Written By: Austin Lee
Anybody else getting the fever? Cowbell isn’t the only prescription – I need some football talk in my life. We recently posted our Way Too Early Top 10 Quarterback Ranking article and we are going to continue it with a discussion about running backs, so let’s get right into it.
10) Austin and Derek – D’Andre Swift
It took some time for Swift to finally get his opportunity in Detroit during his rookie campaign, but once he finally got it, he was electric! And then he got hurt. It was such an unfortunate injury and set his season back significantly, but Swift showed enough that Detroit and the new coaching staff feel 100% comfortable building around him moving forward. New coach, Dan Campbell, has already mentioned how much he loves Swift’s talent and revealed his plans to get Swift plenty of reps as a slot receiver in the 2021 season. Swift is set for 25-30 touches per game. That volume alone puts him in that elite category for fantasy purposes.
9) Austin and Derek – Antonio Gibson
Gibson was one of our favorite rookies coming into last year’s draft. He has been nothing short of a game-changing type of player throughout his high school and college career. He checks all the boxes and is one of the few do-it-all type of running backs. Gibson showed what he could do last season, but was battling injuries throughout his rookie year. Head coach Ron Rivera has been known to utilize a 3-down back when he has one and that’s certainly what he has in Gibson. The only question is if he can hold up to the workload. He will be in line to get the opportunity, so if he can stay healthy then the sky is the limit.
8) Derek – Josh Jacobs
Jacobs is one of the best running backs in the league. The only issue is his lack of involvement in the passing game – which is a bit of a headscratcher considering he is a more than capable pass-catcher. Also, he has yet to log a full season since entering the league. Although he typically plays through the pain, Jacobs is certainly starting to raise red flags for fantasy owners. Unfortunately, his injury history and lack of targets in the passing game keep his ceiling in this RB 7/8 range, but still certainly a fine option for fantasy.
8) Austin – Chris Carson
The news has now emerged that Seattle will not be bringing Chris Carson back for the 2021 season. So, there are certainly question marks on this considering we don’t know where he will be playing, but I stand firm on Carson’s ability to be a top 8 running back. Seattle’s offensive line is subpar, to put it nicely, which means that outside of a couple landing spots, Carson should be running behind a better line. He’s another running back that has battled injuries throughout his career, he has proven himself to be a force for fantasy. I’m a believer that you can’t project or predict injury, so I’ll gladly put him at the number eight spot. If he lands in a prime spot, his ceiling could be RB 5. Considering his ADP, Carson is going to be a steal on draft day.
7) Derek – Joe Mixon
I understand the concern considering his injury history, but Mixon is clearly the guy in Cincinnati and has the contract to back it up. If he can stay healthy, Mixon is an elite option for fantasy owners.
7) Austin – Saquon Barkley
A lot of people may be up in arms about ranking Lord Saquads so low, but hear me out. I understand the hype surrounding Barkley. I watched him dominate in college and his combine numbers are off the charts. The fact of the matter is, he’s not been very efficient behind that atrocious offensive line in New York. His outstanding production of his rookie season was a result of one monster run per game that he usually took to the house. You simply can’t project a 70-yard touchdown run and since that time, he’s not been able to repeat that type of success. Barkley is talented, but if you’re paying up for him as one of the top 4 picks, you are probably going to be disappointed. If he happens to 5 or worse as he returns from a major injury, Barkley will be a fine play.
6) Austin and Derek – Jonathan Taylor
Things couldn’t have gone his way any sooner than they did in 2020 with Marlon Mack going down for the season in week 1. Fantasy owners were licking their chops to see what Taylor could do behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, but he disappointed early on as it turned out he was silently battling an ankle injury. Once he was fully healthy, though, Taylor showed everyone what all the hype was about and finished as the RB 6 overall. With Mack likely on the move in free agency and Nyheim Hines set to see a reduced workload now that Philip Rivers has retired, Taylor is in line for a massive workload and with the upgrade at quarterback, he will see more scoring opportunities. Taylor is almost a sure thing to repeat his RB 6 performance and has the potential to break into the top 4.
5) Derek – Nick Chubb
If you listen to our show, and obviously you do if you’re reading this article, you know Nick Chubb is my favorite running back to watch. He’s just so good. His efficiency is off the charts and one of the safest backs you can own for fantasy. Even without a ton of work in the passing game, Chubb produces elite numbers for his fantasy managers. Chalk him up as a top 5 option.
5) Austin – Alvin Kamara
Again, I know I’m going to ruffle some feathers with this pick. Kamara had an amazing 2020 season and he has the contract that ensures he’s going to be heavily featured in New Orleans for years to come. I’m not taking anything away from Kamara as a player, but I do question what his situation is going to be in 2021. Who will his quarterback be? If the Saints opt to go with Taysom Hill, Kamara is in a world of trouble. His ceiling was incredibly low in the games he played with Hill under center last season. If the Saints find a way to free up cap space to bring back Jameis Winston, that will make me feel better, but with the amount of interceptions Winston throws and as a result, needing to throw the ball more to play catch up, how does that impact Kamara? I’m going to play this one safe and say there’s some natural regression for Kamara.
4) Derek – Derrick Henry
Is there really much need to talk about Henry being a top 4 fantasy option? His workload is insane as he has had nearly 400 touches in each of the past 2 seasons. As long as he continues that type of load, he’s going to continue being this type of fantasy monster.
4) Austin – Nick Chubb
I’m probably ranking him at his ceiling since he doesn’t see many targets, but the Browns finally have some signs of life on offense and I expect that to continue for the 2021 season. With that, Chubb is going to be able to make up for the lack of passing work with more scoring opportunities. If he can stay healthy, he will undoubtedly have every opportunity to reach this level of production and outproduce his ADP value. Not the flashiest player or the sexiest name to have on your roster, but make no mistake – Chubb is one of the best in the league.
3) Derek – Alvin Kamara
I have to agree with Austin’s call for regression, but I believe in Sean Payton and his ability to make sure Kamara gets the amount of work to keep him as a top 3 back for fantasy. He’s just too good not to produce. As long as he gets the work, he’ll continue to dominate.
3) Austin – Derrick Henry
Fresh off a 2,000-yard season and in a system that feeds him a ton of work, Henry is going to have the opportunity to repeat as the yardage leader. His lack of receptions hurts his ceiling for PPR leagues, but his carry count and yardage make up for it. Henry is a locked and loaded top 3 back.
2) Derek – Christian McCaffrey
Do we really need to talk about this?
2) Austin – Dalvin Cook
This dude is unreal. It looks as if not much will be changing in Minnesota. I figured the Vikings would be moving on from Cousins, but as of now that’s not been the case. With that in mind, his workload and three-down usage is extremely safe. He’s electric and with his 2020 season, made the case to be in the 1.01 discussion for 2021. Cook should repeat his level of production with ease.
- Derek – Dalvin Cook
Workload and efficiency are the name of the game for Dalvin Cook. If you’ve watched him play football, you know how special he is. He was absolutely electric in 2020 and is in line to repeat in 2021. With the natural regression of other backs, Cook has a solid chance to take over the number one spot.
- Austin – Christian McCaffrey
One of the biggest headaches of 2020 (in terms of fantasy, at least) was how Matt Rhule handled CMC’s injury. Instead of placing him on the IR and allowing fantasy managers to pivot as needed, we just kept hearing, “Maybe next week” and it never came. The fantasy burns are real, but with a talent like CMC, you have to let it go. If CMC is healthy, he’s simply the best fantasy running back in the game.