NFL RB Rankings
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Derrick Henry is not someone you want to try and tackle on your own.
(Photo: The Times)
It’s funny really – in Fantasy Football the top running backs are king. But in the real world backs are often considered easily replaced and not worth paying big dollars too. I guess the truth lay somewhere in between.
Having an elite back is more than handy… but any running back can only be as good as the offensive line in front of him.
I’m judging these running backs more so on real life football with a tiny slant toward what they may do in the Fantasy world…
1 DERRICK HENRY (Tennessee – Last season: 2,027 yards, 17 TD)
I’m happy to listen to the argument that a multi-purpose back like CMC or Cook could be considered the No. 1 back in football, but I’m taking the smash-mouth, knock ’em down, stiff arm, run you over big back in King Henry.
His usage is through the roof but he stands up in every single statistical category. Over 2,000 rush yards in the regular season, 17 touchdowns, 126 yards per game, 5.4 yards per run and he’s also no mug in the receiving game, although there are stretches when he sees few targets.
For such a big physical back, his explosiveness is often underrated. He ripped off the longest TD run of all backs last season, a 94-yard scamper to the house.
Henry can run around you, past you, through you or right over the god damn top of you with a big stiff arm to the sternum. Just ask Josh Norman – among others.
2 CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY (Carolina – Wipe out, injuries)
McCaffrey’s 2020 campaign was derailed by injury, but everyone is more than aware of the threat he poses to opposing defensive units.
When we skip back to his last full season of football, CMC scorched the league for 20 total TD’s and more than 2,300 rushing/receiving yards. He’s the full package.
He’s twice rushed for 1k+ yards and twice caught 100+ receptions. Something no one else in the NFL can lay claim to. And he’s only played three full seasons.
No matther the quarterback in Carolina, CMC will ball – for real and for Fantasy owners.
3 DALVIN COOK (Minnesota – 1,557 yards, 16 TD)
I feel everyone knows how explosive and exciting Cook can be and everyone knows how great he is when scrolling through his stats yet somehow Cook gets lost in the conversations about the very best backs in the NFL.
Perhaps it’s because he’s playing in Minnesota and Kirk Cousins’ up and down play and the emergence of Justin Jefferson have stolen the show. Whatever the case, the truth is that everything good happening in Minneapolis in a purple jersey is because of No. 33.
1,557 yards and 16 TD on the ground plus a few hundred receiving yards to boot. As dangerous as Jefferson and Adam Thielen are in the aerial game, you get the feeling the Vikings should incorporate Cook more as a pass-catcher as well – not that he can do much more than he already is.
4 NICK CHUBB (Cleveland – 1,067 yards, 12 TD)
Like Henry, Chubb is a back from yesteryear where his mission is to pound the defence into submission. Often, Chubb will chip away in the first half before pairing up with Kareem Hunt and overpowering a tiring defence late in the game.
Chubb is the reason Cleveland are a legitimately contending team in 2021.
Chubb missed four matches last season but his 5.6 yards-per-carry average is the true indication of his value. The Browns would be keen to give Chubb the ball around 250 times this season, although he’s unlikely to contribute too much in the passing game, unlike some of his contemporaries.
5 EZEKIEL ELLIOTT (Dallas – 979 yards, 6 TD)
What will 2021 bring for Zeke? His 2020 campaign was pretty woeful for a player of his calibre. A career low 65.3 yards per game and just 4.0 yards per rush. Elliott also compounded his low rushing totals with five fumbles on the season.
His longest run of the season was just 31 yards, suggesting Elliott’s burst and explosion was lacking. Word is, he’s gone away this off-season to lose some weight and get back to his very best. He told Fox reporter Erin Andrews he’d lost 10 pounds and improved his diet.
Dak Prescott needs to overcome the nasty ankle injury and the offensive line needs to return to somewhere near its dominant best but more than anything, Ezekiel Elliott needs to be the player Dallas selected with pick 4 in the 2016 NFL Draft.
6 ALVIN KAMARA (New Orleans – 932 yards, 16 TD)
You must not measure Kamara’s worth by his rushing stats. Sure, he ran for 16 TD which was good for second best in the league but he fell short of 1,000 yards on the season.
On the ground, his real value does lay with his consistency to find the end zone but also his ability to produce chunk plays.
He’s also – outside of perhaps CMC – the most dynamic receiving back in the NFL. 83 catches for more than 700 yards and a handful of scores is a set of numbers any WR2 would be proud of. Kamara does everything you can ask and without Drew Brees this season, the Saints will need everything he’s got to remain a powerhouse in the NFC.
7 SAQUON BARKLEY (New York – Wipe out, ACL injury)
Barkley’s rookie and sophomore seasons were simply brilliant. He amassed more than 2,300 yards on the ground and, impressively, 1,100 yards as a pass-catcher. His touchdown total of 23 across his first two seasons is a great return.
Year three ended as quick as it began as Barkley tore his ACL in week two of the NFL season.
But, he’s back, and ready to rock and roll alongside Giants lottery QB Daniel Jones.
The former Penn State standout is a powerhouse runner with a thick but explosive physique. He blends genuine leg speed (ran a 4.40 40 at the NFL Combine) with physicality and an ability to break tackles.
For the G-Men to do much of anything this season, Barkley will need to steer the ship, likely needing to rush for somewhere close to 1,500 yards plus some work in the receiving game.
8 AARON JONES (Green Bay – 1,104 yards, 9 TD)
In Packerland, all of the headlines land with Aaron and Adams but it’s the third A in Green Bay who deserves plenty of love.
Aaron Jones is a great runner with big play ability but he can also get busy in the passing game when Rodgers calls his number. He went north of 1k rushing yards and caught close to 50 balls last season. Aside from the quarterbacks (L Jackson & K Murray), Jones had the third best YPC in the NFL.
Sometimes Jones is left watching the Rodgers to Adams show but whenever the offence leans on Jones, good things continue to happen.
9 JONATHAN TAYLOR (Indianapolis – 1,169 yards, 11 TD)
10 JOSH JACOBS (Las Vegas – 1,065, 12 TD)
Next up: Melvin Gordon (Denver), Austin Ekeler (Los Angeles), Miles Sanders (Philadelphia), Chris Carson (Seattle), J.K. Dobbins (Baltimore).