to pick up extra yards.  His low pad level forces everyone to tackle him high and he just powers through tackles.  The best part is he can catch it out of the backfield and he’s great at helping out with pass protection.  This will definitely help him get on the field and make it difficult for defenders to read what the offense is doing.  Unfortunately Swift’s usage has been debated.  While they Lions did get an instant upgrade from Kerryon Johnson, it’s important to remember that Matt Patricia is a New England Patriot guy.  Patricia could go with a committee approach where Swift and Johnson share time with Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson taking some snaps as well.  It’s tough to know how Swift should be used, so the highest he should go is the middle rounds in leagues of 12 teams or more.

Round 2, Pick 9, 41st overall (Indianapolis Colts): Jonathan Taylor, RB, University of Wisconsin
41 games played
RUSHING: 926 attempts, 6174 yards, 6.7 yards per carry (ypc), 50TD
RECEIVING: 42 receptions, 407 yards, 9.7 yards per reception, 5TD

Taylor is absolutely a proven commodity.  He has over 900 carries for nearly 6200 yards and 50 touchdowns to his name.  He’s a beast of a runner who has the unique combination of a stout lower body and breakaway speed thanks to his track pedigree.  He’s a one cut downhill runner who’s a load to bring down and he has just enough fancy footwork to make defenders miss.  That’s really all he needs.  Just a couple of stutter steps turn good tackling angles into bad ones which spell disaster for anyone trying to wrap him up.  He has a stout, powerful lower body that will help him run through a brick wall if he has to. He has a good frame that should allow him to pack on even more size which would make him a total nightmare to tackle if he can maintain his speed.  If that wasn’t enough to get teams interested, he also flashed receiving ability during his junior year.  Sure he’s a proven commodity, but that’s also his downside.  Concerns have been raised about how much tread he has left on his tires after such heavy usage.  However, one only has to look at his injury history which lacks any major injuries to know he’s durable.  The real concern is how many times he put the ball on the ground.  He can get sloppy protecting the ball when he really gets moving and he’s had fumbling issues.  He’ll start as the Colts’ backup behind Marlon Mack with Nyheim Hines serving in the change of pace role, but Taylor could work himself into a bigger role if Mack or shines are injured.  He runs behind a good, young offensive line anchored by Quenton Nelson so he’ll be productive when he finally gets the chance.  

Round 2, Pick 20, 52nd overall (Los Angeles Rams): 
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State University
36 games played
RUSHING: 586 attempts, 2875 yards, 4.9 yards per carry (ypc), 27TD
RECEIVING: 69 receptions, 486 yards, 7.0 yards per reception, 7TD

Akers powered the Seminoles offense for three years.  He’s a patient, powerful runner who knows how to use blocks.  His incredible vision helps him find openings to exploit and break off long runs.  He can bounce it outside or run between the tackle and he’s tough to bring down.  He’s runs with balance and there are highlights that make viewers and opponents think he’s down only to discover that his knees and elbows did not touch the ground, at which point he’ll house it.  He easily slips shoestring tackles and shrugs off attempts to strip the ball first.  He’s not all power though.  He uses his vision to find open space and he’s elusive enough to get there.  He compiled 69 catches for 486 yards and 7 scores so he can catch it too.  He does have downsides though.  Sometimes he tries to get too creative and bounce it outside.  He also needs a couple of steps to get through the gaps or get the edge on zone plays.  Finally, his pass protection is questionable at best.  He’s good at stopping potential blitzers, but he doesn’t always identify them correctly, which means he occasionally misses blocks.  Still, at 5’10”, 217lbs, he has the size, skill, and ability to be a bellcow in the NFL.  The Rams already know what they’re getting with Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson’s role is still to be determined.  Akers is probably the best back in the Rams’ backfield at the moment, but this could very well turn into a three way timeshare until a clear leader emerges.  Still, McVay runs a system off of play action, so he may choose a lead back sooner rather than later.  Akers is a great fit for the system and worth taking in the middle rounds for his starting potential and should be drafted high in all dynasty formats.

Round 2, Pick 23, 55th overall (Baltimore Ravens): 
JK Dobbins, RB, Ohio State University
42 games played
RUSHING: 725 attempts, 4459 yards, 6.2 yards per carry (ypc), 38TD
RECEIVING: 71 receptions, 645 yards, 9.1 yards per reception, 5TD

A player is rarely labeled as both a power runner and a scat back, but that’s exactly what Dobbins is.  His quickness and burst are what initially jump out on his tape.  He can get skinny and get through even the smallest openings when he runs between the tackles, but he’s also quick enough to turn the corner and get the edge.  His tough running, agility and quick feet also help get out of trouble. He can spin out of tackles or just run through them with his power.  Handing the ball off to him inside the 2 yard line is basically a touchdown for sure.  He’ll lower his shoulder, go through defenders, and power into the endzone.  He’s a capable receiver as well.  He’s caught plenty of screens when opponents have brought pressure and he has lined up outside of the numbers.  The Ohio State product was a 3 year starter and racked up 43 offensive touchdowns thanks to his playmaking ability.  He’s great in pass protection too.  He was drafted by Baltimore to run behind one of the biggest, meanest offensive lines in the NFL.  At the moment, Dobbins is behind Mark Ingram on the depth chart, but he’ll be ready to take over the starting role when the 31 year old veteran either gets injured or becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2021.  Dobbins is worth picking up in middle rounds as an Ingram handcuff, and should be drafted in all dynasty formats.

Round 2, Pick 31, 63rd overall (Green Bay Packers): 
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
35 games played
RUSHING: 845 attempts, 4382 yards, 5.2 yards per carry (ypc), 38TD
RECEIVING: 21 receptions, 236 yards, 11.2 yards per reception, 2TD

AJ Dillon is an athlete and a physical back, plain and simple.  At 6’0”, 247lbs, he’s a tough runner between the tackles.  He’s patient and he exploits gaps when they open up.  His 41” vertical and 131” broad jump show how explosive he can be.  He’s stout, tough to bring down, and he’s an incredibly balanced runner who can run through contact.  He can catch it out of the backfield as well although he didn’t do it often.  He’s not twitchy or elusive by any means, and he doesn’t have the jump cuts or sudden change of direction that other backs might have.  Instead, he often uses a spin  to make defenders miss or shed tackles.  His 4.5 speed is good enough to house it.  Running backs haven’t worked out in Green Bay for whatever reason with the exception of Aaron Jones’ 2019 campaign.  However, Dillon will need to work to unseat Jones and backup Jamaal Williams for touches.  Dillon is a good pickup for dynasty owners and one to keep an eye on in all formats.  

Round 3, Pick 12, 76th overall (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): 
Ke’shawn Vaughn, RB, University of Illinois, University of Vanderbilt
38 games played
RUSHING: 572 attempts, 3296 yards, 5.8 yards per carry (ypc), 30TD
RECEIVING: 66 receptions, 648 yards, 9.8 yards per reception, 3TD

Vaughn started his career at Illinois, but he decided to transfer to Vanderbilt and return home to Nashville.  He’s a proven commodity with over 600 offensive touches. His average yards per carry suffered because he hasn’t had much help up front from his offensive lines and Vanderbilt is in arguably the toughest defensive conference in the nation.  He‘s a good size speed guy who can do it all.  He’s a thick, well-built runner who has the speed to house it.  He’s a tough runner and proven commodity who can run it between the tackles or bounce it outside.  He’ll keep his legs moving and push the pile to pick up the extra yards.  He’s not the most elusive back which means he takes a lot of contact.  More often than not, he’ll use his power to push through trouble instead of making guys miss.  He does have the breakaway speed to house it.  However, he does have all of the tools to be a bell cow at the next level.  He’ll square off with Ronald Jones in Tampa Bay, where they haven’t had a decent running back since Doug Martin.  Yes, Jones is at the top of the depth chart at the moment, but a couple of good, consistent weeks from Vaughn could change that. Vaughn is worth a late round flier in most formats and definitely one to keep an eye on if he isn’t drafted.  

Round 3, Pick 22, 86th overall (Buffalo Bills):
Zach Moss, RB, University of Utah
45 games played
RUSHING: 712 attempts, 4067 yards, 5.7 yards per carry (ypc), 38TD
RECEIVING: 66 receptions, 485 yards, 10.4 yards per reception, 3TD

At 5’9”, 223lbs, Moss is an absolute load.  He’s low enough to get under the pads of most players and he knows how to use his size to get leverage and gain extra yards.  He’s a stout running back who light on his feet and uses his footwork to stay moving and fight for extra yards after contact.  His loose hips allow him to cut back and change directions.  He’s well balanced, stays on his feet even after contact, and must be gang tackled.  No, he’s not the most explosive, elusive back, but he can run through tackles instead of dodging them and he has plenty of experience running between the tackles to get it done.  He amassed over 4000 yards through 45 career games with the Utes to become Utah’s all time rushing leader.  At the moment, Devin Singletary is the default starter in the Bills backfield.  However, he was used heavily during his time at Florida Atlantic and he lacks the size and breakaway speed to be a bell cow at the NFL level.  There’s a good chance Moss could grab the starting job from Singletary and limit the latter to a change of pace role.  Moss is worth a middle to late round pickup in most leagues. 

Round 3, Pick 29, 93rd overall (Tennessee Titans):
Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State University
39 games played
RUSHING: 482 attempts, 2884 yards, 6.0 yards per carry (ypc), 25TD
RECEIVING: 39 receptions, 319 yards, 8.2 yards per reception, 6TD

Evans has done well for himself through three years at App State.  He was an exceptional runner and handled return duties as well.  Evans might be one of the more under appreciated guys in the draft.  He moves exceptionally well for someone who’s 5’10” 203lbs.  He’s quick, elusive, knows when to cut it back, runs with great vision, and has just enough top end speed to house it. He’s explosive off of if his first couple of steps and has great burst.  He can catch it out of the backfield too.  The downside is he’s easily tackled when defenders wrap him up, and he doesn’t run through a ton of tackles.  He was probably drafted as the thunder to Derrick Henry’s lightning.  The Titans need to replace Dion Lewis and Henry can’t take all of the snaps.  Evans will likely be in on receiving downs and when Henry needs a breather.  He shouldn’t be drafted higher than his value as the Titans’ change of pace back.  Owners of leagues that count miscellaneous TD’s should also benefit from Evans being a returner.

Round 4, Pick 6, 112th overall (Los Angeles Chargers):
Joshua Kelley, RB, UCLA
22 games played
RUSHING: 454 attempts, 2303 yards, 5.1 yards per carry (ypc), 24TD
RECEIVING: 38 receptions, 264 yards, 6.9 yards per reception, 1TD

At 5’11”, 212lbs, Joshua Kelley is a one cut, downhill runner most of the time.  He has plenty of power and he knows how to use it.  He can also get skinny and use his burst to turn small openings into big gains.  He runs through tackles and he prefers delivering contact over absorbing the hit.  He stays on his feet and uses his momentum to fall forward and pick up a couple of extra yards.  This is critical inside the red zone where it could mean a touchdown or not.  He’s a good receiver out of the backfield as well.  Kelley is a well rounded back who should add instant depth to the Chargers’ backfield.  Ekeler is the starter with Justin Jackson as a backup, but Kelley could move up the depth chart with injuries to either player.  He’s a late round flier in all but the deepest of leagues at the moment.  

Round 4, Pick 14, 120th overall (New York Jets):
La’Mical Perine, RB, University of Florida
26 games played
RUSHING: 493 attempts, 2485 yards, 5.0 yards per carry (ypc), 22TD
RECEIVING: 72 receptions, 674 yards, 9.4 yards per reception, 8TD

At 5’11” 211lbs, Perine has plenty of power to pop defenders.  He has just enough shimmy to shake defenders and runs through lower body arm tackles easily.  His burst and initial acceleration help him get through gaps or get to the edge and elude defenders.  While he ran a 4.6 40 at the combine, he’s shown that he has plenty of breakaway speed to pull away from defenders.  He has excellent hands which he used to snag 72 career passes for 674 yards and house it 8 times.  He’ll need some good openings to run through because he’s not the guy who will push the pile.  He won’t break many ankles either, but he’s strong enough to stay on his feet and keep them moving when he’s in the open field.  He needs space to work.  He does accept in pass protection, which could help him get on the field to pick up blitzes and as a receiving option for the Jets.  Lev Bell and Frank Gore are both on the roster as well so Perine has an opportunity to learn from both. Unfortunately that could also limit his fantasy value.  He should be drafted as such.

Round 4, Pick 18, 124th overall (Pittsburgh Steelers):
Anthony McFarland, RB, University of Maryland
23 games played
RUSHING: 245 attempts, 1648 yards, 6.7 yards per carry (ypc), 12TD
RECEIVING: 24 receptions, 199 yards, 8.3 yards per reception, 1TD

It’s very difficult not to be impressed by 21 carries for 298 yards and 2 touchdowns against a good Ohio State defense.  At 5’8”, 193lbs, McFarland is a bowling ball with plenty of burst, power, and speed.  He exploited massive gaps in the Buckeyes’ defense thanks to his offensive line and averaged 14.2 yards per carry.  He’s quick enough to get the edge, tough enough to stay on his feet, and powerful enough to push the pile or drag defenders with him.  He runs bigger than his size when defenders try to wrap him up and he has plenty of breakaway speed to house it, as evidenced by the 4.4 40 he ran at this year’s combine.  He’s a dynamic running back who joins a crowded Steelers backfield featuring James Conner, Jaylen Samuel, and Benny Snell.  However, they’ll all inevitably get hurt.  McFarland is only worth drafting in the deepest of fantasy leagues, but fantasy managers should keep an eye on him.  

Round 4, Pick 38, 144th overall (Seattle Seahawks):
DeeJay Dallas, RB, University of Miami (FL)
33 games played
RUSHING: 265 attempts, 1527 yards, 5.8 yards per carry (ypc), 17TD
RECEIVING: 28 receptions, 317 yards, 11.3 yards per reception, 2TD

Dallas is a lumbering freight train of a back.  He’s a stridey runner with lots of power and heavy feet.  At 5’10”, 217lbs, he runs bigger than his size, he’s a load to bring down, and he carries defenders with him to fight for extra yards more often than not.  He’s a zone runner who gets the edge, plants his foot and turns it upfield in a straight line while running through defenders or carrying them, and shedding tackles along the way.  He can also run it between the tackles with all of that power.  He’s not a scat back or slasher, but he’ll get plenty of yards with his power alone.  Besides, the Seahawks already have a change of pace back with Penny, but last year’s post season exposed a woeful lack of depth behind Carson and Penny.  Initially Dallas is a depth move, but Carson could be benched if he continues to put the ball on the ground as much as he did last year.  If this is the case, Dallas could work himself into a starting role.  He’s a late round flier in deep leagues only, but he could be a good value pick given The injury histories of Carson and Penny.  

Round 5, Pick 27, 172 overall (Detroit Lions):
Jason Huntley, RB, New Mexico State University
33 games played
RUSHING: 265 attempts, 1527 yards, 5.8 yards per carry (ypc), 17TD
RECEIVING: 28 receptions, 317 yards, 11.3 yards per reception, 2TD

Jason Huntley is a scat back in every sense of the word.  Spins, cuts, jab steps, cutbacks are all a part of his running style.  At 5’9, 193lbs, he’s a slightly undersized back who uses his quickness to his advantage.  He runs around tackles instead of through them, and he tends to avoid contact for obvious reasons. He can catch it out of the backfield and he’s an excellent change of pace back.  He was a versatile playmaker who spent time at multiple positions so he’ll help open up the playbook.  He could struggle to pick up blitzes and he could struggle between the tackles at the pro level though due to his small size.  He might be relegated to that change of pace roll after all since he was drafted into a very crowded Lions running back room.  Like fellow rookie D’Andre Swift, Huntley could become a part of a committee approach and struggle for touches.  Huntley can be left on the wire unless the Lions suffer injuries to multiple backs.  

Round 6 - no running backs drafted

Round 7, Pick 8, 222 overall (Arizona Cardinals):
Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State University
34 games played
RUSHING: 576 attempts, 2867 yards, 5.0 yards per carry (ypc), 27TD
RECEIVING: 82 receptions, 625 yards, 7.6 yards per reception, 4TD

Benjamin is elusive.  He can follow blocks and run between the tackles, follow receivers in the open field and effectively use them as blockers, make guys miss in open space, and turn on the jets once he clears all of the garbage.  He has great acceleration through gaps and he’ll go the distance if he gets in a foot race.  He soaks up the hits along the way, slips arm tackles, and it can be tough to bring him down.  Oddly enough he’s not one to push the pile.  Sometimes he approaches the pile and then bounces it back outside if there isn’t an immediate opening, but that doesn’t always work.  Still, at 5’9” 207lbs he has the size to be at least a nice change of pace option or backup for a team that already has a workhorse.  Kenyan Drake is firmly entrenched as the starter in the desert at the moment with 7 touchdowns in the last 3 weeks of 2019, including one 4 score performance.  David Johnson’s departure means Chase Edmonds is the only backup behind Drake.  Benjamin will presumably work behind Edmonds to pick up the offense and spell Edmonds if Drake gets hurt.  Benjamin is only worth a look if Drake goes down.

Round 7, Pick 31, 245 overall (Tampa Bay Buccaneers):
Raymond Calais, RB, University of Louisiana-Lafayette 
49 games played
RUSHING: 236 attempts, 1845 yards, 7.8 yards per carry (ypc), 15TD
RECEIVING: 17 receptions, 145 yards, 8.5 yards per reception, 1TD

At 5’9”, 188lbs, Calais is admittedly slightly undersized, but he has plenty of speed.  He’s explosive through any gap and has phenomenal acceleration.  He seems to teleport from the backfield into the second level and then he just leaves defenders in his wake.  All that speed gets him an average of nearly 7.8 yards per carry, which is enough to get the attention of any scout.  The downside is he’s a bit of a gadget player and a one trick pony.  He can take the pitch on a sweep or line up in the slot or backfield as a receiver, but he’ll struggle between the tackles and in pass protection.  Guys who are 5’9” and 188lbs would probably struggle against larger linebackers and safeties who have at least 50lbs on the small playmaker.  Still, he’s an experienced returner who will add fantasy points in leagues that award points for misc touchdowns.  He could struggle be relegated to a change of pace role with Ronald Jones and Ke’shawn Vaughn fighting for the starting job in Tampa Bay.  Chances are he’ll be the Bucs’ version of Andre Ellington.  Calais is worth more in PPR leagues and he’s only worth a late round flier at best in most formats.  

REDHIRTS - for more details on these second year running backs and what they did in college, check out our 2019 Rookies and Redshirts blog here!

There aren’t many options for second year backs this season.  Josh Jacobs is the undisputed leader from 2019’s draft class. Alexander Mattison, Benny Snell, Damien Harris, Rock Armstead, Quadree Ollison, Trayveon Williams, Justice Hill, and Tony Pollard were just some of the backs that occasionally spelled their starters or got buried in the depth chart.  Mattison occasionally spelled Cook and should be drafted by Cook owners or anyone needing depth given Cook’s injury history.  Harris, Snell, and Hill are in very crowded backfields and not worth drafting.  Williams, Pollard, and Armstead are late round change of pace backs that are worth more in PPR leagues.  There were a few guys worth looking at though.  

MILES SANDERS, Philadelphia Eagles 
Sanders was stuck in a convoluted mix that was the Eagles’ backfield which included Jordan Howard and Boston Scott.  This was a three-way split which was almost as bad as the Patriots’ backfield.  Sanders was out-touched nearly 2 to 1 in the beginning of the season thanks to his struggles.  He took over the lead spot toward the end of the season thanks to an injury to Howard.  Unfortunately he struggled to get much going even with Howard riding pine because Boston Scott would occasionally to spell Sanders.  Sanders ended the year with 818 yards and 3 touchdowns on 179 carries averaging 4.6 yards per carry.  He added another 509 yards and 3 scores on 50 catches.  Miles Sanders presumably takes over the starting job this year.  Howard departed and Scott could reprise his role as the Eagles’ backup.  Sanders might have had a case of nerves at the start of his rookie season, but he stepped in and did a decent job.  His skill set and the opportunity are there for the taking.  Sanders just has to take it and run with it.  He’s worth taking late in the first round or early second round.  

Singletary had a lot of doubters.  His small size, slow speed, and pedigree were all questionable at the NFL level.  However, 66 touchdowns in 3 years certainly speaks for itself.  A hamstring injury early last season limited Singletary’s rookie campaign to just 13 games and he split carries with veteran Frank Gore during most of that time.  The concerns about his size and durability are still valid.  Still, with Gore now out of the picture, the undersized Singletary is the default starter in Buffalo.  The starting job will be his to lose and he’ll be running behind an improved offensive line in a system where defenses could try to stop his QB first.  Singletary is worth a late second or third round pick.  Buyer beware: this could turn into a timeshare with rookie Zack Moss if Singletary struggles or misses time. 

Montgomery is the clear, undisputed starter in Chicago.  He’s the workhorse who will get most of the touches in short yardage or goal line situations.  Tarik Cohen May get sprinkled in for a pass here and there, but he’s no good between the tackles.  Yet Montgomery remains a third or fourth round pick even though workhorse backs are almost like unicorns in this league.  There are two issues here.  First of all, Coach Nagy has repeatedly committed to running the ball more, but he has yet to actually do so in games.  He’s forced to throw it and play catch-up since the Bears are usually losing in the first half.  Second, the Bears’ offensive line was one of the worst in 2019.  Still, Montgomery really picked it up in the second half of the season and ended the year with nearly 900 yards on the ground and 6 touchdowns and added 185 yards and a score on 25 catches.  He’s known to be a tough runner and hopefully his toughness brings better results his second year.  

**UPDATE: David Montgomery groin injury on 08/26/2020**

In 13 games last year, Henderson carried the ball just 39 times for 147 yards and failed to get in the endzone.  He ceded the backup job behind Todd Gurley to Malcolm Brown last year, and the starter remains to be determined.  To complicate matters more, the Rams drafted Cam Akers in the second round of this year’s draft.  At the moment, Henderson will battle Brown for the starting job, but this could turn into a 3-way timeshare until a leader emerges.  Henderson should be taken in the middle rounds because of all of the uncertainty.  Nevertheless, he’s a capable playmaker that can be a starter in this league.  

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