Top 10 Fantasy Running Backs For 2021
10. Mike Davis Falcons
It feels like Mike Davis has been bouncing around the league for years and years now, but every where he goes, he is productive. In 2020, he had by far his most productive season because he had more opportunities. With the Falcons he is going into camp as the lead back with a coach who is known for his run heavy offense. I'm not saying that Davis can replicate what Derrick Henry has done the past three seasons, but under Arthur Smith he will have the opportunity to put up monster numbers. There are a few annual social media posts that I love to see: Jamies Winston workout videos, Tom Brady hype up videos, and pictures of running back's massive thighs. Davis' legs are bigger than a rhinocerous', and I think he'll be able to handle a large workload. With the addition of Kyle Pitts and the breakout of Hayden Hurst, the Falcons will be running a lot of both 12 and 22 sets which is favorable for a run first offense. If you can get Davis at the end of the second round or in the beginning of the third, that is amazing value.
9. Antonio Gibson Washington Football Team
Antonio Gibson is one of my favorite running backs that I have ever scouted coming out of college football. At Memphis he was such a dynamic receiver and his aggressive run after catch ability set him up to be a perfect dual threat running back in the NFL. Swagger bleeds comes out when watching certain players: Lamar Jackson, Odell Beckham, and I think you can add Antonio Gibson to that list. You know what Deion Sanders says, "Look good, feel good. Feel good, play good. Play good, they pay good." Gibson's swagger is in his nature and he is a guy I want on my fantasy football team. Against Washington, you can't just load the box. With Curtis Samuel and Terry McLaurin on the outside, defenses will have to back off and be aware of the deep ball. Ryan Fitzpatrick loves to check down to his running backs and I can see Gibson having even more targets than last season. I'm very confident that Gibson will finish as a top ten running back.
8. Najee Harris Steelers
Najee Harris is the best running back I've seen enter the NFL draft since Saquon Barkley and he's going to be the lead dog in Pittsburgh. Last season, the Steelers had the lowest run percentage in the NFL, but they fired their offensive coordinator (and play caller), Randy Fichtner. With Matt Canada taking over at offensive coordinator, I expect the Steelers to run the ball A LOT more. If you make it to the NFL, you are a freak athlete, but there is a next level for certain players in the league. There are freaks and then there are freaks of nature. Harris is an absolute freak of nature, a rare player that is capable of 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards. While the start of Harris' season may be slow, by week seven he'll be having over 25 touches per game. He's also my pick for rookie of the year. Harris is a freak of nature and will dominate the AFC North in his rookie season.
7. Nick Chubb Browns
Every year I put Nick Chubb way too low on this list and he always proves me wrong. I'm doing it once again this year. He's one of the most powerful runners in the NFL and he's also a major home run hitter. With Odell Beckham Jr. returning and Kareem Hunt still in the backfield, I don't expect the Browns to run the ball as much this season. The Browns proved that they were for real last season and their defense is much better coming into 2021. Nick Chubb will run the ball down the throats of a defense, while saying absolutely nothing. In the modern day social media era of the world, how many quiet superstar athletes are there in the world? Not many... I expect Chubb to have another elite season because he's in a great situation and he is in the prime of his career. I could very easily see Chubb being much better than the seventh best running back in 2020 and I think he'll help lead the Browns to the top of the AFC North.
6. Derrick Henry Titans
There are certain players that I absolutely fall in love with due to their playing style and by how they carry themselves. Derrick Henry is one of those players. He is an absolute super star, but at the same time he's one of the boys. All of his teammates love him and he is just so consistent. Week in and week out, he's destined for 100+ rushing yards and will suck the life out of a defense. My favorite part of Henry's game is that defenses know he is going to get the ball, and they still can't do a damn thing about it. The funniest part is watching how dejected the opposing defensive coordinator's get and the frustration on their faces. With all that being said, this is a different Titans team. While they are getting star left tackle, Taylor Lewan back, they lost a huge piece of their offense in Arthur Smith. I don't know too much about their new offensive coordinator, Todd Downing, but it will be hard to replicate Smith's offense. I also expect them to throw the ball more frequently with the addition of Julio Jones. I still expect Henry to be one of the best running backs in the NFL, I just don't think he's putting up the same numbers from 2020.
5. Jonathan Taylor Colts
If you are third in the league in rushing yards as a rookie, just imagine how much better you can get as your career goes on. That is the very case with Jonathan Taylor. In 2020, with Philip Rivers at quarterback, Taylor ran for nearly 1,200 rushing yards. Now that the Colts have Carson Wentz under center, teams can't load the box. Wentz is an elite deep ball passer which makes it harder for defenses to drop an extra safety in the box. With the addition of Eric Fisher at right tackle, the Colts still have one of the best offensive lines in the league. It has to feel good running behind Quenton Nelson. It's like having a body guard with you at all times. While I don't expect a sophomore slump out of Taylor, some of his carries could go to Marlon Mack. I don't expect those carries to hurt his numbers too much as I see him still being a top five running back in 2021.
4. Alvin Kamara Saints
One of the most mysterious teams this offseason has been the New Orleans Saints. They've relatively stayed out of the media hype, but at the same time nobody knows what this offense will look like in 2021. With Drew Brees retiring, I expect it to run through Alvin Kamara. No running back in the NFL is more elusive than Kamara and he's a guy who can make things happen even if the play looks dead. He sheds defenders so nonchalantly, he has a way of making the game look like so much fun. Whether its Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill behind center, I expect them to lean on Kamara this year. Sean Payton is going to make sure the best players have the ball in their hands and for that reason I'm expecting a monster year from number 41 in 2021.
3. Saquon Barkley Giants
I'm calling this year the resurrection of Saquon Barkley. The league is in a better place when Barkley is dominating on the field. Barkley might single handedly be the most talented player in the NFL and he's definitely in the conversation for most athletic. I'm not sure how much hurdling and spinning we will see from 26 after his ACL injury, but I don't expect his game to waiver too much. I only wish the Giants added some pieces to their offensive line (which still isn't great). Regardless, I expect Barkley to have a season on par to his rookie year. While he may get off to a slower start, I expect a rapid ramp up in both production and hopefully wins for Big Blue. There are more threats on the outside this year so teams can't load the box as much as years prior. Barkley is going to put himself in a position to be the highest paid running back after a dominant 2021 season.
2. Christian McCaffrey Panthers
I'm a fan of Mike Davis, I wrote about him earlier. He was able to put up career numbers in Joe Brady's offense last season, but he's not on the same planet as Christian McCaffrey is (talent-wise). McCaffrey was putting up alien type of numbers with Kyle Allen under center, now imagine what he can do with Sam Darnold. I'm not a big fan of Darnold, but he's definitely a step up from Allen. Assuming that everything has healed properly for McCaffrey, he should be elite once again this year. People forget just how good McCaffrey was. In 2019, he put up nearly 1,400 rushing yards and over 1,000 receiving yards. That was on a very bad Panthers team. Now this team is good and with Drew Brees retiring, the Panthers actually have a chance to win some games in this division. Chrisitian McCaffrey will be returning to stardom this year and should put up behemoth type numbers in Carolina.
1. Dalvin Cook Vikings
Surprise, Surprise... Dalvin Cook is at the top of my list. Not because he ran for over 1,500 yards last season or because the Vikings drafted an offensive tackle in the first round this year; it's because I'm going with my gut. I have a gut feeling that Dalvin Cook is going to be unstoppable this season. He had three games without a touchdown last year and he missed an extra game, and the dude still scored 16 touchdowns in the regular season. Cook is an absolute tank and he rarely gets talked about. I know he's been putting in the work this offseason and he's going to be on a mission this year. I don't know what it is, but I just have this feeling that Dalvin Cook will explode in 2021.
Honorable Mentions: Ezekiel Elliott, Miles Sanders, David Montgomery, JK Dobbins, and Aaron Jones