Football is just about back! Players have begun reporting for training camp and Covid-19 test is underway. The players and owners figured out protocols and rules for the 2020 season, and so now we have players reporting to camp while others opt out of the season. The biggest opt out for running backs so far has been Damien Williams. His absence gives rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire a clear path to the starting job and moves him up in the rankings.
Below you will find our pre-training camp fantasy football running back rankings. Training camp is meaningful and what we learn over the month will help us rank these players more accurately. However, with no preseason games and limited media coverage due to Covid-19, it is going to be tougher to evaluate camp battles, but it’s never been that easy either.
Nonetheless, there will be information that helps better inform our rankings. Movement over the next month will come courtesy of injuries, camp battles, and even hype. Below, you can check out our running back rankings for the 2020 season. We are using half PPR to balance between standard and full PPR for the time being.
Damien Williams, Jaylen Samuels, and Ryquell Armstead have all been placed on the Covid-19 injured reserve list to open camp. We don’t know if it is because they tested positive or were around someone who was positive, so we can’t be sure just how long they will be on the list. It could be a week or it could be some amount of time longer.
Christian McCaffrey was so far ahead of every other fantasy running back this season that he could lose a big chunk of his fantasy points and still be the No. 1 back. So, even if new head coach Matt Rhule doesn’t use him as much as they did last season, there’s still a strong chance he ends up the top fantasy back again.
Saquon Barkley had a down season in 2019 due to a rookie quarterback and a high ankle sprain, but he was a beast to end the season. Daniel Jones wasn’t awful last year and had some huge games, so there is upside with him at the helm, while Barkley should be the engine of their offense.
Tier 1 could just be McCaffrey, but with his usage is somewhat in question. I think it’s safe to lump him, Barkley, and Ezekiel Elliott into the same top-tier luxury apartment.
Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook both are Tier 1 capable, but Cook is looking for a new contract and Kamara, well, he probably should be in Tier 1. Kamara has the ability to go off for a season and lead your fake team to a championship, but he’s also going to need to get his touchdown numbers back up, which is never a given.
Derrick Henry’s schedule has me bullish on him despite his lack of receptions. The Titans should be favored in around 10 games and have a good run defense strength of schedule. Henry’s floor is lower than the other top backs but he will get plenty of opportunities to run and score.
Last season we saw the Bengals Joe Mixon break out late, as the team finally just let him lead the way, as their quarterbacks weren’t able. This year they should have Joe Burrow, which will help their overall offense, giving Mixon more scoring opportunities. If they’d up his targets, he really could take off this year with a better quarterback.
Tier 3 goes all the way to Aaron Jones and is full of players with great upside. Nick Chubb gets a much better offensive line to run behind this season. Miles Sanders doesn’t have to share touches with Jordan Howard anymore. Josh Jacobs, if he wasn’t hurt last season, would have likely finished in the Top 10 fantasy running backs. Kenyan Drake, if he can repeat his second half, could end up in the top five this season. Austin Ekeler was dominant when Melvin Gordon was out last year and has McCaffrey upside if they use him similarly. And Aaron Jones, despite likely producing fewer touchdowns, has that upside in an offense that wants to run the ball.
Running back rankings for half-PPR 2021 fantasy football
|24||Melvin Gordon III||DEN|
|25||Ronald Jones II||TB|
|45||Todd Gurley II||ATL|
|51||Benny Snell Jr.||PIT|
|52||Jeff Wilson Jr.||SF|
|55||Duke Johnson Jr.||HOU|
|70||Mark Ingram II||FA|
|75||Anthony McFarland Jr.||PIT|
|85||Lynn Bowden Jr.||MIA|