2021 Fantasy Football Dynasty Rankings – Running Back

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Dynasty Rankings 2021

What is happening fantasy football fools!  We are back!  The more I play fantasy the more I want to be in dynasty leagues.  Much like auction drafts 10 years ago, its time to make the switch folks.  One reason, running backs.  Dynasty running backs are special because they flash bright then fade fast.  Most great dynasty running backs give you 5 years.  Quarterbacks can give you 15 years.  Great wide receivers can last ten, tight ends too.  But running backs are special because their rankings massively change from year to year.  This year is no different and as we move forward, running backs will be both your blessing and your curse as you maneuver through your leagues the next 5 years.  So lets find some gems and let’s find those guys that will help you raise those trophies.  That’s what it’s all about right?  

Here are my top 24 running backs, the top 12 with commentary, the other 12 without.  Let’s discuss and Let’s go!

  1. Christian McCaffrey

I believe CMC bounces back.  He will be in his fifth season so I know folks are fading CMC, but I still believe he will be elite and challenge for RB1 for the next 3 years.  He could also be a sell high candidate if he has a great year this year (which he should).  CMC was hurt this year, we all know.  But with the Carolina Panthers future looking bright, Matt Rhule committed to Christian, he will be dominant both in the run and passing game and I believe he will contend not just for RB1 next year but for the next 3 years.  He’s that special.    

Christian McCaffrey celebrates in the end zone

2.  Jonathon Taylor

I’m higher on Taylor than a lot of people but I think Jay-Tay will dominate the fantasy landscape for the next 5 years.  This dude is explosive, he plays behind one of the best offensive lines in football and some of his competition will be moving on.  I also believe the Colts will be pushing to improve the quarterback position with a Mathew Stafford, Matt Ryan, or another win now vet that can sustain this offense.  Jonathon Taylor is set to be a perennial top five fantasy back over the next 3-4 years.  While others may focus on Kamara or Cook, I believe Jonathon Taylor should be taken before most if not all RB’s in your upcoming dynasty start up drafts.  

3. Saquon Barkley

This may be the final year that Barkley is ranked this high.  Coming off of two injury plagued season after his record breaking rookie campaign, the Barkley truthers (such as myself) will need Saquan to stay healthy to realize his full potential.  At his peak in 2018 there may not have been a more talented dude in the NFL.  He was Matt Forte, but really fast.  He could hit the home run, line up out wide, run inside.  He could do it all.  I still believe he can and this year you might be able to wait a little on Quan and get him below value.  I still think he has the talent and the coach to run him into the ground.  

Hopefully he stays healthy and at only 24 years old when the season starts, I still think he can dominate the NFL landscape.  He is risky for sure because one more major injury and he may be labeled a bust but I think the reward is worth the risk.  He can be what Dalvin Cook has been he last two years.  There was a time when Cook was seen as an injury plagued talent but the last two years have but that to rest.  I think Saquon is ready to take the NFL by storm next year and lead your franchise in the backfield for years to come.  

4. Derrick Henry

When I assess dynasty, I’m not only looking at age, to me talent > age and we all know how talented Derrick Henry is.  He just came off of a 2,000 yard rushing campaign which is just ridiculous.  Henry is also a dude that I don’t see slowing down as much because he is such a physical freak at the running back position.  He is 6’3 and 240 and still has speed to beat linebackers around the corner.  His physical makeup allows me to hedge his age because at 27 that is becoming the age to start to fade players, especially running backs.  People forget that Henry has been in the league since 2016.  He just finished his fifth year in the league.  He will hit a plateau and next year he may be my top sell high candidate but I think he can dominate for another 2-3 years because of his makeup, his fit on the Titans and what they want to do on offense and because he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.  I would take him with gusto and enjoy the ride the next two years.  

5.  Alvin Kamara

Coming off of RB1 in PPR formats it is hard to fade AK.  Any man that can rush for 6 touchdowns in 1 game has to be special.  He tied my fathers favorite player, Gale Sayers of the Bears 1965 record of 6 touchdowns in one glorious Christmas game which also coincided with many fantasy championships.  This dude is the truth.  The only reason I will fade AK this year is I don’t know the quarterback situation.  Drew Brees was perfect for Michael Thomas and Kamara.  Hitting accurate, short throws to playmakers in stride is much more difficult than people realize and Brees was an assassin in this formula.  

We all saw how much AK died on the vine when Taysum Hill submarined Kamara’s season for 4 weeks.  I don’t like a situation where great running backs are paired with running QB’s.  Not only are the running QB’s generally much less accurate, don’t read their progressions quick enough so the ball comes out late, but they also vulture running touchdowns inside the 5 yard line.  All of those factors have me pushing Kamara down the list, just a little.  If Kamara is paired with a Mathew Stafford, Jameis Winston, or another more traditional pocket passer than I think he remains a top 5 fantasy RB for the next 3 years, if not, all of our Kamara love may run out.  Either way, he is a top fantasy commodity so don’t shy away from AK just have more realistic expectations if he is paired up with Taysom Hill in his prime years the next 2-3 years.  

6.  Dalvin Cook

It’s hard for me to have Cook this low.  He is quite simply one of the games best fantasy and reality players.  However, he causes all of us to hold our breath on the regular.  He is a dude just waiting to get hurt.  Now look, he was RB2 on the fantasy season and he does it all.  He catches the ball out fo the backfield (44 grabs on the year), he is dynamic in space, and if he gets room he is gone.  He is also the most elite RB inside the redzone.  The dude really does have a nose for the endzone.  He is matched up in an explosive offense that will continue to feature the running game.  

This is more of a gut call than what the data says and if you took him as RB 1,2, or 3 you shouldn’t be shunned.  I just have the feeling we are entering the injury year of Dalvin Cook in 2021 and this will play a factor for future years.  RB’s fall fast and one more devastating injury for a dude that does get beat up often could spell disaster for your dynasty team if he is RB1 on your squad.  Look, he could prove me wrong and anyone that takes him will enjoy much success while he plays.  This is a gut call and I see his fall from grace happening quicker than with other RB’s.  If you have him, I hope I’m wrong.  

Dalvin Cook rushes towards the end zone
Nov 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs in the first quarter against Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

7. Nick Chubb

Nick Chubb may be the best pure runner in football.  The dude is a break tackle machine.  He rarely goes down on the first hit and he is an end zone bully.  Meaning he will bully his way to the zone.  I love the way Chubb runs.  He slides for me based on two factors.  The first he splits too many carries with Kareem Hunt.  While this certainly can change, Hunt is going to be part of the Browns run through 2022.  This means two more prime years of Hunt and Chubb splitting carries.  While this is great for the Browns, who also boast one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, it isn’t so great for Chubb owners.  There will be many games over the next two years that are Hunt games and Chubb will take a backseat.  

The other factor is Chubb is rarely involved in the passing games and if you watched the Browns against the Chiefs you can see why.  For such a great athlete the dude has brick hands.  Hunt is clearly the best option in the RB passing game and this forces Chubb to not only slide in PPR formats but it also takes him off the field for more creative looks down in the redzone.  The RB passing game is one of the best way to score by the goal line and if Chubb gets stopped on 1st and 2nd down, you better believe he’s coming off the field on 3rd down.  

Chubb only had 16 grabs this past season in an injury plagued season and I don’t see his PPR ceiling expanding past much more than 25 or 30 grabs for the next two years.  He is a stud and if you go zero RB for the first 2 or 3 rounds in a start up draft, I understand taking him if he’s there.  He is still a point scorer, however he is more in that 2nd tier of dynasty greatness for me.  

8. Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones is great at football.  As a die hard Bears fan it pains me to say that.  I would have AJ higher if there was more certainty about where he is going for the next 2-3 years.  There is a chance he remains in Green Bay even though many experts have already put him in different colors.  I would love to see Aaron in Buffalo.  Get him out of the NFC North and pair him with Allen, Daboll, and Diggs.  Look out man.  They need him too.  The point is, I have no idea where Aaron is going after this year.  I don’t much think it matters however.  I know the Packers have a great offensive line and any running back that is paired with Aaron Rodgers will have room to roam but the uncertainty drives him down the list a little for me

9. DeAndre Swift

Swift is going to be a stud.  Say what you want about Dan Campbell eating kneecaps, he understands this kids talent.  He’s seen first hand what Alvin Kamara can do when you unleash his powers and Swift has the same talent as AK.  Swift mostly did a lot of his damage through the air this year.  Barring the game winning drop that Swift had in week 1, he was a stud in the passion game.  In just 13 games, Swift had 46 grabs for 357 and two touchdowns.  

Stafford is leaving down and that definitely hurts Swifts value.  No matter if the Lions end up with Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Zach Wilson, a rookie QB will have some growing pains.  But I don’t think that will hold back Swift from becoming elite.  The other unknown is who else will be in the backfield with Swift.  Will the Lions still keep the Ancient Adrian Peterson?  Will the oft injured Kerryon Johnson continue to take looks away?  I am sure Swift will have backfield competition.  He isn’t built for 300 carries, however, over the next 3-4 years Swift will be put in dynamic situations in space where he can thrive.  

10. Cam Akers

It took awhile, but Akers arrived.  I always have to remind myself that McVeigh turned Todd Gurley into an MVP candidate for a few years.  Meaning, he loves a 3 down back.  After the all the mud was gone from McVeigh muddying up the RB committee in LA, it was Akers that finally took over that backfield.  He dominated touches in late December and through the playoffs.  Darrell Henderson was beat up but it seems pretty clear.  The LA Rams want to make Akers the next great back from Florida State.  

I see Akers dominating carries the next 2-3 years in LA.  He’s built to last, he can catch the ball and he is straight explosive.  There is a lot of uncertainty in LA right now.  What will happen with Goff? He isn’t it right?  But that team is loaded on defense and McVeigh running schemes are elite.  I think the Rams have a true elite back that I believe can contend for RB1 next season.  I said it.  In the long run though (3-4 years) I like Akers to do some damage.  He is in that next tier for now, but if you can get him at a steal, I think your squad will be mighty successful for the next couple of years.  

11. James Robinson

My fellow Redbird.  James Robinson exploded on the scene and was more than likely a waiver wire pick up for most franchises.  I attended Illinois State from 1999-2003 and we never saw anything like James Robinson.  This dude can play.  The Jaguars are ready to be an offensive machine.  I really like their offensive infrastructure.  They were terrible on defense and their QB play was atrocious last year (Mike Glennon, really? ) but they have playmakers and when they inevitable call Trevor Lawrence’s name in the April draft they will be immediate contenders int eh AFC in my opinion.  

They have DJ Chark, Shenault and Keenan Cole.  Their offensive line was beat up last year but they won’t be horrible and Trevor Lawrence is ready to contend with the QB elite in year one in my opinion.  The benefactor of all this offensive goodness.  My guy James.  He was productive on a terrible team that was often trailing in the ballgame.  He is explosive, he can catch, and he is a true 3 down back.  Robinson was RB7 in just 14 games played and he put up over 1400 yards combined and scored 10 touchdowns.  He will top of mind for many fantasy enthusiasts this year so you may not be able to get him at a bargain but if you do land him, you will have a true RB1 on your squad and will be set at the RB position for the next 3 years.  

12. Antonio Gibson

I think Gibson has the ability to be a league winner next year and the years to come.  He was just learning the position in Washington last year and the future is bright.  This is a guy that was figuring out how to set up blocks and when he did, he explodes through the whole.  He is sturdy and as a former receiver college he has great hands that should be used more going forward.  Two words continue to plague Gibson from being elite.  JD McKissisic.  Two words but like 60 syllables, JD continue to vulture not only passing game work but touchdowns.  

I don’t know what the WFT QB position will look like going forward.  Maybe Alex Smith, maybe a new rookie.  Maybe DeShaun Watson or Mathew Stafford.  I don’t know.  WFT also needs to bulk up their offensive line and add another playmaker but if they are able to solidify the QB position, with Scorin McClaurin on the outside, Gibson should have room to roam.  If McKissic becomes a cap casualty or gets injured, look out.  

Gibson has the traits to be elite.  He just needs to figure out pass blocking and he will be a 3 down dude for the WFT.  I am all in on AG, he reminded me of LT a little bit.  Without crazy hyperbole this could be a 15 and 15 guys meaning 1500 total yards and 15 touchdowns every year.  He has that kind of talent.  It will be interesting to see how WFT handles him going forward but they got a great player in the 3rd round and if you pick him up in your draft you will have some greatness as well.  

Alright the rest of list is presented without commentary but that’s my top 12 dynasty running backs.  There are some dudes further down the list that I like but you have to draw the line somewhere.  I am looking at durability, matched with talent, age, and offensive infrastructure and the top 12 are elite.  The next 12 are dudes that have one or two things missing but are still going to put up points for your squad.  Best of luck in your startups and always remember talent > age.  

13. Miles Sanders

14. Austin Ekelar

15. JK Dobbins

16. David Montgomery

17. Josh Jacobs

18. Najee Harris (Projected to Pittsburgh 1st Round)

19. Travis Etienne (Projected to Jets 2nd round)

20. Clyde Edwards Helaire

21. Ezekiel Elliott

22. Leonard Fournette

23. Joe Mixon

24. Ronald Jones

Written by Keith James

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