By now, many fantasy managers have begun their research for the upcoming season. In case this is your first article of the year, running backs are scarce this year. Running back by committee is a real thing and has made running back position tough to predict each year. With all these guys having opportunities for touches, the amount of backs are larger and muddied to say the least.
The strategy for running backs is different from manger to manger. You can be old school like me and take them early or you can avoid them for multiple rounds. You can have fun with your league mates on which is better. Chances are though, you are taking at least one running back with your first few picks. Just like how players can be great values and can emerge as a superstar, players can also disappoint.
It’s time to get into the running backs that I think will finish the year below their current average draft position (ADP). All the ADP data comes from our partners over at Underdog Fantasy. Without further ado, let’s take a look at those guys ready to fall this year.
I’m starting out with a bang this time around. Barkley is being drafted on Underdog Fantasy right now as the RB6. I hate to say it, but he’s got a real shot at failing to finish in the top 10. It’s not his talent but the fact that there are tons of talented running backs in the league.
As a rookie, in 2018, he finished as the second best running back for fantasy in PPR formats. Unfortunately, he has gotten worse since then. I know injuries are the mean reason, but he also has a different quarterback than he did that year. In 2019, Barkley finished as RB10 in PPR formats and last year, he only played one full game.
I just mentioned that quarterback change. In 2019, Barkley went out with a high ankle sprain the same time Daniel Jones took over the starting job from Eli Manning. Barkley missed a few games. When he came back, he only reached 100 yards rushing once while Jones was on the field with him. With Eli in 2018, Barkley averaged 5.6 receptions per game but with Jones, he averages four a game. Clearly, the receiving work isn’t there which is generally the case when a quarterback can run. Those types of quarterbacks don’t have to check it down like a true pocket passer has to at times.
I hate to use the term injury prone, but Barkley has some concerns. As mentioned, he missed three games in 2019 with a high ankle sprain. In 2020, he tore his ACL. There is serious doubt that Barkley misses the beginning of the season. He’s coming off the PUP list but you’d have to imagine the Giants will take it slow with their star. The team will want him 100% before getting back into a meaningful game. In the last week, however, the Giants signed Alfred Morris. Maybe it’s to limit reps in practice for some guys but we will see how Barkley progresses in the coming weeks.
Do I think Barkley is a bad pick, no. He should still get close to 20 touches a game when he’s healthy. It’s just too much of a risk being taken in the middle of the first round in a best ball or redraft league.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire let his fantasy managers down in 2020. It’s not his fault, some people hyped him up way too much. He’s priced a little better in 2021 as he is being drafted as the RB14. He was being drafted last year as the RB7 and finished as RB22. I think we see a slight increase this year but he’s not a 2nd round pick for me. I’m comfortable taking him the fourth or fifth round. That’s where his value is but doesn’t seem like he will fall that low too often.
Andy Reid has had running backs become fantasy superstars in the past. After he took CEH in the first round of the 2020 draft, many thought he was the next big thing. Some things were missing from his game though. First, the Chiefs are a passing team. That’s what happens with you have Patrick Mahomes. Second, CEH had 181 carries last year. The only way he finishes as a low end RB1 of high end RB2 is if he brings in a ton of passes.
Jerick McKinnon was bought in to be used in the passing game and reports are showing that already. Darrel Williams is also getting work with the first team offense. Both these backs are potentially taking snaps away from CEH.
Volume is the key for running backs. Last year, every running back in the top 12 had either 250 total touches or double-digit touchdowns. CEH played in 57% of the teams snaps with only 217 touches. Finding the end zone was also an issue last year. CEH didn’t hit the touchdowns needed either as he only found the end zone 5 times. This backfield in Kansas City is a little crowded. Unless CEH has a huge break out, you can do better with your second pick in drafts.
What are we doing here? Right now, Trey Sermon is being drafted early in the seventh round as the RB26. That doesn’t sound bad but that’s almost RB2 status. This has to be his ceiling. We don’t want to take guys at their ceiling.
This is still a Kyle Shanahan offense, and the ball will be spread out amongst their entire roster. I believe Sermon has the best chance at being the first back to see carries but what does that mean? In 2020, Jeff Wilson had the most carries with 126 but only played 41% of the snaps. Wilson will miss time but should have a role in the offense when he returns. Mostert is still there after missing half of last season. He too saw a snap share in the low 40s at 42%.
The biggest piece missing from Sermon’s game has been in the passing game. Scouts have said that he can catch the ball out of the backfield but that was not seen during his 4 years of college. Whether he was in Oklahoma or at Ohio State, he never had a year with more than 16 catches. Over his four years, he only brought in 48 passes. The running backs now that are highly sought after for fantasy can run and catch the ball.
Looking at the top 30 running backs in PPR from 2020, only four of them had under 40 targets. That’s it! Two of those guys are named Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb. Can Sermon be the next Henry or Chubb, sure. What is most likely to happen though? The 49ers don’t use their running backs as receivers all that often, that’s why he fits here so well. Sermon will be a good NFL running back but for fantasy, I’ll stay away for now!
Check out the 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit by Team Rise or Fall to get the edge over your opponents this season!