College Position Battles: Running Backs – Part 1 (2021 Devy Fantasy Football)
The fantasy offseason means we are preparing our rosters for the 2021 season and getting our draft boards ready for our upcoming drafts. This is an exciting time for dynasty and devy players because we get to dig into our film and analytics research to find hidden gems in our drafts to set up our teams based on whichever strategy we have chosen.
Maybe you are the “win-now” player and are ready to make a run at that ‘ship. Maybe you are the “contender” and have a solid mix of veteran players and rookies, or maybe you are the “rebuilder” and are having a fire sale with your roster to set yourself up for the future. This series will dive into college programs’ positional battles for the 2021 college football season to help you make those decisions. Hopefully, the information here will help you prepare for your devy drafts so you can get a leg up on the competition. You can check out my first edition of this series on quarterbacks here. Next up… running backs!
Alabama Crimson Tide
Brian Robinson (Sr.) vs. Jase McClellan (So.)
I feel like we could probably start every positional article with Alabama. They have a constant stream of talented, highly recruited players at the top of their game. Their 3rd string squad could compete for a bowl. Regardless, soon-to-be first-round NFL draft pick Najee Harris leaves a huge hole to fill in that backfield. In 2020, he accumulated 1,891 scrimmage yards and 30 TDs. Luckily for Bama, they have plenty of solid options.
Senior Brian Robinson should get the first crack at the starting job. Last season he got some meaningful carries and showed out with a 5.3 yard per carry average and had a respectable 509 scrimmage yards with six TDs. He also has a lot of experience with the Tide as he returns for his fifth season on campus. I am sure that he has the trust of Head Coach Nick Saban to get the rock right out of the gate.
Sophomore Jase McClellan is also a competent back. He was the 6th overall running back in the 2020 class and had a little bit of a pop at the end of the 2020 season. He was given 23 carries and turned them into 245 yards and two TDs. He had over 6,400 rushing yards and 122 TDs in high school, and he has already shown those flashes in the SEC. If Robinson struggles, look for McClellan to be the next in line for carries. And this is all without mentioning that Bama also has talented running backs: sophomore Trey Sanders, junior Keilan Robinson, and sophomore Roydell Williams. Like I insinuated, Bama has a spoil of riches.
Eric Gray (Jr.) vs. Kennedy Brooks (R-Jr.)
There has been a lot of turnover in the OU backfield over the last couple of years. Trey Sermon transferred to Ohio State and made a championship run with the Buckeyes, and surprisingly talented junior T.J. Pledger just transferred to Utah. The guy who was supposed to start in 2020 was redshirt junior Kennedy Brooks, but he opted out for COVID-19 last season, so Rhamondre Stevenson, Pledger, and freshman Seth McGowan handled the carries for the Sooners.
The University of Tennessee’s issues are well-documented, so I will not touch that, but junior Eric Gray transferred from there to OU this season. Gray was the 3rd overall running back in the 2019 recruiting class. In just nine games for the Vols last season, Gray put up 772 rushing yards, had 30 receptions and six total TDs. He looks to have the tools of an NFL three-down back and could push to lead the Sooners to come August.
The guy that I think will be atop the depth chart will be Kennedy Brooks. He may not have been as highly recruited as Gray, but his familiarity with the Sooner offense should land him the starting gig. Brooks had over 1,000 yards rushing and 10 receptions each season in both his freshman and sophomore years. With Stevenson opting out of his final year of eligibility, Brooks is now the seasoned leader in that running back room. Even though both Brooks and Gray both look like complete backs, do not be surprised if McGowan and junior Marcus Major get a look as well.
Zamir White (R-Jr.) vs. Kendall Milton (So.)
This one is the positional battle that I believe lacks the most question marks. Zamir White is a stud who returns for presumably his last season with the Dawgs. He was the five-star, No. 1 running back, and the 9th best overall recruit in the 2018 class. Unfortunately, ACL injuries have derailed the start of his career. He suffered one in his senior season of high school and then again less than a year later as a freshman at Georgia, but in 10 games last year, he had 779 rushing yards and 11 TDs. If he can stay healthy, he could be the next great back to come out of Georgia.
Kendall Milton is very similar in size to Zamir, but he plays a lot tougher. Zamir likes to avoid the big hits, and I cannot blame him. Milton is the guy that looks for contact! If he can bust through that first line of defense, then he is gone. He did not see much action his freshman year, but make no mistake, he will be the next big thing. White will get the first carry for the Dawgs, but I anticipate Milton spelling him or even sharing much of the workload with White. Georgia also has junior Kenny McIntosh and Dalvin’s little brother, senior James Cook, but they both project as third-down type backs and won’t see significant playing time barring any injuries to those top two guys. Georgia has produced many NFL stars in recent history, such as Todd Gurley, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, and D’Andre Swift. As fantasy players, we need to always have an eye on that Georgia backfield.
Thanks for reading my article. Check back next week when I analyze the key positional running back battles for Florida, Penn State, and Miami in Part 2!
Find more Devy Fantasy Football coverage:
- Early 2021 Devy Fantasy Football Rankings
- Devy Fantasy Football: Sleepers in the SEC
- Devy Fantasy Football Conference Breakdowns: SEC
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 Trade Analyzer – that allows you to instantly find out if a trade offer benefits you or your opponent – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.