The TRUTH about the 10 best RBs in 2021 (Fantasy Football)

On Tuesday’s podcast, Andy, Mike and Jason took an in-depth look at the top 10 RBs of the 2021 season and delved into the reality of their fantasy finishes and whether they’ve actually helped fantasy managers win titles.

You can watch the full episode on YouTube here:

Before going player-by-player, here’s how our TRUTH Data algorithm breaks down player performance for the season. In 0.5 point leagues:

  • Big plays are over 21 points
  • Good plays are more than 10 points
  • Bust Games are less than 7 points
  • Missed matches do not count towards consistency score

To note: RotoViz Game Splits – points are 6 points per TD passed // Week 18 not included

2021 Consistency Ranking: 2
1st half: 8 / 2nd half: 2

17 games — 332/1811/18 on the ground + 40/360/2 on 53 targets
DPA: RB11/ 2.02
Defenses:
-9.82 against the Top 16
Home/road distribution:
-3.39 at home

big games good games bust games
41% 82% 6%

How dominant was JTT? From the 4th to the 15th week, he had 11 RB1 performances in a row! To compare, Todd Gurley’s great 2018 (10 in a row) and Christian McCaffrey’s 2019 (9 in a row) failed. He is a five RBs in NFL history to fetch 1,800 and 18 touchdowns. To run this historic train, hWe had 89 (!) rush attempts in the red zone, the most ever. The next closest in 2021: Austin Ekeler at 49! The even crazier thing is hWe could have had even more touchdowns… By Matt DiSorbo in the article 25 RB Stats, 18 different drives where he was tackled on a rushing play inside the five-yard line and didn’t end up scoring on this player. If you want to lock in more than 10 TD rushes at 1.01, it makes sense there for 2022. But there’s no guarantee of returning that investment based on Carson Wentz’s volatility.

2021 Consistency Ranking: 1
1st half: 5 / 2nd half: 1

16 games – 206/911/12 on the ground + 70/647/8 on 94 targets
DPA: RB6/ 1.09
Defenses:
-5.96 against the Top 16
Home/road distribution:
+7.02 at Home

big games good games bust games
31% 88% 0%

There were concerns heading into the season that Ekeler wasn’t a big TD guy and if he could handle a big workload. After coming on the show this summer, there was some doubt though that Ekeler was almost one of Jason’s “My Guys.” After 300 chances it is clear he was a league winner as oone of seven RBs in league history with 20 touchdowns and 70 receptions in the same season. He had arguably one of the best red-zone seasons ever scoring his 20 touchdowns there. He on average 10 fantasy points per game inside the 20. This is the 2nd most over the past decade with Todd Gurley (2018) averaging 11.3 in his monster season. There is some debate over whether fantasy managers will be able to like Ekeler enough to make him a top 3 pick. He deserves it, especially in the PPR leagues.

2021 Consistency Ranking: 7
1st half: 7 / 2nd half: 12

16 matches – 292/1205/13 on the ground + 42/314/3 on 48 targets
DPA: RB13/ 2.10
Defenses: -0.06 against the Top 16
Home/road distribution:
+3.48 at Home

big games good games bust games
44% 63% 6%

Mixon had a similar season to his second year (2018- RB9 but ended up playing the full season this time. He totaled the 3rd most carries, 5th most red zone hits and 4th most touchdowns. But he became a mid-season mainstay. From the 6th to the 12th week, he had 23+ fantasy points in 5 out of 6 weeks! In fact, Mixon had a higher “great play” rate than even Jonathan Taylor. He is only 25 and a half years old and is under contract for another three years. With the Bengals offense ready to roll with its young core, it’s clear that Mixon is an easy 1st-round pick in 2022.

2021 Consistency Rank: 4
1st half: 2 / 2nd half: 13

17 games — 307/1200/7 on the ground + 74/467/3 on 94 targets
DPA: RB9/ 1.12
Defenses: -2.65 against the Top 16
Home/road distribution: +3.04 at Home

big games good games bust games
29% 76% 18%

Harris’ greatness may have flown under the radar this year. He is one of 11 RBs in NFL history with over 300 runs and over 90 targets in a season. He led the league in throw-ins as a rookie with just four RBs (Eric Dickerson, Edgerrin James, LaDainian Tomlinson & Najee) have made league history. Some of the inefficiency might surface in complaints, but an attack led by Big Ben and the Steelers offensive line didn’t help. Harris had the 2nd lowest yards per carry (3.91) among RB rookies with over 1,200 rushing yards. The lowest? The aforementioned LaDainian Tomlinson at 3.65. He was fine and Najee will go too far.

2021 Consistency Ranking: 8
1st half: 17 / 2nd half: 3

15 games — 202/752/15 — 39 targets for 37/375/3
DPA: RB39/8.01
Defenses:
+5.54 against Top 16
Home/road distribution:
-3.00 at home

big games good games bust games
20% 67% 13%

The title for Conner was 18 touchdowns! Not bad for a player you drafted in the 8th round. With the 2nd most goal-line carries and most EPA by Rush Attempt, he was a machine despite only 752 rushing yards. Besides TDs, he had several other strong overall metrics, including his mmost forced missed tackles (40) of his career and his graduation PFF’s No. 1 RB in pass blocking. Conner is only 26 and if he returned to the Cardinals in 2022, he’s a borderline 1st/2nd round pick with the kind of use he’s seen.

2021 Consistency Rank: 12
1st half: 9 / 2nd half: 20

17 games – 237/1002/10 on the ground + 47/287/2 on 65 targets
DPA: RB4/ 1.05
Defenses: +6.16 against Top 16
Home/road split: +6.48 at Home

big games good games bust games
12% 59% 18%

Towards the end of the year, the dominant narrative surrounding Zeke was that he was old and broke. As Dallas’ offensive line finished No. 1 in PFF’s end-of-season ratings, Elliott struggled to reach the century mark in rushing the ball. It wasn’t for lack of playing time as he ran the 2nd most routes of any RB. He was still solid and in a season with a lot of injuries at the RB position, he felt more like a low-end RB1 than someone who finished at RB6. His contract is an albatross, so he’ll be back as a guy in Dallas in 2022. The old Zeke is gone but he should still be worth closer to the RB8-12 next year. Don’t be surprised if he ends up slipping midway through Round 2 in the drafts.

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2021 Consistency Ranking: 11
1st half: 18 / 2nd half: 4

14 games — 180/811/8 on the ground + 69/454/2 on 84 targets
DPA: RB40/ 8.02
Defenses: -6.24 against the Top 16
Home/road distribution: -5.35 at home

big games good games bust games
21% 57% 14%

Fournette was a fantastic lifesaver for many who needed to plug their RB spot mid-year. From weeks 4 to 15 he was the RB3. His pace over that span was 349 chances (including 88 receptions). Passing work is what helped him increase his average of five receptions per game during the season. There’s a lot of excitement in Tampa Bay this offseason. Tom Brady could retire and the entire backfield is testing the free agent waters. He’s still only 27, so Fournette has proven he still has some good football left.

2021 Consistency Rank: 6
1st half: 3 / 2nd half: 18

13 games — 240/898/4 — 67 targets for 47/439/5
DPA: RB3/ 1.03
Defenses: +1.08 against Top 16
Home/road split: -3.16 at home

big games good games bust games
23% 77% 23%

We didn’t quite get the Super Kamario of yore in 2022. Besides missing Weeks 10-13, he had to deal with three different QBs (four if you count that Ian Book game) and a line offense that has faced a ton of injuries. . New Orleans threw 13 (!) different offensive linemen during the year. Kamara still averages 22 touches per game, led all BRs in target share (20%), and saw the 5th more red zone hits. However, only four rushed TDs were very “unKamarian”. Since 2010, Kamara has tied for 2nd fastest TD (4) among RBs with over 240 runs in a season. In this sample size of 125 RB… TD expectation for over 240 carries was 8.8 TD rushing. There could be a major overreaction this offseason, but Kamara is still a surefire 1st-round pick with his passing work.

2021 Consistency Ranking: 14
1st half: 1 / 2nd half: 32

16 games — 153/618/6 on the ground + 52/548/5 on 68 targets
DPA: Not drafted
Defenses: -1.51 against the Top 16
Home/road distribution: +1.04 at Home

big games good games bust games
19% 63% 25%

What a wild ride! He won our Footie “Waiver Wire Wonder” award and was a mainstay for many teams heading into the fantasy playoffs. From weeks 2-14 he was RB7 in total points, RB9 in fantasy points per game. However, CP ra last month out of gas ending like the RB56, 31, 37 and 70. Woof. Patterson was an enigma scoring more points as a receiver (rec, rec yards, rec TDs) than as a rusher (runs, rush TDs) as the Falcons basically calculated their offense on the fly. Atlanta could re-sign him and yet if they also take on a rookie in the NFL Draft, there is no reason to continue last season’s success with Patterson.

2021 Consistency Ranking: 19
1st half: 30 / 2nd half: 7

16 plays — 258/1037/7 — 52 targets for 42/294/3 — 6 fumbles
DPA: RB12/ 2.04
Defenses: +2.89 against Top 16
Home/road distribution: +0.41 at Home

big games good games bust games
6% 56% 25%

From weeks 1 to 8, he was the RB19 in total points and the RB29 averaging just 10.9 fantasy points per game. However, the second half was a different story. As of week 10, he was the RB4. Part of that success was due to the absence of JD McKissic who was won in Week 12 and did not return for the remainder of the season. From that point on, Gibson saw five targets per game. Overall, it remains ttied with Joe Mixon for 2nd MOST 1st down among all RBs. But the TDs were the main story. In 2020, he had a TD every 15 litters; in 2021, this regressed every 37 litters. The Washington O-Line was still strong starting and ending the year as PFF’s 6th ranked unit. His floor looks high but the guys discussed if the top 5 is still on the table for the future.

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