Early 2021 Fantasy Football - Top 12 Running Back Rankings
1. Christian McCaffrey
2020 Rank: RB53 overall, played in 3 games
RB1 in FPPG
In his league-winning year in 2019 he averaged 25.7 fppg. This year, he averaged 27.2. Quit the bullshit, we not wit it *21 savage voice*
if for some reason he gets moved to the texans in that deshaun watson trade, we'll
2. Derrick Henry - i mean...
2020 Rank: RB2 overall/RB3/4 PPG
2027 yards on the ground, 17 touchdowns
underwhelming through the air with 19 catches for 114 yards but who gives a shit.
the offense is going to be good again, if there's anything that might have an impact it's the departure of OC Arthur Smith to Atlanta. I am a FAN of that dude. They ran the highest rate of play action in the NFL, which is partly why Ryan Tannehill was so good and the offense was insanely efficient.
Even with the 17 touchdowns, like that could've easily been way more. Tannehill threw 12 touchdowns inside the 5 yard line last year. that could've easily been 20-23 rushing TDs for henry
henry is as easy as a top 5 fantasy pick next year as you'll find. If you wanted to take him over cook, i wouldn't blame you - given cook's injury history.
3. Jonathon Taylor
RB Rank: RB6 overall, RB10 ppg after starting off miserably slow
As a rookie, Talyor finished 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards (1169), albeit this wasnt a great rushing yardage statistical year, it's like saying snacks is the 3rd best looking dude at the bar when the lights came on. Of course all the good looking ones bounced with someone already.
He finished with 232-1169-5.0-11 || 41-36-299-1
He did this while playing on 47% of the Colts' snaps.
Both Wilkins and Hines will be byke next year, but once week 11 hit, that's what we can probably expect from the Colts backfield moving forward. Wilkins became a distant memory, and while Hines was still involved, Taylor played on 62% of the snaps from Wk 11-wk7 compared to 43.5% from WKs 1-10, while Wilkins' saw just 10% of the snaps in those last 7 games.
This was a big them for almost all of the rookie RBs this year - Taylor, Dobbins, Swift, Akers... all took a while to work themselves into a real role.
Once Week 11 hit - the clip was loaded, 22.3 touches/game including that playoff game. Scored 9 touchdowns in those 7 games. That's what makes Taylor so dangerous, bc he has the 225lb frame, he's taking most of the GL work, but because he has the speed, he can break off the 50 yard TD run.
He's a wildly explosive runner. Ripping off chunk plays in college like uber eats out here ripping off their customers. delivery fee, service fee, fake news tax fee, food fee, fee fee.
3rd in the NFL in runs of 40+ yards (3), t-1st with 40+ yard TDs. he's a home run threat on any given down.
He's going to be a double-digit TD scorer every year moving forward as a floor.
The reason we loved the draft spot for him immediately was the Colts line
Indy was #3 overall per PFF as well in RBing grades.
If there's any red flag here, it's the QB position. Philip Rivers is retired. Rivers is notoriously known as one of the best screen game QBs ever. What happens to JT in the receiving game.
Last year the Colts passed the ball to their RBs on 25% of their passes. Only the Chargers, the Patriots and the Saints did so at a higher rate. The league average was 18%.
The Colts are going to sign someone in FA it sounds like. They put an offer out to Carson Wentz.
I'm not overly concerned about Taylor in the receiving game, but it's something to consider when you're comparing him to the Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, etc at the 1.02-1.04 range. I don't think the output you're going to get out of any of these guys will be different enough to really argue for or against any of them. Moot point.
4. Dalvin Cook
2020 Rank: RB3 overall/PPG, played in 14 games
byke to byke RB3 PPG finishes, b2b 14 game seasons
312-1557-16 | 54-44-361-1
the offense runs through him, obviously. he has the league winning upside in a fantasy RB very very few guys have. I just feel more confident with someone I know will hold up over the course of the year. Whereas it seems Cook wears down towards the end of the season each year, Henry and Taylor not only stay healthy but get better.
Now, the key change here in Minnesota is this:
Vikings hired Klint Kubiak as offensive coordinator.
Klint Kubiak, 33, will take over for his father, Gary Kubiak, who retired last month after one season as the team's offensive coordinator. Vikings HC Mike Zimmer reportedly wanted to keep the team's offense in place, so the younger Kubiak will allow Kirk Cousins and company to keep the same offensive language and concepts in 2021. Klint spent two seasons as the Vikings' quarterbacks coach after three seasons as Denver's QBs coach.
i dont think much changes in Minnesota. even if they go pass-heavy, cook is a phenomenal pass-catcher, he'll be fine.
They're in the same tier, Cook, Henry and Taylor you're splitting hairs here.
5. Alvin Kamara
So it was a crazy year for Kamara and his fantasy owners, who were rewarded with the overall RB1 in fantasy this year, while playing in just 15 games thanks in part to his ridiculous start and of course his 6-touchdown game in Week 16.
His final statline for the year: 187-932-16 || 107-83-756-5
Career highs in rushing yards, rushing TDs, targets, receptions, receiving yards and tied for rec TDs (5).
Started absolutely red fucking hot out of the gate. He scored 7 TDs in the first four games, averaged almost 140 YFS and 7.5 receptions. Almost single-handedly leading your team to a 4-0 record off the rip. Things slowed a bit, but not really. His floor was pretty much like 18 PPR points even on a non-TD scoring day.
Then taysom hill happened. Brees got hurt and he took over for four games as the starter and obviously the splits were cheek slapping:
Where Kamara gets drafted and will rank will swing wildly depending on the QB situation in NO.
NO is in cap hell. $90M over the cap, Brees retiring will wipe out like $30M I believe but still a lot to be done in NO. Which begs the question what happens at QB. They went 3-1 with Hill under center. Do they trust him to lead them for a full year? They have Hill under contract for 2021 for $16M.
Jameis Winston is a FA, which is where things get really interesting. Sean Payton and NoLa have been pretty vocal about wanting to bring Winston byke and let him rip under center.
Can they get a deal done is the question. More often than not in the NFL - teams make the money work. But Winston just played under a $1M contract in NoLa so you bet he's looking to get paid. And if there's any team that can't pay, it's the Saints. Unless he really wants to believe in himself, take a small prove-it deal - he would put himself in a great position to be the future of the Saints franchise. It's going to be really interesting.
Obviously, as fantasy players, we want Winston under center. He takes more chances, he's not afraid to sling it, and he's not going to eat up 35% of the offense's plays by scrambling, especially not on the GL.
The other thing is that even if Winston is resigned by NO, they're going to use some sort of committee at QB.
6. Saquon Barkley
Saquon can get up there to RB2 easily.
This RB6 ranking is not me thinking Barkley is injury prone, but using a realistic barometer about what we know about injuries.
Week 1 of last year, Saquon rushes the ball 15 times for 6 yards against PIT. Week 2 vs. Chicago he runs the ball 4 times for 28 yards and then boom.
He tears his meniscus, MCL and ACL. So, fantasy players have a very sour taste in their mouth with Barkley.
So here's what we know from ACL tears. It is a 9-12 month recovery timetable for people to be back to full health. If you've listened to my channel, for any amount of time, you know we like to draft guys 2 years removed from the ACL tears, not one.
Here's the problem with Barkley's tear, when you tear more than just the ACL, you cant get surgery right away. Barkley waited a full month after the injury to actually have surgery because they needed the MCL to heal on its own, and the swelling to go down in the meniscus in order to operate on that and the ACL. So instead of saying oh 9-12 months from Week 2, it's about a year from Week 6 or 7 that he MIGHT be back to full health. And it's not only physical, this is a huge mental barrier for players too. The player needs to have absolute 100% full confidence in his legs to be who he was and I'd argue there's no player in the NFL that is more instinctual, and relies more on pure reaction in his jump cut running style than Saquon Barkley.
That being said, Barkley is just 24 years old, younger players can recover more quickly and if there's anyone on earth built to make an Adrian Peterson type return from the ACL, it's Saquon. I will be closely monitoring his rehab and if things go smoothly, he will rise up my rankings over the next 6 months.
You just can never forget, Saquon went for 2000 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns as a rookie - dont ever forget that.
7. Nick Chubb
so good over 2H of year, take that over 16 game pace. look at 40+ yard runs, etc. offensive line is BOOMIN. first year in stefanski's offense was incredible - look at PA rate, baker boomin, look at run rate overall
Chubb is discount Derrick Henry.
We were a little bit worried entering the year with Kareem Hunt sharing the backfield, but what the improved line play did and Kevin Stefanski's play-action, run-first offense made Chubb into was orgasmic. He very well might be the best pure runner in the NFL
1200 yards, 12 touchdowns, 12 games.
Chubb finished as the RB9 despite only playing 12 games, RB5 in FPPG.
This offensive line had the single highest graded run-blocking line per PFF last year thanks to the addition of Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills.
The Browns ran play-action on more than 30% of their passes, 7th in the NFL and Baker's completion % jumped up 6% on PA throws and his YPA jumped up a full 3 yards, 2nd highest jump in the NFL - the whole offense moved so well under Stefanski.
The whole Nick Chubb stinks on the GL too, he scored 5 rushing TDs on 11 attempts inside the 5. Same number of scores that Zeke had on 22 attempts, Josh Jacobs had on 18 attempts, that Todd the GOD Gurley had on 14 attempts.
Very much like Henry and Taylor, we dont know what their involvement in the receiving game is going to be, but we don't care. They make massive, homerun plays on the ground, get the GL work and are in offenses that will dictate GL opportunity.
There's nothing else to discuss, he's an easy 1st round pick for me and I'm not going to be surprised if Chubb leads the NFL in rushing yards in 2021.
8. Ezekiel Elliott
Ya'll realize Zeke is only 25 years old. He just signed that massive contract and he's the workhorse for the next year, two, three years.
The only thing that really matters is Dak being on the field.
Zeke was averaging over 20 half ppr FPPG with Dak on the field. Easily top-5 fantasy #s. Sure, Pollard looked great when Zeke was hurt, but when he returned? Right back to being the workhorse
The bigger concern here is not Tony Pollard, or Zeke being washed, or any of that. It's the offensive line. Zeke averaged 4 ypc last year, a career-low. The Cowboys ranked 29th in run blocking per PFF - they've annualy been top 5 since Zeke entered the league. His run-blocking efficiency ranked 51st per PP.
If there offensive line was still upper-echelon, Zeke would be in my top 5 - but he's going to be a volume-based mid-low RB1 in 2021. With Dak back under center, he has a great chance to finish with 1500 total yfs and 12+ touchdowns.
Don't forget he averaged 6.6 targets/game with Dak healthy.
9. Cam Akers
The earliest pick for the Rams in the 2020 draft proved just why that was the case down the home stretch for the Rams.
I know people KNOW how involved Akers was when the weather got cold, at least in every other part of the country, but let me remind you.
Starting in Week 13, here are Akers' touch totals through the rest of the year: 22, 31, 16, 25, 30, 19. Simple arithmetic will tell you that's 24 touches/game (including their two playoff games), when things mattered the most.
Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown both became afterthoughts. Like most of the other rookie RBs, we saw the same thing play out. A couple of mid-season injuries let the momentum of Akers becoming the starting RB earlier in the year slip away. But he put the butterfingers down in December and took control.
Malcolm Brown is a free agent, he gone. Henderson is still there but he's gonna be nothing more than a breather back to Akers. Matthew Stafford comes to town which can only mean more scoring opportunities for everyone on the offense. Akers has legitimate top-3 overall fantasy running back upside in 2021.
10. J.K. Dobbins
Dobbins finished last year as the RB22 in 15 games
134-805-9-6.0 || 24-18-120
He was phenomenal from an efficiency POV
Elusive, explosive, efficient in every sense.
#1 in yards per carry, #3 in yards created per touch.
He played on 45.7% of the Ravens snaps this year.
Like Jonathan Taylor, the first half of the year was tough to watch - Dobbins didnt move up the totem poll at all - averaging just 6 fucking touches a game including games of 2, 1 and 1 carries.
They hit their bye week and it becomes a split backfield led by Dobbins:
Mark Ingram is gone. Gus Edwards is a RFA - i'd be surprised if they don't resign him he's just too good as a role player in that offense.
You love to see them giving Dobbins work on the GL he was so good down there, reminds me of Aaron Jones. Dobbins saw 8 carries inside the 5 in 2020, converted 7 of them into TDs. Gus had 9, converted 2.
What's insane is that Lamar jackson had just one single carry inside the 5 yard line.
The efficiency isn't going anywhere either, that's what you get running behind this offensive line and Lamar Jackson.
2018 (in lamar jackson starts): gus 5.3 ypc, even ty mont and kenneth dixon over 5 ypc
2019: Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards both over 5.0 ypc
2020: JK Dobbins 6 ypc, Gus 5 ypc again
Follow this trend, Dobbins going for 7.5 ypc.
Concerns: Gus Edwards still there, he's going to command 125-150 carries next year. Lamar Jackson, still there, going to command 150-180 carries next year.
The bigger concern is Lamar Jackson is still not passing to his RBs ever. You'd think Dobbins being so good in that part of the game would command more targets, but he still hovers well below the RB target average in the NFL. Dobbins, Ingram, Gus and Justice Hill combined to see a total of 41 targets in 2020.... There were 27 running backs in the NFL that commanded that many or more targets by themselves last year.
What we may very well see out of Dobbins, however, and this is why you'd draft him this highly is a more efficient version of Mark Ingram's 2019 campaign. He only saw 15 touches/game and caught 26 total passes, but was highly efficient and scored 15 times. that's absolutely not out of the range of outcomes. Add in more explosive, breakaway plays and Dobbins will be a perfectly fine RB1 in 2020.
11. Aaron Jones
At this point, out of pure respect - loved him two years ago that worked out well, faded him last year, didn't work out so well but he's been a top 5 fantasy back in byke to byke years. he's just 26 years old.
He's a free agent obviously - there's two sides of the coin here
If he stays in GB, he gets to play behind a dominant offensive line and Aaron Rodgers.
If he leaves, he's supposedly going to command $14-$15M so he'll be the workhorse wherever he lands, which will likely be a less ideal situation than GB for fantasy, but it could be SF or MIA which would be lit. He'll obviously move drastically depending on what happens in FA.
12. D'Andre Swift