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Fantasy Football Scouting Report: Running Backs

Fantasy Insider Scott Engel reviews the running back position, including where to target Chris Carson.

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Scott Engel is beginning his 10th season as the official Fantasy writer and analyst for Seahawks.com. Scott is a 25-year veteran of the Fantasy industry and an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. He is a four-time FSWA award winner and 10-time nominee, including being named a finalist for the 2020 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award. You can also find more of his Fantasy analysis on RotoBaller.com, SportsLine.com, the Athletic and SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Scott won two Fantasy Football dynasty league titles in 2020, including one in the prestigious Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC) and he previously pulled off a three-peat in a highly competitive New York City league.

Seahawks fans who are Fantasy players, and experienced Fantasy leaguers will all surely acknowledge that running back is the most coveted position on draft day. As indicated in our updated 2021 edition of the 12 Greatest Fantasy Seahawks of All Time, some highly memorable standouts have worn the uniform. Shaun Alexander and Marshawn Lynch were true Fantasy superstars. In the earlier years of Fantasy Football. Curt Warner and Ricky Watters were significant Fantasy contributors on winning teams.

Now Chris Carson carries the Fantasy torch at running back for the Seahawks, and as we will further detail, he is a very good starter to target at the position in your 2021 drafts. You are going to see many running backs fly off the board in the early rounds, and must be well prepared to get involved in the push for a top starter or two at the position. We tell you who to target and how to approach the position with an eye on building a strong RB core.

Scouting the Running Back Position for Fantasy Football in 2021

In the first round, the very best running backs will dominate the early selections. On NFL.com, nine of the first 12 choices are running backs, according to the Average Draft Position Reports, and the trend is very similar on other platforms. If you are picking in the first half of the first round, it will be hard to pass on a top RB. The closer you pick to the end of the first round, though, you will have more flexibility to go with a top wide receiver or make the pivot to Travis Kelce as the clear top tight end while still landing a very good No. 1 RB in the second round.

A healthy Christian McCaffrey is the easy consensus No. 1 overall selection, and Dalvin Cook is frequently being taken second overall, as he may have the most upside at the position. Derrick Henry has led the NFL in rushing yardage and TDs the past two seasons and will be taken anywhere from third to fifth. He remains a top-level pick as the upgraded passing game in Tennessee could lead to defenses not being able to key on him as much as before. Alvin Kamara has pulled off the unique feat of catching 80-plus passes in four consecutive seasons, an incredibly rare accomplishment for any running back. His overall workload should continue to be quite heavy. Ezekiel Elliott is set for a big bounce-back season. If you are in position to land one of those Top 5 RBs you must take one of them. Having a pick in the top half of the first round gives you a crack at some of the most comfortable selections at the position. You have to start two running backs in most leagues, and wide receiver is a deeper position.

In the second half of the first round, some of the top RB targets include Austin Ekeler, who should get back to double figure TD totals from scrimmage again, and Nick Chubb, who rushed for 12 TDs in 12 games in 2020. Aaron Jones is the master finisher for a powerful Green Bay offense, having rushed for 25 TDs over the past two seasons. Jonathan Taylor was third in the NFL in rushing as a rookie and will be a major focal point of the Colts offense. Once Carson Wentz gets on the field for the Colts, he should have a very high statistical ceiling. Those four RBs will very likely come off the board in the six through 12 spots overall.

In the second round, you can either select your first RB early in the round if you took Kelce, Tyreek Hill or Davante Adams to start out, or build an impressive starting RB duo by taking a second top player at the position. Saquon Barkley is being taken in the early part of the second round of many drafts and he has first round upside. Antonio Gibson was a TD force as a rookie and may be headed for a big breakout campaign as he gets more involved in the passing game. Joe Mixon will have a lot of scoring opportunities as a finisher for a loaded Bengals offense. Steelers rookie Najee Harris is expected to take on a heavy workload in his first NFL season and will certainly be picked in the second round of most drafts.

If you do opt for one of the top WRs or another elite TE in Round Two, there will still be some very desirable starters available in the third and fourth rounds. It may not be a widely recognized stat, but David Montgomery finished as the No. 4 Fantasy Running Back in PPR league scoring last year. J.K. Dobbins is one of the most promising second-year RBs you can select as your No. 2 RB. He plays in an offense that led the league in rushing last year. Dobbins is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.

Chris Carson: A Strong Fantasy Starter in Familiar Surroundings

Chris Carson is back with the Seahawks for his fifth season, and Fantasy players know what to expect from him as the No. 1 running back to draft from the roster. They will lean on him as a fine second starter in Fantasy lineups. Since he arrived as a rookie, Carson has been a tough inside banger who also knows how to make defenders miss with his quick feet and jukes. He has excellent vision and will drive the pile and drag defenders for additional yardage. Such qualities have endeared him to Seahawk fans and have led to him delivering above-average Fantasy totals very frequently.

Carson averaged 15.7 Fantasy Points Per Game last season, which was 13th among RBs, putting him just outside the No. 1 Fantasy level at running back. In 2019, he did finish as a Fantasy RB1, totaling 232.6 points, which was 12th overall at RB. Carson is being taken in the fourth round of many drafts, which makes him a value selection and an ideal target if you wait until that round for your second running back. If you don't take a RB among the Top 15 at the posiiton, you can then elect to take another starter after the second round, and Carson should be one of your preferred targets.

Carson has scored nine TDs from scrimmage in each of the last two seasons, reaching the total in 12 games in 2020. He tied a career high with 37 catches last year in three less games than in 2019, when he also reached the same total. Carson had a career-best four TD receptions last season, as he became more involved as a pass-catcher. Such versatility has given him added Fantasy appeal heading into the 2021 season. Fantasy players are well aware that Carson will continue to be an essential performer for the Seahawks and he is capable of producing Fantasy RB1 totals in any given week.

More Quality RB2 Targets and Flex Types

Clyde Edwards-Helaire could be headed for a breakout campaign in his second pro season and is an upside RB2 type. … Darrell Henderson's speed and big play potential should pay off for Fantasy players. … Jets rookie Michael Carter is one of the best rookies to draft this season. He is a superb pick as a flex player. Carter has versatility and can add a real jolt to the Jets offense. … Former Seahawk Mike Davis will start for the Falcons and should be a solid Fantasy option. … Javonte Williams could be ticketed for a prominent role with the Broncos as a rookie. … Trey Sermon is another rookie to watch with the 49ers. He may be an impact Fantasy performer in his first pro campaign. … James Robinson will still get a lot of important carries and goal-line chances for the Jaguars. … Chase Edmonds can make the most of increased opportunities with the Cardinals.

Later Round Values

Zack Moss is a top sleeper at RB, as he can emerge as a lead ball carrier for the Bills. … Jamaal Williams should get a good amount of work with the Lions. … Gus Edwards will get his share of TD chances in Baltimore. … Malcolm Brown may be the top goal-line runner for the Dolphins. … Phillip Lindsay made a lot of noise in Denver and can do the same in Houston. … Rhamondre Stevenson is looking good in the preseason and will see his appeal rise after a two-TD preseason debut that included a 91-yard scoring run. .. Qadree Ollison (Falcons) and Xavier Jones (Rams) could emerge as viable Fantasy options with increased playing time.

Seahawks Sleepers

Rashaad Penny is flashing his better form in camp and is a very intriguing pick as a sleeper target. We cannot forget that in late November of 2019, Penny rushed for 203 yards and has three TDs from scrimmage in two games. He also had scoring runs of 58 and 37 yards that year. In his rookie campaign of 2018, he rushed for 108 yards on 12 carries vs. the Rams. Penny remains very dangerous on the perimeter and can jump back onto the Fantasy radar in 2021.

Alex Collins rushed for two TDs in three games last year and is certainly worth consideration in deeper leagues. DeeJay Dallas has promise as an eventual contributor in dynasty leagues.

Scott Engel's Top 35 Fantasy Running Backs for 2021

  1. Christian McCaffery
  2. Dalvin Cook
  3. Derrick Henry
  4. Alvin Kamara
  5. Ezekiel Elliott
  6. Nick Chubb
  7. Austin Ekeler
  8. Aaron Jones
  9. Jonathan Taylor
  10. Saquon Barkley
  11. Antonio Gibson
  12. Joe Mixon
  13. J.K. Dobbins
  14. David Montgomery
  15. Najee Harris
  16. Chris Carson
  17. Clyde Edwards-Helaire
  18. Darrell Henderson
  19. De'Andre Swift
  20. Miles Sanders
  21. Michael Carter
  22. Mike Davis
  23. Javonte Williams
  24. Josh Jacobs
  25. Travis Etienne
  26. Chase Edmonds
  27. Trey Sermon
  28. James Robinson
  29. Myles Gaskin
  30. Kareem Hunt
  31. Zack Moss
  32. Damien Harris
  33. Melvin Gordon
  34. James Conner
  35. Gus Edwards

Check out more of Scott Engel's 2021 Fantasy Football analysis and his full running back rankingsat RotoBaller.com. Enter promo code "seahawks" at checkout for an additional discount on the RotoBaller Fantasy Football season pass. Also try out the newMock Draft Assistant, where you can practice quick drafting against the computer.

Seahawks Fantasy Insider Scott Engel ranks the best fantasy running backs to target for the 2021 season.

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