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4 Running Backs Expected to Receive More Carries (2021 Fantasy Football)

Jun 16, 2021
Cam Akers

Running backs emerge from the fantasy pack each year, typically because their usage increases. Therefore, identifying the next set of RBs to pop is crucial to succeeding in every format. Below are four backs projected to shoulder more carries for their NFL club in 2021. Could these rushers be the keys to your championship drive?

FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings and Average Draft Positions are as of June 13, 2021. 

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Cam Akers (RB-LAR) ECR 12 | ADP 16

TEAM 2020 CARRIES 2021 PROJ. CARRIES EXPECTED GAIN
LAR 145 273.4 128.4

From Week 13 on, in 2020, Cam Akers was the fifth most utilized ball carrier in the NFL, trailing only Derrick Henry (RB-TEN), David Montgomery (RB-CHI), Jonathan Taylor (RB-IND), and Dalvin Cook (RB-MIN). He logged 86 rushes. The Rams’ offensive line didn’t do the rookie any favors, though, keeping Akers’ production at bay despite the workhorse role. He averaged just 4.0 yards per carry in those final five weeks. Yet, Head Coach Sean McVay stuck with his young RB in both of the team’s 2020 road playoff games (@SEA, @GB). Akers rewarded that trust by carrying the ball 46 times, totaling 221 rushing yards for a 4.8 YPC average, and finding the end zone twice. To address their issues in the trenches, the Rams brought in former Stanford coach, Kevin Carberry who worked with McVay at the University of Washington in 2016. Carberry more recently coordinated the Cardinal o-line, as well as their running backs. They averaged more than 30 rushes per game during his tenure. Additionally, some offseason tweaks to the interior line should help open lanes for Akers in 2021. Projected to add nearly 130 touches in this upgraded offense, Cam Akers is poised to continue the breakout production we saw last postseason.

Mike Davis (RB-ATL) ECR 76 | ADP 70

TEAM 2020 CARRIES 2021 PROJ. CARRIES EXPECTED GAIN
ATL 165 214.2 49.2

Who is Arthur Smith, and why is he so important to Mike Davis’ 2021 projected carry load? Smith arrives in Atlanta as their new Head Coach via Tennessee Titans Offensive Coordinator. While in Nashville, he enjoyed calling for a handoff more than any other OC the past two NFL seasons. Smith’s Titans rushed 966 times between 2019 and 2020, compared to the Falcons 771 total carries during that span. At the same time, fantasy players won’t confuse Mike Davis for Derrick Henry. However, their running styles aren’t all that dissimilar. Davis is a downhill runner who finishes every run, falling forward more times than not. Filling in for Christian McCaffrey (RB-CAR) last year, Davis averaged 2.4 yards after contact per rush (Henry averaged 2.8). The Falcons made Davis a priority in free agency, inking a two-year, $5.5 million deal with the journeyman RB. The team also cleared out the running back room, moving on from Todd Gurley (RB-FA) and Brian Hill (RB-TEN). Those departures vacated 295 carries from the Atlanta 2020 ground game. Davis will be the prime beneficiary of the new ground-heavy scheme and lack of experienced options at Arthur Smith’s disposal. “Volume is king in fantasy” will be the Mike Davis drafter’s mantra in 2021.

Myles Gaskin (RB-MIA) ECR 59 | ADP 61

TEAM 2020 CARRIES 2021 PROJ. CARRIES EXPECTED GAIN
MIA 142 205 63

Early drafters are Myles miles apart on either side of Myles Gaskin’s 2021 coin. His draft range is between 31st and 146th overall! Gaskin is a former 7th-rounder who toted the rock for Miami 84 times over a five-game stretch early in 2020 before sustaining an MCL sprain on November 1. He came back for one game, had 21 attempts on the ground, and then tested positive for Covid-19 costing him much of the remainder of the season. The Dolphins must have seen enough because they did not use any significant draft capital in May on a running back. Despite his own small draft investment figure, Gaskin averaged more than 18 carries per game for the University of Washington, proving he could shoulder the load of an offense. There will be some competition from Salvon Ahmed (RB-MIA) and Malcolm Brown (RB-MIA), especially in goal-to-go situations, but Myles Gaskin will surpass 200 carries, health willing.

Antonio Gibson (RB-WAS) ECR 23 | ADP 17

TEAM 2020 CARRIES 2021 PROJ. CARRIES EXPECTED GAIN
WAS 170 231.6 61.6

Antonio Gibson rewarded 2020 fantasy managers who selected him late in drafts. The rookie RB rushed into the endzone eleven times and compiled nearly 800 yards on the ground. Washington Offensive Coordinator, Randy Jordan, has already talked of plans to increase Gibson’s role in the playbook. However, a lingering turf toe seems to be the wet blanket on the WFT RB1’s fantasy upside. FantasyPros, Jeff Lefko believes that sentiment to be an overreaction, though:

His backfield mates provided little competition for carries near the goal in 2020, and the Football Team would be wise to stick with that recipe in 2021. Gibson turned 17 carries inside the ten-yard line into seven touchdowns. This ability to be productive regardless of field position will only boost his usage. Antonio Gibson is toeing the line of a workhorse back. He could make that valuable leap this year.

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Aaron Pags is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Aaron, check out his archive and follow him @FantasyTriage.

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