A few weeks ago I went over the wide receivers I am looking to target in drafts this year. And while that is still worth a look if you happen to be drafting with me and want to know my plans, I’ll have to provide an update. As always, injuries and usage projections have caused constantly fluctuating ADPs across the industry.
With most teams about to have at least two preseason games under their belts, I think it’s a safe time to evaluate the running back market in 2021. My plan is to identify the players I want and discover the best times to zig when everyone else is zagging. Here are the running backs to target in fantasy football this year.
Running Back Tiers
I’ve been listening to podcasts, mock drafting, and reading articles emphatically since June. But even with all that information, the best way to evaluate a market always comes down to identifying tiers or reviewing tiers created by others.
So, to begin my final research on the running back position, I went to Dwayne McFarland’s running back tiers at Pro Football Focus (premium). And after doing so, a few things became clear to me about each tier.
Running Back Tier 1
Tier 1 is excellent, but I’d be happiest getting Kamara at #4.
Running Back Tier 2
In Tier 2 (Henry, Elliot, Barkley, Ekeler, Mixon) I’m finding reasons to avoid Henry and Elliot, have no interest in Mixon this high, and Ekeler still gives me hesitation. Therefore, Barkley or bust here.
Running Back Tier 3
I LOVE tier 3. I’m good with all of these guys. Jonathan Taylor is likely pumped into Tier 2 on draft day, but maybe not with the depleted O-line/QB situation. But beyond him, I’m happiest getting Najee Harris or Antonio Gibson, and just fine with Nick Chubb or CEH.
Running Back Tier 4
Tier 4 is David Montgomery or bust. Say what you want about Monty, but he’s the only guy that you can draft this late who has legit 3-down lead back upside. I am OK with D’Andre Swift, who has great upside but a questionable role. And I like Chris Carson, but you just need to be prepared for the inevitable injury. I’m out on Miles Sanders.
Running Back Tier 5
Like tier 3, I absolutely love the miniature tier 5 featuring J.K. Dobbins and Travis Etienne. Of the two I’d prefer Etienne because I see more upside/opportunity. But I’m happy with either of them in this range.
Running Back Tier 6
Tier 6 is another tier I am completely comfortable with. And as I get further into this exercise, I’m finding that I might be perfectly comfortable waiting on RB until I see one that I really want to draft. Josh Jacobs, Miles Gaskins, and Mike Davis all have reasonable floors and potential upside. And this late in the draft? I’m happy to select one of these three.
Running Back Tier 7
Tier 7 is where we enter pick your poison territory. For me, this would be the much-talked-about “running back dead zone.” For many others, the dead zone happens earlier in the draft. But this is truly where I am left scratching my head like I would a lottery ticket. This tier includes; Kareem Hunt, Chase Edmonds, Tre Sermon, Michael Carter, and Javante Williams.
You either need to be incredibly lucky or have done a shit-ton of research to hit on this group. Sermon and Carter have been getting the most hype. Of the two I would prefer Carter for a potentially larger share of the offense.
Running Back Tier 8
Tier 8, according to PFF’s Dwayne McFarland, includes Raheem Mostert, Damien Harris, and Zack Moss. While I want no part of the Bills backfield, I think Mostert and Harris could provide significant value this late in the draft.
Running Back Tier 9
Of the many names in tier 9, the only one I’m interested in gambling on here is James Robinson.
Beyond the first 9 tiers, you really find your favorite dart throws and hope for the best. Finding the running backs to target in your drafts will be key to navigating the unique ridiculousness that can take part in every fantasy football draft.
When drafting with your home league, anything goes. Never expect that you can predict the draft, so the best way to prepare yourself is to have options and know when to zig when others are zagging.