🏈 Running Back Tears

Don't worry - no injuries. Just rankings.

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Today, we’re evaluating the most important position in fantasy football: The Running Back. Sure, losing Cam Akers, Travis Etienne and J.K. Dobbins sucks. But imagine not having Najee Harris on your team?

Running Backs

Tier 1: Goat Status

Highest floor & ceiling combo in the league. This guy has unmatched volume, skills, and receiving upside. 22+ points is the weekly floor.

  1. Christian McCaffrey - He played three games last year, yet is still the consensus #1. There hasn’t been such a clear-cut RB1 since LaDainian Tomlinson.

Tier 2: Dalvin Cook

He’s better than the Zeke group, but nowhere near CMC. So I give you, the Dalvin Cook tier. Improved offensive line and defense only feed into the likely volume Dalvin will see (unmatched only by CMC). Durability was a concern early in his career but fades with every healthy game.

Tier 3: Elite

Close to entering the first tier, each of these RBs are missing one aspect that would vault them into the Dalvin Cook tier. Expect 17+ from each of these RBs with high ceilings.

  1. Ezekiel Elliott - Dak’s back, the volume will be there, and all reports from camp are that Zeke’s in the best shape of his career. Zeke has finished as an RB1 every year since 2016. Expect the same again in 2021.

  2. Derrick Henry - King Henry led the NFL in TDs and rushing in 2020, and now defenses have to worry about A.J. Brown and Julio Jones on the outside. Goodluck.

  3. Aaron Jones - Jamaal Williams' departure is bigger than most realize, as A.J. Dillon doesn’t have the pass-catching chops to steal 2-3 receptions per game from Jones. I’m expecting to see Aaron on all three downs for the majority of weeks, and the Packers paid him big this offseason to do just that.

  4. Alvin Kamara - 6th?? But he’s going 3rd by ADP. And Jameis is the QB now?? I hear you, but it’s as if people expect Taysom Hill to just disappear. Don’t be shocked if Taysom is brought in for red-zone packages, hurting Kamara’s TD upside.

Tier 4: Studs

Each RB in this range has their own strengths, leading to many high ceiling, 2+ TD weeks, but they average around 14-18 fantasy points per week. Most are missing the true workhorse role (or an offensive line, in the case of Joe Mixon and Najee Harris).

  1. Austin Ekeler - Ekeler loves fantasy football, and fantasy footballers love Ekeler. In 2020, he had two games with 10+ carries and 10+ catches. The rest of the NFL had one such game combined…. If Ekeler never leaves the field, he reaches the CMC tier. It’s possible. Unlikely, but possible.

  2. Najee Harris - Remember Le’Veon Bell? He averaged 20 fantasy points per game from 2014-2017 as the Steelers lead back. They plan to use Najee in the same role. Draft accordingly.

  3. Saquon Barkley - Looks like he’ll play Week 1. Adrian Peterson after tearing his ACL: RB1. Saquon has bigger quads than AP. This could be the lowest you can draft Saquon for years.

  4. Joe Mixon - Gio Bernard is finally gone and the Bengals seem set on featuring Mixon in a three-down role and have him “never leave the field.” The question becomes whether that o-line can block anyone.

Tier 5: Consistently Great

These RBs have a high floor, but a low ceiling due to a lack of receiving opportunities, limiting offensive schemes, or 3rd-down competition. Expect most games in the 12-16 point range.

  1. Nick Chubb - Second best pure rusher in the league loses valuable snaps to Kareem Hunt, the most talented backup RB in the NFL. Healthy WR corps lowers Chubb’s TD upside.

  2. Antonio Gibson - Despite the off-season hype train, J.D. McKissic still plays a big role in this offense.

  3. Jonathan Taylor - Tougher schedule should lead to negative game script, meaning more Nyheim Hines. Maybe the 3rd most talented rusher in the NFL, Taylor’s lack of receiving work limits his upside.

Tier 6: High upside, a few question marks

These guys should be taken for their upside alone. They could easily put up 20+ per game, but need their coaches to feed them.

  1. Clyde-Edwards Helaire - A great post-hype sleeper, the Chiefs are notorious for pumping out RB1s. Needs more volume and should get it in year 2.

  2. Chris Carson - He’s less injury-prone than most believe, in a true 3-down role, having been paid this offseason. Rashaad Penny isn’t a threat. Never was.

  3. David Montgomery - After a disappointing year 1, Montgomery finished as RB5 in 0.5 PPR. And no one is talking about it. If he stays healthy, he’s a good bet to beat his ADP. Tarik Cohen might’ve had a second surgery and will miss the first 6 weeks.

  4. James Robinson - Coming off the best rookie season from an UDFA RB, Robinson should see a heavy workload without Etienne.

  5. D’Andre Swift - He’s got all the talent in the world (many forget he was the highest-rated RB going into the 2020 draft) but Anthony Lynn is an idiot. If Jamaal Williams doesn’t steal 10 touches, Swift will break out.

  6. Miles Sanders - The emergence of a dual-threat QB in Jalen Hurts will improve Sanders YPC. That, plus a finally healthy (and talented) o-line could lead to a massive season. He’s still only 24 years old.

Tier 7: Not big names, but big potential

These guys are all similar. Can’t exactly figure out why, but it’s tough differentiating them. Many scenarios where they beat their ADP.

  1. Damien Harris - Sony Michel traded, Mac Jones starting - things bode well for a Harris breakout. Harris received the highest PFF grade among RBs in 2020.

  2. Mike Davis - The only talented RB on the Falcons showed well when given opportunity last season.

  3. Javonte Williams - Best RB on the Broncos impressed coaches so much they rested him in the final preseason game.

  4. Josh Jacobs - Raiders paid Kenyan Drake, but Jacobs ADP is dropping to where he’s a value.

  5. Gus Edwards - The Dobbins injury clears a path to 15+ touches, but lack of receiving ability limits Edwards upside.

  6. Darrell Henderson - Sony Michel trade (for a 4th rounder) doesn’t bode well for Henderson’s role.

  7. Raheem Mostert - When healthy, one of the fastest RBs in the league in a run-heavy offense.

  8. Trey Sermon - See Raheem Mostert, without the health concerns, but with the RB2 role.

Tier 8: Good RBs

These guys need one thing - an injury to the other RB (or RBs) in the backfield. Without that, expect 6-10 ppg. With an opportunity for an every-down role, some are league winners (Hunt and Edmonds).

  1. Kareem Hunt - Nick Chubb should see the majority of work but Hunt would win leagues if given RB1 role.

  2. Myles Gaskin - Preseason game 1 was a mess. Game 2 was the Gaskin show. Regular season will land somewhere in the middle.

  3. Chase Edmonds - James Conner should see goal-line work and 7-8 touches per game.

  4. Melvin Gordon - Javonte Williams will win the job eventually, but Melvin should see a good portion of touches in the last year of his contract.

Tier 9: Valuable Handcuffs

These guys will sit on your bench all year, unless a major opportunity presents itself. They are one-play away from winning your season:

  1. Sony Michel

  2. Tony Pollard

  3. Nyheim Hines

  4. Jamaal Williams

  5. A.J. Dillon

  6. Kenyan Drake

  7. James Conner

  8. James White

  9. Alexander Mattison

  10. Damien Williams

  11. Ty’Son Williams

  12. Rhamondre Stevenson

  13. Chuba Hubbard

Tier 10: Don’t Touch

These committee backs will be a headache for owners all season. You deserve better.

  • Buccaneers RBs

  • Bills RBs

  • Texans RBs

  • Jets RBs

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THANK YOU - did you enjoy today’s Tiers? Let us know your thoughts. I’m thinking these will be updated daily (we’ll post “Tier changes” after the Quick Hits) so you can stay on top of trades and pickups all season.

Question of the day:

Ye’s DONDA or Drake’s CLB?

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