Austin’s Official Running Back Rankings 2021

RBs

The 2021 quarterback rankings are up and it was so much fun to write up and discuss with the listeners that I’m back at it publishing the running back rankings. There were a few surprises in the quarterback category and SPOILER ALERT, there are some here, too!

  1. Alvin Kamara

With Michael Thomas being out and this wide receiver group being among the worst in the league, Kamara may very well be the first read in the passing game as well. He’s in line for an enormous workload and is my favorite to finish as the RB1 this season.

2. Christian McCaffrey

I certainly understand the argument for CMC to be the number one overall pick. The guy is elite. Not much else to say.

3. Dalvin Cook

Cook has proven himself to be among the top tier of fantasy running backs. Minnesota has a revamped defense and shouldn’t need to pass the ball as much as they did last season. This bodes well for Cook and the running game for another top fantasy finish.

4. Derrick Henry

Very few running backs get the type of volume that Derrick Henry does. He’s been working hard on pass catching skills. He’s one of the safest weekly starts in all of fantasy, regardless of the Titans wanting to throw the ball a bit more this season.

5. Nick Chubb

Chubb just got paid and is an elite NFL running back on a run-first offense. This team really got rolling over the second half of the 2020 season and look to carry over that momentum. Chubb often gets knocked for his lack of involvement in the passing game, but he’s nearly in that Derrick Henry category where it doesn’t really matter. He’s going to find the end zone a lot in 2021.

6. Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones got paid and his MVP quarterback is back under center. Jones routinely has finished as one of the best backs for fantasy and that won’t change in 2021.

7. Antonio Gibson

Rivera loves to utilize a workhorse type of running back and he believes he has that in Antonio Gibson. Gibson will have the opportunity and this offense added some nice weapons. If the team meshes well, Gibson should have plenty of scoring opportunities to reward his fantasy managers.

8. Austin Ekeler

Ekeler is a PPR machine and has no clear threat behind him on the depth chart. Barring any type of injury, Ekeler is a lock to be a top-10 running back.

9. D’Andre Swift

The Lions are in full rebuild mode and have no reliable/proven pass catching options outside of Swift and Hockenson. Lots of talk from the coaching staff about moving Swift around to get him more touches. He’s going to get the volume, but his overall fantasy finish is going to come down to touchdowns.

10. Chris Carson

Carson is the best RB2 you can have on your roster. He has top-10 upside and is the x-factor for the Seattle offense. Before he went down with an injury that kept him out for 4 games last season, Carson was the RB6. Seattle let their offensive coordinator go due to philosophical differences and that was a very balanced attack last season. Carrol wants to be a run-first team and brought in a new coordinator that will oblige.

11. Jonathan Taylor

Taylor’s ADP is falling due to injuries along the offensive line and his starting quarterback. Several people are questioning how this backfield will be split up with Marlon Mack coming back, but I’m not worried about that. Running backs just simply can’t come back to 100% after tearing their achilles. This is very much the JT show, but with the offense taking a hit due to injuries, Nyheim Hines is going to be needed in the passing game.

12. Joe Mixon

Mixon has burned fantasy managers in the past, but he’s one of the few backs in the league that has a guaranteed workload of that magnitude. It really just comes down to if you feel like going on that rollercoaster ride again.

13. Saquon Barkley

Back off, you heathens! Let me say my piece. Barkley is another player I am pumping the brakes on for 2021. He’s never been an efficient running back since entering the league, largely because of an atrocious offensive line. Couple that fact with him returning from a major injury and late surgery and he’s bound to get off to a slow start. He’s being taken as the RB4/5 in drafts and that’s just setting yourself up for disappointment. I just don’t see him returning that value this season.

14. Clyde Edwards-Helaire

It doesn’t feel like it, but CEH was a very efficient running back last season. The biggest problem is the lack of touchdowns. He had 3 called back on him last season due to penalties or else we may have a very different tone. The fact remains, though, that inside the 10 there are a lot of vultures that lower the ceiling of CEH’s fantasy production.

15. Ezekiel Elliott

Zeke is nearing the twilight of his career and has been subject to declining YPC numbers for 3 straight seasons. Tony Pollard was given some opportunity last year and looked much more electric with the ball and is poised to eat into Zeke’s volume this year. Zeke is still going to be a very good fantasy RB, but his days of being a top-5 back are long gone.

16. J.K. Dobbins

Dobbins is an incredible talent, but finds himself in a fantasy manager’s nightmare. Much like CEH, Dobbins is often victim to touchdown vultures that drastically lower his fantasy ceiling.

17. Mike Davis

It’s not sexy and probably not going to be very efficient, but neither was Todd Gurley last season who was a fringe RB1 for the majority of the season. Simply put, there’s no denying the amount of work that Mike Davis is going to see and regardless of how efficient it is, that amount of volume practically locks him into the top 20 at the position.

18. Najee Harris

Alabama’s all-time leading rusher landed in the most perfect situation possible. He’s going to be the workhorse running back in Pittsburgh and will put up great numbers. Barring injury, Harris will be a top-20 running back this season.

19. Darrell Henderson

Henderson becomes the incumbent starter for the Rams now with Akers being down for the season. My biggest reason to pump the brakes and moving him up higher is that the Rams don’t seem to believe in him. If they believed they had a workhorse in Henderson, they never would have drafted Akers. He’s going to get a nice workload, but he’s also going to be splitting carries with Xavier Jones.

20. Myles Gaskin

Gaskin was very efficient last year when healthy. There are some risks here, though. New offensive coordinator is in town and the team has added playmakers in the passing game with Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle, so they are clearly looking to increase the passing volume. Malcolm Brown was also brought in and is thought of as the goal line running back, but Gaskin is still going to see plenty of work and will be in the Flex-worthy range on a weekly basis.

21. David Montgomery

He’s going to have the work, but this strength of schedule is brutal. He may have been the RB2 over the last 5 weeks of 2020, but don’t be expecting that level of production this year. He should be relegated to Flex position and matchup plays.

22. Chase Edmonds

He’s the starter on a high-octane offense that will be scoring a ton of points. Yes, Conner is there, but can’t stay healthy so I’m not too concerned about that.

23. Kareem Hunt

I’m lower on Hunt this season than many analysts are. It’s not because I don’t believe in Hunt, because I absolutely do. It’s more so in my belief in the Cleveland Browns. This is a team that should be very competitive in every game and not playing from behind. This will limit the amount of work that Hunt will get and Nick Chubb is one of the best backs in the league. They should be in position to let Chubb control the clock and do the majority of the damage. Hunt is still in Flex-worthy position.

24. Josh Jacobs

This is painful for me because I am a Josh Jacobs fan. He’s a great running back, but his upside is limited due to his lack of involvement in the passing game. The Raiders have brought in Kenyan Drake, further proving that they do not plan to give Jacobs that work. Gruden and the coaching staff brought in John Brown and believe in the talent of Henry Ruggs, not to mention Darren Waller, so they are looking to lean on the passing attack a little more than they have in the past couple seasons.

25. Miles Sanders

It’s not going to be a fun ride, but he’ll manage to find a way to stay inside the top-25.