YouRulz’s Aaron Bland and Jason Walker rank their top 35 Running Backs for the 2021 season. They certainly don’t agree on everything, but that’s half the fun. The only thing that’s certain is that whoever is more right will hold it over the other’s head all year – it’s tradition.
|1.||Christian McCaffrey||Christian McCaffrey|
|2.||Dalvin Cook||Dalvin Cook|
|3.||Alvin Kamara||Alvin Kamara|
|4.||Aaron Jones||Ezekiel Elliott|
|5.||Derrick Henry||Derrick Henry|
|6.||Ezekiel Elliot||Nick Chubb|
|7.||Austin Ekeler||Aaron Jones|
|8.||Joe Mixon||Najee Harris|
|9.||Clyde Edwards-Helaire||Jonathan Taylor|
|10.||Nick Chubb||Joe Mixon|
|11.||Saquon Barkley||Austin Ekeler|
|12.||Chris Carson||Saquon Barkley|
|13.||Jonathan Taylor||Antonio Gibson|
|14.||Antonio Gibson||James Robinson|
|15.||Gus Edwards||Mike Davis|
|16.||Darrell Henderson||Gus Edwards|
|17.||Najee Harris||Darrell Henderson|
|18.||James Robinson||Clyde Edwards-Helaire|
|19.||Mike Davis||Myles Gaskin|
|20.||Chase Edmonds||David Montgomery|
|21.||Myles Gaskin||Javonte Williams|
|22.||D'Andre Swift||Josh Jacobs|
|23.||Josh Jacobs||Chris Carson|
|24.||Kareem Hunt||Chase Edmonds|
|25.||Miles Sanders||Damien Harris|
|26.||David Montgomery||Kareem Hunt|
|27.||Damien Harris||Trey Sermon|
|28.||Raheem Mostert||Kenyan Drake|
|29.||Devin Singletary||Devin Singletary|
|30.||AJ Dillon||D'Andre Swift|
|31.||Kenyan Drake||Michael Carter (R)|
|32.||Trey Sermon||Raheem Mostert|
|33.||Zack Moss||Miles Sanders|
|34.||Javonte Williams||Leonard Fournette|
|35.||Michael Carter (R)||Ronald Jones|
- Big believer in Aaron Jones, Football Outsiders’ #4 running back in defense adjusted yards above replacement. With no Jamaal Williams to soak up some of the sun, Jones will be able to take more of a fuller-time role as the RB1 for the Packers. Can absolutely win weeks for teams with his game-breaking ability.
- Darrel Williams and Jerick McKinnon: those are the only two running backs currently employed by the Kansas City Chiefs, along with post-hype, second season, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs gave Le’Veon Bell 81 plays that should easily slide over to CEH this season and KC also invested in improving the run blocking, adding Orlando Brown, Joe Thuney, and second round pick Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma). To me, Edwards-Helaire is the back being taken outside of the top 10 RBs (14th, by most PRR drafts) that could end up in the top 5 RBs at the end of the season.
- I loved what Jonathan Taylor did down the stretch in 2020, both for fantasy teams, and for the Colts. However, noted snap siphon Marlon Mack is back, and the Colts invested in Carson Wentz, so the focus on Taylor may easily end up as it was for the first half of the season, when he was not being used as a bell-cow back. Nyheim Hines is still there to play the receiving role and Hines got a ton of the catch-up snaps, when the Colts were behind. At his current ADP, which can be found as high as RB6, even in PPR leagues, Taylor is too high.
- I would like Jevonte Williams more if I believe the Broncos were not going to give the inefficient Melvin Gordon 200 carries this season. Williams is an excellent target for draft and stash, as any injury to Gordon makes Williams a potential top 20 running back.
- I’m higher on Nick Chubb than Jason is. I understand his value in PPR leagues takes a hit because Kareem Hunt is still the primary receiving back, but the fact remains Chubb is one of the best RB’s in the NFL. In 2020 Chubb led all running backs in Pro Football Focus' breakaway percentage and elusive rating, averaging an absurd 5.6 YPC. In fact, he’s averaged better than 5 YPC in all 3 of his years in the NFL. While he won’t help you much in the passing game, Chubb is one of the few runners that has a very realistic shot at leading the NFL in TD’s (16+).
- Jason has hyped Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but I remain uninterested anywhere near the top 10 RB’s. He ran for more than 50 yards only twice after Week 6 in his disappointing rookie year, and dealt with a smorgasbord of injuries all year long. He was also dismal in short yardage, and caught fewer balls than anticipated. In short, he was extremely unimpressive despite the best passing game in football keeping defenses focused on the passing game. He has already sprained his ankle in the preseason; do you really want to be shaking your fists at your TV screen dealing with him again? Sorry Jason, but CEH ending up as a top-5 back is laughable – he simply isn’t as good (or as durable) as they thought he would be.
- I’ve been sneered at for having rookie Najee Harris in my top 10. The fact is, he may never come off the field in 2021. The Steelers were dead last in rushing last season, and are going to make the talented Harris a focus of the offense. I personally also expect a bounce-back season for Ben Roethlisberger, further opening up the run game. “Volume” is the most important word when it comes to fantasy football, and Harris (one of the few 3-down backs left in the league) is going to challenge for the most touches in the NFL and, unlike CEH, actually has some talent.
- I’ve ranked Javonte Williams 21st, and the fact is he could turn out to be a steal in that position. Unlike Jason, I don’t think Melvin Gordon could hold up physically for 200 carries even if the Broncos intended to give him that many, which I’m certain they don’t. Gordon has acted like a jerk ever since Williams was drafted, and is constantly nicked up. He could end up a pure backup to Williams by Week 6, if not sooner. I get the feeling the coaching staff can’t stand Gordon, and they’ve made it obvious they love their new rookie.