Fanelli’s Way Too Early Redraft Rankings: Running Backs 1-12

Jonathan Taylor

The 2020 fantasy football season is in the rearview mirror, but some are already preparing for the 2021 fantasy season. To help those get ready for the upcoming season, I have put together a six-part series breaking down my early rankings for the 2021 season. Next up in the series will be my top-12 running backs. So without further ado, here is the second part of my way too early 2021 redraft rankings.

All stats and the rankings are base on four-point per passing touchdown and PPR scoring.

Be sure to check out all six parts of this series, as well as all my fantasy rankings here.


1) Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

2020 Finish: RB54 | 30.1 Fantasy Points Per Game

After a historic 2019 season, McCaffrey was the top pick in most 2020 drafts. However, multiple injuries limited CMC to one game after Week 2. Despite playing in only three games this season, McCaffrey had 90.4 fantasy points and scored six touchdowns. In his place, Mike Davis finished the year as the RB12, averaging 13.8 fantasy points per game. The injuries should have no impact on him next season, making CMC the clear-cut top player on the draft board.


2) Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

2020 Finish: RB2 | 24.1 Fantasy Points Per Game

For the second year in a row, Cook played in 14 games, removing the injury label that plagued him earlier in his career. Cook rushed for a career-high 16 touchdowns in 2020, averaging over 100 rushing yards per game. More importantly, Cook finished second in the league in rushing attempts (312), rushing yards (1,557), and rushing touchdowns (16). Cook scored at least once touchdown in 12 of 14 games this season. Furthermore, he scored at least 15 fantasy points in all but one game in 2020. The Vikings offense ran through Cook the past two seasons and will do so again in 2021.

3) Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

2020 Finish: RB6 | 16.9 Fantasy Points Per Game

When Marlon Mack tore his Achilles in Week 1, Taylor was viewed as a must-start running back. However, Taylor scored under 13.5 fantasy points in five of his next eight games, averaging only 13 rushing attempts per game. Then, over his final six games of the season, Taylor averaged 24.3 fantasy points and 19.8 rushing attempts per game. Taylor scored 19 or more fantasy points in each of the final five games in 2020. While Nyheim Hines will be back next season, Mack will be on a different team. Given his success in closing out the 2020 season and the Colts’ offensive line, Taylor should be a top-three pick next year.


4) Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

2020 Finish: RB3 | 20.8 Fantasy Points Per Game

If you weren’t all in on Henry before the 2020 season, you have to be now. He had more games with 25 or more fantasy points (six) than games with single-digit fantasy points (four). Furthermore, Henry had three games in 2020 with over 200 rushing yards. The one downside with Henry is his role in the passing game. While Henry had a career-high 19 catches in 2020, he only had 114 receiving yards and didn’t score a receiving touchdown. When the Titans fall behind in games, Henry is taken off the field while all the other elite running backs have a role in the passing game. While that seriously impacts his upside, Henry’s role in the Titans’ offense keeps him in the early RB1 conversation.

5) Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

2020 Finish: RB1 | 25.2 Fantasy Points Per Game

In his historic Week 16 performance, Kamara scored 15 percent of his fantasy points this season. However, removing that game, Kamara’s fantasy points per game drop by 2.2 points. Even at that average, Kamara would have finished the season as the RB2. The big concern with Kamara is the uncertain quarterback situation. If Drew Brees does retire and Taysom Hill takes over as the starter, that seriously impacts Kamara’s fantasy value. With Brees under center, Kamara averaged 29.2 fantasy points per game this season compared to 14.2 with Hill. Kamara’s role in the passing game took a hit because of Hill’s rushing ability. Kamara averaged 4.1 fewer catches per game with Hill starting.

6) Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

2020 Finish: RB120 | 7.7 Fantasy Points Per Game

Barkley only played 67 snaps in 2020 as he suffered a torn ACL in Week 2, ending his season. However, Barkley had a strong 2019 season, averaging 18.8 fantasy points per game. That’s an impressive feat, given he only missed three games with a severe high ankle injury. Barkley scored 40.4 fantasy points over the first two weeks of the season, then suffered the injury in Week 3. When he returned, he struggled to play through the injury. However, once healthy, Barkley had 83 or more rushing yards in four of his final five games, averaging 108.4 per game. During that span, Barkley had five total touchdowns and averaged 23.8 fantasy points per game. If he can stay healthy, Barkley will return to his elite play next season.

7) Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

2020 Finish: RB9 | 14.9 Fantasy Points Per Game

The 2020 season was one to forget for Zeke and Cowboy fans. Before losing Dak Prescott to a season-ending injury, Zeke was averaging 22.3 fantasy points per game. However, in his 10 games without Dak, Zeke averaged only 11.2 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, Zeke scored six of his eight touchdowns this season with Dak under center. To make matters worse, the Cowboys’ offensive line got destroyed by injuries. Hopefully, the injury bug stays away from Dak and the Cowboys’ offensive line in 2021. However, Zeke’s yards per carry have dropped in three straight seasons. With their trio of wide receivers, the Cowboys have turned into a pass-first offense. This change limits Zeke’s fantasy value and knocks him out of the top half of these rankings.

8) Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

2020 Finish: RB11 | 17.3 Fantasy Points Per Game

Despite missing a quarter of the season, Chubb finished the year as an RB1. The biggest reason why was his consistent play every week. In the 11 games Chubb finished this season, he scored 14.5 or more in nine of them. Furthermore, he scored at least one rushing touchdown in nine of those games. In the games he finished, Chubb averaged over 100 rushing yards per contest. While his running mate Kareem Hunt also finished the season as an RB1, Chubb had a team-high 15.8 rushing attempts per game, 3.4 more than Hunt. The Browns finished with almost 500 rushing attempts last season despite only 54 coming from Baker Mayfield. They are a run-heavy offense that will again support two top 20 running backs next season.

9) Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

2020 Finish: RB49 | 16.6 Fantasy Points Per Game

Mixon’s 2020 season was cut short because of a foot injury he suffered in Week 6. While the Bengals never ruled him out for the rest of the season, he was placed on injured reserve and never activated. However, before the injury, Mixon was one of the best running backs in the league, averaging almost 17 fantasy points per game. He had scored 14.9 or more fantasy points in three straight games before getting injured. While only playing in six games last season, Mixon was on pace for his third season in a row with over 1,100 rushing yards. He was also on pace for a career-high 56 catches. Mixon should be 100 percent for next season and once again finish the year with over 1,100 rushing yards.

10) Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

2020 Finish: RB26 | 16.5 Fantasy Points Per Game

When Melvin Gordon signed with the Denver Broncos in the offseason, it put Ekeler in a featured role in Los Angeles. In his first season in that role, Ekeler played great with Justin Herbert on the field. In the nine games with Herbert, Ekeler averaged 91 scrimmage yards and 17.3 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, Ekeler’s value comes from his role in the passing game. In the eight games he finished this season with Herbert under center, Ekeler had four or more catches in all but one, averaging 6.5 per game. While Ekeler didn’t have a 100-yard rushing game in 2020, his role in the passing game and volume of touches will make him a top-10 running back next season.

11) Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

2020 Finish: RB8 | 15.4 Fantasy Points Per Game

The 2020 season was one of ups and downs for Jacobs. In 15 games played, Jacobs had five games with 20 or more fantasy points, including a season-high 35.9 in Week 1. However, Jacobs had four games with under 10 fantasy points. Unless the Raiders add someone in the offseason, Jacobs will have a featured role again in 2021. This season he averaged 18.2 rushing attempts per game and had six games with 21 or more. In addition to his volume on the ground, Jacobs increased the number of catches he had in 2020 compared to his rookie season by more than 50 percent. That positive trend should continue next season. The Raiders’ offense flows through Jacobs and Darren Waller this season and should again in 2021.

12) Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

2020 Finish: RB45 | 7.8 Fantasy Points Per Game

After releasing Todd Gurley in the offseason, the Rams turned to a three-headed monster in the backfield this year. However, injuries limited Akers’ role early in the season, as he had only one game with 11 or more rushing attempts till Week 13. Then he took over as the lead back, rushing 15 or more times in each of his final four games this season. During that span, he averaged 85 rushing yards and 13.9 fantasy points per game. The Rams had the most success when Gurley was the featured back and the focal point of their offense. Given Akers’ play to close out the regular season and playoffs, he should be in line to fill that role in 2021 and be a weekly RB1 for fantasy owners.

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Embed from Getty Images


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