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We've seen time and time again how running backs going in the middle-to-late rounds can be fantasy forces before. Off the top of our heads, we remember Devonte Freeman in 2015, wowing the fantasy landscape and just last season, James Robinson exceeded expectations. You never know who could be the next RB to vastly outperform their ADP.
At NBC Sports EDGE, we're striving to give you the tools to guide you to winning your league's fantasy football championship. Aimed at giving you the knowledge you need to make the best draft decisions in a wide variety of formats — from projections, rankings, league sync, tiers, sleepers and busts to exclusive expert columns — this year's edition is the finest we've ever produced.
For a taste of what our Draft Guide has to offer, we've given sneak-peeks into a variety of the tools available in our 2021 NFL Draft Guide, from the NBC Sports EDGE+ Premium package. We have already featured our first expert mock draft, sleepers, overall half-PPR rankings, half-PPR RB rankings, half-PPR WR rankings, QB Dynasty Rankings and RB Dynasty Rankings for 2021, look at our updated QB Tiers. Today we're diving the latest RB tiers.
It's pretty easy to envision who'll be sitting in the top tiers here, but it can get pretty dicey and up-in-the-air once we get into the middle-to-late rounds. As mentioned in Monday's preview, tiers are incredibly useful for approaching fantasy football drafts. You get a sense of what you're going to get with players that are grouped together in a certain tier. You also get to see expert breakdowns and keynotes for the players in each tier, which can certainly be helpful for drafting purposes. We're confident that this tool will have you covered when it's your time to pick.
Check it out:
24. Chase Edmonds - ARI
28. Javonte Williams - DEN
33. Leonard Fournette - TB
34. Ronald Jones - TB
38. Myles Gaskin - MIA
You would think that Gaskin would open the year as Miami’s starter by default after he handled 19.7 touches per game in eight appearances from Week 3 on, but the front office reportedly tried to move up for Broncos RB Javonte Williams in the draft before putting in for Kerryon Johnson (and being out-claimed) off waivers. That’s a telling sign the organization is in the mix for another back whether we believe that’s the correct move or not. Edmonds, on the other hand, was given a nod of approval from Arizona, which glossed over his position entirely in the draft and only added veteran James Conner on a one-year, $1.75 million deal. Edmonds still may be the odd man out for goal-line carries, which would unfortunately cap his ceiling.
Etienne has been used as a slot receiver throughout camp and, coupled with his handful of weekly carries, offers a high floor as a hybrid chess piece that should play all around OC Darrell Bevell’s formations. The fact the Broncos traded up for Williams tells us he’ll split carries with Melvin Gordon from Week 1, a la Phillip Lindsay’s role with the latter when healthy last year. Fournette and Jones have no choice but to stay two peas in a pod together until one separates from the other. Even in rushing for a career-high 192/978/7 last year, Jones was usurped by Fournette late in the season, being out-touched 59-35 while seeing 17 targets to Jones' two in their last three appearances together. Initially the draft’s biggest loser (for fantasy) after Urban Meyer ignored him and pulled the trigger on Travis Etienne (Lisfranc, IR) in the first round, Robinson's value has suddenly surged from the mid-seventh round to the third/fourth given the opportunity he'll have as Jacksonville's de facto runner. Last year's box score is still a farfetched projection, but a workhorse role is not.
20. Gus Edwards - BAL
32. Michael Carter - NYJ
35. Tony Pollard - DAL
36. Nyheim Hines - IND
37. A.J. Dillon - GB
39. Jamaal Williams - DET
44. Zack Moss - BUF
47. David Johnson - HOU
Carter may seem like an odd choice atop this tier since he’s log-jammed in the same backfield as Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson and La’Mical Perine, but New York’s new regime will likely lean on Coleman and the rookie over the latter two since they were hand-picked by Robert Saleh and OC Mike LaFleur. Moss and teammate Devin Singletary will likely be thrust into a camp competition, but the former was a prioritized target in the third round by Buffalo’s front office just last year. David Johnson may provide a limited floor weekly, but he will have to fend off Phillip Lindsay, Mark Ingram and Rex Burkhead, all expected to play particular roles for an offense that could threaten the league record for the fewest yards per game.
Edwards remains a steal in this range as he nearly mirrored Dobbins in touches (62-59) and targets (8-6) in Baltimore’s last seven games with Ingram out of the picture. While extremely talented, Pollard offers little standalone value with Elliott back at full health, averaging just 7.4 touches in Zeke’s 15 appearances last year. Hines was involved for 9.4 touches and 4.2 targets weekly as Taylor's backup across Indianapolis' last five games and isn’t going away any time soon. Dillon is the overwhelming favorite to soak up a majority of Jamaal Williams' 119 carries from last year and could even provide a ceiling if chosen as the team’s goal-line runner over Jones. Williams’ ceiling in Detroit on the other hand is up for debate, but OC Anthony Lynn did refer to him as the team’s “A-back” who could be left “in there for all three downs."
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