2021 CFF Running Back Rankings, Profiles and Projections
No one gets financially wealthy teaching in America. Yet, educators are rewarded in other ways. During the summer, some teachers get to spend time with their children. For me, I take my 11-year-old daughter and our cousins to the amusement park and research players for my college fantasy football leagues. While the three kids swim in the water park and go on rides, I watch film, search the internet and write profiles of players…A perfect life for an old man.
Before I started writing, I went back to 2014 to examine the leading rushers in college football. Two runners—Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin and Tevin Coleman, Indiana—surpassed the 2,000-yard threshold, and three—Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio State, Donnell Pumphrey, SDSU, and Jay Ajayi, Boise State—tallied over 1,800 yards. Rounding out the Top 10, James Conner, Pittsburgh, Duke Johnson, Miami, and Kareem Hunt, Toledo all helped CFF diehards win championships and were eventually drafted by the NFL.
College Fantasy Football provides alternative-reality zealots, NFL Draftniks, and Dynasty and Devy owners a competitive advantage against their opponents. What are you waiting for this summer? Get off the sideline and into the game on Fantrax. We guarantee that you will not regret playing in a CFF league this fall.
The one player who I will never forget is Devon Johnson, Marshall. In 2014, he moved from tight end to running back and rambled for 1,767 and 17 touchdowns while qualifying as a tight end in lineups. He became the waiver wire pickup of the year and led me to two CFF Championships. A great season to be a college fantasy football diehard.
In search of this year’s college stars, I placed the running back profiles in tiers—Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Cum Laude—to provide flexibility for CFF managers based on their league’s scoring format, roster construction, and starting lineup requirements.
It is clearly more appropriate to provide college fantasy footballers with player tiers. In addition, Nicholas Ian Allen, @CFBWinningEdge, has provided projections for rushing yards, receptions, touchdowns, and fantasy points per game.
Of course, you’ll probably want to check out my full RB rankings as well. You can find that in my 2021 CFF Rankings.
Enjoy my fellow CFF diehards!
2021 CFF Running Back Rankings, Profiles and Projections
Summa Cum Laude
Breece Hall, Iowa State
Growing up in Connecticut in the Seventies, Iowa State did not get any television exposure. When did the Cyclones first blip on my radar? In the mid-Nineties, RB Troy Davis recorded consecutive 2,000-yard campaigns in 1995 and 1996. He was selected by the Saints in the third round of the ‘97 Draft but never reached such lofty heights in New Orleans.
In 2011, Iowa State even traveled to UConn, and the Cyclones came from behind in the fourth quarter to win the game. In 2017 and 2018, David Montgomery rose to the top of the CFF running back rankings. Over the past two seasons, Breece Hall continued smashing for CFF diehards in Ames, Iowa.
In 2019, Hall earned First Team All-Freshman PFF honors after rushing for 897 yards and catching 23 passes for 252 yards while scoring 10 total touchdowns. In 2020, the sophomore performed even better while being named First Team All-American and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. He gained 1,572 yards and scored 21 times on the ground. Hall also logged 23 receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
In Cyclones history, Hall’s 1,572 yards rank third all-time, trailing only Davis. His 21 touchdowns tied the program record also held by Davis. At 6’1” and 215-pounds, “Breece Hall is easily one of the top running backs in the 2022 NFL Draft class for pure explosive plays. Hall uses his combination of explosion and vision to create big plays…he has excellent change of direction skills, which further helps him to gain more yardage,” wrote Oliver Hodgkinson (Profootballnetwork.com).
In 2020, Iowa State won a school-record nine games and captured their first New Year’s Day Bowl, beating Oregon in the Fiesta. In 2021, Coach Matt Campbell and the Cyclones are loaded on both sides of the football. The squad returns 18 starters, including all five offensive linemen, which foretells another great season on the ground for Hall and the running game. The Cyclones’ star is clearly a top-five selection in CFF drafts.
Rushing Yards: 1,308
Fantasy PPG: 24.0
Bijan Robinson, Texas
Every so often, a high school prospect makes national headlines, and college football fans can’t wait to see the gridiron virtuose perform. In my lifetime, Randy Moss, Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson all were household names before even walking onto a college campus. Last year, Bijan Robinson garnered the “can’t miss” prospect label, and he lived up to the billing as a true freshman.
In nine games, Robinson earned 86 carries and produced 703 yards, averaging 8.2 yards per carry (ypc). He also snatched 15 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. At the end of the season, he was named Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. College fantasy footballers and Devy players are forecasting an even better campaign as a sophomore for the Longhorns’ bruising back.
“I think Bijan Robinson is—sorry for saying this—I think he’s the best back in the country. If you really watched him in the second half of last year, he was unstoppable. I had the game against Kansas State, and I know he played well before that, but that’s when it was kind of like, ‘Wow!’” Joel Klatt, FOX analyst proclaimed (247Sports.com).
In high school, Robinson, 6’0” and 215-pounds, twice captured the Ed Doherty Award as the Arizona Player of the Year (2018 and 2019). In the Grand Canyon State, he graduated as the all-time leading rusher with 7,036 yards and touchdown king with 114. He also eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards in three consecutive seasons. As a recruit, 247Sports graded Robinson as a five-star prospect and rated as the No. 23 recruit among USA Today’s Chosen 25.
Even Las Vegas likes Robinson to crush defenders in 2021: He is currently at +2500 to capture the coveted Heisman trophy. If he wins it, Robinson would become the third running back in Texas history to bring the award to Austin, TX, joining Earl Campbell (1977) and Ricky Williams (1998). Steve Sarkisian called Najee Harris’ number often at Alabama over the past two years, and the new coach would be wise to feed the sophomore stud over 300 touches in the fall.
Rushing Yards: 1,090
Fantasy PPG: 22.38
Sincere McCormick, UTSA
One of the positive consequences of the Pandemic was the exposure that Group of 5 teams received. Like many Americans, I needed college football for a sense of normalcy and watched teams not usually on my weekend agenda. The Roadrunners opened the season with three consecutive wins, averaging 37 points, and caught my attention.
Sincere McCormick became the catalyst of the offense, earning Second Team All-American by FWA and Phil Steele. He also earned the C-USA Offensive Player of the Year and a semi-finalist for the Doak Walker Award. On 249 carries, the junior finished second in the FBS with 1,467 rushing yards and scored 11 touchdowns. Both marks established single-season school records.
“He (McCormick) is just a humble young man from right here in the San Antonio area who works hard every day to get better, and that shows in all that he has been able to accomplish this season. He is a great example of what our 210 Triangle of Toughness brand is all about,” stated UTSA coach Jeff Traylor after McCormick was named Texas College Player of the Year (Texasfootball.com).
An under-appreciated pass catcher, McCormick has snatched 44 passes for 325 yards and a touchdown during his first two years. At 5’9” and 200-pounds, the Roadrunners’ star easily eludes tacklers and employs very good contact balance. With QB Frank Harris, WR Zakhari Franklin, and all five offensive linemen returning, McCormick and the UTSA offense once again marches up and down the field.
Rushing Yards: 1,225
Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
The Golden Gophers failed to replicate their magical 2019 campaign last year, falling to 3-4. Nevertheless, Mohamed Ibrahim rose to the occasion, earning the Big Ten Running Back of the Year award. The redshirt senior rambled for over 1,000 yards and scored 15 times.
Bell cow running backs without competition for touches are worth gold. Last year, Ibrahim was on pace for 340 carries over the course of a 12-game schedule for coach P.J. Fleck. “He’s one of the best players in college football, and you want him to continue to be one of the best players in college football. He’s what makes your team really good, and your best players when they’re on the field make you better. So, he’s going to play (often),” Fleck remarked in the offseason (twincities.com).
As a freshman in 2018, the bruising ball carrier surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier with a career-high 1,160 yards with nine touchdowns. He posted the second-most productive season in program history behind only Darrell Thompson. He also exceeded 100 yards rushing five times and averaged 5.7 ypc. Afterward, Ibraham captured the Bruce Smith Award as the Outstanding Offensive Player at Minnesota and Honorable Mention All-Big Ten.
At 5’10 and 210-pounds, the Golden Gophers game-breaker employs stupendous contact balance and packs a punch when confronting tacklers. He also presses the hole well with patience and vision and utilizes great short-area burst to explode upfield. There are no guarantees in football, yet Ibrahim is close to a sure thing. He is a first-round selection in CFF drafts this summer.
Rushing Yards: 1,515
Fantasy PPG: 22.7
Twitterverse on Fire!
Let’s eliminate the quarterbacks and take a look at the Heisman odds: Who do you like at RB based on current betting lines?
- Bijan Robinson, Texas +2500: 18%
- Breece Hall, Iowa State +3000: 60%
- Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M +3300: 14%
- Tank Bigsby, Auburn +4000: 8%
“Isaiah Spiller is the best value there for sure.” @kevski07
Magna Cum Laude
Kyren Williams, Notre Dame
Coach Brian Kelly has returned the Irish among the elite programs in the country during his tenure. Unfortunately, Notre Dame cannot compete with Alabama and Clemson from a talent standpoint. The Irish earned an invite to the CFP in two of the past three seasons but were blown out in the semifinals by the Crimson Tide in 2018 and the Tigers in 2020.
While there is a talent gap between the programs, Notre Dame does a good job of recruiting and coaching the O-line. Kyren Williams reaped the benefits of a run game propelled by upperclassmen last year. The redshirt freshman sprinted for 1,125 yards, averaged 5.3 ypc., and scored 14 touchdowns. He also corralled 35 passes for 313 yards. When the curtain closed, Williams collected a plethora of accolades: FWAA Freshman All-America, Second Team All-America (Sporting News), Second Team All-ACC, and ACC Rookie of the Year.
In high school, Williams was a four-star prospect, who moved to running back from wide receiver as an upperclassman. Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees stated that Williams can be even more productive for the Irish in the passing game in 2021. Rees would like to utilize his 1,000-yard rusher in the slot and on more plays downfield to take advantage of his route-running skills.
“For Kyren, because he has an innate ability in the passing game, it’s going to be how do we expand his role to maximize even more touches? [How do we] get him into more space? We’re doing a lot of things right now, playing around with him and the other backs…That’s the next progression in terms of how we want to play this year,” Rees declared (notredame.rivals.com).
CFF diehards must weigh two concerns in regard to Williams: first, only one starting offensive lineman returns in South Bend, IN, and second, how many touches will the highly-touted, and speedy, Chris Tyree get in the backfield? Sadly, Williams’ ceiling appears capped with the turnover and competition; yet, the junior remains a Top 10 running back in drafts this summer.
Rushing Yards: 1,070
Fantasy PPG: 20.4
Tank Bigsby, Auburn
Bo Jackson left a very high standard for future Tigers’ runners to aspire to. Since Jackson won the Heisman in 1985, many tailbacks have enrolled at Auburn; so far, none have left a mark like the former two-sport star. To proclaim that Tank Bigsby could reach heights not seen in Auburn, AL in over 30 years is not hyperbole.
As a true freshman last year, Bigsby earned 138 carries for 834 yards and five touchdowns. He also logged 11 receptions for 84 yards. In the SEC, he finished the campaign eighth in all-purpose yardage (122.4 ypg.) and fifth in total rushing yards (834). The sophomore was named SEC Freshman of the Year and First Team Freshman All-SEC.
There is no question that Bigsby is the engine of the Auburn offense, and the new coaching staff has big plans for its gridiron luminary. “That’s our job as coaches to continue to push guys. The great ones have it in them. They always want to get better and they always push themselves. Tank has that in him, and that makes your job a lot easier when guys like Tank are hungry to get better…He’s serious about wanting to be the best player he can be—not just for himself, but for Auburn,” new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo stated (al.com).
At 6’0” and 208-pounds, the four-star prospect has a deadly combination of speed and power to elude tacklers. A one-cut runner, Bigsby uses vision and stiff arms to break into the second level of the defense. Former Boise State coach Bryan Harsin gave plenty of work to his backs and surely knows that success in his first season at Auburn depends on Bigsby getting 300 touches. He might not win the Heisman, but I am confident that the sophomore challenges the single-season rushing record held by Tre Mason (1,816).
Rushing Yards: 1,101
Fantasy PPG: 19.6
Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M
Among college football fans, there is a debate in regard to the best running back in the SEC. Is it Bigsby or Isaiah Spiller? The two stud runners are back-to-back in my rankings before kickoff. Spiller ranks behind Bigsby based on the competition in the backfield, which might limit touches.
Last summer, college fantasy footballers scoffed at my pre-season CFF ranking of Spiller, and many pointed to his dominance against non-SEC teams as a freshman to downgrade him. I had watched the film, analyzed coach Jimbo Fisher’s offensive philosophy, and looked at the offensive line talent on the Aggies. Also, over the final six games of the 2019 campaign, Spiller gained 587 rushing yards and scored six touchdowns. I had the Texas A&M game-breaker on so many teams in 2020.
Earning First Team All-SEC honors, the sophomore surpassed the 1,000-yard threshold and crossed the finish line nine times. He finished third in the SEC averaging 103.60 ypg., helping A&M boast the No. 2 rushing offense in the conference. He also tallied six 100-yard games, logged three multi-touchdown ones, and totaled 1,229 yards from scrimmage.
If you don’t believe my assessment of Spiller, trust the coach’s remarks: “No doubt. He has size, he has speed, he can catch the ball, he really became a good pass blocker. So, he keeps growing…has a chance to be a really, really good player,” Coach Jimbo Fisher stated (saturdaydownsouth.com).
At 6’1” and 225-pounds, Spiller runs with passion, purpose, and power. He welcomes contact and enjoys punishing defenders. A one-cut runner, he has fantastic feet and finds daylight quickly. With a current second-round ADP (19 overall), Spiller is the idyllic compliment if a CFF manager drafts a running back in the first round. I have paired Spiller with McCormick or Ibrahim to kickoff drafts this summer and like how my roster unfolded.
Rushing Yards: 1,086
Fantasy PPG: 18.3
Ronnie Rivers, Fresno State
For three consecutive campaigns, the Bulldogs have scored over 30 points per game. In 2020, Fresno State averaged 32.8 ppg. (36) and totaled 479.3 yards per game (17). During the recent scoring outburst, Ronnie Rivers has been the backfield playmaker for the Bulldogs.
A pass-catching dynamo, Rivers has rushed for 2,149 yards, averaging 716 per season, snatched 96 passes for 929 yards, and scored 38 times since 2018. Last year, the 5’9” and 195-pound senior earned First Team All-Mountain West after being named Second Team All-Conference in 2019.
Rivers started as a true freshman in 2017 and returns for his fifth season in 2021, taking advantage of the NCAA COVID-19 rules. Before kickoff this fall, Rivers has targeted the program’s record books before he walks off the gridiron for the last time, blasting on social media that “I’ve got records to break.”
The senior shares the record for most touchdowns (44), tied for third in rushing touchdowns (35), the leader in pass receptions (116) by a running back, and ranks seventh all-time in all-purpose yards (4,025) and rushing yards (2,629). “… Ronnie is the gold standard. When we talk to kids (recruits) and evaluate specifically the running back position, Ronnie is the standard. The more versatile, the better. Obviously, a guy who can pass protect, get out one-on-one and beat a ‘backer and still run the ball between the tackles is incredibly valuable,” offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb stated during the offseason (visaliatimesdelta.com).
Rivers is also the gold standard in college fantasy football. He is the pre-season First Team All-MW candidate, and the Bulldogs’ offense employs the best QB-RB-WR duo in the Conference. Rivers ignites the attack and provides nice upside potential.
Rushing Yards: 855
Fantasy PPG: 19.2
Jahmyr Gibbs, Georgia Tech
When Phil Steele identifies a player pre-season First Team All-Conference, college fantasy footballers must pay attention. In the annual Phil Steele’s College Football Preview, Jahmyr Gibbs was named First Team All-ACC and six other Yellow Jackets received preseason All-ACC recognition. Taking over a roster designed for the triple-option, coach Geoff Collins has quickly recruited top prospects and turned around the program.
A four-star recruit by 247Sports, Gibbs, along with QB Jeff Sims, are the cornerstones of Collins’ offense. At 5’11” and 200-pounds, he was the fifth-highest-rated recruit in Georgia Tech history by 247Sports, designated as the No. 2 all-purpose back in the nation and No. 10 player in Georgia by Rivals in 2019. “First, Jahmyr is an animal. The kid is unbelievable. There’s no point in just trying to get him in (the game); he’s going to play,” running backs coach Tashard Choice said last summer in training camp (arc.com).
As a freshman in 2020, Gibbs lived up to expectations by coach Choice. Gibbs garnered 89 carries, accumulated 460 rushing yards, and corralled 24 passes for 303 yards. He also scored seven times and returned eight kicks for 205 yards, averaging 25.6 yards.
A dynamic playmaker, Gibbs is poised to become a household name across the nation and earn All-American honors as well as All-ACC. In two of my last three CFF drafts, I have acquired Gibbs in the third and fourth rounds…Bazinga!
Rushing Yards: 892
Fantasy PPG: 18.9
Kevin Marks, Buffalo
I ranked Kevin Marks among the top five CFF runners in March. Since then, I had to lower him because of the uncertainty at Buffalo. In April, coach Lance Leipold left for Kansas, and Rob Ianello took over the program. Under Leipold, CFF diehards knew the offensive scheme and could safely project production…No longer with Ianello.
Marks replaces Jaret Patterson as the lead ball-carrier in 2021. Very productive over the past two seasons, the senior rushed for 1,776 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. During his campus tenure, he has accumulated 2,621 rushing yards, 28 touchdowns and 29 receptions while earning All-MAC honors twice. I keep bypassing the Bulls’ ball carrier because I am not willing to assume the risk of a new coaching staff.
Rushing Yards: 1,251
Fantasy PPG: 18.2
Leddie Brown, West Virginia
I did not even play college fantasy football the last time the Mountaineers had an All-American in the backfield: In 2006, Steve Slaton sprinted for 1,744 yards and 16 touchdowns. The following campaign, he rambled for over 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. In 2020, Leddie Brown surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time at West Virginia since Justin Crawford in 2017.
Phil Steele named Brown a preseason Second Team All-Big 12 after earning First Team last year. He gained 1,010 yards, corralled 31 passes for 202 yards, and scored 11 times. At 5’11 and 216-pounds, the Mountaineers’ ball carrier does not avoid contact and makes defenders whiff in space. Currently, Brown is a Round 3 (ADP No. 28 overall) selection in CFF drafts.
Rushing Yards: 1,121
Fantasy PPG: 19.4
Austin Jones, Stanford
Since coach David Shaw inherited the Stanford program in 2011, the Cardinals have logged four 1,500-yard rushers: Stepfan Taylor (2012), Tyler Gaffney (2013), Christian McCaffrey (2015 & 2016) and Bryce Love (2017). It is a simple formula in Stanford—run the football down the opponent’s throat. Last year, Shaw guided the team to a 4-2 record, and Austin Jones earned Third Team All-PAC 12 and PAC 12 All-Academic honor roll.
At 5’10” and 201-pounds, 247Sports graded Jones as a four-star recruit, and he was a three-time All-American in high school. As a freshman in 2019, he gained 227 yards and scored once. Last year, Jones led the team in rushing with 550 yards and nine touchdowns. He added 21 receptions for 156 yards. In 2021, Jones appears poised for a breakout campaign.
Rushing Yards: 964
Fantasy PPG: 19.3
Ulysses Bentley, SMU
It is nearly impossible to rewrite the record books at SMU with Heisman winner Doak Walker and Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson having worn the Mustangs’ uniforms. Yet. Ulysses Bentley, IV impressed the SMU faithful as a redshirt freshman last year. He rushed for 913 yards, snatched 21 passes for 175 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. For his efforts, Bentley was named to the First Team All-AAC and Co-Rookie of the Year in the conference. At 5’10” and 184-pounds, the sophore runner led the AAC in rushing and looks to duplicate the feat in 2021.
Rushing Yards: 962
Fantasy PPG: 17.7
Eric Gray, Oklahoma
I liked Eric Gray when he played at Tennessee. I adore the junior playmaker as a member of the Sooners. He moves from one of the SEC bottom-feeders to one of the most explosive offensive attacks in the nation…Let’s Go! As a Volunteer, Gray averaged 18.5 fantasy points per game last year after producing 772 yards rushing, 30 receptions for 254 yards and six scores.
Throughout the spring, the Sooners coaching staff has talked positively about Gray, and in the Red & White Spring Game, the game-breaker showed off his nifty, ankle-breaking moves on a 19-yard touchdown scamper. The backfield is crowded, but I am banking that talent and experience rise to the top of the depth chart in Norman, OK. I am drafting Gray as often as possible.
Rushing Yards: 904
Fantasy PPG: 18.7
Jerrion Ealy, Mississippi
After being ousted at USC, coach Lane Kiffin assumed the offensive coordinator position at Alabama and finally, returned to head coaching at Florida Atlantic. In 2020, he took over the program at Mississippi and implemented his explosive offense. Kiffin made RB Devin Singletary a CFF luminary for the Owls. Now, Jerrion Ealy totes the rock for the 46-year old coach.
A two-sport star, Ealy could not play baseball this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery in January. The junior runner was named Third Team All-American and Second Team All-SEC after rushing for 745 yards, catching 15 passes for 155 yards and scoring double-digit touchdowns. The Rebels averaged over 39 ppg. (14) and averaged 555.5 total yards per game (3). Mississippi is loaded on the offensive side of the ball, and I target starting running backs on a Kiffin’ squad.
Rushing Yards: 911
Fantasy PPG: 17.8
Twitterverse on Fire!
Among the Group of 5 running backs, Who Ya Got in CFF Drafts this summer?
- Xazavian Valladay, Wyoming: 33%
- Ulysses Bentley, SMU: 28%
- Jerome Ford, Cincinnati: 33%
- Calvin Turner, Hawaii: 6%
“I think Jerome Ford plays with a chip on his shoulder this coming season after that Georgia game.” @kevski07
“Surprised that Camerun Peoples, Chris Smith and Kevin Marks Jr weren’t on this poll.” @CFF_Jared
Jalen Berger, Wisconsin
While some schools covet Air Raid and Run-and-Shoot offensive schemes, there are still teams that prefer to bludgeon opponents on the ground with a strong offensive line and powerful backs. The Badgers have produced two 2,000-yard rushers—Melvin Gordon (2014) and Jonathan Taylor (2018 & 2019)—over the past decade. In 2020, Wisconsin stumbled to a 3-4 record and never got the running game on track.
At 6’0” and 210-pounds, Jalen Berger led the team in rushing last year with 301 yards, averaging 5.0 ypc. despite playing in only four games. The redshirt freshman stands atop the depth chart in Madison, WI, and will shatter the 1,200-yard barrier in 2021.
Rushing Yards: 1,051
Fantasy PPG: 15.6
Jerome Ford, Cincinnati
A four-star recruit and one of the best tailbacks in Florida in high school, Jerome Ford enrolled at Alabama and stayed on campus for two years before transferring to Cincinnati in 2020. Last year, the redshirt sophomore played behind Gerrid Doaks and concluded the campaign third in rushing yards with 483, averaging 6.6 ypc. He also recorded eight receptions and eight touchdowns.
At 5’11” and 215-pounds, Ford will be the featured ball carrier for coach Luke Fickell. An explosive combination of power and speed, he scamped for a 79-yard touchdown against Georgia in the Peach Bowl. He is the 14th runner off the board in early CFF ADP; he is a stupendous second ball carrier on CFF teams.
Rushing Yards: 1,006
Fantasy PPG: 17.4
Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
I’ll never forget watching Deuce Vaughn last September in his first two collegiate games against Texas and at Baylor. He jumped off the screen and dominated both defenses despite only measuring at 5’5” and 171-pounds. He rushed for 227 yards on 29 carries, snagged seven passes for 64 yards and five touchdowns…A legend was born in Manhattan, KS.
When the curtain closed on the 2020 season, Vaughn could decorate his dorm room with all of the new hardware: True Freshman of the Year (247Sports), Freshman All-American (FWA), Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, and Honorable Mention All-American (Phil Steele and PFF). Four starting O-linemen return to open holes for the dynamic sophomore, and Vaughn profiles as an excellent second option in the backfield on CFF teams.
Rushing Yards: 859
Fantasy PPG: 18.0
Camerun Peoples, Appalachian State
As a true freshman in 2018, Camerun Peoples tore his ACL in his right knee. In 2019, he redshirted and rehabbed in order to return to the gridiron. In 2020, he led the Sun Belt in rushing with 1,124 yards, averaging 6.7 ypc. He also scored 12 touchdowns and earned MVP of the 2020 Myrtle Beach Bowl against North Texas. In the bowl game, Peoples established a school record and NCAA bowl record with 317 rushing yards on 22 carries and scored five touchdowns. At 6’2” and 210-pounds, the Mountaineers’ runner packs a punch, and after losing QB Zac Thomas, the offense will rely on Peoples to move the chains.
Rushing Yards: 1,148
Fantasy PPG: 16.7
Kevin Harris, South Carolina
It is stunning that the leading rusher in the SEC plummets down CFF drafts boards. There is clearly a concern that MarShawn Lloyd, who missed all of last year as a freshman, will take touches away from Kevin Harris. Can the coaching staff really overlook Harris? In 2020, he was named First Team All-SEC after gaining 1,138 yards (113.8 ypg.) and scoring 15 times. He added 21 receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown.
Only Mike Davis, current Falcons’ back, and Harris have recorded two carries over 75 yards in Gamecocks history. In only 16 games, the junior has eclipsed the 100-yard mark six times and the 200-yard barrier twice. According to current ADP, Harris is a Round 5 selection, and I am very interested in acquiring the punishing playmaker.
Rushing Yards: 946
Fantasy PPG: 18.4
Twitterverse on Fire!
Let’s talk RB sleepers: Who Ya Got after Round 7 in CFF Drafts?
- Chris Smith, Louisiana-Lafayette: 18%
- Greg Bell, San Diego State: 15%
- DeWayne McBride, UAB: 21%
- Zach Evans, TCU: 46%
“DeWayne McBride is my highest ranked out of these, but, man, when I walk out a CFF draft with Chris Smith, I feel great!” @CFF_Jared
“I don’t see how Zach Evans is considered a sleeper, though limited in opportunity, he was a beast last year. His vision is awesome!!” @JoeyTheToothIDP
“If Tyler Allgeier, BYU is considered a sleeper, he is my selection!” @DevyDeepDive
“Zach Evans is the easy choice with a soft opening schedule, and the Big 12 allows for open running lanes.” @Devy_Kane
“I’ve taken two of these guys in mocks already. Zach Evans would be my first choice of the group though.” pfranklin51
“I am a Smith myself!” @aceholesrules
Xazavian Valladay, Wyoming
The casual college football fan likely thinks of the Mountain West as a passing conference. While the programs have produced many quarterbacks and wide receivers, there have been viable running backs every year on CFF teams. Xazavian Valladay earned First Team All-MW each of the past two seasons after leading the conference in rushing both campaigns.
Two years ago, the Cowboys’ ball carrier surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier and crossed the finish line six times. Valladay, 6’0” and 198-pounds, concluded last season as the No. 16 runner in the nation, averaging 110 yards per game and 5.6 ypc. He also ranked No. 3 in the Mountain West and No. 27 in the nation in all-purpose yards, averaging 131 ypg. Over the past two years, he has recorded 24 receptions for 316 yards and two touchdowns. With an ADP of 48 overall, Valladay is one of the better bargains at the running back position in CFF drafts.
Rushing Yards: 1,067
Fantasy PPG: 17.3
Calvin Turner, Hawaii
The Warriors are transitioning from a run-and-shoot to a run-and-gun offensive scheme under second-year coach Todd Graham and OC Bo Graham, his eldest son, in 2021. The new system relies on a high-paced attack that projects between 80 to 100 plays a game. Graham’s offense will feature power running and vertical routes deep downfield.
A transfer from Jacksonville University, Calvin Turner is one of the most versatile competitors in the nation. Last year, he lined up as a Wildcat QB, running back, and wide receiver as well as returned kicks and punts. At 5’11” and 195-pounds, the senior produced 11 total touchdowns: six receiving, four rushing, and one return.
Turner garnered 60 carries for 331 yards, averaging 5.5 ypc., and secured 33 passes for 546 yards, averaging 16.5 ypc. When the season ended, he was named Second Team All-Mountain West at wide receiver. The Hawaii game-breaker produces a plethora of fantasy points in so many different ways.
Rushing Yards: 548
Fantasy PPG: 18.5
Rachaad White, Arizona State
I like to adopt a team every season to follow on PAC-12 After Dark, and the Sun Devils headline my preseason must-watch list. Coach Herm Edwards has recruited top-level talent, and Arizona State returns four starting offensive linemen. A JUCO recruit, Rachaad White brought his home run ability to Tempe, AZ last year. He averaged a whopping 10.5 ypc., totaling 420 rushing yards. As a receiver, White accumulated 18.9 yards per reception, logging 151 yards on eight catches. He also crossed the finish line six times.
At 6’2” and 195-pounds, White runs exceptional routes and wins with speed and elusiveness in the open field. The Sun Devils electric playmaker will not earn the number of touches as other backs in the nation, but his efficiency and explosiveness on limited opportunities entice me to draft White in 2021.
Rushing Yards: 865
Fantasy PPG: 18.2
Chris Rodriguez, Jr., Kentucky
Projecting the Kentucky running game is a challenge this summer. The Wildcats must find a starting quarterback among four indistinguishable candidates after Terry Wilson transferred to New Mexico. Luckily, the offensive line returns three starters on the “Big Blue Wall” which should open holes. Can the quarterback keep the offense moving downfield to provide Chris Rodriguez, Jr. enough carries to remain fantasy-relevant?
There is no question in regard to Rodriguez’s talent. At 5’11” and 224-pounds, the Wildcats’ runner has climbed a steep hill to become a starter in the SEC. A three-star prospect, he did not receive many scholarship offers, and his high school coach pleaded with programs to look at the junior. Finally, the redshirt runner’s patience, determination and work effort paid off last year. He earned First Team All-SEC by PFF after rushing for 785 yards and 11 touchdowns. Rodriguez is a nice upside selection in CFF drafts despite the risk.
Rushing Yards: 816
Fantasy PPG: 15.2
*Fantasy Projections by Nicholas Ian Allen, @CFBWinningEdge
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