Fanelli’s Fantasy Files: Running Back Pro/Con Rankings

Fanelli’s Fantasy Files: Running Back Pro/Con Rankings

by August 29, 2021 0 comments

The 2021 NFL season is just around the corner, and fantasy football drafts are picking up the pace by the hour. When looking at fantasy rankings, it is always good to know the upside and downside of each player. As fantasy players prepare for their fantasy drafts, I have provided my current top-36 at the running back position with quick pros and cons for each player.

These rankings are base on PPR scoring. Good luck to everyone with their fantasy drafts.

Be sure to check out all of my fantasy football rankings!

RB1 – Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

2020 Stats: 3 Games Played | 30.1 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB54 Finish

PROS: Likely would have been RB1 last year if not for injuries. The injuries shouldn’t impact him this year. The offense is built around him. He is the only running back you can guarantee for 100 catches.

CONS: Panthers want to lighten his workload and give more work to the other running backs on the roster. Injuries from last year could be the beginning of an issue for him after a heavy workload early in his career.

RB2 – Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

2020 Stats: 14 Games Played | 24.1 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB2 Finish

PROS: He is the focal point of the offense. Cook has played 14 plus games in back-to-back seasons. Finished as a top-24 running back in all but one game last season. The Vikings improved the offensive line in the offseason.

CONS: Cook has never played in all 16 games. He has plenty of injury history. The Vikings could cut back on his workload to protect him from injuries. They could also turn to the passing game more this season.

RB3 – Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

2020 Stats: 15 Games Played | 16.9 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB6 Finish

PROS: Finished last season on fire and appears to be a featured three-down running back. He finished as a top-six running back despite playing only 50 percent of the snaps. Plays behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

CONS: If Carson Wentz misses time, Taylor could see a stacked box almost every snap. He will split work with Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack to some degree. Limited role in the passing game.

RB4 – Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

2020 Stats: 15 Games Played | 25.2 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB1 Finish

PROS: Finished as a top-12 running back in 80 percent of his games last season despite only playing 66 percent of the snaps. Will likely lead the team in catches this season and could get to 100.

CONS: Questions about the quarterback position. No Drew Brees could mean fewer dump-off passes. With Michael Thomas out to start the year, defenses could do everything to stop Kamara with little consequence.

RB5 – Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

2020 Stats: 14 Games Played | 18.5 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB5 Finish

PROS: Packers made it a priority to keep him this offseason. Jamaal Williams is now in Detroit. He has finished as a top-five back each of the past two seasons. He is a critical part of the passing game.

CONS: AJ Dillon will cut into his workload, especially at the goal line. Jones has played all 16 games just once in his career. The Packers could limit his workload to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

RB6 – Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

2020 Stats: 16 Games Played | 20.8 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB3 Finish

PROS: NFL’s leading rusher in back-to-back seasons. He has been the focal point of the Titans’ offense. Finished as a top-24 running back in 75 percent of his games last season.

CONS: He has no role in the passing game. With the addition of Julio Jones, the Titans will turn to the passing game more this season. After 718 touches the last two seasons, injury risk is a concern.

RB7 – Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

2020 Stats: 15 Games Played | 14.9 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB9 Finish

PROS: Despite all the injuries to the offensive line and Dak Prescott, Zeke still finished as a top-10 running back. The offensive line should be improved and healthy this season.

CONS: The Cowboys won’t lean on Zeke as much this season, passing more and using Tony Pollard. Zeke had a career-high five lost fumbles last season, could get benched if those issues continue.

RB8 – Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

2020 Stats: 2 Games Played | 7.7 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB121 Finish

PROS: When healthy, Barkley has been a top fantasy running back. He is capable of catching 85 passes this season if healthy. With Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, defenses can’t go all out to stop Barkley.

CONS: He is coming off a torn ACL and started camp on PUP. The offensive line is questionable at best. Barkley has dealt with injuries the past two seasons, can he stay healthy?

RB9 – Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

2020 Stats: 12 Games Played | 17.3 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB11 Finish

PROS: The Browns are a run-heavy offense, leaning on Chubb. Despite missing four games and splitting work with Kareem Hunt, Chubb finished top-12. In the 11 healthy games he played in, Chubb finished top-24 all but once.

CONS: He had a career-low 16 catches last season, and has never had a consistent role in the passing game. The Browns could pass more this season with a healthy Odell Beckham Jr.

RB10 – Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

2020 Stats: 10 Games Played | 16.5 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB26 Finish

PROS: He has a featured role as the depth behind him is underwhelming at best. Despite playing only 60 percent of the snaps, Ekeler finished as a top-24 running back in 70 percent of his games last year.

CONS: The Chargers could add a veteran to the backfield. Ekeler had only one rushing touchdown last season and has never had more than three in a season. He has also never rushed for 600 yards in a season.

RB11 – D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

2020 Stats: 13 Games Played | 14.6 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB18 Finish

PROS: Despite only 12.3 touches per game, Swift finished as a top-20 running back last season. The Lions lack proven pass-catchers. They also spent their first-round pick on offensive tackle Penei Sewell.

CONS: The Lions added Jamaal Williams in the offseason and he will cut into Swift’s workload some. Defenses will heavily stack the box against Swift with Jared Goff under center.

RB12 – Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

2020 Stats: 6 Games Played | 16.6 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB49 Finish

PROS: Bengals improved their offensive line in the offseason. With Giovani Bernard gone, Mixon should get more third-down work. He finished as RB10 on a point per game basis last season.

CONS: He has dealt with injuries in his career, including missing a career-high 10 games last season. The Bengals didn’t do as much as they should improving the offensive line.

RB13 – Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

2020 Stats: N/A

PROS: Harris was many NFL draft experts favorite rookie running back. He will have a featured role and can make an impact in both the pass and run game.

CONS: Steelers finished last in the NFL in rushing last year. They also will have a completely reworked offensive line. After playing with an elite group at Alabama, how will Harris perform with this Steelers unit?

RB14 – Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team

2020 Stats: 14 Games Played | 14.4 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB13 Finish

PROS: Despite playing only 45 percent of the snaps last season, Gibson finished as a top-24 running back in half of his games. Washington improved the offensive line and quarterback play in the offseason.

CONS: J.D. McKissic is still around and will have a role in the passing game. Washington added several vertical weapons in the offseason. Gibson is coming off a toe injury that was bothering him earlier this offseason.

RB15 – David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

2020 Stats: 15 Games Played | 17.7 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB4 Finish

PROS: Montgomery averaged 25.7 fantasy points per game over the final six games. He finished as a top-24 running back in 73 percent of his games. Matt Nagy has talked about giving Montgomery 20 plus carries a game.

CONS: Tarik Cohen and Damien Williams could cut into Montgomery’s workload, especially in the passing game. He had only two total touchdowns before his hot streak. 30 percent of his catches came in two games.

RB16 – Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

2020 Stats: 12 Games Played | 15.6 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB19 Finish

PROS: He finished as the RB13 on a points per game basis last season despite playing 53 percent of the snaps. With Carlos Hyde gone, Carson should play closer to 75 percent this season.

CONS: Carson has limited history in the passing game, averaging 37 catches per season over the past two. The Seahawks could lean on the passing game more, limiting Carson’s upside.

RB17 – James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

2020 Stats: 14 Games Played | 17.9 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB7 Finish

PROS: Robinson finished top-12 in half his games last season. Despite defenses focused on him, Robinson still averaged 4.5 yards per rushing attempt. He is the unquestioned starter with Travis Etienne out for the year.

CONS: He will still have to share the backfield with Carlos Hyde. The Jaguars have plenty of weapons in the passing game. His usage rate was over 30 percent last season and will regress this season with the new additions.

RB18 – Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs

2020 Stats: 13 Games Played | 13.5 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB22 Finish

PROS: As a rookie, CEH finished as a top-24 running back in 62 percent of his games. In the six games without Le’Veon Bell, CEH finished top-12 three times. The Chiefs massively improved their offensive line in the offseason.

CONS: The Chiefs are a pass-heavy offense and at times last year completely ignored the running game. While is gone, the Chiefs added Jerick McKinnon. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill cut into CEH’s red zone work.

RB19 – Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins

2020 Stats: 10 Games Played | 16.4 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB28 Finish

PROS: Despite plenty of cap space and draft capital, the Dolphins didn’t add anyone to threaten Gaskin’s starting role. Last season, Gaskin finished as a top-24 running back in 80 percent of his games, finishing top-36 in all 10.

CONS: Gaskin had dealt with injuries in his career. Malcolm Brown has a history of stealing touches. The Dolphins could also add a veteran at some point as they tried to claim Kerryon Johnson earlier this offseason.

RB20 – Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

2020 Stats: 15 Games Played | 15.4 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB8 Finish

PROS: The Raiders lack weapons on offense outside of Darren Waller. He finished last year third in the league with 16 goal line rushing attempts. His 12 rushing touchdowns finished fourth in the league.

CONS: Instead of adding a wide receiver, the Raiders signed Kenyan Drake. Jacobs has a limited role in the passing game, averaging 1.9 catches per game for his career. The offensive line is one of the worst in the league.

RB21 – J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

2020 Stats: 15 Games Played | 11.2 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB24 Finish

PROS: Dobbins plays in the best rushing attack in the NFL. Last season, he averaged six yards per rushing attempt. The Ravens have one of the best offensive lines in the league.

CONS: He played on 49 percent of the snaps and averaged only nine rushing attempts per game. Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson cut into Dobbins’ rushing upside. He lacks top-12 upside unless Edwards misses time.

RB22 – Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams

2020 Stats: 15 Games Played | 8.7 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB36 Finish

PROS: Despite playing only 33 percent of the snaps, Henderson had three games with a top-12 finish last season. In the three games he got 15 or more carries, Henderson averaged 16.8 fantasy points per game.

CONS: Even after the season-ending injury to Cam Akers, Henderson doesn’t have a guaranteed featured role. The Rams traded for Sony Michel and could use multiple running backs this season.

RB23 – Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

2020 Stats: 14 Games Played | 14.2 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB23 Finish

PROS: Sanders finished as a top-24 running back in 58 percent of his games last year. Despite all the injuries to the offensive line, Sanders averaged 5.3 yards per carry. In the offseason, the Eagles improved the offensive line.

CONS: The new head coach has a history of using multiple backs and the Eagles added three running backs including Kenneth Gainwell. The Eagles have limited receiving threats, meaning defenses will stack the box.

RB24 – Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons

2020 Stats: 15 Games Played | 13.8 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB12 Finish

PROS: He should have a featured role and can play on all three downs. In replace of Christian McCaffrey last season, Davis finished top-24 in over half his games and top-36 in all but one.

CONS: The offensive line is average at best. They are also a pass-heavy team with two elite weapons. The defense will be one of the worst in the NFL, limiting his rushing upside as the Falcons will rarely play with a lead.

RB25 – Damien Harris, New England Patriots

2020 Stats: 10 Games Played | 9.1 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB53 Finish

PROS: He finished as a top-36 running back in 60 percent of his games despite playing only 42 percent of the snaps. Harris averaged over five yards per attempt. The Patriots improved the offensive line in the offseason.

CONS: Harris has zero receiving work upside, totaling seven targets last season. He has dealt with injuries in his career. If Cam Newton starts, he will steal goal line touchdowns.

RB26 – Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos

2020 Stats: N/A

PROS: Broncos wanted Williams bad enough to trade up for him in the draft. Reports are he could have the lead role by Week 1. If he gets a featured role early in the season, Williams has top-12 upside.

CONS: Melvin Gordon is still around. Even if Williams gets the starting job, Gordon will likely handle third-down work. The Broncos have plenty of weapons in the passing game and don’t have to rely on the running game.

RB27 – Michael Carter, New York Jets

2020 Stats: N/A

PROS: Carter has been the most impressive running back in camp according to reports. He also has the most pedigree among the running backs on the roster. The Jets improved the offensive line in the offseason.

CONS: The coaching staff comes from San Francisco, with the mindset of using multiple running backs. Will they give Carter a featured workload?

RB28 – Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns

2020 Stats: 16 Games Played | 13.7 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB10 Finish

PROS: Hunt averaged the same 13.7 fantasy points per game with Nick Chubb in the lineup or not. The Browns have one of the best offensive lines in the league. Unlike Chubb, Hunt has a role in the passing game.

CONS: His ceiling is limited unless Chubb gets hurt again this season. The Browns could call more passing plays this year with the return of Odell Beckham Jr. and the addition of Anthony Schwartz.

RB29 – Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers

2020 Stats: N/A

PROS: He is arguably the most talented running back on the roster. Sermon also has the most pedigree after the 49ers traded up to grab him in the draft. Other running backs on the roster have plenty of injury history.

CONS: Kyle Shanahan has never given a featured workload to a rookie running back. Raheem Mostert will likely start the year as the starter. Sermon has some injury history himself.

RB30 – Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals

2020 Stats: 16 Games Played | 10.5 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB25 Finish

PROS: Despite playing only 45 percent of the snaps, Edmonds finished one point away from an RB2 finish. Kenyan Drake is gone and replaced by the injury-prone James Conner. The offensive line has improved this offseason.

CONS: In his long start last season, Edmonds had only 11.8 fantasy points. Kyler Murray will limit Edmonds’ upside, especially in the red zone. Maybe James Conner stays healthy?

RB31 – Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

2020 Stats: 15 Games Played | 13.2 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB14 Finish

PROS: Gordon averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season; second-best of his career. The Broncos improved the offensive line in the offseason. The return on Courtland Sutton will help keep the box light.

CONS: His receiving numbers have regressed in three straight seasons. Broncos traded up for Javonte Williams and added Mike Boone. Had seven lost fumbles over the last two years compared to six in his first four years.

RB32 – Kenyan Drake, Las Vegas Raiders

2020 Stats: 15 Games Played | 12.8 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB16 Finish

PROS: He finished second in the NFL with 19 goal line rushing attempts last season. Jon Gruden has talked about Drake getting snaps at wide receiver. At the least, he’s an upgrade over Josh Jacobs in the passing game.

CONS: Joining the Raiders, Josh Jacobs limits his work in the run game. The offensive line has plenty of question marks entering the season. Drake had only 25 catches last season, the lowest since his rookie season.

RB33 – Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills

2020 Stats: 16 Games Played | 9.0 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB31 Finish

PROS: He finished as a top-36 running back in 10 of his games despite playing under 60 percent of the snaps. Zack Moss is very injury-prone, and the Bills didn’t add a back in the offseason. He is the clear pass-catching back.

CONS: Singletary has limited touchdown upside as Josh Allen is the Bills’ goal line runner. Despite an uptick in targets from his rookie season, Singletary had no receiving touchdowns last season. He has limited upside.

RB34 – Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2020 Stats: 13 Games Played | 10.2 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB35 Finish

PROS: He led all running backs and flex players in fantasy points during the playoffs, averaging 21.7 fantasy points per game. By comparison, Ronald Jones scored a total of 13.9 fantasy points in the playoffs.

CONS: During the regular season, Ronald Jones clearly outperformed Fournette in most categories. Even after re-signing Fournette, the Buccaneers added Giovani Bernard to be the pass-catching back.

RB35 – Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2020 Stats: 14 Games Played | 13.3 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB20 Finish

PROS: Jones had a firm grip on the starting role until he got hurt. He had six games with 17 or more rushing attempts while Fournette had zero. Also had almost 100 more carries than Fournette and a better yards per carry average.

CONS: He basically benched in the playoffs, getting 35 touches compared to 82 for Fournette. Not only did the Buccaneers re-sign Fournette, but they also added Giovani Bernard.

RB36 – Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills

2020 Stats: 13 Games Played | 7.8 Fantasy Points Per Game | RB46 Finish

PROS: The Bills didn’t add a running back in the offseason despite every belief they would. In the four games with 12 or more rushing attempts last season, Moss averaged 11.3 fantasy points per game.

CONS: He had more than two targets in only two games last season. Josh Allen is the team’s goal line runner. Moss has dealt with several injuries during his career, including during camp.


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