Ranking the best fantasy football running backs for 2021

Dalvin Cook Vikings
Previewing the running back options for the 2021 NFL fantasy season. Photo from The Viking Age.
  • Picking the best five running backs for NFL fantasy in 2021
  • Cook, Kamara and Jones all feature in our top five
  • Which running back will you prioritize in the draft?

It’s the turn of the running backs as we look ahead to the 2021 NFL fantasy season. Star RBs are a key to fantasy football success – after looking at the best quarterbacks for 2021, we have ranked the premier options out of the backfield.

  1. J.K. Dobbins

It might seem a little strange at first to see Dobbins’ name ahead of the likes of Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliott. But the 2021 season will be Dobbins’ second year in Baltimore, on a team that led the league in rushing by nearly 400 yards.

There’s no conceivable scenario where the Ravens deviate from such a run heavy game script, which puts Dobbins squarely on the RB1 map for 2021.

The team’s backfield was a little bit cluttered in 2020, as Dobbins, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards were routinely used together. Next season, the picture figures to get much clearer, as Edwards is a free agent after this season, and Ingram figures to be a complementary piece if the team decides to retain him.

If given the lion’s share of the carries, Dobbins could be in line for a season like the one Ingram had in 2019, where he posted 1,018 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.

  1. Alvin Kamara

Kamara put up one of the most impressive games in fantasy football history on Christmas Day, rushing for six touchdowns, so fantasy managers likely have Kamara a lot higher in their future pecking order than number four.

However, there’s one large unknown regarding Kamara’s situation, and it revolves around who will be under center for the New Orleans Saints in 2021.

As Drew Brees’ main outlet out of the backfield for four seasons, Kamara has caught 81 passes each in his first three seasons, and 83 catches in 2020. However, with Taysom Hill at quarterback, Kamara’s production in the passing game dipped steadily. The fourth year RB out of Tennessee only caught ten passes combined in the three games Hill started, which could be a cautionary statistic heading into next season.


Kamara’s rushing ability remains as explosive as ever, making him a safe top five option at the position.

  1. Aaron Jones

Even though another Aaron gets most of the headlines in Green Bay, it’s Aaron Jones who’s presence is arguably most valuable for the Packers.

The team brought Jones along slowly in his first two years in the league, giving him only 81 and 133 carries respectively. His dynamic running ability was so apparent that the coaching staff had no choice but to hand over the reigns in 2019 and 2020.

Even though it’s unlikely he will match his 16 touchdown output of 2019 ever again, he’s still the featured back on a really good offense, and is one of the best pure runners in the NFL. He’s a free agent after the 2020 season, but it’s hard to imagine the Packers letting someone of his talent walk, so he will likely get an extension or the franchise tag. Green Bay would have to really take a leap of faith putting all their eggs in 2020 second round pick A.J. Dillon’s basket next season.

  1. Christian McCaffrey

Unfortunately for many fantasy owners, who invested the number one overall pick in snake drafts or the highest auction budget on Christian McCaffrey this season, the fantasy campaign was ruined by a substantial investment in a player who only appeared in three games.

However, the injury plagued 2020 season should not dim the bright out look for McCaffrey’s future potential.

Before this season, McCaffrey played in all 16 games in each of his first three years in the NFL, and was heavily relied upon in the Carolina Panthers’ passing attack as well. Having given McCaffrey an extension before the 2020 season began, Carolina is not in a position to bring in significant insurance at the running back position, and their offensive philosophy is not likely to change that drastically.

Due to the well roundness of his game, and his immunity to negative game script, McCaffrey still remains one of the best fantasy bets heading into next season.

  1. Dalvin Cook

While the four previous players reviewed are superstars in their own right, Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook is a special player who doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles to put up tremendous fantasy production.

He’s averaged just over 45 catches a season since 2018, which is enough to buoy his passing game value, but his unique downhill running ability and breakaway speed is more than enough to bring his name to the very top of draft boards.

Even though he missed two games, Cook posted a career high 1,557 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. To make those statistics even scarier, the Vikings didn’t even make the playoffs this year, which means that they trailed in many games and could not afford to feed Cook additional touches. If Minnesota’s team fortunes improve, including better execution from their suspect defense, they could hang around in more games, which will only allow Cook to be featured even more.

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About Andrew Pistone 62 Articles
Andrew is a contributor to Franchise Sports, who believes that Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's no look pass while being facemasked against the Las Vegas Raiders was better than any Magic Johnson assist on the fast break.

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