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Fantasy Football RB Tiers 2021: Running back rankings and draft strategy



Fantasy Football RB Tiers 2021- Running back rankings and draft strategy

Is there a strategy guide for running backs in the draught? That’s simple: start drafting early and often. Done. Is there anything else you need to know about fantasy?

Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that straightforward. It’s one thing to draught frequently; it’s quite another to draught intelligently.

To do the former, you don’t need a cheat sheet or a list of sleepers, but to do the latter, you’ll need to know which players to target and in when rounds.

The best way to do that is to have a handy set of 2021 RB rankings tiers.

We’ve tiered our rankings to give you a better understanding of how your draught could (and should) unfold, as we do every year for every position (except kicker, because…well, you know).

We’re going to look at what you can expect if you wait until later in the draught to fill your RB1, RB2, and primary backup roles.


Following a particularly tough couple of seasons for the best running backs a few years ago, the “Zero-RB” selection approach gained popularity among some.

It’s understandable to pass on early-round runs in favor of more trustworthy pass-catchers, then pile up on rookies, handcuffs, and other odd committee backs, but you’d better be prepared to walk a fine tightrope with your starting RBs all season.

When your last-round James Robinson outperforms someone else’s first-round Joe Mixon, you’ll feel like a genius, but when someone else’s Dalvin Cook destroys your Joshua Kelley, you’ll feel less so — especially when that Cook owner also chose Justin Jefferson in the 11th round.


The studs at the top of our rankings all appear to be sure things heading into 2021, but we know at least a couple will miss multiple games due to injury (Christian McCaffrey last year, Saquon Barkley last year), and a couple will just underwhelm (2020 Ezekiel Elliott, anyone?).

You can’t forecast injuries, and even if you avoid the “injury-prone” players, you’ll have to hold your breath every time your back is tackled. That’s just the way the beast is.

The unanticipated drop-offs are just as surprising, which is why depth is crucial at this position.


Our tiers are obviously based on our rankings. Some of the names in the various tiers may change if you want a different set, but the feelings remain the same.

If you want to go with pass-catchers in the first few rounds, Tier 3 or Tier 4 RBs should be your Week 1 starters.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does imply you should be more proactive in your middle-round sleeper selections.

The more upside you demand from your backups, the less “reliable” your starters are.


At the end of the day, there are no guarantees in fantasy football.

Running backs should be selected early and often in general, but it’s not as simple as clicking any name on the RB page during your selection.

It’s all about getting the best deal, keeping an eye on your competitors, and predicting who will be available in the next round and the one after that.

If you have a series of tiered rankings, you should be able to swiftly change and avoid overdrafting a lesser RB in a panic move if you predict wrong and your favorite target is gone.

Knowing you’ll earn roughly the same value in the next round or round after can help you establish a stronger overall tea collection.

Fantasy RB Tiers 2021: Best fantasy football running backs

Based on regular, non-PPR leagues, rankings and levels. Different tiers may exist in PPR leagues, as indicated in the paragraph below.

Tier 1:

1 Derrick Henry, Titans
2 Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
3 Dalvin Cook, Vikings

Tier 2:

4 Saquon Barkley, Giants
5 Nick Chubb, Browns
6 Alvin Kamara, Saints
7 Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
8 Aaron Jones, Packers
9 Jonathan Taylor, Colts
10 Antonio Gibson, Washington

Fantasy Football Draft Strategy 2021: RBs that could break out this year?

Tier 3: 

11 Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs
12 Austin Ekeler, Chargers
13 JK Dobbins, Ravens
14 David Montgomery, Bears
15 Joe Mixon, Bengals
16 Miles Sanders, Eagles
17 D’Andre Swift, Lions
18 Najee Harris, Steelers
19 Josh Jacobs, Raiders
20 Chris Carson, Seahawks

Fantasy RB Tiers: Sleepers and committee running backs

Tier 4:

21 Kareem Hunt, Browns
22 Javonte Williams, Broncos
23 Myles Gaskin, Dolphins
24 Darrell Henderson, Rams
25 Mike Davis, Falcons
26 Damien Harris, Patriots
27 Raheem Mostert, 49ers
28 Travis Etienne, Jaguars
29 Chase Edmonds, Cardinals
30 Melvin Gordon, Broncos
31 Devin Singletary, Bills
32 Gus Edwards, Ravens
33 Zack Moss, Bills
34 Michael Carter, Jets
35 Phillip Lindsay, Texans
36 David Johnson, Texans
37 Ronald Jones II, Buccaneers
38 Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers
39 James Robinson, Jaguars
40 James Conner, Cardinals

Fantasy RB Rankings Tiers: Best handcuff RBs

Tier 5:

41 Latavius Murray, Saints
42 Jamaal Williams, Lions
43 Nyheim Hines, Colts
44 AJ Dillon, Packers
45 Tony Pollard, Cowboys
46 JD McKissic, Washington
47 Trey Sermon, 49ers
48 James White, Patriots
49 Tarik Cohen, Bears
50 Alexander Mattison, Vikings
51 Tevin Coleman, Jets
52 Justin Jackson, Chargers

Tier 6:

53 Malcolm Brown, Dolphins
54 Kenyan Drake, Raiders
55 Darrel Williams, Chiefs
56 Rashaad Penny, Seahawks
57 Marlon Mack, Colts
58 Devontae Booker, Giants
59 Benny Snell Jr., Steelers

Fantasy RB Deep Sleepers and Handcuffs

60 Kenneth Gainwell, Eagles
61 Kerryon Johnson, Eagles
62 Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots
63 Cordarrelle Patterson, Falcons
64 Samaje Perine, Bengals
65 Chuba Hubbard, Panthers
66 Damien Williams, Bears
67 Salvon Ahmed, Dolphins
68 Joshua Kelley, Chargers
69 La’Mical Perine, Jets
70 Mark Ingram, Texans
71 Darrynton Evans, Titans
72 Jeremy McNichols, Titans
73 Anthony McFarland Jr., Steelers
74 Wayne Gallman, 49ers
75 Javian Hawkins, Falcons
76 Caleb Huntley, Falcons

Aaron writes guides and news related to the games at Apart from his passion for writing and playing games he's exploring new places around the globe.

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