2021 Running Backs

6 min read
Targets and TDs Fantasy Football Running Backs
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The 2021 NFL Draft is complete, the 2021 NFL Schedule has been released! The fantasy football community is eager to start molding the shape of the upcoming season. This week I want to give a look back at the Running Backs and some initial thoughts for that position for the 2021 season.

Initially, lets recap our position leaders in Targets and Touchdowns for 2020 as it may be helpful as we look forward towards our Running Backs of preference in 2021. Especially if we can compare against previous years to see if we see any trends. Again, keep in mind a players Ability, Availability, Opportunity, Consistency, Advantage/Upside and Matchup.

2020 Running Back Top 10 Targets

PlayerTargetsReceptionsReceiving YardsRushing YardsTotal Yards
J.D. McKissic11080589365954
Alvin Kamara107837569321,688
Nyheim Hines7663482380862
Ezekiel Elliott71523389791,317
Mike Davis70593736421,015
David Montgomery68544381,0701,508
Chase Edmonds6753402448850
Austin Ekeler6554403530933
Aaron Jones63473551,1041,459
James White6249375121496

Above are your Top 10 Running Backs in Targets for the 2020 NFL Season. I lean towards still wanting a Running Back that has more rushing yards than receiving yards but give me all the receiving yards that the Running Back can handle! It’s like added Wide Receiver value for a position that isn’t as big on Receptions. Referencing some history with this Targets category Targets RB – 2019 Regular Season gives an idea of what we anticipated going into 2020. So using the history here, below are some Running Backs that I would anticipate are in the mix of most Targets in the 2021 NFL Season:

2021 Running Back Top 10 Targets Projection

  • Christian McCaffrey
  • Alvin Kamara
  • Ezekiel Elliot
  • Austin Ekeler
  • Nyheim Hines
  • Saquon Barkley
  • Aaron Jones
  • Myles Gaskin
  • Chase Edmonds
  • D’Andre Swift

2020 Running Back Top 20 Touchdowns

Using the above yearly Touchdowns rankings I am looking from one year to the next to see how many of the previous years Running Backs made the following years list. As you follow the colors (Grey – 2015, Green – 2016, Red – 2017, Blue – 2018 and Grey 2019) it helps to pick out who stayed on the list from the previous year. In 2016, 10 running backs from 2015 made it. In 2017, 9 running backs from 2016 made the Top 20 list. While in 2018, 8 running backs from 2017 made it. For 2019, 13 running backs from 2018 made the Top 20. In 2020, 7 running backs from 2019 made the list and they were joined by 5 rookie Running Backs (noted with the yellow block beside their name)!

Over these past few years it looks like an average of 9 players would be anticipated to make this list in the 2021 NFL Season. Sticking with averages 2-3 rookie Running Backs would be on the list come end of season 2021 as well. Referencing some history with the Touchdowns category Running Back TDs – 2020 Outlook gives an idea of what we anticipated going into 2020.

2021 Running Back Top 20 Touchdown Projection

Sticking with the averages and selecting 9 Running Backs to find themselves on the Top 20 Touchdown list at the end of the 2021 season again, I would currently lean to the following players: Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones, Kareem Hunt, J.K. Dobbins, Chris Carson, Josh Jacobs or Kenyan Drake (1 of them but being on the same team I am not convinced as to which one it will be just yet) and Antonio Gibson. I think Nick Chubb, D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor and James Robinson would be the next in line options if any of the first 9 get hurt or have their crash this year. Which at the Running Back position can come a lot faster than we all anticipate or hope.

Heading into 2021 you feel pretty good that the following Running Backs get back on this Top 20 list too (after not being there in 2020): Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliot, Austin Ekeler and Joe Mixon. The rookie Running Backs that I would anticipate to be here at the end of 2021 would be both Najee Harris and Travis Etienne.

2020 Running Back Top 20 Rushing

PlayerTargetsReceptionsRushing YardsReceiving YardsTotal Yards
Derrick Henry31192,0271142,141
Dalvin Cook54441,5573611,918
Jonathan Taylor39361,1692991,468
Aaron Jones63471,1043551,459
David Montgomery68541,0704381,508
James Robinson60491,0703441,414
Nick Chubb18161,0671501,217
Josh Jacobs45331,0652381,303
Melvin Gordon44329861581,144
Ezekiel Elliott71529793381,317
Ronald Jones II42289781651,143
Kenyan Drake31259551371,092
Alvin Kamara107839327561,688
Miles Sanders52288671971,064
Kareem Hunt51388413041,145
J.K. Dobbins2418805120925
Clyde Edwards-Helaire54368032971,100
Antonio Gibson44367952471,042
Gus Edwards139723129852
James Conner4335721215936

The chart above is nice because so often we hear about the Rushing Leaders at the Running Back position. Basically because over the past years more often than not, the Runnings Backs just rushed the football. That is certainly something to keep in mind but not the only thing. Depending on the type of league you have, those receptions and receiving yards could be very beneficial. Alvin Kamara had a monster year last year because he got plenty of Targets (which led to Receptions) and Touchdowns. Although just comparing Rushing Yards he was 1,100 yards away from the leader Derrick Henry.

The chart can be re-sorted by category to help you see of the Top 20 Rushing leaders in 2020, who had other opportunities in the passing game as well. Those Running Backs may turn out to be a little more helpful for you depending on your league and settings. I am certainly a fan of players at positions that do a little bit more (ie. Running Backs that get a few more Receptions or Wide Receivers who get a few more Rushing Yards) throughout the year as they may be valued more in your league. They are not as obvious, but areas to be aware of when going into your 2021 Drafts.

2021 Running Backs

So who are the guys at the Running Back position that I like for the upcoming 2021 Fantasy Football Season? I still believe in Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry. Sure CEH lost some of the shine from last year so if this summer doesn’t get too crazy for him (like it did last year), he could be a nice value come draft day. I believe the rookies Najee Harris and Travis Etienne will get theirs. Jonathan Tayler and Antonio Gibson, I can see myself being slightly lower on both (compared to others recently) but not jumping off those trains by any means. Just keeping expectations realistic and in check for them.

I think Kareem Hunt is in a nice spot on a team that loves to run the ball. It feels like the Seahawks will be getting the ball to Chris Carson plenty this season. To get a full idea of where the Running Backs are ranked initially and leading up to the beginning of the 2021 NFL season, click the link below.

2021 Running Backs Final Thoughts

We have a ways to go until the 2021 Fantasy Football Season begins later this year. Although it is nice to start having the ranks at positions and overall thoughts come a little more into focus. Plenty will happen from now until then, so be flexible and look for the value when drafting your Running Backs this year. Don’t forget to consider Ability, Availability, Opportunity, Consistency, Advantage/Upside and Matchup. We are closer to the start of the 2021 Fantasy Football Season! Who has opportunity for Targets? Who will have the chance for Touchdowns? If you believe a player is in line for either, you know I would be interested in them!

Targets and TDs Fantasy Football

Find players that will have: Ability – Availability – Opportunity – Consistency – Advantage/Upside – Matchup

If your players are on an offensive team that can get many Targets and Touchdowns, you know I would be interested in them! Statistics courtesy of The Football Database , a great resource for your NFL players statistics. If you enjoyed the article please share it with others (via the social media links).

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I hope everyone continues to stay safe and healthy! Enjoy the journey throughout the 2021 Fantasy Football Season!

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