The NFL Draft starts up next week, and with it, the landscape of the league flips on its head. There are only two or three real difference makers at running back this year, but they could definitely destroy some backfields. But what about for fantasy football? These guys have to be replacing other players. As we sit on the eve of the NFL Draft, we look at guys in a make-or-break (or just break) situation for running backs in 2021 fantasy football leagues.
Mike Davis, Atlanta
As of right now, Mike Davis is Atlanta’s RB1. Right now. That’s almost assuredly set to change at the top of round two of the NFL Draft next week. There’s just no reason for the Falcons, who jettisoned basically every running back on their roster, to add just Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson to their running back room. That’s doubly true when you figure that new head coach Arthur Smith spent the last few years watching Derrick Henry make the entire AFC South his children. Mike Davis, who filled in decently for Christian McCaffrey last year, just doesn’t have that in him.
If the Falcons take a running back at the top of round two, I hope one of Najee Harris or Travis Etienne remains available to them. Travis Etienne reminds me a lot of Aaron Jones as a multi-faceted back. Harris reminds me of a young Todd Gurley, meaning that the Falcons could replace old Gurley with young Gurley in some sort of Looper scenario. Either way, Mike Davis ends up relegated to the RB2 role in Atlanta. If they wait until the third round and take a definite part-timer like Kenneth Gainwell or Michael Carter, then Mike Davis can breathe a sigh of relief.
Kalen Ballage, Pittsburgh
The Steelers added yet another low-ceiling guy to their backfield, adding Ballage this offseason to go with Anthony McFarland and Benny Snell. While Snell and Ballage are essentially the Spiderman pointing meme, it shouldn’t matter headed into 2021 fantasy football. In the most telegraphed pick outside of the top-two, the Steelers and one of Najee Harris or Travis Etienne have a date on April 29. Since Mike Tomlin joined the league, the Steelers rank fifth in 20+ touch running back games, thanks to bell-cows like Le’Veon Bell. That’s Mike Tomlin’s preferred game, and one he moved away from the last couple of seasons thanks to an iffy running back room. He’s all set up to add a bell-cow back to his squad, and he will take full advantage of the opportunity. Sorry Kalen, but you’re the backup in Pittsburgh. Enjoy that depth chart while it lasts.
A whole mess of backs, New York Jets
La’Mical Perine, Josh Adams, Ty Johnson, Tevin Coleman. None of these backs instill a whole lot of confidence when you hear their names. Unfortunately, that’s the New York Jets depth chart. The New York Jets must add a running back in the draft to sort out that complete mess of a room. Selfishly, it would be very cool to see Travis Etienne or Najee Harris end up there.
James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
They can’t be done just adding Carlos Hyde to the backfield rotation. To be completely clear, I don’t think they add another running back who will take significant touches away from James Robinson. I don’t see a rebuilding team firing that capital cannon this early in the process, considering a quality running back on a cheap rookie deal can go a long way in staying under the salary cap, and they don’t need a lot of development. I think James Robinson sticks around, at least for 2021. But I am not a decision maker inside the Jacksonville Jaguars’ organization. Do you know who is? Trent Baalke. And I watched Trent Baalke make a lot of stupid draft choices that destroyed the Harbaugh 49ers. So, I can’t put it past him to take a guy that will crush James Robinson when the Jags don’t need it.
Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins
In the same vein as the Jags… they don’t need to add a running back that would crush Gaskin, but it feels like they just might do it. They flirted with Aaron Jones, and they have a ton of draft capital. The Dolphins also seem to be obsessed with making splashy moves. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the big three go to the Dolphins in the first round. If that happens, good luck, Myles. Gaskin has a ton to lose and his fantasy football acolytes will have puckered cheeks throughout the first two days of the draft.
These guys might have the most to lose, but you don’t! Not if you click these links!