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By Jacob Bourgeois; Twitter: @JacobBourgieFFB

We all know about the tiering system and try to grab players at the end of tiers before the “massive fall-off” into the next tier. I’ve done a lot of RB research this offseason and (as you would expect) was focused on rookies, changes, and murky situations. I’ve also covered my top 20 RBs and some really deep plays for later in the season as injuries pile up. So for this one, I wanted finally to formally address my RB3’s.

At the end is a quick reference on the stuff I’ve written on RBs this offseason. Feels good to say, the source for the information below is me :).

The Top 20…  Gimme.

Tier 1: 1. Christian McCaffrey (too tasty), 2. Dalvin Cook (why not?)

Tier 2: 3. Derrick Henry (unicorn), 4. Nick Chubb (best runner), 5. Ezekiel Elliott (all-around & offense)

Tier 3: 6. Saquon Barkley (injury but elite), 7. Alvin Kamara (offense/QB concerns but elite), 8. Aaron Jones (always underrated), 9. Austin Ekeler (pass catching & offense), 10. Najee Harris (rookie with volume), 11. Jonathan Taylor (lit up 2nd half),

Tier 4: 12. Clyde Edwards Helaire (improved O-Line), 13. D’Andre Swift (PPR machine), 14. Antonio Gibson (Zeke lite), 15. Josh Jacobs (volume security), 16. J.K. Dobbins (Lamar steals work), 17. Darrell Henderson (excited to see it), 18. David Montgomery (monster 2nd half), 19. Joe Mixon (if only), 20. Chris Carson (always underrated)

Tier 5… Okay!

21. Miles Sanders is only preempted by the team’s offseason moves, the fact that their QB1 is a better runner than a thrower, and my doubts that the offense figures it out in 2021.  He’s clearly the PHI RB1 and lays claim to the majority of early downs, he’s a talented pass catcher as well but both PPR and TD upside are limited given Hurts, Gainwell, Boston, etc..

22. James Robinson did it with style on a last place team. The addition of Etienne helps the Jags more than it hurts Robinson.

23. Kareem Hunt has earned the respect over his career and will produce RB2 fantasy numbers, no way around it.  And he’s only just turned 26 last week. 

24. Ronald Jones II average YPC over the last three seasons 1.9, 4.2, 5.1 so he’s been improving.  The three notes I had on RoJo coming out of college were: long straight-line speed, can’t pass protect, can’t catch.  But watching TB a lot last season it was clear to me that he was the best RB on the team, and that’s the kind of thing that makes me want to invest.  Pass protection is something even the best at it, need to learn over time, he’s definitely gotten a lot better.

Tier 6… Let’s see!

25. Javonte Williams is great, I think.  Sure, Melvin Gordon is there and has been very productive when healthy, but that’s not fun and cool.  I expect a slow start and an even backfield to very gradually favor Javonte throughout the season.  And Gordon already has a dinged-up groin.    

26. Myles Gaskin was given a lot of “running room” in 2020 while suffering injuries and having only just climbed the depth chart.  Despite pre-season week 1, he’s talented both as a runner and pass-catcher and my favorite to lead that backfield.  

27. Raheem Mostert is the RB1 in SF <Dwight saying “It’s True” while holding his hand up to his mouth GIF>, he’s got long speed and an even longer injury history.  With Jeff Wilson Missing time he’s necessary and the former track star offers more explosion (lightning) than pick 88, Trey Sermon (thunder).

28. Trey Sermon should go back to back with but just after Mostert.  If you don’t want to mess with Mostert’s age and perennial injury concerns, I get bumping Sermon up above him.  He’s the thunder: 6’0” 220 lbs. of 7.5 YPC college production at Ohio State.  He’ll be heavily involved but has dealt with injuries of his own.

29. Michael Carter is on the smaller size, just clearing 200 lbs at 5’8”, but has all the camp hype, pops on tape whenever you watch him and efforts for every yard like my buddy Danny Woodhead would.  The Jets will use all their guys, but Carter will do the most with his chances.

30. Travis Etienne was the first RB off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft, pairing him up with his college QB TLaw.  Etienne’s downside is his situation, where he’ll lose most of the early work to James Robinson.  That said, he’s a serviceable pass-catcher (definitely not best in class) and should leverage the TLaw connection for a solid PPR campaign even in year 1.

31. Melvin Gordon is the RB1 on the Broncos, but he’s dealing with a minor groin injury and a major talent in Javonte Williams.  He’s 28 as of April so this is likely to be his drop off season.  That said, he put up his second best YPC last year on a bad Denver offense (4.6).  Like for James Robinson, Javonte Williams could help the team leveling out the impact that it has on Gordon’s loss of snaps (he shared last year and had over 1000 total yards and 10 TDs).

Tier 7… If we must.

32. Mike Davis was just not that good last year despite his touchdowns.  The ATL offense and RB depth chart are both heavily in his favor right now, but I just can’t picture him matching what he got in Carolina last year.  That Arthur Smith is rolling with him, has me a little intrigued.  I might be too low.

33. Damien Harris is a favorite of mine, which is why it kills me when he’s not used in the passing game and vultured at the goal line.  There is a chance that he gets goal line carries and increased passing-game involvement this year, but it’s small (I guesstimate 10%). 

34. Zack Moss is currently injured otherwise he’d be slightly higher on this list.  He has the same TD quandry as Harris with Josh Allen scooping 10 of his own every year.  And Singletary remains a 3rd year RB who’s actually pretty decent. 

35. Chase Edmonds has literally never (outside of one game) been used in the red zone.  He’s not what his coaches are thinking when they get close, it’s just that simple.  James Conner is the bigger back and should get that piece of the offense, but Kyler takes his, leaving only PPR upside for Edmonds.

36. Leonard Fournette was the RB7 in 2019.  Time flies (and waits for no one).  He was a beast in the playoffs last year and should have earned himself a good chunk of the TB 17 game run back.  I like RoJo a bit more, but they offer different skills to get it done.  I see him ultimately losing more work to Gio than RoJo will, which is why I have RoJo higher.     

The Rest :/

I explained in my Redraft Cheat Sheet why I don’t like handcuff RBs, but if you’re a set-it-and-forget-it manager, then it’s a fine way to go, for the guys like Pollard who are the clear benefactors in the event of an injury (e.g. Henderson).  If they have stand-alone-value, it can be easier to keep them riding the pine while others are popping on waivers and your bye weeks start rolling through. 

Jamaal Williams, David Johnson, Mark Ingram, Philip Lindsey, James Conner, Latavius Murray, Gus Edwards (good on run heavy team), Devin Singletary, Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson (good despite lack of snaps and draft cap), Salvon Ahmed, Malcolm Brown, James White, Rhamondre Stevenson, AJ Dillon (big and explosive), Tony Pollard (all-purpose efficiency behind Zeke), Alexander Mattison, Chris Evans (great pass-catcher, sneaky), Giovanni Bernard, Chuba Hubbard (wicked underrated who may not get to show it behind CMC), JD McKissic, Jaret Patterson (small but juicy), Jake Funk, Larry Roundtree, Marlon Mack

Check out my prior work for more in depth!

RB Article Reference

  • March 22nd: RB Draft Outlook (with a review of all 32 backfields in 2020) March 22nd.
  • March 28th: Rookie Pre-NFL draft profiles The Consensus (with Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, and Javonte Williams).
  • April 3rd: Rookie Pre-NFL Draft profiles The Next Best of the Rest (with Trey Sermon, Michael Carter, Kenny Gainwell, and Chuba Hubbard).
  • June 2nd: RB Value by Year (showing which NFL season each RB of note is entering)
  • June 30th: NEP Backfield Battle (’21 outlook for Patriots RBs: Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Sony Michel, James White, J.J. Taylor etc..)
  • July 4th: BUF Backfield Battle (’21 outlook for Bills RBs: Zack Moss, Devin Singletary, Matt Breida, etc.)

Featured Image by AP Bruce Kluckhohn via www.skysports.com