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2021 Fantasy Football: PPR Running Back Rankings

NFL training camps are just around the corner so it’s time to get cooking here at Fantrax with our PPR Running Back Rankings for the upcoming 2021 season!  We started off with our Standard ranks out here but have switched our focus to PPR ranks. One of the more notable risers is Austin Ekeler, as his 100-catch potential is too juicy to ignore and bolts up the rankings into the top-8. Find out below from our analysts whom to draft, who to avoid and more!

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Meet the Rankers

Below are the analysts that will be breaking down our consensus PPR Running Back Rankings over the next few months. We have three analysts from you to draw from. We’ve included their initials so you know who is who in the rankings table, and also their Twitter handles so you can give them a follow and let them know what you think of their PPR running back rankings.

Draft Strategy

CM – In fantasy football, volume is the biggest key to success.  For a running back, that means having a role in an offense that includes a high number of carries, as well as targets and receptions.  We want our RBs to touch the ball as much as possible; these players can’t score points without the ball in their hands.  From 2016 to 2020, the RBs with the most touches, in each respective year, finished as such in half-point PPR scoring on a points per game basis: RB1 (D. Johnson ‘16), RB2 (L. Bell ‘17), RB8 (E. Elliot ‘18), RB1 (C. McCaffrey ‘19), RB4 (D. Henry ‘20).  You want to make sure your top pick at running back is a workhorse.  As for the later rounds, monitor the handcuffs of your studs and don’t be afraid to draft someone else’s handcuff.  If their starter goes down, their backup becomes your starter or very valuable trade bait.

MQ – No matter where you are drafting at, take a running back with your first pick. Unless you have the last pick then you can go wide receiver then running back with back-to-back picks. But, with your first four picks you should have three running backs out of the four picks. The reason why is because you will find wide receivers in the late rounds that will put up high production. As for running backs, after the first three or four rounds, you are not left with much to pick from. The strategy I always take is three running backs in the first three rounds then go for a Darren Waller and George Kittle in the fourth if left. If not, take Amari Cooper or Allen Robinson in the fourth.

MO – The elite running backs are still some of the most valuable commodities in fantasy football. It’s pretty hard to pass up on any running back during the first six-picks especially with the volume they produce. After that, I’m ready for the balanced approach and swap WR and RB picks throughout. There’s a lot of chatter how you need to take an RB with your first two picks, but you can’t pass up on these stud receivers like D.K. Metcalf and Stefon Diggs in the second round. There are some great running back choices to make in the third and fourth rounds between the likes of J.K. Dobbins, Clyde Edwards-Helaire plus a couple of Roll Tide in Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris. One thing that’s clear is, you need to shore up your running back depth early. It starts to get mighty thin after the forties. I’d bump up guys like Zack Moss, Michael Carter and Trey Sermon up a round due to their potential and the lack thereof after them!



CM Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs

Clyde Edwards-Helaire was drafted in the first round of most fantasy leagues last season, but currently carries an ADP anywhere between RB15 and RB20 so far in 2021.  While CEH disappointed last year, I find it hard to ignore the starting running back of the high-scoring Chiefs.  Andy Reid has an insane track record of empowering top-10 fantasy PPR running backs, having done so 13 of the last 17 seasons as a head coach, and 5 of his 8 seasons in Kansas City.  Prior to signing Le’Veon Bell in mid-October last year, Edwards-Helaire was 4th in touches among running backs.  There is no other credible threat to CEH’s workload at this time. At just 22 years old, and running behind a new and improved offensive line, I expect him to outperform his underwhelming rookie fantasy season.

MQ – Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team

Antonio Gibson is set to break out for a high-performance year. He is going in the second round in most leagues but can drop to the third. Just make sure to take him as your RB2. He was on pace for a top tier fantasy year last season before injury. Washington Football team is one of those teams that no one pays too much attention to, but they have some of the highest performing fantasy stars. So, don’t get distracted from the small market teams. They always have the highest producing fantasy stars.

MOMike Davis, Atlanta Falcons

I’m all-aboard the Mike Davis breakout train! Davis is a guy I want a ton of this year and I think we see a top-20 finish. I mean from weeks 3 to 16 last season Davis finished inside the top-8 running backs and finished RB12 on the season! Davis definitely did not get the credit he deserved in 2020. Davis finished 5th amongst running backs in forced missed tackles racking up 65 and only Nick Chubb had a higher rate per touch from weeks 1-16. What else? He finished 4th amongst RB’s in receptions. Hello PPR points! Julio Jones is out of town, and who’s his competition for RB snaps in Atlanta? Qadree Ollison? Oh baby… sign me up for Mr. Magic Mike.


CM Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

This may be one of the hotter takes you see today.  I know Alvin Kamara scored six touchdowns on Christmas Day last season and likely won you, or someone you know, their fantasy championship but it’s a new year. Kamara has never carried the ball more the 194 times, rushed for more than 932 yards, and had a career high 21 touchdowns last season (16 rushing, 5 receiving).  That being said, without Drew Brees under center in New Orleans, I find it hard to believe he maintains his top-5 ADP value with the likes of Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill at quarterback.  With the lack of production as a runner, compared to other top RB picks, Kamara has always added high value as a pass catcher. He still could, but with the questions at quarterback, it may be a down year for Kamara, who, for the first time ever, makes me nervous to spend a top-5 pick on him.  Level your expectations.

MQ – D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

D’Andre Swift was a great sleeper or waiver pick up last season. He does seem like a top option with both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones gone, but that is going to hurt him in production. Jared Goff is the new quarterback in town but does not have many options to open the pass game for Swift. Swift may have some breakout games, but I don’t trust the consistency with the Lions this year. Swift is going in the late second or early third round. I would easily take David Montgomery over Swift this season. Remember last year when Matthew Stafford went out on Thanksgiving? The run game was terrible. Also, Jamaal Williams is in town to steal some touchdowns and receptions.

MOMelvin Gordon III, Denver Broncos

I’m still shocked I keep seeing Melvin Gordon in the 23-25 range in rankings. He’s a 28-year-old RB who continues to have health concerns. I had a hard time putting him at 35. Let’s not forget Gordon faces a potential looming suspension from last season’s late DUI charge as well. Gordon failed to score over 8.5 PPR fantasy points in 40% of his games in 2020 and failed to finish in the top-25 in receptions amongst running backs. The Broncos were clearly frustrated and selected the extremely talented Javonte Williams early in the second round of this year’s draft. I expect it to be the William’s show in no-time in Denver and Gordon potentially being released at some point. This is a puff-puff hard pass in the Mile-High state folks.

2021 Consensus PPR Running Back Rankings

For more Rankings and Analysis please check out our full 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

1Christian McCaffreyCAR13211
2Dalvin CookMIN7122
3Ezekiel ElliottDAL7363
4Derrick HenryTEN13554
4Saquon BarkleyNYG10635
4Alvin KamaraNO6446
7Austin EkelerLAC7787
8Jonathan TaylorIND149710
9Nick ChubbCLE131098
10Aaron JonesGB138119
11Joe MixonCIN10111213
12Clyde Edwards-HelaireKC12131411
13Cam AkersLAR11151014
14Najee HarrisPIT7121612
15Antonio GibsonWAS9141315
16D'Andre SwiftDET9161716
17J.K. DobbinsBAL8171820
18Chris CarsonSEA9182117
18David MontgomeryCHI10191918
20Josh JacobsLV8201522
21Miles SandersPHI14212219
22Myles GaskinMIA14222323
23Kareem HuntCLE13242521
23Mike DavisATL6252025
25Travis EtienneJAC7232424
26Chase EdmondsARI12272626
27Raheem MostertSF6282729
28James RobinsonJAC7293028
29Melvin Gordon IIIDEN11263527
30Ronald Jones IITB9302930
31Leonard FournetteTB9313331
31Javonte WilliamsDEN11332834
33David JohnsonHOU10323133
34Damien HarrisNE14353232
35Kenyan DrakeLV8343435
36Zack MossBUF7373736
37James ConnerARI12363837
38Michael CarterNYJ6393639
39Nyheim HinesIND14384040
40Jamaal WilliamsDET9404238
41Trey SermonSF6443941
42Devin SingletaryBUF7414542
42Tony PollardDAL7424343
42AJ DillonGB13434144
45Tarik CohenCHI10454447
46Latavius MurrayNO6464845
47Gus EdwardsBAL8484646
48J.D. McKissicWAS9474750
49Darrell HendersonLAR11494949
50Alexander MattisonMIN7505448
51James WhiteNE14525052
52Rashaad PennySEA9535253
53Phillip LindsayHOU10515555
54Giovani BernardTB9555354
55Tevin ColemanNYJ6545851
56Marlon MackIND14565159
57Kenneth GainwellPHI14575956
58Darrel WilliamsKC12596057
58Salvon AhmedMIA14605660
60Justin JacksonLAC7626262
61Carlos HydeJAC7636461
62Sony MichelNE14587358
62Damien WilliamsCHI10665766
64Benny Snell Jr.PIT7616764
65Joshua KelleyLAC7646863
65Chuba HubbardCAR13696165
67Darrynton EvansTEN13676567
68Malcolm BrownMIA14706370
69Mark Ingram IIHOU10657169
70Boston ScottPHI14686971
71La'Mical PerineNYJ6717272
72Jerick McKinnonKC12727473
73Wayne GallmanSF6767868
74Rhamondre StevensonNE14796678
75Matt BreidaBUF7737975
76Anthony McFarland Jr.PIT7777776
77Javian HawkinsATL6807081
78Kerryon JohnsonPHI14758474
79Ke'Shawn VaughnTB9788077
80Devontae BookerNYG10827579
81Ty JohnsonNYJ6818282
82Le'Veon BellKC12848683
82Rex BurkheadHOU10858385
84Jeff Wilson Jr.SF6749684
85Todd Gurley IIFA-869180
85Jalen RichardLV8838886
87Samaje PerineCIN10917691
88DeeJay DallasSEA9878587
88Ito SmithATL6898189
90Duke Johnson Jr.FA-889288
91Jordan HowardPHI14939093
92Jordan WilkinsIND14978992
93Eno BenjaminARI12959394
94Kalen BallagePIT79010095
94Justice HillBAL8949596
96Ryquell ArmsteadNYG10989798
97Jermar JeffersonDET910099100
98Brian HillTEN1392NR90
99Adrian PetersonDET996NR97
100Chris ThompsonJAC799NR99
101Qadree OllisonATL6NR87NR
102Lynn Bowden Jr.MIA14NR94NR
103Mike BooneDEN11NR98NR

Are you digging our PPR running back rankings? Then, you’ll also want to check our Consensus Quarterback Rankings for 2021 Fantasy Football.

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