Fantasy Football running back outlook 2021: Projections, sleepers, breakouts, busts, zero-RB targets and more

The working again place causes probably the most contentious debates in Fantasy. Most agree on the depth of broad receiver, the significance of an elite tight finish, and the folly of drafting a quarterback in Spherical 1, however we discover no such consensus at working again. 

Whether or not it is the Zero-RB vs. strong RB, the age that working backs begin to decline, or the working again lifeless zone, we seemingly all the time have one thing to argue about. So earlier than we get too far into any technique or potential league winners, I ought to most likely provide you with a fast breakdown of how I view the state of the place. 

As you possibly can see under, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook are the cream of the crop and ought to be the primary two picks in any league the place you are solely allowed to begin one quarterback. After that comes a large number of working backs who’ve flashed top-five skill, but in addition have at the very least one main query. For most individuals that group begins with Alvin Kamara or Derrick Henry and ends someplace across the again of the highest 12.

What makes this yr so distinctive is what number of working backs from Tier 4 by Tier 6 (extra tiers on the backside of the article) have such quick monitor data. Many of the second-year backs in that vary, and there are a bunch of them, gave us about half a season, at most, of elite manufacturing of their rookie yr. In that very same group you may have three backs who seem to have little or no competitors for touches, but in addition do not precisely profile as workhorse backs.

I ended at Tier 6 as a result of these are the fellows I feel you need to really feel snug with as a starter. However the subsequent 4 tiers have simply as a lot intrigue, simply no flooring. There are proficient rookies who might have second-half surges like their 2020 counterparts, in addition to productive veterans who might begin the yr off sizzling. Then there are many committees but to be determined. For those who draft the winner of these battles you may get a discount, for those who draft the loser they might find yourself on the waiver wire. 

If there was one distinction I would mark in 2021, it is that there seems to be extra potential volatility exterior of the highest 15. It is not onerous to think about guys like Mike Davis, Myles Gaskin, Javonte Williams, and even Melvin Gordon placing collectively top-12 campaigns. And there are a dozen extra like them. Nevertheless it’s simply onerous to get snug with the concept of them conserving their job for 17 video games. How does that have an effect on technique on the place? Glad you requested.

Working again draft technique

I by no means go right into a draft locked into one technique, however there are particular league sorts that take away a number of the flexibility. As an illustration, in non-PPR leagues, I’m nearly actually taking a working again within the first spherical and I would love to have two by the tip of the third spherical. The necessity is not fairly as urgent in 0.5 PPR however in most of these drafts, I will take at the very least one working again within the first two rounds. Full PPR is the place issues open up much more.

If I choose early in a PPR league, that is the place I am prone to attempt what some are actually calling Hero-RB, the place you draft a working again within the first spherical after which fill the remainder of your starters out (or go five-to-six rounds at the very least) earlier than you are taking one other working again. I like this technique most if I can land McCaffrey or Prepare dinner in Spherical 1. Then once more, most methods look higher with McCaffrey and Prepare dinner in your group.

Within the center or finish of the draft, Zero-RB turns into extra fascinating, however perhaps not fairly as fascinating because it was final yr. it positively is dependent upon what the remainder of your league does, but when you can begin with Travis Kelce and a top-five broad receiver that is a tricky begin to beat. The Spherical 3-4 flip has traditionally been the place the breakout working backs dry up, therefore the “lifeless zone” however there are some backs who might flip that on its head this yr. A few these guys are within the breakouts part under, extra of them are within the Zero-RB part.

Once you get to the later rounds, backs you are taking ought to be influenced by your early-round backs. For those who’re going Zero-RB, and even Hero RB you ought to be extra prone to draft guys like Gordon and Raheem Mostert, due to their flooring early within the yr. However after getting three stable backs you need to shoot extra for upside, with guys like Trey Sermon, A.J. Dillon and the Tampa Bay backs. 

Lastly, if catches do not rely in your league, you need to most likely cross a lot of the third-down backs off your checklist. Even when they mission as RB3s, these should not successful gamers in non-PPR.

Now, let’s get into sleepers, breakouts, and busts:

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Numbers to know

26.36 — Fantasy factors per recreation for Christian McCaffrey the previous three seasons. That is 4.5 Fantasy factors higher than every other working again.
— Working again alternatives per recreation for Anthony Lynn’s working backs the previous two seasons. Solely the 49ers and Vikings have had extra.
7.9 — Mike Davis broke a sort out as soon as each 7.9 makes an attempt in 2020, the most effective mark within the league.
3.3 — Yards per try earlier than contact for Raheem Mostert, which led working backs. 
98 — Speeding first downs for Derrick Henry final yr. Dalvin Prepare dinner was the one different again with greater than 70.
6.3 — Profession yards per goal for Giovani Bernard. That is a full yard higher than any Tampa Bay Again in 2020.
4 — No working again has scored greater than 4 speeding touchdowns for the Bills since Josh Allen turned quarterback.
17.4 — Myles Gaskin averaged 17.4 PPR factors per recreation in his closing eight video games. Solely seven working backs have been higher than that in 2020.
12.3% — Solely 12.3% of the Steelers passes went to working backs final yr, the bottom mark within the league.

So which sleepers, breakouts and busts do you have to goal and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five efficiency? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen’s huge season, and discover out.

Zero-RB targets

July ADP suggests the trail to a Zero-RB construct is as inviting as ever in 2021. That is very true for those who embody Spherical 5 working backs, which embody Myles Gaskin and Mike Davis. However even beginning with the extra conventional Spherical 6 vary, it is not onerous to discover a mixture of early stability and late upside. I’m not taking this path if I’ve a top-five choose this yr and I am not contemplating it in any respect until receptions rely for one thing. This checklist will change as we get extra coaching camp news and ADP updates, however there is no likelihood we will run out of fine choices, I needed to cull this checklist down greater than I wished to. 

Spherical 6 Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Damien Harris, Darrell Henderson
Spherical 7
 — Trey Sermon, Melvin Gordon
Spherical 8 — Michael Carter, James Conner, Ronald Jones
Spherical 9 — Jamaal Williams, A.J. Dillon, Devin Singletary
Spherical 10 — Tony Pollard, Sony Michel, James White
Spherical 11 — Alexander Mattison, Nyheim Hines, Giovani Bernard
Spherical 12 or later Wayne Gallman, Rhamondre Stevenson, Ty’Son Williams, Justin Jackson

Handcuff rankings

Under are the highest 10 PPR handcuffs to draft on Draft Day. Clearly, Kareem Hunt is far more than a handcuff, however the motive he is on this checklist, and never somebody like Giovani Bernard is the truth that Hunt may very well be a league-winner within the occasion Nick Chubb will get harm. Bernard’s function would not probably change. So, whereas Hunt could be a flex in a PPR league even with out an damage, he is additionally the No. 1 handcuff.  I do not historically draft handcuffs to my starters, however I do not thoughts taking another person’s. Additionally, for those who’re in a non-PPR league, guys like Trey Sermon, A.J. Dillon, and Gus Edwards deserve a lift.

  1. Kareem Hunt
  2. Jamaal Williams
  3. Kenyan Drake
  4. A.J. Dillon
  5. Justin Jackson
  6. Tony Pollard
  7. Alexander Mattison
  8. Sony Michel
  9. Darrel Williams
  10. Carlos Hyde



So which sleepers, breakouts and busts do you have to goal and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five efficiency? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen’s huge season, and discover out. | Fantasy Soccer working again outlook 2021: Projections, sleepers, breakouts, busts, zero-RB targets and extra


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