Now that the 2020 fantasy football playoffs are upon us, my job overseeing the rest of season top 60 running back rankings here at Razzball are as through as the chances of Carson Wentz inviting Doug Pederson to this week’s Bible study. Last week, I put a bow on that project with one final, playoff edition of the top backs to target for those still in hot pursuit of a fantasy championship. Friends, we’ve come a long, long way from the initial set of rankings I constructed in the preseason edition, when I was young and naïve and my only prior experience with Reddit commenters was through the illegal streaming of countless sporting events. But now, since there are truly only two weeks of fantasy football remaining, my job is done. Instead, for those looking for rankings to use the next couple weeks, look to Donkey Teeth & Co. for further insight. All season long, Razzball’s Donkey Teeth and MB have been providing excellent work as always with their weekly fantasy football rankings. That’s the place to go for any and all remaining decisions. As for me, my final fantasy football post for 2020 will look ahead to 2021. Who is an early favorite for that first overall pick in drafts? Which 2020 rookie backs have put themselves in the conversation for a first round pick? And hey, how about the incoming 2021 rookie class? Any early-round selection potential there? You already know I want me some Najee Harris the same way I wanted to be in bed with Dobbins the Take-it-to-the-House Elf all season long. But first, before you all take your Sunday wizardry robes off, I’d like to take a few moments to reflect briefly on what we observed in 2020 (in lieu of a trip around the league), and how maybe we can use it as a learning experience to improve as fantasy owners in the years ahead.
There were a lot of blatant misses in my preseason installment of running back rankings in both directions (Misses: Aaron Jones, Le’Veon Bell, Ronald Jones, Antonio Gibson), contrasted with some players I nailed pretty accurately (Hits: Alvin Kamara, Josh Jacobs, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Raheem Mostert) — depending on your measurement of preference (total season points of fantasy points per game). With that, there were also those calls that appeared to be downright wrong, but late in the season, are showing life of shaking out the way I anticipated. Take Kenyan Drake, for example, who I ranked at RB6 coming into the season. For much of the year, it appeared as though I had misfired with that call even more so than I missed the target the first time my Cub Scout troop went to the archery range (Note: I was more efficiently deployed as a fire starter). Just ask my former den leader. But now, Drake is up to RB13 in half-PPR formats, and could rise into safe RB1 range on the season with a strong late season push. This is why we play the game! No matter how much research we do, we never know. Ever. Even when we think we know and begin to build a consensus opinion, we still don’t. And this is both what destroys us, yet brings us back. Every. Damn. Year.
I say this to make one final point in 2020 regarding the complex realm of fantasy football. Several months from now, many fantasy managers alike will look back on the previous season’s production and paint it with a general brush. Let’s call it beige. We’ll say, “so and so was highly productive and a great pick in 2020, as they finished as inside RB1 range on the season in half-PPR formats,” or perhaps even something to the contrary. But it doesn’t work that way. We can’t paint any fantasy season, let alone one littered with COVID-19 inactive statuses and and an excess of soft tissue injuries, with that general, beige brush. For a better idea, it’s essential to look at the complete picture. Turquoise-colored, maybe? For instance: In what percentage of active games did a particular player finish as an RB2 or better? What about RB1 or better? How volatile was their weekly production? What percentage of weeks did they finish outside RB3 range? Did you “waste” your first round pick on Drake, but win your fantasy championship in the end? Maybe you “wasted” a pick on a different player, but your poor selection (or so it seemed) pushed you to bid heavily on James Robinson and Myles Gaskin, ultimately leaving you with a plethora of RB2 or better options at the position by the time fantasy playoffs rolled around. That is what I’m getting at. Don’t make judgments through the first eight weeks, but don’t forget about them entirely, either. Don’t look back and think Ezekiel Elliott returned his draft day value just because he finished as a top-eight back on the season. There’s more to it than that.
With that said, it’s time to dive into the “way-too-early” top 60 running backs for 2021 fantasy football. In these rankings, I’ll include some rookie running backs despite having no real idea which NFL team will draft them this upcoming season. It’s an impossible exercise, but in the end, the purpose is to use what we learned throughout 2020 and apply it to create an early picture at who we may all be targeting in the early rounds of drafts next summer. A lot will change between now and then. Players will switch teams (look for **). Injuries, unfortunately, will undoubtedly occur. Depth charts will shuffle. Truthfully, I can’t even say who the lead back will be in a lot of 2021 backfields. Do I know who will be the starting running back for the Seattle Seahawks in 2021? No. What kind of role will Benny Snell have next year? No idea. But it’s worth a shot. In the end, all I know is that D’Andre Swift, James Robinson, Jonathan Taylor, Antonio Gibson and Cam Akers need to be in the conversation for preseason RB1 status next year. And if you understand that, well, let’s just say it’s a start. And great starts make for beautiful endings.
Note: Rankings are constructed for half-PPR fantasy scoring. Key: * denotes 2021 rookie; ** denotes 2021 UFA or RFA.
|Rank||Name||Initial ROS Rank||Final ROS Rank||FPPG||FPPG Rank|
Until next time, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.