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Running Backs to Target in 2021 Fantasy Football

The staff lets you know which running backs you should be targeting this year in fantasy football.

As we get close to finishing up RB Week, here are the running backs our staff is targeting this year in fantasy football (ADP via FF Calculator).

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs (Clark)

ADP: RB14, 2.06

Edwards-Helaire is the RB4 in my ranks. Last year I was one of those folks who let their expectations for CEH get way, way out of hand. His selection in the first round by the most explosive offense in football followed by Damien Williams excusing himself for the season was just too much for me to resist. 

After CEH put up 1,100 yards and 5 touchdowns in 13 regular season games as a rookie, I am doubling down on my rookie season exuberance. Andy Reid running backs. Patrick Mahomes. Andy Reid, running backs.

RB4.

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears (Paddi)

ADP: RB20, 3.08

David Montgomery is being totally slept on as a top fantasy running back this season and I’m not sure why. He made the leap in year two in Chicago, finishing as the RB6 in fantasy, averaging over 15 points per game, but it was the end of his season where he really got going. From Week 12 onwards, Montgomery averaged 23.7 fantasy points per game, with over 800 scrimmage yards and 8 touchdowns over the last 6 weeks of the season.

Looking ahead to this year, I see no reason why Montgomery can’t continue to perform at that high level. His only competition in the backfield are Tarik Cohen, who is reported to be behind in his recovery from an ACL injury, and Damien Williams, who opted out of the 2020 season and who has never made any real impact as a fantasy option. I have Montgomery pencilled in for another 300 total touches in 2021 and that volume of work means he can easily be a top-10 back again this year. As the current RB20, I’m going to load up on Montgomery shares in the third round if he’s sat there and I’m on the clock.

Damien Harris, New England Patriots (Pete)

ADP: RB31, 6.06

There are so many running backs I think are target-worthy this year—Ezekiel Elliott and Austin Ekeler could both be THE RB1 at a discount, Chris Carson is a RB1 going in the third round, and Trey Sermon might take the reigns in San Francisco sooner than we expect—but ultimately I’m going to continue to spread the Damien Harris gospel.

Harris is the clear and obvious RB1 in New England, playing in an offense that ran the ball the third most in the league last year (502 attempts). I get there’s a touchdown ceiling playing alongside quarterback/goal line back Cam Newton, but going in the sixth round, Harris’ value is way too good to pass on. From Weeks 4 to 14 last year (when he was on the field), Harris was the RB27 in .5PPR. And that was while only scoring two total touchdowns.

With Rex Burkhead gone, James White older, and Sony Michel firmly entrenched as the Patriots RB2, Harris is going to step into at minimum 250 carries behind one of the best run blocking offensive lines in football (6th per PFF). I’m drafting Harris everywhere as my RB3.

Jamaal Williams, Detroit Lions (Nic)

ADP: RB44, 9.07

Jamaal Williams is the dark horse flex-worthy back that needs to be targeted across all formats. As I broke down in my RB rankings, when Lions’ offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn declared Williams a classic “A back”, the drafting public became hyper focused on what that meant for D’Andre Swift, who’d been expected to handle a bellcow role. As a result, Lynn’s new A-Back remains available at a depressed ADP.

During his Green Bay tenure alongside Aaron Jones, Williams was hot on Jones’ tail in red zone rushing department (100 to 73) and saw just 29 fewer targets (184 to 155) through their four years together. With Williams and Swift resembling a veteran version of Lynn’s Melvin Gordon/Austin Ekeler duo, fantasy managers need to take note of Williams’ potential. Although Swift is likely to outscore Williams in full-point PPR leagues due to his dynamic passing game prowess, Williams could give Swift a run for his money in .5PPR and old school standard leagues, at a cost that’s six rounds cheaper. Jamaal Williams is my RB35.