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Running Backs to Avoid (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Apr 20, 2021

The NFL Draft draws ever closer, but we can still look ahead to the 2021 season and the fantasy landscape. The running back position is full of potential value, but it’s top-loaded as usual. After the usual group of suspects has been selected and you’re making your move for your RB2, who might you turn to? Beyond that, who might you look for as a potential flex option? Those are questions for another day, my friend. For now, here are running backs to avoid for the 2021 season.

FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR)

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Josh Jacobs (RB – LV): Positional ECR 18
Jacobs had a pedestrian 2020 in terms of efficiency, and his fantasy production was buttressed only by his double-digit rushing scores and more involvement in the receiving game. His tumble from the realms of the fantasy elite appear imminent with Kenyan Drake in the fold. Drake provided over 1,000 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns in 2020, so the idea that he’ll take a backseat to Jacobs is laughable. This should be a timeshare, though Drake may have the upper hand thanks to his receiving skills. No matter how the split works out, Jacobs is unlikely to enjoy the same level of success as a receiver or scorer as he did a season ago. I’m not touching him as my RB2 on any fantasy teams.

David Montgomery (RB – CHI): Positional ECR 21
This is about as easy a pick as I can make. Despite his end-of-season finish as a fantasy tour de force, Monty is primed for regression in 2021, and I’m quite bearish on him. Montgomery enjoyed an enormous uptick in targets, receptions, and receiving yards in his second season thanks to an early exit by Tarik Cohen who logged 79 receptions on 104 targets during Monty’s rookie season. Cohen will be back in 2021, and he figures to command his usual target-hog role out of the backfield. To add even more uncertainty to Monty’s situation, the Bears signed former Super Bowl hero Damien Williams. Montgomery’s 2020 season is fool’s gold that was inflated due to the absence of Cohen and a cupcake end-of-season schedule. I’ll be avoiding him in 2021.

Ronald Jones (RB – TB): Positional ECR 24
Will it ever be RoJo season? We’ve been through several autumns and springs, a couple of summers, a pandemic, a new coach, a new quarterback, and a Super Bowl victory, but when will it finally be time for RoJo? Not this year. Jones had a few huge weeks early in the season, and the much-anticipated breakout seemed nigh. Alas, in swooped Leonard Fournette to throw a wrench into Jones’ breakout season much to the chagrin of fantasy managers everywhere. Fournette was mostly a gnat in the regular season, buzzing around fantasy managers’ ears, dropping passes, and staying involved just enough to get you irritated. That gnat transformed into a full-blown tarantula that latched onto the face of Jones supporters with dominant playoff performances and a big Super Bowl. To summarize the insect references – Fournette ain’t going anywhere. He’s back with Tampa Bay on a new deal in 2021, and that’s no coincidence. He’s earned the trust of Tom Brady, and in Tampa Bay, Brady gets what Brady wants. Fournette looks like his guy, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a timeshare that favors Fournette.

Later Rounds

Raheem Mostert (RB – SF): Positional ECR 26
San Francisco’s backfield has been one of the most frustrating in recent years due to constant injuries, unpredictable usage, and a stable of capable backs who cannibalize one another’s touches. That shouldn’t change in 2021, especially after the Jeff Wilson Jr. breakout we witnessed just a season ago. Wilson’s ECR of 45 means he’ll be the cheaper option come draft day, and in this backfield, taking the less expensive option is the wisest move.

David Johnson (RB – HOU): Positional ECR 27
Seriously, how is this dude ranked as a top-30 RB? He’s in 12-team flex territory at this ranking, and that’s far too high for a guy with so many obstacles to success. To start, his quarterback situation is up in the air. I would be shocked if Deshaun Watson returns to Houston, and if he doesn’t, Tyrod Taylor will be the starter. That could mean an increase in stacked boxes for DJ, which he’ll have to face behind a dreadful offensive line. Houston projects as a team that will likely be playing from behind quite often in 2021, which could be a positive for Johnson’s work as a receiver, but otherwise, he’ll be dealing with poor offensive line play, a subpar quarterback, and limited scoring opportunities. He’s a hard pass.

AJ Dillon (RB – GB): Positional ECR 29
Dillon will slot in as Aaron Jones‘ primary backup now that Jamaal Williams is gone, but is he going to return top-30 value? There’s nothing to suggest such a lofty ranking. Over the last three seasons, Williams’ best finish was RB36 as Jones’ primary backup. Dillon could enjoy a productive backup role, but he’s not going to surpass this ranking barring a major injury to Jones. Add in the fact that Jones just signed a lucrative new contract to return to Green Bay, and you’ve got an inflated ranking for the second-year back.

Can you draft the perfect 2020 team? Try our Perfect Draft Game >>

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Zachary Hanshew is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.