2021 Fantasy Football: Standard Running Back Rankings
We’re back with our Standard Running Back Rankings for the upcoming 2021 season! Even though PPR continues to gain steam in the fantasy world we can not exclude tradition with many fantasy footballers continuing to roll with standard scoring. Start off your drafts with a Bell-Cow RB!? Find out below with strategies from our analysts.
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Meet the Rankers
Below are the analysts that will be breaking down our Non-PPR Running Back Rankings. In the upcoming months, we will have updated PPR Scoring formats. In the meantime, we have four analysts from you to draw from. We’ve included their initials so that 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 running back rankings.
- MO – Mike Omelan – @mikeomelan
- JD – Jordan Daniel – @jordand09
- JJ – Justin Johnson – @JJ_JetFlyin
- BK – Bradlee Kilgore – @SirBradleeK
JD – Avoiding injuries, you can’t go wrong by selecting RBs early, and RBs often. Prioritize players who forecast to own a majority of their backfield’s touches and who find themselves on high scoring offenses; everyone loves a late garbage-time rushing TD. A running back reception has much more value than a rush, so target the backs who have the ability to catch at least a few dump-off passes per game. When looking at handcuffs, spend the time identifying the backups who will have a clear starting role should the starter get hurt, and not backfields that may turn into a run committee.
BK – A quality running back is a scarce fantasy asset. It’s for this reason that my favorite strategy is to draft a running back with my first 4 picks…regardless of league style (redraft, dynasty, etc.). I aim to find value at other positions like WR and QB because if I miss on a bet at those positions, I can always trade one of my RBs for a roster weakness during the season. When those RB injuries hit during the season (they always do), league mates will be knocking down your door to get what you already have!!!
MO – For me, it really depends on where you’re drafting. Top six pick? Take an RB! You can’t go wrong. Drafting at the end of the round? I’m definitely taking at least one Wide Receiver or a special TE. This might be the best year yet to take a balanced approach because there is values all over the place. There’s no need to go crazy and draft all RB’s or Wr’s right away. What’s wrong with a nice balance? I’m not going to order two steaks at a restaurant. Give me one nice steak and glass of wine baby. I love starting off with two RB and two WR. There are great RB values going late like Josh Jacobs and Mike Davis you can get in the late 3rd or early 4th. To me, the biggest key is making sure you grab a balance of veterans and rookies in rounds 5-9. Ronald Jones and James Robinson are solid targets with ADPs in the sixties while trying not to miss out on a Michael Carter or Trey Sermon. There arrows will continue to rise as the season goes along…
JJ – If there is a position I never leave the early rounds without, it is at running back. Due to the lack of depth at the position, I always make sure to grab at least one in the first two rounds, with two being the preferred method. However, don’t get caught in the “dead zone” once past round 2. This is where uncertain running backs typically get drafted over top talent wide receivers. The cutoff point for me is at Antonio Gibson. Once Gibson is gone, I’ll wait a few rounds and start targeting players that have standalone value with upside. Included in that list are Javonte Williams, Chase Edmonds, A.J. Dillon, and Damien Harris.
JD – Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Mixon’s 2020 injury-riddled season has left a sour taste in the mouths of a lot of fantasy owners, causing a drop in ADP to the late 2nd round. This Bengals offense is poised to put up points, and Mixon is the undeniable RB1 with little competition behind him for snaps. If healthy, Mixon could find himself in the top 8 running back conversation.
BK – David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
David Montgomery had a rough start last year, but while the Bears were being the Bears, he still managed to finish the season as RB6. I have him at RB6 again this year. Consensus has him around RB20. Tarik Cohen will be back, which is likely to take away some of his receiving targets, but the Bears will be better offensively with Justin Fields at the helm. Fields’ ability to run will help the Bears in both controlling the clock and having a less predictable offense. More consistency, red-zone work, and positive game scripts will lead to a breakout season from Montgomery.
JJ – Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
The first running back selected in the draft, Najee Harris is a lock to take over the bell-cow role in Pittsburgh that Mike Tomlin prefers. After two seasons without an every-down back, Harris will be fed early and often. Don’t be surprised to see a 350-touch season from the outstanding talent, which gives him top-five upside at the position.
MO – Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
Apparently, Josh Jacobs can enter the breakout thread since he’s ranked consistently in the RB 19-24 range. Let’s also not forget these are standard rankings and I expect a top-10 finish for the 3rd-year pro with room for more. Jacobs is fresh off an RB8 performance last season and was RB6 after the first 11 weeks in half-point PPR leagues last year. Jacobs is a missed tackle machine as Nick Chubb is the only player to force more in the last two seasons. Jacobs is averaging 9.5 rushing touchdowns and 1,108 yards per season to begin his career and was top-4 in rushes inside the five yard-line last season. Yes, they brought in Kenyan Drake but look at what Nick Chubb can do with Kareem Hunt stealing touches. The first thing Raiders GM Mike Mayock said after drafting Alex Leatherwood was, ‘we are going to run the ball to the right with Josh Jacobs’ and Jon Gruden called him their MVP. Jacobs is going to score the ball in 2021 baby…Knock on wood if you’re with me.
JD – Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
Miles Sanders’ RB2 finish in 2020 doesn’t quite tell the full story of his boom or bust season. With very little involvement in the passing game, his fantasy upside takes another hit with the new Philly crowded backfield featuring Boston Scott and newly acquired Jordan Howard, Kenneth Gainwell, and Kerryon Johnson. We can also expect a drop in red zone rushing attempts to the very mobile Jalen Hurts.
BK – Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
I have Saquon Barkley ranked at #20 in my running back Rankings. Quite the contrast from the consensus I see from other experts (around top 5). The Giants made a humongous bet on Barkley with where they drafted him. They’re also likely to sign him to a new contract (Christian McCaffrey type of deal). That said, the Giants are going to protect their investment. I’m thinking a RB by committee is likely for the Giants, especially while they ease him into the offense. On top of that, Barkley has always been a home-run type of runner. Those long runs will come fewer and further between in his first year back. I expect flashes of his talents and plenty of goal-line opportunities, but to draft Barkley with your first-round pick will leave you disappointed.
MO – David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
David Montgomery’s amazing finish to end the season has fantasy footballers all giddy for the 24-year-old but buyer beware. Montgomery definitely took advantage of a super weak schedule facing bottom eight rush defense after another and let’s not forget he was one of the biggest busts in the league after a full 10 weeks! That’s not a small sample size folks. Montgomery’s 3.67 yards per carry ranked 38th among 44 RBs with over 100 attempts last season and finished outside the top-30 in elusive rating. What else could be in store in 2021? Could Justin Fields be vulturing touchdowns? (Montgomery finished outside the top-12 in 2020). Will Tarik Cohen’s return have an impact? Will Damien Williams reuniting with Matt Nagy spark a larger role? That’s a hard pass for me.
JJ – D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
This isn’t a knock on D’Andre Swift’s talent, as he’s one of the more skilled backs in the league. This is questioning his role in an unknown offense. After signing Jamaal Williams, and potentially adding a third back, it’s highly unlikely Swift takes over as the primary ball carrier. Add in the fact he has never been an every-down back (including college), and there are too many questions for me to make Swift an early-round selection.
2021 Consensus Running Back Rankings
|25||Melvin Gordon III||DEN||11||29||23||27||33|
|26||Ronald Jones II||TB||9||34||25||28||26|
|58||Jeff Wilson Jr.||SF||6||48||68||69||50|
|63||Mark Ingram II||HOU||10||65||67||68||62|
|63||Benny Snell Jr.||PIT||7||57||70||71||64|
|73||Todd Gurley II||ATL||6||69||75||76||69|
|77||Anthony McFarland Jr.||PIT||7||74||77||78||82|
|84||Duke Johnson Jr.||FA||-||81||82||83||89|
|88||Lynn Bowden Jr.||MIA||7||90||91||92||74|
Are you digging our running back rankings? Then, you’ll also want to check our Consensus Quarterback Rankings for 2021 Fantasy Football.
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