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2021 Fantasy Football: 3 Running backs to target

The Fake Teams writers tell you who to draft at running back in 2021.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

It was a busy week in real life for yours truly, but that just means you get an extended look at fantasy football this week. Who doesn’t like talking about fantasy football on a fine Saturday afternoon?

Be sure to check out RB Week in all its glory, and circle back around come Monday for wide receiver week! With no further preamble, here are three guys we LOVE heading into this year...

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs (Mark Abell)

ECR: RB14

I would like to say Ezekiel Elliott is due for a rebound year, but I already lauded over Dak Prescott so I need to spread the love around. The Chiefs have a VERY favorable schedule for touchdowns this year, and they will be leading with a chance to rush more (no Le’Veon Bell, so now CEH contends with Darrel Williams and Jerick McKinnon). Darrel has less than a quarter of the carries Clyde did last year and I think they use Edwards-Helaire even more in his sophomore year, which means his 803 yards and 4 TDs from 2020 should be more like 1,200 yards and 8 TDs this year. He was 19th among running backs in receiving yards last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him vault into a top 10 player this year. To do that he would have needed to go from 297 receiving yards to 358 receiving yards, which is very achievable. He had the 14th-most targets (54), but if he gets to 63 he’s top 10 in targets among running backs. I see a lot of upside for CEH in the Kansas City system this year.

D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions (Skyler Carlin)

ECR: RB18

With the losses of Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, and Marvin Jones Jr. this offseason, the offense of the Detroit Lions isn’t exactly appealing in fantasy football. Jared Goff is now the signal-caller leading the offense and he doesn’t have many reliable pass-catching options outside of T.J. Hockenson, which puts D’Andre Swift in a position to have a massive workload in 2021. Entering his rookie campaign in 2020, Swift saw a ton of hype from fans as there was a clear chance for him to earn the starting job in Detroit’s backfield. However, with Matt Patricia at head coach and Darrell Bevell as the offensive coordinator, a 35-year-old Adrian Peterson begrudgingly led the Lions in carries a season ago. The good news for Swift, while the team signed Jamaal Williams, is that he is poised to command the majority of the rushing attempts in his sophomore season in the NFL. Williams is more of a pass-catching back and with Anthony Lynn replacing Bevell as the offensive coordinator, Swift should expect to be busy in the upcoming season. In his rookie season, Swift averaged 7.6 yards per reception after contact (11th among RBs in 2020), showing that he can be effective when getting the ball on dumpoffs. And with the Lions having a wide receiving corps that features Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams, and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown, Swift could be in store for a healthy target share from Goff. To put the cherry on top, Detroit has a solid offensive line that includes Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, giving Swift a formidable group to run behind in what should be a breakout season for the Georgia product. Given Swift’s projected expanded receiving volume, there’s a legitimate path for him to finish as a top 10 running back in fantasy football in 2021.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Heath Capps)

ECR: RB30

“RoJo” was my sixth-round draft pick in the recent Razzbowl, the 30th runner off the board. He’s the RB30 at FantasyPros, despite posting back-to-back top 25 finishes in 2019 and 2020. He was the RB16 in half PPR last year, despite playing in only 14 games and splitting time with Leonard Fournette. The 24-year-old was able to rank so highly due to his efficiency. While he appeared in two fewer games in 2020 than in 2019, he also saw 20 more carries, posting a career-high 192 rushing attempts. His Y/A jumped from 4.2 to 5.1, and his 84.7 rushing grade was sixth-best among all running backs, per PFF. Leonard Fournette put on a show in the playoffs, but he wasn’t the same runner as RoJo (only 3.8 Y/A) and his 70.9 rushing grade per PFF backed that up.

Gio Bernard is likely going to chip in on third downs to help keep Tom Brady upright, but I don’t see a scenario where RoJo isn’t logging 60% of the carries for this offense, and getting the bulk of goal line work. The playoffs don’t matter until the playoffs, right? First, the Bucs have to get there. I’ll take the guy who was the superior runner on his team last year, while he is being drafted BELOW his floor. This arrow is trending upward, and I’ll gladly take the smokescreen that “Playoff Lenny” has so graciously provided me with.

What say you, gamers? Who are you targeting in the backfield? Swift or Jamaal Williams? RoJo or Fournette? None of the above? Chime in with your comments!