The TRUTH About Top-10 RBs in 2021 (Fantasy Football)

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

You can watch the whole episode on YouTube here:

Before we go player-by-player, here is how our TRUTH Data algorithm breaks down player performance from the season. In 0.5 point leagues:

  • Great Games are more than 21 points
  • Good Games are more than 10 points
  • Bust Games are fewer than 7 points
  • Missed Games don’t count against consistency score

Note: RotoViz Game Splits — points are 6pt per passing TD // Week 18 not included

1 Jonathan Taylor | Colts

2021 Consistency Rank: 2
1st Half: 8 / 2nd Half: 2

17 games — 332/1811/18 rushing + 40/360/2 on 53 targets
ADP: RB11/ 2.02
Defenses:
-9.82 vs Top 16
Home/Road Split:
-3.39 at Home

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Great Games Good Games Bust Games
41% 82% 6%

How dominant was JTT? From Weeks 4-15, he had 11 RB1 performances in a row! To compare, Todd Gurley‘s great 2018 (10 straight) and Christian McCaffrey‘s 2019 (9 straight) fell short. He’s one of five RBs in NFL history to go for 1,800 & 18 TDs. To keep this historical train rolling, he had 89(!) Red-Zone Rushing Attempts, the most of all time. The next closest in 2021: Austin Ekeler at 49! The even crazier thing is he could’ve had even more TDs… Per Matt DiSorbo in the 25 RB Stats article, 18 different drives where he was tackled on a rushing play inside the five-yard line and didn’t end up scoring on that drive. If you want to lock in 10+ rushing TDs at the 1.01, he makes sense there for 2022. But he’s not a guarantee to return that investment based on Carson Wentz‘s volatility.

2 Austin Ekeler | Chargers

2021 Consistency Rank: 1
1st Half: 5 / 2nd Half: 1

16 games — 206/911/12 rushing + 70/647/8 on 94 targets
ADP: RB6/ 1.09
Defenses:
-5.96 vs Top 16
Home/Road Split:
+7.02 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
31% 88% 0%

There were some concerns heading into the season about Ekeler not being a big TD guy and whether he could handle a big workload. After coming on the show in the summer, there was some doubt although Ekeler was almost one of Jason’s “My Guys”. After 300 opportunities, it’s clear he was a league winner as one of seven RBs in league history with 20 TDs & 70 receptions in the same season. He had arguably one of the best red-zone seasons of all-time scoring all 20 of his TDs there. He averaged 10 fantasy points per game inside the 20. That’s the 2nd most over the last decade with Todd Gurley (2018) averaging 11.3 in his monster season. There is some debate if fantasy managers will be able to appreciate Ekeler enough to make him a top-3 pick. He’s deserving of it, especially in PPR leagues.

3 Joe Mixon | Bengals

2021 Consistency Rank: 7
1st Half: 7 / 2nd Half: 12

16 games — 292/1205/13 rushing + 42/314/3 on 48 targets
ADP: RB13/ 2.10
Defenses: -0.06 vs Top 16
Home/Road Split:
+3.48 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
44% 63% 6%

Mixon had a similar season to his sophomore year (2018- RB9 but ended up playing full season this time. He totaled the 3rd most carries, 5th most red-zone touches, and the 4th MOST TDs. But he became a stalwart in the middle of the season. From Weeks 6-12, he had 23+ fantasy points in 5-of-6 weeks! In fact, Mixon had a higher “great game” rate than even Jonathan Taylor. He’s only 25.5 years old and is under contract for another three years. With the Bengals offense ready to roll with its young nucleus, it’s clear Mixon is an easy 1st round pick in 2022.

4 Najee Harris | Steelers

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

17 games — 307/1200/7 rushing + 74/467/3 on 94 targets
ADP: RB9/ 1.12
Defenses: -2.65 vs Top 16
Home/Road Split: +3.04 at Home

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Great Games Good Games Bust Games
29% 76% 18%

Harris’ greatness might’ve flown under the radar this year. He’s one of 11 RBs in NFL history with 300+ carries & 90+ targets in a season. He led the league in touches as a rookie which only four RBs (Eric Dickerson, Edgerrin James, LaDainian Tomlinson & Najee) have done in league history. Some of the inefficiency might come to the surface in complaints but an offense led by Big Ben and the Steelers offensive line wasn’t helpful. Harris had the 2nd lowest Yards per Carry (3.91) ever among rookie RBs with 1,200+ rushing yards. The lowest? The aforementioned LaDainian Tomlinson at 3.65. He was fine and Najee will be too moving forward. 

5 James Conner | Cardinals

2021 Consistency Rank: 8
1st Half: 17 / 2nd Half: 3

15 games — 202/752/15 — 39 targets for 37/375/3
ADP: RB39/8.01
Defenses:
+5.54 vs Top 16
Home/Road Split:
-3.00 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
20% 67% 13%

The headline for Conner was 18 TDs! Not bad for a player you drafted in the 8th round. With the 2nd most goal-line carries and the most EPA per Rush Attempt, he was a machine despite only 752 rushing yards.  Apart from TDs, he had several other solid overall metrics including his most forced missed tackles (40) of his career and grading out PFF’s #1 RB in Pass Blocking. Conner is only 26 years old and should he return to the Cardinals in 2022, he is a borderline 1st/2nd round pick with the type of usage he saw.

6 Ezekiel Elliott | Cowboys

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

17 games — 237/1002/10 rushing + 47/287/2 on 65 targets
ADP: RB4/ 1.05
Defenses: +6.16 vs Top 16
Home/Road Split: +6.48 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
12% 59% 18%

Towards the end of the year, the prevailing narrative surrounding Zeke was that he was old and busted. While the Dallas offensive line finished #1 in PFF’s end-of-season grades, Elliott struggled to hit the century mark rushing the ball. It wasn’t for a lack of playing time as he ran the 2nd most routes of all RBs. He still was solid and in a season with lots 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 right back to being the dude in Dallas in 2022. The old Zeke is gone but he still should have value more like RB8-12 next year. Don’t be surprised if he ends up slipping to the middle of the 2nd round in drafts.

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7 Leonard Fournette | Buccaneers

2021 Consistency Rank: 11
1st Half: 18 / 2nd Half: 4

14 games — 180/811/8 rushing + 69/454/2 on 84 targets
ADP: RB40/ 8.02
Defenses: -6.24 vs Top 16
Home/Road Split: -5.35 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
21% 57% 14%

Fournette was a fantasy savior for many who needed to plug their RB spot in the middle of the year. From Weeks 4-15, he was the RB3His pace during that span was 349 opportunities (including 88 receptions). The passing work is what helped boost him averaging five receptions per game on the season. There is a lot of turmoil in Tampa Bay this offseason. Tom Brady could retire and the entire backfield is testing the free-agent waters. He’s still only 27 years old so Fournette proved he still has some good football left.

8 Alvin Kamara | Saints

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

13 games — 240/898/4 — 67 targets for 47/439/5
ADP: RB3/ 1.03
Defenses: +1.08 vs Top 16
Home/Road Split: -3.16 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
23% 77% 23%

We didn’t quite get the Super Kamario of old in 2022. Apart from missing Weeks 10-13, he dealt with having three different QBs (four if you count that one Ian Book game) and an offensive line that faced a ton of injuries. New Orleans started 13(!) different offensive linemen on the year. Kamara still averaged 22 touches per game, led all RBs in target share (20%), and saw the 5th MOST Red-Zone Touches. However, only four rushing TDs was very “unKamarian”. Since 2010, Kamara tied for 2nd fewest rushing TDs (4) among RBs with 240+ carries in a season. In that sample size of 125 RBs… TD expectation for 240+ carries was 8.8 rush TDs. There might be major overreaction this offseason but Kamara is still a surefire 1st round pick with his passing work.

9 Cordarrelle Patterson | Falcons

2021 Consistency Rank: 14
1st Half: 1 / 2nd Half: 32

16 games — 153/618/6 rushing + 52/548/5 on 68 targets
ADP: Undrafted
Defenses: -1.51 vs Top 16
Home/Road Split: +1.04 at Home

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Great Games Good Games Bust Games
19% 63% 25%

 What a wild ride! He won our “Waiver Wire Wonder” Footie Award and was a stalwart for many teams heading into the fantasy playoffs. From Weeks 2-14, he was the RB7 in total points, RB9 in fantasy points per game. However, CPee ran out of gas final month finishing as the RB56, 31, 37, & 70. Woof. Patterson was an enigma scoring more points as a receiver (rec, rec yards, rec TDs) than as a rusher (rushing yards, rush TDs) as the Falcons were basically figuring their offense out on the fly. Atlanta could re-sign him and yet if they also draft a rookie in the NFL draft, there is no reason to chase last season’s success with Patterson.

10 Antonio Gibson | Washington

2021 Consistency Rank: 19
1st Half: 30 / 2nd Half: 7

16 games — 258/1037/7 — 52 targets for 42/294/3 — 6 fumbles
ADP: RB12/ 2.04
Defenses: +2.89 vs Top 16
Home/Road Split: +0.41 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
6% 56% 25%

From Weeks 1-8, he was the RB19 in total points and the RB29 averaging only 10.9 fantasy points per game. However, the second half was a different story. From Week 10 on, he was the RB4. Some of this success was due to the absence of J.D. McKissic who was consussed in Week 12 and did not return for the rest of the season. From that point on, Gibson saw five targets per game. Overall, he still tied with Joe Mixon for 2nd MOST 1st downs among all RBs. But the TDs were the major story. In 2020, he had a TD every 15 carries; in 2021, that regressed to every 37 carries. The Washington O-Line was still solid starting and finishing the year as PFF’s 6th ranked unit. His floor seems high but the guys discussed if top-5 is still on the table for the future.

Comments

Brad Reed says:

I only see The TRUTH articles for QB 1-10 and RB 1-10 How can I access the articles on the other RBs WRs TEs please? Thank you

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