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Kyle Yates’s Top-50 Running Back Rankings (2021 Fantasy Football)

Jul 16, 2021
Latavius Murray

Kyle Yates is back with his top-50 running back rankings to help you prepare for your fantasy football season.

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Joe Mixon (CIN)
Did you know that Joe Mixon has actually played more games than Dalvin Cook since they both came into the league in 2017? Yet somehow Mixon gets labeled as an injury risk every single season and Cook is being drafted as a top-3 pick this year. While Cook’s production when he’s on the field is certainly worthy of a top-3 pick, it goes to show the recency bias that comes into play for fantasy managers when they’re on the clock. When Mixon is on the field, he’s going to receive one of the heaviest workloads in the entire league. He’s one of the most talented RBs in the league and this offense is set to take a major jump in 2021 with Joe Burrow and his surfeit of receiving weapons. If Mixon had been shut down immediately last season and put on IR when his injury occurred, we wouldn’t have this perception in our minds of him as a huge injury risk. However, because of Zac Taylor’s inconsistent commitment to Mixon returning to the lineup last year, fantasy managers have a bad taste in their mouths. Go get some mouthwash, clean out that taste, and draft Mixon at a major discount this year. The production’s going to be too good to pass up. My Very Early Projection: 298-1193-9 rushing & 61-459-2 receiving.

Cam Akers (LAR)
Is Akers a very talented and dynamic RB? Yes. Is he going to see 29 carries in a game like he did at one point last year? Almost certainly not. With the expansion to a 17-game season, I believe we’re going to see more and more NFL coaches look to involve multiple RBs in their game plan to avoid players wearing down. From Sean McVay’s perspective, he’s going to be thinking about how he needs Akers to be fresh for their deep playoff run and loading him up with touches like he did towards the end of last season isn’t going to be sustainable for an entire season. Darrell Henderson is going to be involved in this offense enough to take some pressure off of Akers, which negatively impacts his fantasy value. I love Akers as a mid-range RB2 this year with incredible upside, but it’s tough to logically get to the place that I feel comfortable putting him inside my top-10. If he ends up being drafted around that range, I’m not going to have many shares of Akers in 2021. My Very Early Projection: 271-1057-10 rushing & 29-297-2 receiving.

D’Andre Swift (DET)
Based on pure talent, Swift already belongs in the top-12 RB conversation in the NFL. Unfortunately, it’s hard to have faith that Swift will finish in that range this year for fantasy purposes. While he could see plenty of targets in the passing game, the scoring opportunities on this bad Detroit Lions team probably aren’t going to be very plentiful. Additionally, he now has Jamaal Williams in this backfield to compete for touches with and Anthony Lynn has been vocal about his love for utilizing a committee approach. Swift is going to be a safe RB2 for your roster this season because of the floor he’ll bring you week in and week out. However, due to the offense he’s in, there’s virtually no upside. Think about it this way…would you have been as excited about Swift last season if he were on the New York Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars and in a near 50/50 time share? That could be the exact situation we’re looking at this season in Detroit. My Very Early Projection: 206-843-5 rushing & 54-428-1 receiving.

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