Running back: it’s arguably the most pivotal position in fantasy football, and in your fantasy draft. Do you try to take a premium rusher in the first round, no matter what? Or do you go Zero-RB and play the waiver wire throughout the season? Either way you approach the position, running back is a cornerstone of your lineup, and sticking to your tier sheet will prevent you from making a panic pick when you’re on the clock. But before you write out your big board of RBs, you gotta do your homework.
Here’s our list of the Top 10 **fantasy** running back options this season. This is not a list of the Top 10 **real life** running backs in the league, this is a list of guys you want on your fantasy roster to score points and help your team punch a ticket to the playoffs. All numbers come from NBC Sports Edge.
Tier 3 - Likely to finish in Top-12
No. 10: David Montgomery
Fantasy PPG last season: 14.1 YPG: 71.3 REC, REC YPG: 3.6, 29.2 Total TD: 10
For all the talk that Matt Nagy hates to run the football, Montgomery finished last season with the fourth-most carries in the league, and tied for fifth in rushing yards. But several factors could lead to a regression for Montgomery, from a fantasy standpoint. To start, it could take the run game a few weeks to get rolling with a new offensive line unit. Then, the return of Tarik Cohen and the addition of Damien Williams could eat into Montgomery’s volume.
No. 9: Antonio Gibson
Fantasy PPG last season: 11.9 YPG: 56.8 REC, REC YPG: 2.6, 17.6 Total TD: 11
Last season, Gibson flashed the ability that got fans excited about his fantasy potential in his rookie season. Now, he’s primed for a breakout sophomore season. Reports out of camp indicate that Gibson has improved both as a pass catcher and as a pass blocker, which could help him earn Ron Rivera’s trust to stay on the field on third down. If he does in fact earn that expanded role, and cedes less work to J.D. McKissic, then Gibson could wind up a league-winner.
Tier 2 - Solid RB1s
No. 8: Jonathan Taylor
Fantasy PPG last season: 14.5 YPG: 77.9 REC, REC YPG: 2.4, 19.9 Total TD: 12
It took awhile for him to get going, but by the end of the season Taylor rewarded managers who put their faith in him during the draft一 and kept the faith as he scuffled through the middle weeks of the season. Some will point to the return of Marlon Mack as a reason to wonder if his ceiling will drop in 2021, but this should still be Taylor’s backfield.
No. 7: Nick Chubb
Fantasy PPG last season: 16.0 YPG: 88.9 REC, REC YPG: 1.3, 12.5 Total TD: 12
Chubb is kind of like Derrick Henry Lite when it comes to fantasy football. He’s an incredibly strong runner and his 5.6 YPC was second only to J.K. Dobbins (min. 100 carries). He’s the “Lite” version though, because Kareem Hunt eats into some of his usage.
No. 6: Ezekiel Elliott
Fantasy PPG last season: 11.4 YPG: 65.3 REC, REC YPG: 3.5, 22.5 Total TD: 8
Before Dak Prescott went down with his ankle injury, Elliott looked like a shoo-in to finish the season as a top-five fantasy back. Add in the copious injuries on the offensive line to La’el Collins, Tyron Smith, Cameron Erving, Zack Martin, and the surprise retirement of Travis Frederick, and it just seems like last fantasy season was doomed for Elliott. No reason to believe he, and the rest of the Cowboys, won’t get back on track this year.
No. 5: Aaron Jones
Fantasy PPG last season: 15.1 YPG: 78.9 REC, REC YPG: 3.4, 25.4 Total TD: 11
If Jones received the volume of many of the other top backs in the league, he would easily enter the “true elite” tier. But as long as Aaron Rodgers is in Green Bay, he and Davante Adams will dominate the Packers’ offense. Still, Jones is a rock solid RB1 with a dependable floor. If you don’t have one of the top-four picks in the draft, Jones is a great next-best option.
TIER 1 - The true elites
No. 4: Alvin Kamara
Fantasy PPG last season: 19.7 YPG: 62.1 REC, REC YPG: 5.5, 50.4 Total TD: 21
Kamara is an incredible mix of what all the top running backs bring to the NFL. He’s explosive, hard to bring down, incredibly dangerous as a receiver and acts as the focal point of his offense. However, with Drew Brees out and Jameis Winston in for New Orleans, he’ll likely be the focal point for opposing defenses as well. Kamara certainly has the talent to produce, even if defenses are completely keyed in on stopping him, but it will still be interesting to see how he plays without the precision Brees brought to the Saints’ offense. Regardless, if you play full PPR, you should move Kamara up to No. 3, and move the next guy back one slot, because Kamara’s pass-catching is next level.
No. 3: Derrick Henry
Fantasy PPG last season: 22.4 YPG: 126.7 REC, REC YPG: 1.2, 7.1 Total TD: 17
The volume king of fantasy. You’d be hard pressed to find a player who commands a bigger focus in his offense than Henry, and even with the addition of Julio Jones, that shouldn’t change in 2021. Henry is an absolute beast and is as close to a “sure thing” as you can find at the position. His only drawback is that he provides almost no production in the passing game.
No. 2: Dalvin Cook
Fantasy PPG last season: 21 YPG: 111.2 REC, REC YPG: 3.1, 25.8 Total TD: 17
Injury concerns have always cast a shadow over Cook’s fantasy ceiling, but over the past two seasons Cook has assuaged any fears that he’s not as durable as other running backs. In 2021 he also showed that he might be the most talented pure runner in the league. The only thing keeping him from the top of the list is that he’s not as prolific of a pass catcher as other backs.
No. 1: Christian McCaffrey
Fantasy PPG last season: 24.5 YPG: 75 REC, REC YPG: 5.7, 49.7 Total TD: 6
Don’t fear McCaffrey’s absence last season. After missing 13 games due to injuries, McCaffrey said before OTAs that he’s back and feeling 100%. And when McCaffrey is 100% he’s the most dynamic fantasy player in the game. Unbelievably elusive, and skilled catching the ball out of the backfield, McCaffrey is the ultimate fantasy cheat code.