2021 Sophomore Running Back Fantasy Rankingsby Jeff Pratt January 15, 2021 0 comments
The 2020 fantasy season has just concluded, which means there’s no better time to take a look at the future. There will be plenty of moving parts that factor into these rankings as the offseason progresses, but for now, let’s break down the top ten fantasy sophomore running backs for next season.
McFarland is currently a huge question mark, but his potential upside earns him a spot on this list. It’s safe to say that Pittsburgh will be moving on from James Conner this offseason, vacating the starting running back spot. Will McFarland win it? Possibly. It could be backfield mate Benny Snell, who served as Conner’s replacement in his absence this season. It could also be a free agent or even another draft pick. However, as it stands currently, McFarland has the opportunity to compete for the Steelers’ starting job. If he ends up winning it, he’ll be in for a huge sophomore season.
9. Zack Moss
Like McFarland, Moss’s 2021 status is somewhat up in the air. The Bills’ rookie split touches with Devin Singletary this season, rushing for 481 yards and scoring five total touchdowns. It’s no secret that Buffalo’s rushing game left a lot to be desired, and the Bills could bring in another option this offseason. However, if that’s not the case, Moss will be primed to handle a significant workload in an extremely explosive offense next year.
8. AJ Dillon
Dillon deserves a giant asterisk next to his name on this list due to the fact his potential production hinges on whether Green Bay re-signs star back Aaron Jones this offseason. In this day and age in the NFL, running backs have become somewhat expendable. With a young stud like Dillon waiting in the wings, it may suit the Packers’ best interests to not bring back Jones and use that money elsewhere. If that’s the case, Dillon will likely be in for a tremendous sophomore campaign as Green Bay’s workhorse. However, if Jones does return, Dillon will handle a change-of-pace role at best.
Detroit didn’t commit to Swift as their starter until late in the season. When they eventually did, it garnered solid results. The versatile Georgia product finished as PPR RB18, scoring 15+ points in four of his last five games. Assuming Swift claims the workhorse role on a full-time basis in 2021, he could easily contend for a top-10 finish.
Edwards-Helaire entered this season riding an incredible amount of hype. Many expected him to put up Kareem Hunt-Esque rookie numbers in Kansas City’s high-octane offense. Unfortunately for the LSU product, that wasn’t the case. As many rookies do, Edwards-Helaire struggled to adapt to the pro game at times. Growing pains are normal, but they resulted in Andy Reid not trusting him in certain situations. It certainly didn’t help that the Chiefs brought in veteran Le’Veon Bell halfway through the year, although Edwards-Helaire seemed to secure his starting job when healthy for the most part. Simply put, there were too many weapons in Kansas City’s offense — and specifically backfield — for him to compete with this season. Expect Edwards-Helaire to be much more composed and prepared to handle a significant role for the Chiefs in 2021.
Despite a lackluster finish to the season due to a lingering turf toe injury, Gibson impressed in his rookie season for Washington. Many doubted his ability to handle a significant workload given his intriguing track record at Memphis. However, Gibson emphatically proved his doubters wrong, finishing as PPR RB13. He should be in line for similar production next season now that his role has been defined.
4. J.K. Dobbins
Dobbins is in an interesting situation because there’s a chance that he has the best sophomore season out of any of these players. However, he lands at No. 4 because it’s possible he might not act as Baltimore’s workhorse with Gus Edwards or Mark Ingram still potentially in the picture. At this point, it’s too early to determine what Dobbins’ workload will look like next season.
3. Cam Akers
Akers has established himself as the Rams’ workhorse over the last few weeks, carrying their offense to the second round of the playoffs, where they are scheduled to face the Packers this weekend. Sean McVay prefers to build his teams around a strong, dominant back, as we’ve seen in prior years with Todd Gurley. It’s safe to say that Los Angeles’ head coach has found his new franchise back in Akers, who will likely put up RB1 numbers in 2021.
Robinson, an undrafted free agent, was the lone bright spot of Jacksonville’s porous season. The Illinois State product carried the ball 240 times for 1,070 yards, scoring ten total touchdowns. On the positive side, the Jaguars’ horrendous 2020 campaign will land them Trevor Lawrence in the upcoming NFL Draft. With a quarterback as talented as Lawrence under center, it’s hard to imagine Robinson’s production going anywhere but up as teams will no longer be able to stack the box against him.
Taylor had a worrisome mid-season slump due to a lingering ankle injury that led some to doubt his true talent, but the rookie bounced back brilliantly, scoring 19.5+ PPR points in five-straight games to end the season. Regardless of who is under center for Indianapolis next year, Taylor will serve as the focal point of their offense for the foreseeable future. He could contend for the overall RB1 spot in 2021.
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