It doesn’t matter if you have been playing fantasy since the ’90s like me or are a new player, the running back position is vital to your success. Sure, the game has changed since then. We currently have to deal with timeshares all across the league but years ago, we knew who was getting 85% of the team’s carries. Rushing for 1000 yards wasn’t that big of a feat but in 2020, only 9 running backs hit that total. Did I mention this is a passing league? Running backs are taken early and often in drafts and the production level drops off significantly after the first few rounds.
Like any other year, there are going to be guys who disappoint and guys who come out of nowhere. We can all hope every player stays healthy but that won’t ever happen. We have already seen Cam Akers go down for the year before training camps even opened. We don’t predict when and if they happen but what we can do, is look at some data, film, or whatever it is you prefer, to see what is most likely to happen.
As you read this and prepare yourself for another exciting NFL and fantasy football season, it’s time to take a look at some value picks at running back. All average draft position (ADP) data is from Underdog Fantasy. These following guys are being drafted too low and need to be on your radar at their current price.
Can we draft this man with some respect? Why is Aaron Jones being drafted as the RB12 right now? In fact, according to Underdog, he is falling slightly since Rodgers came to camp. Jones finished as the RB5 in 2020 and RB2 in 2019. What has gotten worse for him in 2021? He has AJ Dillon emerging but Jamaal Williams left town. In case that isn’t enough, I’ll dig deeper.
Last season, Jones averaged 18.5 points per game which were 5th among all running backs. I like using the points per game when evaluating running backs because it shows what they can do while on the field. The Packers are a team that will lead a majority of the time and turns to the run to close out games. He has plenty of rushing opportunities but is also a threat out of the backfield in the passing game. Even if he misses a game or two, Jones is a lock for over 250 touches on the season.
Even if you take away some work for AJ Dillon, Jones averages 1.1 points per touch. That was good for 8th among running backs. He doesn’t need 300 carries and 60 catches to be a top 10 running back. He was top 5 while missing 2 games last year. The touchdowns help. He had 16 scores in 2019 and 9 in 2020 on the ground. He averages 2 receiving touchdowns over the last 3 seasons so although fluky at times, Jones will score double-digit touchdowns again in 2021.
So, 2020 got off to a shaky start by dropping a game winning pass against Chicago. He also was misused and underutilized by the coaching staff. The year ended on a more promising note. Swift average over 4.5 yards per carry on the year and had double digit carries in 5 of his last 6 games. During that same span, he caught just under 4 balls a game. Where am I going with all of this? Let’s keep going.
Swift is being drafted as RB15. Most people are probably fine with that since he finished last year as RB18. I have him as a low end RB1, if not top 10. I know the Lions added Jamaal Williams to compliment Swift in the backfield. That’s ok and shouldn’t scare you. The workload should be expanding in 2021. The team itself hasn’t gotten better, in fact, it’s worse. The passing game work that Swift saw at the tail end of the 2020 will continue. The team will be behind in almost all games and without any notable receivers on the roster, Swift is a top target.
Swift’s value isn’t based on tons of volume. He was very productive with his opportunities. In fact, he averaged 1.18 points per touch in 2020. Swift has a real shot at getting over 200 carries and 50 catches this year. If had that many opportunities last year, with that effectiveness, that was good enough to be RB4.
Things have to change regarding where Henderson is being drafted. Right now he is being taken as the 30th running back off the board. This is bound to change since the Cam Akers injury came right before camps were set to open. Henderson will be a mid-tier RB2 this upcoming season. He has little to no competition behind him but as we know, that could also change. Henderson finished as RB36 last season as a backup in a crowded backfield.
The Rams are a solid team all around and got even better by adding Matthew Stafford to be their new quarterback. The team has projected win totals in double digits so that means more opportunities to run the ball to finish off games. Henderson will receive the bulk of the teams carries. With the volume alone, his floor is much higher than it is now.
Last year, Henderson led the team with 4.5 yards per carry. He also scored 5 out of the 12 touchdowns by Rams running backs. Those other 7 scores are vacated. Henderson is being drafted behind backs that don’t even have a starting job. Again the floor here is higher than RB30. Give him double the opportunities he had last year, he has a real shot at over 1000 yards and close to double digit touchdowns.
Check out our 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit by Team Rise or Fall to get the edge over your opponents this season!