Consistently the most important position in fantasy football year over year, the running back position looks particularly interesting in 2021 fantasy football rankings. Unlike wide receiver, NFL teams generally play with one running back on the field. With fantasy points correlating strongly with opportunity, finding featured backs is extremely important. I’ve outlined some of the best fantasy football draft strategies when it comes to running backs for the 2021 season. If you follow this guideline, you’ll likely be in good shape whenever your Yahoo, ESPN and CBS fantasy football drafts conclude.
2021 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Running Back
The Big 4: McCaffrey, Cook, Kamara & Henry
Ultimately, only a select few running backs receive a three-down workload, and they are immediately thrust to the top of round 1. If lucky enough to land one of the top picks, Christian Mccaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Derrick Henry all are difference makers at the position. Behind the top four backs, strategy gets interesting.
Check out Awesemo Fantasy Football expert Dave Loughran’s Sleeper Running Backs, and who you should be drafting in your Yahoo, ESPN & CBS leagues.
Draft A Featured Back Before Round 4
In general leaving the top three rounds with at least one feature back should be a priority. Because of the depth at the wide receiver position, viable pass catchers can be secured in the middle rounds with ease. Unlike receiver, the running back position drops off rapidly in the third or fourth round depending on the individual league.
For example, a team drafting in the back half of the first round could start with Ezekiel Elliott and Austin Ekeler in the first and second, followed by Allen Robinson II and Odell Beckham Jr. Conversely, that same team could also start Stefon Diggs and Deandre Hopkins, only to be left with Antonio Gibson and Josh Jacobs in the third and fourth. While Gibson and Jacobs are fine players in a vacuum, they present more risk than Robinson and Beckham at their respective ADPs. Leaving the first few rounds with one or two stud running backs offers the ideal blend of security and upside.
After turning to elite receivers and maybe a tight end in the mid-rounds, selecting running backs with a path to a three-down workload should be prioritized. For example, New York’s Michael Carter should open the season as the team’s primary pass-catching back based on preseason reports. As a rookie with a strong prospect profile, Carter could work his way into a three-down role in multiple ways. Not only could an injury thrust Carter into an elevated workload, but he still has enough upside to simply outplay Tevin Coleman and the other backs on the depth chart. Meanwhile, a player like Ronald Jones II comes off the board in a similar range. A poor pass catcher in a crowded depth chart, Jones theoretically needs injuries to Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard to secure a relevant role. Even in that range of outcomes, the Buccaneers could sign a complementary back like they did with Fournette last year.
Draft Handcuffs Late
This strategy also extends into the late rounds when selecting handcuffs and pure timeshare running backs. Last year players like James White came off the board around the top 100 picks. While White plays a secure role as New England’s pass-catching back, he offers virtually no upside to take on an additional role. In a similar range New Orleans back Latavius Murray offers similar standalone value, with the ability to take on much more. While Kamara stayed healthy last year, Murray handled 28 and 32 touches in two Kamara absences the year prior. Eclipsing 100 yards in each of those games, Murray’s week-winning upside makes him the superior pick as a similar average draft position.
While the individual player selections will depend on the particular league, this strategy guide should give a strong blueprint for upcoming drafts. At the end of the day, fantasy football is about winning.
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