2021 Fantasy RB Draft Guide: What You Need To Know About Alvin Kamara, Austin Ekeler, More Top 12 RBs In ADP

2021 Fantasy RB Draft Guide: What You Need To Know About Alvin Kamara, Austin Ekeler, More Top 12 RBs In ADP article feature image

Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Austin Ekeler

Sean Koerner — the No. 1 fantasy football draft ranker of 2019 — runs through his analysis of the top 12 running backs based on Average Draft Position (ADP) at BestBall10s. Find his comprehensive guide to drafting RBs in his 2021 Draft Tiers and his real-time rankings in our 2021 Fantasy Draft Kit.

The Top 12 Fantasy RBs In ADP

1. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers

There isn’t much to say about McCaffrey other than that you should draft him No. 1 overall.

He was able to play in only three games last season, but was absolutely dominant in those appearances. We saw McCaffrey's backup, Mike Davis, thrive in the first year of offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s scheme — watch out for CMC to absolutely dominate as the Panthers head into Year 2 with Brady’s system.

2. Dalvin Cook, Vikings

We used to think of Cook as an injury risk, but he’s been able to stay healthy for the better part of 14 games in back-to-back seasons. He has bankable volume in the running game, passing game and in the red zone, so you can't go wrong drafting him second overall.

Minnesota’s defense should be much better this season, as should the offensive line, both of which will boost the Vikings' run game. The importance of the addition of first-round pick Christian Darrisaw is tough to understate — he posted the second-best PFF grade ever for a tackle in 2020.

3. Alvin Kamara, Saints

Kamara is one of the players who is likely to be the most impacted by Drew Brees’ retirement. Kamara averaged 24 fantasy points per game with Brees last season, but that number dropped to 16 PPG without his longtime QB. That said, Sean Payton is too smart not to scheme up getting the ball into Kamara’s hands — especially with Michael Thomas out for the start of the season.

4. Derrick Henry, Titans

Henry is as safe of a bet as it gets and seems the most likely of the elite RBs to play all 17 games. The only downside is his lack of receiving work, but the addition of Julio Jones will make it even tougher for defenses to worry about Henry. He turns 28 this season and may have just one more 300+ carry season left in him.

5. Saquon Barkley, Giants

There are still some concerns that Barkley won’t be 100% by Week 1, and that’s enough to scare me away from taking him inside the top five. But if he falls to you later, Barkley has too much upside to pass on.

My main concerns for Barkley are that he is playing behind the worst offensive line in the league (32nd per PFF) and I’m concerned that rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney will eat into Barkley's target share a bit.

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6. Jonathan Taylor, Colts

Taylor is one of the more talented backs in the NFL after breaking out toward the end of 2020 and definitely benefited from positive game scripts and the Colts’ soft schedule.

He lacks the receiving upside of other RB1s, though, due to Nyheim Hines' presence. If Carson Wentz’s injury results in any missed time, the Colts could lean on Taylor more early in games, but it also could mean he’s less likely to see positive game scripts.

7. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

This should be Elliott’s bounce-back season. Dak Prescott is back healthy, as is the offensive line. Zeke was the RB4 from Weeks 1-4 of 2020 before Prescott got injured, and I expect a similar outcome with the signal-caller’s return.

You can’t go wrong with Elliott at his ADP.

8. Nick Chubb, Browns

Chubb is probably the best pure runner in the NFL.

Next Gen Stats measures expected rushing yards based on how many rush yards a ball carrier is expected to gain on a given carry based on the relative location, speed and direction of blockers and defenders. Chubb has finished second, second and first in that metric (per attempt) over the last three seasons.

His lack of passing work limits his upside, as does Kareem Hunt eating into Chubb's workload. Chubb saw only 20+ carriers twice last season and would have massive upside should Hunt miss any time.

9. Austin Ekeler, Chargers

New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is coming to Los Angeles from the Sean Payton coaching tree and views Ekeler as his Alvin Kamara. Ekeler has 100+ catch potential this year and I view him as a more affordable version of Christian McCaffrey.

On top of all that, the Chargers improved their offensive line significantly this offseason.

10. Aaron Jones, Packers

RB10 is simply too low for Jones — I have him ranked higher (check my real-time rankings here). I would absolutely take him over Saquon Barkley and foresee Jones looking at 50+ receptions for the first time in his career with Jamaal Williams out of the picture.

11. Joe Mixon, Bengals

Mixon will be a true workhorse back without Giovani Bernard eating into Mixon's passing-down work. He has top-five upside as long as he can stay healthy.

12. Antonio Gibson, Washington

It’s amazing how good Gibson looked last year considering he was still adjusting to the position with a limited offseason. He is a former wide receiver, which makes it likely he starts to see a bigger role in the passing game.

Gibson has a chance to be a true workhorse back and will benefit from Washington’s improved offense and more positive game scripts. He was the goal-line back in 2020 and his instincts to find the end zone should prevent any TD regression.

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