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A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look through the Top 150 and identify players that should outperform their draft position.
Here are the players who received the most votes:
And here are all of the payers mentioned and the reasons why.
Players Receiving 5 Votes
Andrew Davenport: Carson just isn't exciting to people for some reason. He missed some time last year, but when he played, he was as solid as ever. In the full games he played, he averaged 16.6 PPR points per game, which would've made him the RB11. The different Shane Waldron offense, and lack of any new competition to push Carson, are both factors in his favor, and yet again, he finds himself pushed down the board in drafts. Carson only has to stay upright to deliver on his current ADP.
Victoria Geary: With each fantasy season that passes, Chris Carson is severely underrated and underpriced. He is one of the most consistent running backs in the league, averaging 15.2 PPR points per game and nine total touchdowns over the last three seasons. A pass-catching running back on an efficient offense with a coaching staff that loves to run the ball should not be going this late in drafts. Carson is a set-and-forget, high-end RB2 with RB1 upside every single week.
Jordan McNamara: Chris Carson ranked 10th in expected yards-per-carry and 20th in rushing yards over expectation out of 55 qualifiers in 2020. Add in Carson's 1.39 yards per route run, which ranked 10th among the qualifiers, and you have an efficient two-way option at the running back position. At his cost, Carson is more of a dual-threat than Joe Mixon and J.K. Dobbins and is a discount.
Ryan Weisse: Chris Carson is why fantasy managers can feel comfortable taking Travis Kelce in Round 1. Carson was the 19th best fantasy running back last year, and that was missing four games. He was the 14th best in fantasy points per game. He finished with over 200 carries in 2018 and 2019, and he was getting more involved in the passing game last year. He'll see first-round volume for a third-round pick.
Jason Wood: Chris Carson had a strange 2020. His rushing productivity fell from prior norms, but his receiving numbers improved commensurately. In 10 healthy games last year, he was on pace for 1,400+ yards and 12 touchdowns. While the missed time is a concern, Seattle's decision to re-sign him to a significant multi-year contract belies those fears. The organization values him as a centerpiece of their balance offense, as evidenced by the new contract and lack of competition in the offseason. Fantasy production comes from a combination of ability and opportunity, and Carson is overflowing with both.
Sigmund Bloom: Only a seemingly inevitable Raheem Mostert injury stands in the way of Sermon becoming the lead back in a great running game that could get even better when Trey Lance takes over. The 49ers moved up for Sermon even though they mortgaged their future to get Lance, which shows how strong their conviction is about his fit in their offense. The 49ers defense should also be improved this year, which will lead to greater opportunity for the running game.
Ben Cummins: Outside of a few small sample sizes of games, Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers have proven they view Raheem Mostert as a committee running back. Enter Trey Sermon, who was drafted in the third round this year. Sermon projects to be a part of a committee all season, yet we know Shanahan running backs can get home even with limited touches thanks to genius schematic play calling. My money is on Trey Lance winning the quarterback job early this season. Once his dynamic rushing skillset is incorporated within the offense, the 49ers’ run game will dominate. Sermon is my bet to lead the committee in production and has a chance to be a league winner thanks to the 49ers’ extremely favorable schedule during the fantasy playoffs (vs. ATL, at TEN, vs. HOU).
Pat Fitzmaurice: The Shanahan zone running scheme has worked year after year after year. Mike and Kyle Shanahan's scheme has turned jobbers such as Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns, and Alfred Morris into precious fantasy assets, if only for a year or two. And when true studs (Terrell Davis, Clinton Portis) were plugged into the scheme? Pure magic. Yes, the 49ers' backfield is messy. But Sermon's talents made him Matt Waldman's No. 1 running back in this rookie class, and the 49ers traded up to get him. If you draft Sermon at his current ADP and the 49ers use a multi-pronged approach at running back, fine. You've paid a committee-back price for a committee back. But if Sermon seizes control of the backfield and turns out to be another Terrell Davis, you've just rolled Yahtzee with a seventh-round pick.
Chad Parsons: Sermon is cheaper than Raheem Mostert, and Mostert has yet to take full advantage of a starting job in the NFL. The 49ers run a system with enough backfield production for two running backs to be flex-or-better viable. Sermon running with the job, being the 1A, or Mostert missing time makes Sermon a league-winning type profile.
Matt Waldman: If you're seeking a mid-round candidate to deliver a league-winning stretch run from this position, Sermon is one of the best. His draft capital was low, so much of the fantasy analyst community remains cautious about him despite playing behind one of the three best run units in football. Sermon was the 2021 Rookie Scouting Portfolio's top back this year. He's a versatile back with dynamic movement and quickness while also understanding how to be efficient. Sermon has been a quick study of the 49ers' offense, and he has impressed Kyle Shanahan with his passing-down skills. Raheem Mostert is an excellent gap runner with great speed. Still, he's in the final year of his deal and is one injury away from Sermon taking this job and being the every-down option the rest of the past injury-prone backs (Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Mostert, etc.) couldn't hang onto.
Andrew Davenport: Despite the consistent comments from the Detroit coaching staff, Williams is still being drafted like a handcuff instead of a stand-alone producer. The Lions believe they have a back who can do what they need him to protect the passer, catch the ball, or even perform in short yardage. Second-year back, DAndre Swift is already banged up, and even so, he is a different back than Williams. But both guys will play plenty, and Detroit now sports one of the better offensive lines in the league. Williams should be able to take advantage of this with his power and running style, and if the Lions offense can move the ball at all, he will return solid value where he's being drafted.
Jeff Haseley: We already know that Jamaal Williams will have a role with the Lions; the question is how much and which role? Also, how much of a concern is DAndre Swift's groin injury? If Williams and Swift have a 1a and 1b role like Dan Campbell has indicated, Williams will have fantasy value, but it could be more involvement than expectations suggest. It all points to fantasy production, which has an outside chance of being significant.
Jordan McNamara: The new regime in Detroit brought in Jamaal Williams and called him a "1A" back. Meanwhile, D'Andre Swift is dealing with a groin injury. Swift should be ready to play in week 1, but Williams offers upside if Swift misses time with injury or is in a timeshare with Swift. Williams can offer multiple outs to value at the position, which is rare in the range he is being selected.
Matt Waldman: Anthony Lynn referred to Williams as his "A-Back" in this offense. All one has to do is look at the outputs of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to see that Gordon earned the edge in rushing attempts, yardage, and rushing scores while Ekeler dominated as a receiver. Williams lacked Gordon's juice that we saw in college, but Gordon has never emerged as a big-play runner in the NFL and seems to lack that advertised game-breaking speed. Williams was classified as sluggish but has incrementally gotten quicker, and he's a powerful runner with smart decision-making and does excellent work in the passing game. I'm not convinced about Swift's passing-down prowess. Williams is a better blocker and a good route runner. Swift’s route-running had lapses with his breaks the past five years. Williams should earn a strong split of the work and enough receiving opportunities to deliver as a fantasy starter.
Jason Wood: How many times can we hear the same thing before believing it? Lions' new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn has said -- repeatedly -- he views Jamaal Williams as a classic "A" back who can play all three downs effectively and said DAndre Swift is more of a "B" back suited to play in open space and obvious passing downs. While I'm not going to argue Swift is more talented than Williams, when the play-caller keeps telling you he views Williams as the more versatile player, you need to listen. The calculus here is simple, fade Swift at his ADP and prioritize Williams. If they're both healthy, Williams should be an effective low-end RB2 or high-end flex, and if Swift gets hurt, Williams can be an every-week starter.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Phil Alexander: Dobbins has a chance to be one of the best rushers in the league. As a rookie, he finished first in breakaway run rate, third in yards created per touch, and fourth in expected points added. With Lamar Jackson freezing enemy linebackers at the line of scrimmage, Dobbins’ rushing upside isn’t in question. His receiving opportunity playing in the same backfield as Jackson is more of an unknown. But Dobbins proved he could catch in college, and the coaching staff is saying the right things about getting him more involved as a receiver in 2021. If he could manage 30-40 catches, we'll be picking Dobbins in the top half of Round 1 next year.
Andrew Davenport: Last season, the rookie's snap count spiked after Baltimore's Week 7 bye. From Week 8, Dobbins was the PPR RB11 in total points and the RB20 in points per game. The fact that he's being drafted in mid-RB2 territory is the definition of value. Dobbins may have some bouts of inconsistency due to a lack of passing game involvement, but he's a virtual lock for 1,200 total yards and double-digit touchdowns. Getting his safe floor with the potential for more receiving work or a high touchdown total is exactly the kind of value, with upside, to chase in drafts.
Andy Hicks: Sometimes, it is staggering that second-year improvement isn’t factored into highly drafted rookie running backs and wide receivers. Especially off the covid year. In the case of J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore realized he was the future after Mark Ingram II II wasn’t used in the second half of the year. Dobbins excelled with 6.0 yards per rushing attempt and seven touchdowns down the stretch. His biggest detraction is that he may not see much action in the passing game. Dobbins will not be Christian McCaffery, but he will improve and is the most obvious choice. With the additions to the receiving group and the presence of Lamar Jackson, Dobbins should dominate. A third-round draft price is a steal.
Anthony Amico: Drake was signed to good money -- two years and $11 million -- indicating that he will be involved in this offense. It sounds as though that will primarily be as a pass-catcher, giving Drake a nice weekly floor at his current price. If anything happens to Josh Jacobs, he's also looking at an elite rushing load, including a bunch of looks at the goal-line.
James Brimacombe: Drake was somewhat thought of as a disappointment in the 2020 season yet still scored 10 rushing touchdowns. He now signs with the Raiders for big money in what looks like a backup role behind Josh Jacobs and his ADP tumbles. The Raiders are always a team that comes at a discount in fantasy football, and Drake's current discount is just too steep to ignore.
Andy Hicks: Kenyan Drake was finally used as a workhorse back in Arizona last year. The results were not great. For some reason, he was also used sparingly as a receiver, one of his strengths. The Raiders already have their workhorse back in Josh Jacobs. Drake will complement him well. Think the Cleveland running game and the roles Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have. He was given good money, so the team has a plan for his use, and Drake has fewer than 1000 career touches. He may not reach the status of an RB1, but the next tier is well within reach.
Jeff Haseley: Josh Jacobs is coming off a 12-touchdown season with back-to-back years of at least 240 carries to start his NFL career. He is a full-load workhorse type of back. I don't see that going away simply because Kenyan Drake is now on board. Jacobs may be the single biggest value play in this year's fantasy draft landscape.
Matt Waldman: Jacobs played through a difficult ankle injury and behind a banged-up offensive line. Add this factor to the arrival of Kenyan Drake, and Jacobs seems like the radioactive back that no one wants to pick in the early rounds. The concerns about Drake eating into Jacobs' value are valid if you are worried about an even split, but Drake will be used more as a utility player. Think of him as an option that earns no more than 130 carries while Jacobs still earns at least 250. Although Drake could push for more targets than Jacobs in the passing game, look for him to usurp more of the opportunities from Jalen Richard and what Devontae Booker earned last year. Jacobs no longer has a high fantasy RB1 ceiling with Drake in the picture, but he still has a strong RB2 or low-end RB1 floor, especially with guard Richie Incognito back.
Jordan McNamara: I could simply copy and paste what Matt and Jeff said about Jacobs as a value as I think they nailed it. I'll just add this: first-round running backs with two hits to start their career are very, very high floor players. Jacobs only caught 33 balls on 45 targets in 2020, so the addition of Kenyan Drake as a passing weapon does not take a big chunk out of Jacobs's scoring profile.
Ben Cummins: Aaron Rodgers is back, yet drafters haven't adjusted enough to this news. Aaron Jones is a talented dual-threat RB playing in one of the best offenses in football. Jamaal Williams has moved on to Detroit, leaving 154 opportunities from 2020 up for grabs. While 2020 second-round pick, A.J. Dillon, projects to take on a much bigger role this season, he’s not much of a pass-catcher. Jones projects once again to offer significant upside in the touchdown department and the receiving game. That’s exactly the portfolio we should be looking for in early-round running backs.
Jeff Haseley: The fade on Aaron Jones was apparent before we knew if Aaron Rodgers would be a part of the Packers 2021 plans. Now that we know that's the case, Jones isn't getting as much love as he should. He is coming off two consecutive years of double-digit touchdowns and is the top running back threat as a rusher and receiver on the team. A.J. Dillon may be a good back in his own right, he may not, but as long as Jones is healthy, it will be him who commands the majority of the team's rushing output and receiving output from the running back position.
Ryan Weisse: It's strange calling a player at the backend of the first round a "value," but Jones is going off the board as the RB9 and has proven top-5 upside. In 2019, Jones was the No. 2 fantasy running back. He was No. 5 in 2020. Now, with Jamaal Williams gone, his workload will likely increase, but he can be had four picks behind his last fantasy finish. Value.
Anthony Amico: The biggest thorn in Mixon's side for years has been Giovani Bernard, and his departure to Tampa Bay has opened up snaps and targets that he has never seen before. Mixon averaged a little over four targets per game, with Bernard averaging another 3.3 of his own in games played by Mixon. Cincy plays at a high tempo and throws the ball a ton under Zac Taylor, making Mixon a top-five running back who folks are missing out on because he's burned them in the past.
Sigmund Bloom: Mixon quite simply is the least expensive back on the board with top-five upside. Even though that's not saying much, he'll be playing in the best offense of his career with probably the best offensive line. Mixon's workload will spike to as much as he can handle with Giovani Bernard in Tampa Bay. He hasn't put it all together in one season yet, but that's why you can get him in the second round.
Ryan Hester: Mixon has proven that he can be a three-down back, and the team has shown that they believe it too. Mixon's workload relegated Giovani Bernard to full-time backup status in past seasons. Now, with Bernard gone, Mixon becomes a player that will rarely leave the field. His primary backup is Semaje Perine, who has a combined 76 carries in the past 3 seasons. Behind Perine is Trayveon Williams, who has 26 carries across 15 career games in two seasons. Cincinnati drafted a back, but they waited until the sixth round to do it. And they took a player, Chris Evans, who is a project. Cincinnati also projects to be a better offense this season with a full year of Joe Burrow, a better line, and the addition of JaMarr Chase.
Jordan McNamara: David Montgomery took a huge step forward in 2020, particularly after the Tarik Cohen injury. Cohen has yet to participate in training camp, and his early season appears to be in doubt. Montgomery was an 80% snap share running back after the Cohen injury last season and hit an RB4 finish. Damien Williams could be a factor in the offense, but Montgomery has a safe floor with an RB1 finish well within his range of outcomes.
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Matt Waldman: Montgomery was a strong finisher in 2020 behind an offensive line that needed additional help. The Bears addressed the line with two early picks, and Justin Fields' ability to run will create dilemmas for box defenders that didn’t occur in the past. Opponents cannot cheat against the running back position on run downs because Fields and Montgomery are good enough to make them pay. He's a creative runner with excellent contact balance and dynamic movement. If he can become a little more efficient with his feet, he could become an elite back. He's a notch below the top runners, but that's higher than many rated him. Those folks value speed more than quickness, and they wrote off Montgomery's acceleration as a rookie without understanding that rookies often appear slower during their first year acclimation period than they actually will be as their careers unfold.
Jason Wood: David Montgomery may be the most misunderstood asset in fantasy football right now. Fantasy managers are fickle and appear to be holding a grudge over a disappointing start to 2020. Montgomery was so ineffective to open the season that the coaches made him inactive for a game to send a message. He got the message loud and clear. After returning from the inactive, Montgomery was the second-best running back in the NFL behind Derrick Henry. He was on a 309-carry, 1,595-yard, 18-touchdown rushing pace in the final months, averaging an astounding 5.2 yards per rush. As if that weren't enough, he was on a 64-catch, 603-yard, 3-touchdown receiving pace. How many backs have legitimate 2,000-yard potential, and when are they ever drafted this late? Grab him now before other analysts wake up to their mispricing.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Sigmund Bloom: Bernard will give Tom Brady a dedicated passing down back after LeSean McCoy didn't do much for the Bucs in the role last year. Bernard has a lot more left in the tank than McCoy did, so he should play in two-minute drill situations and on third down, which gives him a bye/injury/emergency back floor in PPR leagues. He has more upside than he is given credit for because neither Ronald Jones II nor Leonard Fournette has been reliable or durable even with a limited workload while on the Bucs roster.
Ryan Weisse: Last year, the Buccaneers targeted the running back position 119 times. This usage is in line with what we expect from Tom Brady. He loves to throw to his running backs. Last year, those targets were split between the equally inefficient and ineffective dup of Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette. This year, Tampa Bay went out and got themselves a genuine third-down specialist. Bernard averages more receptions, yards, and touchdowns per season than either Jones or Fournette put up last year. Brady is going to love having Bernard on the field with him and repay him in kind. It's insane upside for a guy you can land in the 12th round.
Andrew Davenport: The fact that Jamaal Williams left doesn't mean that Aaron Jones will suddenly push for 350 touches. Dillon only got to play meaningful snaps in one game, but in that opportunity, he flashed the potential that makes this such a good pick. Head Coach Matt LaFleur still believes in giving a second running back plenty of touches, and the coaching staff has cemented his status as that second back by saying he won't play much in the preseason. Dillon will be on the wrong side of a timeshare but should far outperform his ADP and represents one of the best "1B" running back platoon targets in fantasy football.
Andy Hicks: A.J. Dillon was only unleashed for one game last year. The result was 124 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Jamaal Williams leaves for Detroit. That is a lot of touches up for grabs. Aaron Jones was already heavily utilized, so Dillon is the logical choice. With Aaron Rodgers back, the running game won’t face stacked boxes. Williams was consistently a fantasy flex option. Dillon is a much better back and should push RB2 status, even with Aaron Jones playing.
Victoria Geary: Draft capital and landing spot catapulted Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire to a top-10 ADP last year. His injury woes, coupled with a PPR RB22 finish left many fantasy managers feeling burned, which is why his current ADP is such a value. Edwards-Helaire was horribly inefficient around the goal line, scoring only one touchdown on 9 total carries inside the 5-yard line. With more opportunities, he can and will improve on his 2020 stats of 217 touches, 5 total touchdowns, and 1,100 yards from scrimmage. Grabbing a Chiefs running back at a Round 2 price is a no-brainer.
Ryan Hester: Edwards-Helaire started much better than he finished in 2020, but there are reasons for optimism entering this year. First, he had limited time to learn the system and condition in a COVID-altered preseason. Second, he was thrust into a lead role late in the preseason when Damien Williams opted out. This season, Kansas City knows what it has at the position, and they can plan a more expanded scope for the player in whom they invested a first-round pick in 2020. If there's one thing long-time fantasy footballers know, it's that Andy Reid's RB1 is a valuable commodity.
Phil Alexander: Our current site projections have Etienne finishing with 53 receptions, which might end up low by 30%. The Jaguars will be awful defensively, will need to throw to stay competitive, and Etienne was drafted in the first round to reprise his role from Clemson as a yards-after-catch monster for Trevor Lawrence. The only thing to be wary about is continued training camp hype inflating his ADP.
Ryan Weisse: You have to be careful with hyperbole and coach speak, but the reports about Etienne's dominance seem very similar to those we heard before Alvin Kamara took the league by storm. Etienne is a touchdown threat every time he touches the ball and should be very active in the passing game. Jeff Bell wrote a great article about Etienne's value in Urban Meyer's scheme. If I can't convince you, that article will.
Phil Alexander: Why are fantasy gamers so quick to write off Fournette's Super Bowl run with Tampa Bay, which included four playoff starts and averages of 20.5 touches, 4.5 receptions, 112 yards from scrimmage, and one touchdown per game? You know who won't be so quick to write off the boost Fournette gave the Buccaneers on their way to a championship? Tom Brady. That guy likes to win and has the final say on which teammates receive the most playing time. Besides, Fournette is still only 26 years old, remains one of the better size/speed running backs in the NFL, and will be on the field to catch passes more than Giovani Bernard, whose playing time will be limited to obvious passing downs.
Ryan Hester: It's piggyback of what Phil said above and in his excellent Spotlight article on Fournette published earlier this preseason. But Fournette's draft position makes no sense. He's on an offense that will score a ton of points, he's the back most suited to finish off their many scoring drives, and he can play on all three downs. He might not be a top-10 running back, but he's a player who can finish with top-16 weeks at the position while fantasy managers slot him in as their flex.
Pat Fitzmaurice: It's easy to forget that Gibson is just as big and fast as Jonathan Taylor. Gibson had 33 rushing attempts during his college career at Memphis, so it was widely assumed he'd carve out a niche as a passing-down back in the NFL before eventually getting more work as a runner. Instead, he became Washington's primary runner and ceded the passing-down role to J.D. McKissic. No matter: Gibson was electric as a rookie, and there's more where that came from. The Washington offense should be much-improved thanks to a quarterback upgrade, and if Gibson gets even a small bump in passing-game usage, he could finish in the top five at the position.
Victoria Geary: Antonio Gibson finished as the 2020 PPR RB13 on only 170 total carries, a whopping 75 fewer than the average total number of carries for the top-10 running backs (245). Though he only played an average of 43% of total snaps, the Washington coaching staff began to trust Gibson after their bye week. After his week 8 bye, Gibson finished as a top-10 running back three weeks in a row before injuring his toe in Week 13. The week before his injury, Gibson played on his highest snap percentage of the season at 65%, tallying 20 rushing attempts for 115 yards and 5.75 yards-per-carry. The nagging turf toe injury he experienced at the end of last season has come and gone, as the coaching staff and Gibson himself have confirmed it is no longer an issue. This year, Gibson’s efficiency may regress to the league average, but his bump in overall receiving and rushing usage will counter any potential efficiency loss.
Chad Parsons: Jason Wood has made some quality points regarding Murray. The Saints are in flux with Drew Brees retired and Michael Thomas to miss a chunk of the season to start. Will the Saints run the ball more with their wide receiver questions? Probably. Also, Murray has been a quality flex option even with Alvin Kamara healthy. If Kamara misses a game, Murray is an auto-start with elite upside, something we have seen in recent years. This year, Murray is one of the most valuable secondary running backs on an NFL depth chart fantasy.
Jason Wood: Latavius Murray hasn't ranked lower than 34th among fantasy backs since his rookie year in 2014. While the 30-year-old has never been a top-12 player, he's ranked as high as 13th when given a prominent role. In New Orleans, he's the clear B-back to Alvin Kamara's A-role, but he finished 30th and 33rd the past two seasons even as a part-timer. But we've also seen him produce as an elite top-10 back in the weeks Alvin Kamara has been hampered. Murray should be one of the first backup running backs off the board, yet his ADP suggests otherwise.
Sigmund Bloom: White's production dropped off last year because he shared the passing down role with Rex Burkhead. Burkhead is now with the Texans, so White should be the exclusive passing down back. Whether it's Cam Newton, who helped Christian McCaffrey have his first 100 catch season, or Mac Jones, who will rely on his checkdowns often if he's a rookie starter, White should have a stable role in the offense and give us a solid bye/injury/emergency running back with touchdown upside.
Ben Cummins: Rex Burkhead is now on the Texans, Damien Harris and Sony Michel don’t catch many passes, and Rhamondre Stevenson is a rookie. James White’s pass-catching role appears extremely secure for another season. Count me as one believing Mac Jones will take over for Cam Newton at some point this season, and if so, White will offer more upside than most drafters believe, seeing as how White barely gets drafted these days. Jones is a pinpoint accurate passer and could vibe well with White, given the state of the rest of the Patriots’ weapons.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
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Chad Parsons: We keep waiting for the Falcons to make a big splash addition to the depth chart. Could it be coming? Yes. However, the names that would affect Davis' outlook much at all are sparse. Davis has a two-way skillset and a wide-open opportunity on an Atlanta offense needing to be a high-scoring unit to keep up with their porous defense. Davis is on the low-end of the fantasy starter cost spectrum and yet is an easy equation to pummel his draft position.
James Brimacombe: Edwards is a solid part of the Ravens run game and, through three years in Baltimore, has 137, 133, and 144 rushing attempts, and it doesn't faze him what running backs are on the roster; he always continues to have a role. Edwards finished the 2020 season as RB28 despite sharing carries with JK Dobbins, and I think a similar role or maybe even an increased role is likely in 2021.
Ben Cummins: The Chargers had one of the best offseasons in the entire league. Head Coach Brandon Staley is an extreme coaching upgrade over Anthony Lynn. Their offensive line received significant upgrades, including first-round draft pick Rashawn Slater and free-agent additions Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler. These developments upgrade Austin Ekeler’s projection this season significantly. Ekeler averaged the 12th most opportunities per contest (18.56) in the league last year and has averaged 5.6 catches per game over his past two seasons. I’m putting my money on this more creative and forward-thinking coaching staff using Ekeler more near the goal line than the previous regime. If so, Ekeler offers legit RB1 overall upside.
Chad Parsons: Like Mike Davis, the competition is minimal for Henderson. Cam Akers' season-ending injury vaulted Henderson up from injury-away status to the expected clear RB1 on the depth chart. The Rams should be a potent offense with Sean McVay at the controls and Matthew Stafford added. Despite an RB2+ depth chart of low-pedigree and unproven entities, Henderson's projection still sags behind the equation of a Day 2-pedigreed option, entering Year 3 as the clear starter on a strong offense. Henderson has top-12 upside by simply keeping the job.
James Brimacombe: The Houston backfield might just be the hardest to predict in all of football with David Johnson, Mark Ingram, Rex Burkhead, and Phillip Lindsay all occupying the depth chart. Houston is set up to have one of the worst teams in the NFL this season, and if that is the case, I don't see a path for Johnson and Ingram to get heavy workloads. Lindsay has shown over his career that he has an underdog mentality and is the type of player that won't back down from any situation, no matter how bad it can get. Lindsay finished as RB13 and RB19 before his injury-riddled final season in Denver. He is worthy of a late-round pick to prove all the doubters wrong once again.
James Brimacombe: Moss had an average rookie season in Buffalo with 576 total yards and 5 total touchdowns in 13 games. The fear in Buffalo with running backs is always going to be how many touchdowns in the red zone does Josh Allen snipe. With Allen coming into the elite quarterback conversation, I think the Bills start to keep him in the pocket more, which opens up Moss for some higher touchdown opportunities.
Jeff Haseley: What if James Robinson is the primary rushing threat while Travis Etienne occupies more of a joker role in the offense, similar to what we saw from Curtis Samuel in his days at Ohio State and Urban Meyer? If that's the case, we are all too low on expectations for Robinson. Let's not forget that Robinson had a tremendous year amidst the doldrums of the Jaguars' offensive struggles. That alone should tell you how impactful a player he can be.
Phil Alexander: Apparently, fifth-round draft pick Kenneth Gainwell and a pair of washed-up retreads (sorry, Kerryon Johnson and Jordan Howard) have soured fantasy gamers on Miles Sanders? Sanders remains one of the best young all-purpose running backs in the league. This year, he should benefit from a healthy offensive line, a full year of Jalen Hurts freezing enemy linebackers at the line of scrimmage, and an emphasis on screen passes under new head coach Nick Sirianni. He just needs to avoid drops and nagging injuries for a third-year breakout.
Andy Hicks: It is easy to look at the depth chart in Denver and assume that Melvin Gordon will be the starter all season. Depending on the progress rookie Javonte Williams makes in training camp and preseason. Williams may be the starter sooner rather than later. Gordon plays much older than he is. It would have been released after one season in Denver if it wasn't for his salary cap hit. The draft price of Williams makes it an easy decision to take the rookie rather than the underwhelming experienced back. His draft price will shoot up with positive preseason play and more with the possibility of Gordon being released or traded.