Sophomore Running Backs In 2021: Deciphering Their Fantasy Values
Sophomore running backs in 2021 are loaded with talent, and these players have the potential to make or break a lot of fantasy football teams. Time to take a look at which ones you should be drafting and which ones to avoid.
Jonathan Taylor – Indianapolis Colts
This is one of my more controversial takes, but I do not like Taylor at all this year, especially considering he is ranked as a top ten running back and ranked highly on many draft boards. Nyheim Hines will take up receptions, Marlon Mack will steal carries and goal-line touches, and Carson Wentz will push the ball down-field, not check it down to his running backs every other play like Philip Rivers did. Taylor has Josh Jacobs from last year written all over him: An overhyped sophomore running back being drafted as an RB1 while playing like a high-end RB2 with inconsistent production throughout the season. I just do not see the upside with Taylor, but with his offensive line and volume, he still maintains a spot in the top 12-15 range for me.
Antonio Gibson – Washington Football Team
Gibson had a very solid rookie season and he should be even better this year. He has amazing breakaway speed, but the difference between him being a low-end RB1 and a high-end RB2 will be the number of receptions he accrues. The Washington Football Team’s running back coach, Randy Jordan, has said that he thinks Gibson will be catching a lot more passes this season compared to last. This bodes extremely well for Gibson’s fantasy value and gives me the confidence to say Gibson should easily finish inside the top 15 and has the upside to finish within the top 12. Draft Antonio Gibson without fear this year!
Cam Akers – Los Angeles Rams
In all honesty, it is difficult to envision a scenario in which a healthy Cam Akers is not a top 12 running back in fantasy football. He has a great coach, a great offensive line, and a high-powered offense that is guaranteed to get him plenty of opportunities. My only concern would be overpaying for him or drafting him too high, but Akers would be a fantastic RB2 or a serviceable RB1 alongside a solid RB2.
J.K. Dobbins – Baltimore Ravens
Everyone gets that J.K. Dobbins is talented. His biggest supporters have made that loud and clear. My problem with Dobbins is not his skill set but his situation. Although he has a safe floor compared to other great fantasy running backs, he lacks the ceiling to rack up production on the highest level. Dobbins will get his rushing touches, but so will Gus “The Bus” Edwards, as will Lamar Jackson, especially near the goal-line. Essentially, Dobbins has two other rushers to compete with, limiting his volume. On top of that, he has essentially zero receiving upside in the Ravens’ offense. Now, to be clear, Dobbins will not be a bust. His value is pretty fair right now and he should return it to an extent, but do not expect Dobbins to be in the top seven or top eight conversation for fantasy running backs. He simply lacks the necessary volume and receptions. He should be a mid-to-high-end RB2, safely finishing inside the top twenty, and he has an outside shot at finishing inside the top twelve.
D’Andre Swift – Detroit Lions
My thoughts about Swift are similar to my thoughts on Dobbins. Super talented, and should be a relatively high-end RB2, but will lack the volume to be truly elite. Swift is easily the most talented back on his team, but his lack of volume will be the choice of one Anthony Lynn. The new Lions OC has said he will use a hot-hand approach, so expectations for Swift must be tempered. Lynn did something similar last year with Austin Ekeler by randomly giving Joshua Kelley, Justin Jackson or even Kalen Ballage carries, so I am taking his comments very seriously. Now, fewer touches for Swift does not mean he is a complete bust, it is just another factor to take into account. Add to this that he will be on a Lions team that will have to throw the ball a lot to stay in games, and I would not recommend going after Swift. That being said, if you get him at good value, he is not a bad pick by any means.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire – Kansas City Chiefs
Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a massive fantasy bust last season after being picked in the first round in most drafts while only producing slightly above average fantasy numbers. This year, however, his value has tanked considerably, and just like you should buy the dip on stocks, now seems like a good time to put your money on CEH. He should be much improved after playing one year in the NFL, and as a starting running back under Andy Reid with no Le’Veon Bell this year, he is bound to get plenty of opportunities. I’m extremely comfortable drafting him at his current price as he should have a solid floor. The upside might be limited but he is a safe RB2 who will have a handful of big weeks throughout the season.
Other Notable RBs
Barring injuries, those top six will likely be the most relevant for fantasy purposes, but there are a handful of other sophomore running backs in 2021 that could be beneficial to your roster. A.J. Dillon is honestly just one injury away from top 12 running back upside, but for now, he will play the Jamal Williams role from last year behind Aaron Jones. Zack Moss may have some value in that high-powered Bills offense even though we did not see much from him last year. Lastly, we all know how talented James Robinson is, but nobody knows how the Jaguars backfield will play out after the addition of Travis Etienne. There is still a chance he ends up being a decent fantasy running back with the goal-line carries, so taking him in the later rounds is not the worst idea.
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