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Regular Season, Updated: 9/6/2021

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Legend:   Upside = Upside   Risk = Risk   ADP = Average Draft Position
FF Today Standard Scoring: Review Scoring
 Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Bye: 13)
1
Height: 5’11”   Weight: 202   DOB: 1996-06-07   Age: 25
College: Stanford   Draft: 2017 Round 1 (8) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2018CAR16219 1,098 7 107 867 6 274.5 17.2
2019CAR16287 1,387 15 116 1,005 4 353.2 22.1
2020CAR359 225 5 17 149 1 73.4 24.5
2021 (Projected)CAR 259 1,167 12 89 738 5 292.5  

Outlook: Go ahead and mark it down. McCaffrey will be the No.1 pick this year in every fantasy league in every format. And why not? He had over 500 total rushes for just under 2,500 yards and 22 TD in 2018 and 2019 combined and added 223 catches for 1,872 yards and another 10 receiving TD in the same span before injuries ravaged his 2020 campaign.

"Workhorse" doesn't even begin to tell the story when it comes to McCaffrey. He averaged over 330 total touches per season in three healthy seasons before last Fall, and new OC Joe Brady has plans to put an even bigger load on him moving forward. Just look at what he did with his star back in the one game he had him healthy last season - he was on the field for an incredible 97% of the offensive snaps with a 23% target share against the Raiders in Week 1. Those are big numbers, and it's reasonable to expect that Brady and HC Matt Ruhle will lean heavily on McCaffrey early as new QB Sam Darnold re-develops his game.

It all sounds great, as long as McCaffrey is healthy, and that's the big question. Was last year a fluke, or the first signs of decline at one of the most physically demanding jobs in sports? The concern is that it wasn't one bad season-ending injury, it was a succession of ailments. It was an ankle, and a shoulder, and a quad. It was three very different, very significant injuries that kept him out of 13 games.

Whether you're talking fantasy football or the real McCoy (or the Real McCaffrey as it were), the best ability is availability. When he's on the field, he's a tough runner, a versatile receiver, and a constant threat in the red zone. If he's healthy, he will get his. But fantasy owners who take on McCaffrey need to have a serious plan in place for if and when he isn't.


 Derrick Henry, TEN (Bye: 13)
2
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 247   DOB: 1994-07-17   Age: 27
College: Alabama   Draft: 2016 Round 2 (14) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2018TEN16215 1,059 12 15 99 0 187.8 11.7
2019TEN15303 1,540 16 18 206 2 282.6 18.8
2020TEN16378 2,027 17 19 114 0 316.1 19.8
2021 (Projected)TEN 323 1,679 14 21 145 1 272.4  

Outlook: I could dazzle you with a lot of fancy stats here, but let's just cut to the chase. This beast of a man has rushed for over 3,500 yards and 33 touchdowns over the last two years. That's really all you need to know. But just in case you need more, it's worth noting that his attempts, yards, and rushing touchdowns have all gone up each year of his career. He's not going to offer much as a receiver out of the backfield, but it's not unreasonable to think that he could post a second consecutive 2,000-yard rushing season and approach 400 touches and 20 TD's.

Could he get injured? Of course. Could he start to feel the effects of his workload the last two seasons? I suppose. But have you seen the guy's workout videos on social media? In a word, ridiculous. He'll be ready and in shape, and might very well be the strongest man, pound for pound, in the NFL.

There's very little debate on this one. Henry is the No.2 RB behind Christian McCaffrey, and probably the second overall player off the board in just about every draft.


 Dalvin Cook, MIN (Bye: 7)
3
Height: 5’10”   Weight: 210   DOB: 1995-08-10   Age: 26
College: Florida State   Draft: 2017 Round 2 (9) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2018MIN11133 615 2 40 305 2 116.0 10.5
2019MIN14250 1,135 13 53 519 0 243.4 17.4
2020MIN14312 1,557 16 44 361 1 293.8 21.0
2021 (Projected)MIN 310 1,456 12 46 385 2 268.1  

Outlook: A big write-up here isn't necessary, as if you've been a part of fantasy football in the last few years Cook is a name you've heard plenty. Coming off two straight top-5 seasons, Cook is the prototype elite fantasy back. Explosive from anywhere on the field, dynamic in both the run and passing game, and an absolute ball hog, Cook is that consistent backfield asset every winning fantasy team needs to have. While Cook is a monster in any format due to his ability to score (31 total touchdowns the last two years) and catch passes (97 receptions the last two years) he has been a bit injury prone, which is a much bigger concern as we enter into a 17-week regular season. Something I feel is being overlooked this fantasy offseason is the effect a 17-week season will have on running back load management. For a team like the Vikings, who are truly playoffs or bust, keeping Cook fresh down the stretch is vitally important. Now more than ever, fantasy teams are going to NEED quality handcuffs (more on Alexander Mattison in a second). Look for a bit of regression in Cook's overall numbers, but certainly not enough to remove him from top-3 consideration. Just be SURE you grab the next guy in this preview!


 Alvin Kamara, NO (Bye: 6)
4
Height: 5’10”   Weight: 214   DOB: 1995-07-25   Age: 26
College: Tennessee   Draft: 2017 Round 3 (3) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2018NO15194 883 14 81 709 4 267.2 17.8
2019NO14171 797 5 81 533 1 169.0 12.1
2020NO15187 932 16 83 756 5 294.8 19.7
2021 (Projected)NO 177 813 9 80 685 3 221.8  

Outlook: After a 7-9 season in 2016, Saints HC Sean Payton stepped back and re-evaluated his offense. The result was a departure from the "Drew Brees Air Show" and a more concerted effort in the run game. The following season, New Orleans featured a much more balanced attack with almost 450 attempts and their first 2,000-yard rushing effort in recent memory. The trend would continue in 2018 with nearly 475 carries, and the Saints haven't won less than 11 games in a season since, including last year, when Brees missed four games due to injury and the Saints rushed for 2,200+ yards.

It's no coincidence that this transformation has coincided with Alvin Kamara's arrival in the Superdome. With his quickness, burst, and ridiculous change of direction skills, he's tremendous in space, and his ability as a receiver makes him a dangerous two-way threat. While he's never posted a 1,000-yard rushing season, he has averaged 5.0 yards per carry and 102.7 total yards per game for his career. He breaks more tackles than most people realize and can be a dangerous weapon around the goal line as a result. It shows in his 58 TD's from scrimmage over the last four years.

Fantasy owners should expect a heavier reliance on the run game from the Saints this year, especially early on as they determine who and what comes next at QB. Kamara will be the primary weapon in that attack, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him get north of 200 carries. If Taysom Hill wins the starting job, that could signal a problem for his receiving numbers as his targets dropped significantly with Hill behind center in 2020, but Kamara is a clear RB1 and potentially a top ten pick in your draft.


 Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Bye: 7)
5
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 225   DOB: 1995-07-22   Age: 26
College: Ohio State   Draft: 2016 Round 1 (4) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2018DAL15304 1,434 6 77 567 3 254.1 16.9
2019DAL16301 1,357 12 54 420 2 261.7 16.4
2020DAL15244 979 6 52 338 2 179.7 12.0
2021 (Projected)DAL 287 1,235 8 50 355 2 219.0  

Outlook: Injuries to Dak Prescott and three starting offensive linemen killed Zeke's fantasy value and all but torpedoed his fantasy managers who used an early-round pick on former fantasy stud.

Zeke's 4.0 yard per carry average was the worst of his career and his paltry six rushing touchdowns were half of what he produced back in 2019.

While some fantasy managers might stay away from Zeke because of what happened last season, it should be noted that he is still just 25 years old, and those four key players who missed last season, including stud QB Dak Prescott, are all on pace to be ready for Week 1.

Instead of having to use a top-4 pick on Zeke as in previous years, managers drafting in the second half of the first round can benefit from the perceived demise of Zeke and secure a stud running back to pair with a top WR in round two. If I had to bet on an RB ranked outside of the top-5 who could finish this year in the top-5, Zeke would be on the shortlist.


 Aaron Jones, GB (Bye: 13)
6
Height: 5’9”   Weight: 208   DOB: 1994-12-02   Age: 26
College: Texas-El Paso   Draft: 2017 Round 5 (39) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2018GB12133 728 8 26 206 1 147.4 12.3
2019GB16236 1,084 16 49 474 3 269.8 16.9
2020GB14201 1,104 9 47 355 2 211.9 15.1
2021 (Projected)GB 215 1,077 10 44 342 2 213.9  

Outlook: Just rostering the Packers offense last year would have gotten you four top-10 positional players, and that includes the finish by Jones, as he amassed almost 1,500 total yards and 11 total touchdowns in only 14 games. His 5.5 yards-per-carry average tied his career high, and though he had only one true week winning game, he was incredibly consistent with 11 games of double-digit scoring. Jones was also 9th in the NFL among runners with 63 targets, so you are getting multi-format value as well. Although Jones was brought back on a 4-year, $48 million dollar deal, the biggest hindrance to his numbers comes in the form of 2nd-year back A.J. Dillon. Despite being a 2nd round pick Dillon was hardly used, but that looks to change if the words from Packers running back coach Ben Sirmans means anything.

Already being as efficient as possible and the presence of Dillon make it nearly impossible for Jones to significantly improve on last season's numbers. He just doesn't get the big carry numbers other top-5 backs do (he only had one 20+ attempt game last year), but still remains a solid, upside top-10 option.


 Joe Mixon, CIN (Bye: 10)
7
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 226   DOB: 1996-07-24   Age: 25
College: Oklahoma   Draft: 2017 Round 2 (16) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2018CIN14237 1,168 8 43 296 1 200.4 14.3
2019CIN16278 1,137 5 35 287 3 190.4 11.9
2020CIN6119 428 3 21 138 1 80.6 13.4
2021 (Projected)CIN 274 1,205 8 48 339 2 214.4  

Outlook: Poor line play, and a mysterious sprained foot that cost him 10 games combined to torpedo Mixon's fantasy season in 2020. Other than the destruction of the Jaguars in Week 4, Mixon struggled to make plays in the ground or passing game. Rather than spend any more time trying to dissect a lost season, let's look forward to what we get in 2021.

There is a TON to like about Mixon this season. With the release of Giovani Bernard, Mixon becomes the true undisputed workhorse of this offense. The Bengals added nothing to the running back room in the offseason, so they really must have faith in Mixon's health. With Burrow and the trio of receivers, he'll never face a stacked box, should benefit greatly from improved line play, and the ever elusive 3-down role (he was on pace for 56 receptions last year). I really can't find a single reason (beside health) why he can't return a top-10 season in any format. Talent, opportunity, and scheme fully align to give Mixon a shot at a career year. It's time for Mixon to play to the big contract extension he was given.


 Saquon Barkley, NYG (Bye: 10)
8
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 233   DOB: 1997-02-07   Age: 24
College: Penn State   Draft: 2018 Round 1 (2) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2018NYG16261 1,307 11 91 721 4 292.8 18.3
2019NYG13217 1,003 6 52 438 2 192.1 14.8
2020NYG219 34 0 6 60 0 9.4 4.7
2021 (Projected)NYG 225 1,056 8 50 422 2 207.8  

Outlook: Fantasy managers who used a top-3 pick on Barkley last season were treated to a dreadful 9.6 point game against the Steelers before Barkley suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Bears. 2020 was an unmitigated disaster for the former Penn State star. Yet, his generational talent and ability to post ridiculous rushing and receiving numbers make him a first-round pick again in 2021.

Talent aside, there are some questions surrounding the health of his knee and if he will be a full-go at the start of the season when the Giants take on the Broncos. The Giants could ease him into action, with Devontae Booker sharing some of the workload.

Another question mark is the Giants offensive line, a unit that enters 2021 as the No.32-ranked unit according to ProFootballFocus.com. If second-round pick Andrew Thomas does not make a substantial improvement protecting Jones's blindside and guarded Nick Gates and Will Hernandez improve on their run blocking, Barkley and all of the skill portion players on the Giants could be in for a long year.

On a positive note, Barkley's skill set as an elite runner and pass catcher make him a solid first-round pick and a foundation pick for owners in 2021. If he plays a full 17-game season, he is a lock for at least 250 carries and close to 100 targets.


 Jonathan Taylor, IND (Bye: 14)
9
Height: 5’10”   Weight: 226   DOB: 1999-01-19   Age: 22
College: Wisconsin   Draft: 2020 Round 2 (9) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2020IND15232 1,169 11 36 299 1 218.8 14.6
2021 (Projected)IND 253 1,215 8 42 325 2 214.0  

Outlook: HC Frank Reich has made it clear that Taylor will be the lead back in Indy this season, and rightly so. He's earned it. He finished his rookie season ranked 3rd in rushing yards (1169), 8th in attempts (232) and 6th in rushing TD's (11). He also caught 36 of 39 targets for 299 yards and another score. From Week 11 on, he averaged over 22 touches per game, and all those numbers only figure to go up as Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack don't figure to grab a large share of snaps on a consistent basis.

Frank Reich likes the checkdown game, and will look to create easy throws for Carson Wentz and get the ball out of his quarterback's hands this season. The Colts targeted their backs in the passing game nearly 150 times in 2020, which bodes well for Taylor as a legitimate dual threat and a surefire top 10 fantasy RB.


 Antonio Gibson, WAS (Bye: 9)
10
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 228   DOB: 1998-06-23   Age: 23
College: Memphis   Draft: 2020 Round 3 (2) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2020WAS14170 795 11 36 247 0 170.2 12.2
2021 (Projected)WAS 221 995 9 48 341 2 199.6  

Outlook: Few running backs carried more buzz heading into fantasy draft season last year than Antonio Gibson, a third-round selection from Memphis who posted ridiculous efficiency stats and above-average receiving skills in college.

With so much hype surrounding Gibson, it was impressive to see him live up to that hype with 11 rushing touchdowns and just over 1000 total yards, despite getting eased into action by the Washington coaching staff. Gibson did not see more than 13 carries in a game until Week 7 against the Cowboys, when he went ham with 128 yards and a score.

Gibson proved that he could shoulder most of the load as a first and second down back, and his receiving skills earned him 36 receptions in a crowded backfield of pass-catching options that includes J.D. McKissic.

There has been talk in Washington's camp that the team wants to expand Gibson's role in the passing game further, making him even more of an attractive option and a solid pick in the second round of most drafts.


 Najee Harris, PIT (Bye: 7)
11
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 230   DOB: 1998-03-09   Age: 23
College: Alabama   Draft: 2021 Round 1 (24) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2021 (Projected)PIT 261 1,150 7 42 317 2 200.7  

Outlook: Despite becoming a rarity in the 1st round these days, the Steelers bucked the trend and selected workhorse running back Najee Harris from Alabama. The ultra-talented Harris dominated in his last two seasons with the Tide, scorching the NCAA with 51 total touchdowns, flashing speed, power, and versatility, and joins a Steeler offense that had a gaping hole at the position. Poor blocking and the lack of any sizzle from their stable of backs, Pittsburgh was last in the NFL in rushing yards (1,351) average yards-per-carry (3.6) , and had the 2nd fewest (81) rushing 1st downs. Letting James Connor walk in free agency, and spending primo draft capital, tells me the Steelers plan to be all-in on their rookie back.

With Roethlisberger's career approaching its expiration date, and a defense in transition, I expect Pittsburgh to lean very heavily on their rookie runner. It wasn't long ago this offense was run through its backfield, and Harris possesses the skill-set to be on the field in every situation. His 67 receptions in his last two years as a collegiate starter was identical to the 67 receptions Le'Veon Bell had in his final two seasons at Michigan State. Bigger, stronger, faster, and with a better athletic profile, Harris has a real chance to push for 325+ touches, a threshold only two backs reached last year. Even as perfect fit for this offensive scheme, Harris will need to rely on the line to gel and improved offensive efficiency if he wants to push his way into the top-5 at the position, but there are few rookies in a better spot to make a major fantasy impact than Harris and on volume alone, is a good bet to be a top-10 runner in all formats.


 Nick Chubb, CLE (Bye: 13)
12
Height: 5’11”   Weight: 228   DOB: 1995-12-27   Age: 25
College: Georgia   Draft: 2018 Round 2 (3) 
SeasonTeamGameAtt Yard TDRec Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2018CLE16192 996 8 20 149 2 174.5 10.9
2019CLE16298 1,494 8 36 278 0 225.2 14.1
2020CLE12190 1,067 12 16 150 0 193.7 16.1
2021 (Projected)CLE 222 1,110 10 29 213 1 198.3  

Outlook: Let me just start by saying that I think Nick Chubb is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. Since entering into the league in 2018, he's averaged better than 5.0 yards per carry in every season, and has yet to score less than 8 touchdowns. Despite splitting snaps with Kareem Hunt, and missing four games in 2020, Chubb churned out over 1200 total yards and tacked on 12 scores. His speed/power combination is one of the best in the NFL behind only Derrick Henry, and he similarly dominates late in games with Cleveland running out the clock, evidenced by his 7.2 yards -per-carry average in the 2nd half of games. His efficiency and touchdown scoring allowed him to finish in the top 10 in standard scoring leagues to with only 16 receptions.

So what's holding him back from grinding up the NFL even more than he has? Two words...Kareem Hunt. Chubb has the blessing (more rest) and curse (reduced touches) of having an All-Pro for a backfield mate. Chubb simply doesn't play on 3rd downs or clear passing situations, and his 18 targets last year put him around 70th among running backs. A slight dip in running efficiency would be a hit, but on the flip side, an injury to Hunt could let Chubb dominate touches. Clearly Chubb's value lies in standard leagues as long as Hunt is around, but a full season of health gives the former Georgia Bulldog a very good chance at a top-5 season.