Running Back (RB) Weekly Fantasy Football Rankings 2021

The running back position is arguably the most important in fantasy football as the drop-off from the top few backs to the rest of the position is massive. It’s essential to lock in a running back who’s guaranteed to see a bell-cow role as those players are among the highest scorers and are very hard to come by. The first round this season is dominated by those such players. One contrarian approach is the Zero-RB or Hero-RB build. Zero-RB consists of waiting until the later rounds to take a running back due to the high bust rate at the position - running backs have a higher injury rate than any other position. Hero RB is similar except for players taking one running back in the first round and then waiting until later to take their second. These approaches can be viable, particularly in best-ball leagues, but I still prefer to leave the first few rounds with a couple of RBs I feel excellent about. You can find all of our Fantasy Football Rankings for the 2021 season updated in real-time as news breaks.

POS RANK RANK PLAYER ADP AUCTION 2020 FPTS 2021 FPTS TEAM DEPTH BYE RUSH YDS RUSH TD REC YDS REC TD
1 1 Dalvin Cook 2.1 $59 294 323 Minnesota Vikings Vikings Minnesota Vikings 1 7 1652 16 493 2
2 2 Christian McCaffrey 1.3 $65 73 314 Carolina Panthers Panthers Carolina Panthers 1 13 1367 14 757 3
3 3 Derrick Henry 3 $56 314 310 Tennessee Titans Titans Tennessee Titans 1 13 1960 16 123 1
4 4 Ezekiel Elliott 9.3 $47 172 265 Dallas Cowboys Cowboys Dallas Cowboys 1 7 1402 11 472 2
5 5 Alvin Kamara 4.1 $56 295 261 New Orleans Saints Saints New Orleans Saints 1 6 1137 10 689 3
6 7 Nick Chubb 7.3 $41 192 253 Cleveland Browns Browns Cleveland Browns 1 13 1501 13 191 1
7 8 Saquon Barkley 5.7 $51 9 248 New York Giants Giants New York Giants 1 10 1262 9 554 2
8 11 Joe Mixon 15.4 $33 79 245 Cincinnati Bengals Bengals Cincinnati Bengals 1 10 1281 10 384 3
9 12 Aaron Jones 10.4 $40 212 253 Green Bay Packers Packers Green Bay Packers 1 13 1231 11 456 3
10 14 Jonathan Taylor 6.8 $44 217 239 Indianapolis Colts Colts Indianapolis Colts 1 14 1330 12 219 2
11 19 Clyde Edwards-Helaire 23.6 $30 140 230 Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs Kansas City Chiefs 1 12 1147 8 491 3
12 22 Chris Carson 31.4 $23 151 211 Seattle Seahawks Seahawks Seattle Seahawks 1 9 1118 9 330 2
13 23 Najee Harris 19 $33 237 Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers 1 7 1256 10 397 2
14 27 Antonio Gibson 18.5 $35 166 229 Washington Football Team Washington Washington Football Team 1 9 1137 11 371 2
15 29 Austin Ekeler 13 $39 111 223 Los Angeles Chargers Chargers Los Angeles Chargers 1 7 960 5 726 4
16 32 David Montgomery 31.8 $20 211 212 Chicago Bears Bears Chicago Bears 1 10 1048 10 354 2
17 33 Josh Jacobs 34.2 $19 198 211 Las Vegas Raiders Raiders Las Vegas Raiders 1 8 1113 9 274 3
18 34 Darrell Henderson 41 $0 114 176 Los Angeles Rams Rams Los Angeles Rams 1 11 929 6 354 2
19 39 Miles Sanders 37.8 $25 142 205 Philadelphia Eagles Eagles Philadelphia Eagles 1 14 1102 8 352 2
20 68 J.K. Dobbins 26.9 $23 151 Baltimore Ravens Ravens Baltimore Ravens 0 8 0 0 0 0
21 42 D'Andre Swift 28.4 $26 144 193 Detroit Lions Lions Detroit Lions 1 9 780 6 608 3
22 47 Myles Gaskin 47.8 $14 123 168 Miami Dolphins Dolphins Miami Dolphins 1 14 915 6 281 2
23 48 Mike Davis 62.2 $7 148 194 Atlanta Falcons Falcons Atlanta Falcons 1 6 1056 8 285 2
24 52 Raheem Mostert 70.8 $3 84 179 San Francisco 49ers 49ers San Francisco 49ers 1 6 984 7 266 2
25 53 Chase Edmonds 61.4 $6 115 155 Arizona Cardinals Cardinals Arizona Cardinals 1 12 768 4 367 3
26 56 Kareem Hunt 51.6 $7 181 169 Cleveland Browns Browns Cleveland Browns 0 13 700 7 329 4
27 59 Damien Harris 81.8 $2 86 181 New England Patriots Patriots New England Patriots 1 14 1188 9 81 0
28 63 Melvin Gordon 71 $2 166 163 Denver Broncos Broncos Denver Broncos 1 11 957 7 195 1
29 67 A.J. Dillon 77.3 $2 38 159 Green Bay Packers Packers Green Bay Packers 2 13 853 7 252 1
30 71 David Johnson 85.9 $2 147 118 Houston Texans Texans Houston Texans 1 10 555 5 267 1
31 76 James Conner 102.3 $1 130 160 Arizona Cardinals Cardinals Arizona Cardinals 2 12 889 7 167 2
32 78 Trey Sermon 87.8 $1 154 San Francisco 49ers 49ers San Francisco 49ers 2 6 823 6 237 2
33 83 Javonte Williams 67.3 $4 152 Denver Broncos Broncos Denver Broncos 2 11 970 6 130 1
34 87 Ronald Jones 104.5 $1 158 132 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Buccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 9 791 6 110 1
35 90 Michael Carter 94.8 $1 140 New York Jets Jets New York Jets 1 6 869 5 168 1
36 93 Travis Etienne 47.8 $8 47 Jacksonville Jaguars Jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars 2 7 179 1 171 1
37 94 James Robinson 69.8 $5 201 190 Jacksonville Jaguars Jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars 1 7 948 8 288 3
38 98 Gus Edwards 116.9 $0 119 192 Baltimore Ravens Ravens Baltimore Ravens 2 8 1082 10 181 1
39 102 Jamaal Williams 127.6 $1 96 138 Detroit Lions Lions Detroit Lions 2 9 691 5 272 2
40 103 Latavius Murray 134.1 $0 113 128 New Orleans Saints Saints New Orleans Saints 2 6 702 4 220 2
41 106 Leonard Fournette 84.9 $2 96 111 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Buccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2 9 649 5 97 1
42 107 Zack Moss 92.1 $1 88 138 Buffalo Bills Bills Buffalo Bills 1 7 752 7 147 1
43 108 Kenyan Drake 100.9 $1 167 107 Las Vegas Raiders Raiders Las Vegas Raiders 2 8 627 4 139 1
44 112 Devin Singletary 117.4 $1 106 91 Buffalo Bills Bills Buffalo Bills 2 7 512 3 157 1
45 114 J.D. McKissic 147.3 $1 111 100 Washington Football Team Washington Washington Football Team 2 9 292 3 406 2
46 119 Xavier Jones 241.5 $0 53 Los Angeles Rams Rams Los Angeles Rams 2 11 267 2 87 1
47 120 Tony Pollard 121.6 $0 93 91 Dallas Cowboys Cowboys Dallas Cowboys 2 7 470 3 197 1
48 124 Alexander Mattison 139.1 $0 74 86 Minnesota Vikings Vikings Minnesota Vikings 2 7 557 2 119 1
49 127 Malcom Brown 0 $1 86 87 Miami Dolphins Dolphins Miami Dolphins 2 14 412 4 159 1
50 132 Tevin Coleman 166 $0 9 82 New York Jets Jets New York Jets 2 6 495 3 86 1

RB Weekly Fantasy Rankings

If you wonder what goes into our running back fantasy rankings, a lot of it has to do with volume. While, of course, we will look at production, volume correlates with fantasy points. It is no surprise that some of the higher finishing fantasy producers come year-end also have some of the higher touches per game. Dual-purpose backs have had the edge over recent years, especially as PPR leagues have become more popular. Running backs that also have opportunities in the receiving game have higher fantasy production.

Consistently low-volume backs will have a higher variance in rankings and how they produce. That is because the efficiency matters so much for them, and if it isn’t there, the fantasy production won’t be either. A running back on 150 touches in two seasons has a wider range of outcomes than a running back who sees 250 touches. However, some running backs like Alvin Kamara and Austin Ekeler don't need to push for 270 carries as they are elite per-touch players.

RB Fantasy Draft Strategy

You will find a wide variety of strategies as far as drafting running backs go, especially the zero running back strategy, which we will get to below. A fairly universal strategy is to simply understand your league scoring and see if roster construction will change the way you build your team. With most leagues having FLEX spots, this could give you a need to add an extra back or two.

Draft position can dictate how you go about your strategy. Now, if you are drafting within the first four-five picks, those elite running backs are going to fall to you. This gives your team a great starting point. You build yourself with a solid base, adding names like Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliott, or Saquon Barkley. Even in down years, the floor is still so high. Now, if you are picking after the first few picks, things can change because those elite wide receiver names start to rival the production of those running backs. It is important to understand your scoring format because a top-tier wide receiver might score more than those next few running backs and have a higher upside.

Drafting towards the end of a snake draft is always a popular place to be because you get the turnaround of still outstanding running backs and also can grab a top-tier wide receiver as well. Splitting the positions is a good way to go, where you balance it out a bit. An RB-RB start at the turn is also a potential way to go, where you solidify the position and then turn a focus to the rest of your lineup. There is no league winning and league losing strategy when it comes to selecting wide receivers. Generally, you want someone with a chance at RB1 type scoring and then pass a few rounds to find your RB2. This tends to be the way people go in average home leagues.

Now, if you are in a PPR league, this opens the door for more running backs in the player pool. Names like Austin Ekeler have much more fantasy value. Highlighting a few receiving backs is smart to help shore up a potential FLEX spot late or simply add some depth to your fantasy teams. Having some options on the bench and adding handcuffs late is important. If a starting running back goes down, having their backup that will step into 15-20 touches is going to be a big win for your lineups.

Running Back (RB) fantasy football Rankings Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Zero RB Strategy?

Zero RB is a strategy that has been discussed more in the last few years. It is about skipping out on running backs and drafting wide receivers and tight ends in the first four-five-six rounds. This does give you a contrarian lineup build as you have a chance to have the truly elite set of wide receivers in your first two spots, as well as a top-tier tight end. While everyone else is gobbling up running backs, you are taking the best options at other positions.

So what do you do when you need to start drafting running backs? Because this is always an injury-filled position, you will be hoping for some chaos at the position throughout the season. There usually is too. When you are ready to draft running backs, you will be targeting upside names, and there will still be a few guys to grab that have some decent volume. Look at the ADP of running backs in the fifth and sixth rounds to where you will look as your RB1. Every draft is going to be different. There could be more out there than you expect, but be prepared to start taking some names where you need some help for their production to go up. Find running backs with receiving upside as well.

In the later rounds, you will be still looking to draft running backs, and you actually should end up with quite a bit of running backs on your roster. Look for handcuffs, who will step into volume with an injury. Keep an eye on committees and coaches that like to go with the hot hand. We have seen many guys emerge in the second half of the season that started as the second name on the depth chart. The waiver wire will also be an important place to be, as you can reach for those names that emerge throughout the year. It will always be about taking advantage of opportunities and banking on changes and injuries throughout the year.

Who Are The Best Fantasy Running Backs?

Over the past few seasons, there have been a consistent few options up top. Christian McCaffrey has certainly set the bar high with a 1,000/1,000 season, posting one of the best fantasy seasons of all time. Guys with consistent touches and production have generally been the top finishers. Names like Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley have shown that type of consistency but also efficiently match. Names like Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry are also in the mix as true bell cow backs. Alvin Kamara has not had nearly the same touches as these names but has been one of the most efficient running backs over the last few years.

Who Is The Number One Fantasy Running Back?

Christian McCaffrey is the best fantasy running back in the game right now, and that has been established after just two years in the league. We can look to his receiving numbers, where he has produced big years, but he has also been terrific on the ground. Carolina is also feeding him the rock at a very high rate, which gives him such an edge over other running backs in producing fantasy points. It is hard to see him giving up the thrown over the next few seasons if these touches continue.

Should I Draft A Running Back First In Fantasy Football?

As mentioned above, the draft order is going to have some influence on what you can do. If you are within the first few spots, drafting a running back first is an ideal way to go. There are always a few elite names that outrank most of the player pool. Therefore I would start that way. Now, if you are sitting in the middle of the draft or the back end, you don’t necessarily need to draft a running back first. You can always grab an elite wide receiver and then go a running back on the turnaround, or go with the zero running back strategy mentioned above.

How Many Running Back Should I Have On My Roster?

League size and roster format will play a part in this, but looking at standard leagues, I would always like to have at least four running backs, and room for more is encouraged as well. Because it can be volatile with injuries and committee changes, having options throughout the year is a plus. So I would put the minimum at four and look to have five or six depending on bench spots to have options or handcuffs that could turn into league-winning backs late in the year.

What Should I Look For In Drafting Fantasy Running Backs?

Volume is the biggest thing in early rounds to target. It gives you potential safety because any back who is getting 20+ touches will give you a fairly safe floor. They also are less matchup dependent on someone who is getting just ten touches per game. This is where you should turn first, and generally, the volume will correlate with the top backs anyway. There are not a lot of backs getting ten-twelve touches per game going early in drafts.

If you are in PPR leagues, you want backs that play a part in the passing game as well. You are looking at a strong back if they can get you a few catches a game as a floor. Later in drafts, you can also find value for backs who produce in the passing game much more than they do on the ground.

There are other things like strength of schedule and how an offensive line is. Some backs won’t rely on this too much, but some can be negatively and positively affected. Teams that are always trailing won’t have a good game script to get the ball to their running backs, but that could work more in advantage to receiving backs. Offensive schemes are also something to dive into. A run-heavy Minnesota Vikings team will look to hand the ball off more than a pass-happy team.

Efficiency is still something to look at, but this matters even more with names that are not getting as many touches. If a back can rush for five yards per carry on ten touches per game, then he will have more fantasy value, especially if he can add a few catches into the mix.

How Do Different Scoring Formats Effect Running Backs?

Different scoring formats in PPR, half-PPR, and standard can make a huge difference in the final fantasy finish in rankings for various players. Below are three examples of running backs who didn’t have many rushing yards or touchdowns, but they were heavily involved in the passing game for their respective teams. It’s important to keep in mind the scoring format your league plays in, as it can drastically change the value of different players. The best part of half-PPR or PPR leagues vs. standard is it makes several players more relevant than they otherwise would have been.

J.D. McKissic

PPR - RB17
Half-PPR - RB24
Standard - RB34

Mike Davis

PPR - RB12
Half-PPR - RB15
Standard - RB18

Nyheim Hines

PPR - RB15
Half-PPR - RB20
Standard - RB24