Dynasty Running Backs to Trade Before Free Agency (2021 Fantasy Football)
Football is the ultimate perform-or-be-replaced sport and there isn’t a skill position in the NFL that sees that more often than running back. There are always changes happening at running back throughout the league and this upcoming offseason won’t be any different. With that in mind, people who play in dynasty fantasy football leagues should pay close attention to the impending free agents at running back.
Some of the free agents at the running back position could see their value in dynasty take a nose dive due to their landing spot or the situation they’ll be a part of. Taking that into consideration, there are a few free-agent running backs that everyone should consider trading before they enter the open market.
Leonard Fournette was once a coveted first-round selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars, having been selected by the Jaguars with the number four overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The LSU product was taken ahead of guys like Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, even though Jacksonville had Blake Bortles at quarterback. While Fournette eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards and had nine rushing touchdowns in his rookie season, he’s never particularly been a dynamic running back.
In his first three seasons in the NFL, Fournette has averaged a mere 3.9 yards per attempt, and he hasn’t shown a consistent ability to contribute as a receiving threat. Despite seeing only 47 targets from Tom Brady in 2020 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Fournette logged seven drops, which was by far the most among players who saw 50 targets or fewer.
Standing at six-feet tall and 230+ pounds, you would think Fournette would excel at creating yards after contact. However, after notching three yards after contact per attempt in 2019 (tied for third-most in the NFL), Fournette had only two yards after contact per attempt in 2020, which was tied for 27th in the NFL.
During Tampa Bay’s postseason run, Fournette has become a completely different player, accounting for 313 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns in three games thus far. Using Fournette’s improbable playoff performances as trade bait in dynasty would be well advised. There likely isn’t a team in the NFL that would start Fournette next season and even if he re-signed with the Buccaneers, Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn would decrease his value.
It seems like forever ago when Todd Gurley was one of the most coveted running backs in fantasy football. Sadly, a long-term knee injury has caused Gurley to become a shell of his former self, and his days as an RB1 are undoubtedly behind him. Following his release from the Los Angeles Rams last offseason, Gurley inked a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons.
To begin the season, everyone who spent a pick on Gurley in fantasy football thought they had gotten a steal. Altogether, in his first nine games with the Falcons, Gurley compiled 584 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. Above all, Gurley was the RB6 in fantasy football through the first nine weeks of the season.
But just like his final season with the Rams, Gurley endured injuries as he was RB70 in the final eight weeks of the regular season. Furthermore, both Ito Smith and Brian Hill finished with more fantasy points over the last eight weeks for the Falcons. There is no reason for Atlanta to bring back Gurley in 2021.
If a team decides to sign Gurley this offseason, he would likely be brought in to be a complementary option to a starter. For Gurley managers, maybe using his box scores from early in the 2020 season can help you get anything – and I mean absolutely anything – for the former All-Pro running back before he signs elsewhere.
Sometimes injuries can quickly change the trajectory of a running back’s future and unfortunately, that is exactly what transpired for Marlon Mack. Mack suffered a torn Achilles in Week 1 of the 2020 season, causing him to miss the entire year for the Indianapolis Colts. While some running backs would have an opportunity to come back even stronger with the team he got injured with, it’s improbable for Mack to return to the Colts.
Before Mack sustained his devastating injury, he was RB22 in 2019, and he concluded the 2018 campaign as RB21. Even though he wasn’t the most flashy starter in fantasy football, he served as a solid RB2 behind a stout offensive line in Indianapolis. However, the Colts now have Jonathan Taylor – who went on a complete tear in the latter part of this season – and Nyheim Hines.
Both Taylor and Hines are plenty enough for Indianapolis to feel comfortable letting Mack depart in free agency. With Mack coming off of a serious season-ending injury, coupled with the Colts’ current situation at running back, his outlook in free agency is looking bleak. Just like Gurley, being able to get anyone – or a draft pick – for Mack that can be useful for the future would be a wise move.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.