The only constant at the top is inconstancy, as we’ve been
talking about the past week or so. Regardless of whether I’m
right about the who—which top QBs, RBs, and WRs from last
year, in particular, will fall from grace in 2021—we already
know I’m right about the what: Many, if not most of them,
certainly will. The historical data is overwhelming on that point,
friends. So who are this season’s “disruptors”
best positioned to replace last year’s studs? Let’s
break it down.
A quick reminder of the Top 10 fantasy RBs from last season…
Note: All rankings are based on FFToday’s
Non-PPR league scoring.
Ekeler, LAC: There are way more obvious
candidates to crack the Top 10 in 2021óMcCaffrey, Barkley, Elliott,
Mixon (?)óbut I like living dangerously, so we start with the pride
of Western Colorado University. Ekeler missed a huge chunk of 2020
(six full games and most of another), but if we exclude his brief
Week 4 appearance, he actually averaged 18.6 touches a game, about
13 rushes and six receptions per. By comparison, Alvin
Kamara, last yearís RB2, averaged 18.0 touches a game. Jonathan
Taylor and Aaron
Jones, RB4 and RB5, respectively, averaged even less.
Itís true all of those backs did more with fewer looks, Kamara
in particular (21 total TDs, better per-carry and per-reception
averages). Itís also clear the Bolts believe Ekeler can, in
fact, be a high-volume RB1 despite his smallish stature. Or I should
say DID think that. Anthony Lynn was dismissed and replaced by first-time
head man Brandon Staley, who in turn brought on Joe Lombardi as
offensive coordinator. Vinceís grandson wasnít overly
successful in that role previously (Detroit from 2014-15), but he
helped make the Saintsí offense great in two separate stints
(2007-13 and 2016-20) as QBs coach and offensive assistant. Presumably,
heíll know what to do with LAís most versatile weapon
in his second go-around as an OC.
Heíll also know to design that offense around the Boltsí budding
superstar under center, Justin
Herbert. Herbieís the primary reason Iím high on Ekeler this
season, as opponents will be forced to account for that big right
arm, not to mention some sneaky escapability. More dangerous quarterbacks
make for more dangerous running backs IMHO. Provided he stays healthy
this season and commands the touches he did in 2020, I love Ekeler
to post Top 10 digits for the second time in three years.
WAS: Ekeler scored 12.2 FPts/G in the nine full games he
played (again, excluding that short Week 4 appearance), which is
precisely the mark Gibson achieved in his first 14 games as a pro.
The similarities donít end there, though the two backs couldnít
be LESS similar physically. Gibsonís a full four inches taller (probably
more) and at least 20 pounds heavier than his LAC counterpart. Like
Ekeler, however, heís just as dangerous in the passing game as he
is in the running game. In fact, he was classified as a WR at Memphis
before making the formal switch to RB for the Senior Bowl and in
preparation for the 2020 draft.
However you want to label him, this much is clear: Gibson can ball.
Though Washington didnít use him in the passing game as much
as I thought they might, we can probably chalk that up to poor quarterback
play. Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith, and Taylor Heinicke
combined to average just 17.1 FPts/G, 30th overall at the position.
Is it any wonder WFT went out and signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, the itinerant
gunslinger making his NINTH NFL tour stop? Fitzyís a huge
upgrade over that sorry quartet, despite his advanced age, and should
immediately raise all boats in the nationís capital.
Even if you donít believe in Fitzmagic, itís difficult
to ignore Gibsonís TD production as a rook. Despite missing
two late games due to turf toe and garnering 15+ carries only four
times all season, he scored 11 six-pointers on the ground, about
one every...15 carries (hint, hint, Riverboat Ron!). Moreover, the
only backups are J.D. McKissic (another college wideout) and Peyton Barber, who sports a career 3.5 YPC average. Itís simple:
Gimme all the Antonio Gibson shares!
PIT: Harris is the second rookie runner Iíve tagged for
Top 10 stardom in consecutive seasons. Though the first, Cam
Akers, didnít quite work out (RB40 in 2020), the young Rams
back did end up looking the part late in the year. From Week 12
on, including two playoff games, he averaged 14.7 FPts/G, a better
rate than four of last yearís Top 10 rock toters, fellow greenhorn
Jonathan Taylor included. Alas, the former Seminole turned it on
way too late and now has to sit until 2022 thanks to a season-slaying
torn Achilles tendon.
Harris, by contrast, is walking into a much better situation than
Akers and, barring a catastrophic injury of his own, could end up
being this yearís version of Taylor. Heís big (6í2Ē,
230 lbs), can moveónot to mention move the pileóand
is a much better receiver than you think (43 grabs and four scores
for the Crimson Tide last year). Simply put, heís a three-down
back joining an offense that used to revolve around a similarly
sized and skilled meal ticket, LeíVeon Bell.
The Steelersí shot callers have been very explicit about their
desire to recapture that running game strength, and it goes higher
than coach Mike Tomlin. Hereís what owner Art Rooney II had
to say on the subject in March: ďWe don't want to see the
Pittsburgh Steelers last in the league in rushing ever again. Ö
weíll be looking for ways to improve in the draft. Itís
something weíve gotta fix.Ē A month later, Pittsburgh
grabbed the first RB of the entire draft with pick No.24, so...draw
your own conclusion about how seriously to take Rooney. Hereís
mine: Harris is a great bet to tally 300+ touches and crack the
Top 10 in his first NFL season.