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RB3s with RB1 Potential (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Matt Barbato | @realmattbarbato | Featured Writer
May 29, 2021
Javonte Williams Fantasy Football

Javonte Williams could end the season as Denver’s lead back.

Finding a diamond in the rough at running back late in your draft is one of the best ways to set your team up for success. But it’s also one of the hardest feats in fantasy football. Why? Because running back is routinely a giant crapshoot, outside of maybe the first 10-15 players off the board.

Chances are, someone who snagged James Robinson late in drafts last year was rewarded. The unheralded rookie was the 61st running back off the board last summer, per our ADP Consensus, going after guys like Chris Thompson and Rashaad Penny. He finished the season as the RB7 in standard leagues.

As we get ready for draft season, it’s time to go digging to find this year’s needle in the haystack. Here are some RB3s with RB1 potential in 2021.

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Mike Davis (RB – ATL)
Davis, ranked 25th in our Expert Consensus Rankings, has a chance to deliver really good value on a Falcons offense that could be really explosive in 2021. Davis is a solid player who proved he can produce as a full-time, three-down back last season when he replaced Christian McCaffrey. From Weeks 3 to 17, he was the RB12 – *cough, cough* a low-end RB1 – in half-PPR formats. He finished the year with 642 rushing yards, 59 receptions, 373 receiving yards, and eight total touchdowns.

Finally, just do me a favor and take a look at Atlanta’s depth chart. Not a whole lot there, right? The situation isn’t everything, but I suspect Davis will be the lead man on a high-scoring offense. I’ll be targeting him as a high upside RB3.

Javonte Williams (RB – DEN)
Honestly, not a lot of the veterans outside of Davis excite me for this list. So Williams, ranked 32nd by ECR, is one of a couple of rookies I’ll mention. Some draft analysts regarded Williams as the most talented tailback in this class. He’s a stout tailback who runs with the skill set to develop into a three-down back at the next level.

Despite sharing the load with Michael Carter, Williams put up 1,140 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns while catching 25 balls for North Carolina.

Obviously, Melvin Gordon is still in Denver, and he’s a solid back when healthy. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Williams emerged as the season progresses and ends the season as Denver’s lead back. Williams is a really exciting prospect and will be worth it as a high-upside flyer.

Trey Sermon (RB – SF)
I really like Sermon as a prospect. He was a late bloomer in his final collegiate season at Ohio State. But boy, did he bloom. Sermon’s last three collegiate games (excluding the national title game against Alabama, in which he got hurt very early):

  • 10 carries, 112 yards, one touchdown
  • 29 carries, 331 yards, two touchdowns
  • 31 carries, 193 yards, one touchdown

I don’t think Sermon’s outburst was a fluke, but more a result of Ohio State finally feeding him as the featured back. He’s got good size, enough speed, and runs with plenty of power to make a living in the NFL. He needs to develop better vision and decision-making at the next level, and that’s where his new NFL home comes into play.

In San Francisco, Sermon will play in Kyle Shanahan’s outside zone scheme, which only requires tailbacks to really make one cut upfield. That could ease Sermon’s transition to the NFL.

We’ve seen random tailbacks like Raheem Mostert emerge in Shanahan’s system. I suspect there’s a good chance Sermon will be that guy in 2021.

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Matt Barbato is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato

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