esny fantasy football rankings rb
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2021 NFL regular season approaches, let’s take a look at the updated fantasy football rankings for the running back position.

Ryan Honey

ESNY revealed its top 25 running backs for the 2021 fantasy football season last month — of course, that was before season-ending injuries to Baltimore’s J.K. Dobbins and Jacksonville’s Travis Etienne occurred.

Here’s what that list looked like:

  • 25. Nyheim Hines (IND)
  • 24. Mike Davis (ATL)
  • 23. J.K. Dobbins (BAL)
  • 22. Kenyan Drake (LV)
  • 21. J.D. McKissic (WAS)
  • 20. Joe Mixon (CIN)
  • 19. Melvin Gordon (DEN)
  • 18. Kareem Hunt (CLE)
  • 17. D’Andre Swift (DET)
  • 16. Antonio Gibson (WAS)
  • 15. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC)
  • 14. Najee Harris (PIT)
  • 13. Ronald Jones (TB)
  • 12. James Robinson (JAX)
  • 11. Saquon Barkley (NYG)
  • 10. Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)
  • 9. Josh Jacobs (LV)
  • 8. Aaron Jones (GB)
  • 7. David Montgomery (CHI)
  • 6. Nick Chubb (CLE)
  • 5. Jonathan Taylor (IND)
  • 4. Alvin Kamara (NO)
  • 3. Christian McCaffrey (CAR)
  • 2. Derrick Henry (TEN)
  • 1. Dalvin Cook (MIN)

The preseason has come and gone though and a number of rosters have changed

Thus, we needed to make changes of our own.

What does the top 25 look like now?

No. 25-16

25. Darrell Henderson (LAR)

24. Nyheim Hines (IND)

23. J.D. McKissic (WAS)

22. Melvin Gordon (DEN)

21. Joe Mixon (CIN)

20. D’Andre Swift (IND)

19. Antonio Gibson (WAS)

18. Kareem Hunt (CLE)

17. Austin Ekeler (LAC)

16. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC)

15. Gus Edwards (BAL)

Gus Edwards joins the list this time around due to the recent ACL tear for Baltimore’s J.K. Dobbins. The Ravens additionally had running back Justice Hill tear his Achilles, which will cause him to miss the entire year.

Edwards should be the top back within an offensive unit that could thrive off running the football — this Ravens team was last in the NFL in passing attempts last year with just 406.

14. Ronald Jones (TB)

Ronald Jones was nearly a 1,000-yard rusher last year on a team that primarily threw the ball (the Bucs were sixth in the NFL in pass attempts).

He additionally can find the end zone and did so eight times in 2020 — this could make him a decent value pick in the later rounds of your fantasy draft.

Jones is definitely capable of producing and could be the RB2 on most fantasy teams.

13. James Robinson (JAX)

James Robinson is a productive back and will see the absolute bulk of the load given Travis Etienne’s recent season-ending foot injury.

The issue, however, is that Jacksonville may be trailing in a ton of games, which means the Jaguars could be throwing the ball the majority of the second half every week.

This would diminish the role of the run game in the offense’s weekly game plans.

12. Najee Harris (PIT)

I move Najee Harris up a few spots because I think when it gets to be late in the season (and the weather isn’t all that fantastic in Pittsburgh), the Steelers will attempt to primarily run the football.

Ben Roethlisberger already looks his age (39) and is only getting older — throwing the ball 40-50 times per game in December wouldn’t exactly fare well for Pittsburgh.

Expect Harris to become a massive asset of this offensive group.

11. Josh Jacobs (LV)

The Raiders believe in Derek Carr (at least we think) and find production through the air a decent amount. Las Vegas was seventh in the NFL in 2020 with 4,217 total passing yards.

This is why I leave Josh Jacobs out of the top 10, but his talent is unquestioned. He’ll still get taken in the majority of your leagues due to his knack for the end zone — Jacobs crossed the plane 12 times last year.

10. Aaron Jones (GB)

Aaron Jones’ placement in the top 10 can be compared to why I leave James Robinson out of the top 10.

Unlike Jacksonville, Green Bay is expected to be ahead in the majority of its games, which could lead to the Packers running the football for much of the fourth quarter most weeks.

Jones, thus, should earn a number of opportunities to put noteworthy statistics on the board.

9. David Montgomery (CHI)

David Montgomery’s talent is obvious and he’s in a good situation to produce.

The offense may need to run through him if Andy Dalton is on the field given the veteran quarterback’s lack of consistency. The same may need to occur if Justin Fields is in the game due to the rookie’s lack of experience.

8. Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)

Zeke struggled last year but is getting his quarterback, Dak Prescott, back this season, which should truly assist in him producing.

We’ll find out a lot about what’s to come for Elliott this Thursday night when his team opens up against the Buccaneers.

7. Saquon Barkley (NYG)

Saquon Barkley is on the path to recovery and has a good chance of suiting up against the Broncos this Sunday, which is why he moves up a few spots.

It’s just unclear right now what his workload may be, which could affect any drafts that still need to take place.

The Giants play their Week 2 game just four days following their Week 1 matchup, so Barkley could be on a pitch count as he returns from an ACL tear.

6. Jonathan Taylor (IND)

Jonathan Taylor moves back one spot to No. 6 due to the health improvement of quarterback Carson Wentz, who recently suffered a foot injury.

The Colts are obviously expected to throw the ball more with Wentz than they would if they didn’t have him on the field. This could limit Taylor’s opportunities to garner notable stats on the ground, but he’s still talented enough to take advantage of the on-field chances provided for him.

5. Nick Chubb (CLE)

Nick Chubb just needs to remain healthy (he missed four games last year) and fantasy owners will be golden.

He’s certainly a top-five fantasy back right now and rushed for over 1,000 yards in just 12 games last season.

This Cleveland team can’t heavily rely on Baker Mayfield either, so Chubb will need to assume a notable amount of offensive responsibility in 2021.

4. Alvin Kamara (NO)

It’s unclear whether Jameis Winston will be consistently reliable against opposing defenses in the regular season.

It’s also unclear when Michael Thomas will be fully healthy and on the field.

Sean Payton may use Alvin Kamara more than ever this season, which is certainly saying something. The talented back carried the ball 187 times in 2020 and was also targeted 107 times (career-high) in the passing game.

3. Christian McCaffrey (CAR)

Christian McCaffrey is coming off an injury-plagued 2020 campaign, but the versatility and overall talent will surely be utilized by second-year head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady.

McCaffrey will also need to take pressure off quarterback Sam Darnold, who still must develop in year four.

Taking all this into consideration, you should expect the ball to be in McCaffrey’s hands the majority of the time the Panthers offense is on the field.

2. Derrick Henry (TEN)

Derrick Henry has led the league in rushing each of the last two years and will absolutely be a focal point of the Tennessee offense.

However, the reason why he’s at No. 2 is that he’s just not as big of a threat in the passing game as our top fantasy back…

1. Dalvin Cook (MIN)

With 1,557 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns, 44 catches, and 361 receiving yards last season, Dalvin Cook is a stat machine who satisfies all fantasy owners.

Being multi-faceted as a running back is superb for fantasy football, and Cook surely portrays that talent when he steps on the gridiron.

Things could change during the season, but for right now, the Minnesota Viking remains in the No. 1 spot.