It’s a new week so that mean’s its another week closer to football. In fact, we are 50 days away from kickoff of the 2021 NFL season. Last week, the main focus was about the rookie quarterbacks. Today, it’s all about the rookie running backs. The rookie running backs this year will dominate on the field. All of them will make big plays out of the backfield. Fans should expect big things from the rookie running backs this year. So let’s get into it. Here are the top five rookie running backs to draft in fantasy football!
1. Najee Harris Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s simple, the Pittsburgh Steelers took the best running back in the draft. So they have one problem solved. Since Le’Veon Bell’s departure from Pittsburgh, the Steelers have not had a true number one running back. Yes they had James Conner, but he didn’t pan out the way the Steelers expected him to. Harris was a monster at Alabama last year with 26 rushing touchdowns and 1,466 rushing yards. He brings crazy athleticism to Pittsburgh and instantly makes the backfield better. Now, where should he be drafted? Harris should be drafted by the fifth or sixth round. However, he shouldn’t be your top choice as a running back. RB2 or Flex is where he should be to start the season.
2. Michael Carter New York Jets
Yes, the New York Jets have two rookies that will make a big impact in fantasy football. The Jets were gifted Michael Carter as he was selected in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Jets fans should be excited about this kid. He’s the real deal. Ever since Le’Veon Bell was released, the Jets have been looking for their next starting running back. Well, they found him. He’s coming off of a season where he had nine rushing touchdowns and 1,245 yards. Plus, Carter is going to have a wall of an offensive line. So expect Carter and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson to be a dynamic duo. Where should Carter be drafted? Fantasy Football owners should draft Carter in the middle to late rounds. Just like Najee Harris, Carter should be a flex to start off.
3. Travis Etienne Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars selecting Etienne in the first round is still a head scratching pick but it is what it is. What’s even more confusing is why the Jaguars had him run wide receiver drills during mini camp. Head coach Urban Meyer said they plan to use Etienne as a “hybrid player.” For fantasy purposes that could be really good or an absolute trainwreck. Etienne is the all time ACC rushing leader but of course the Jaguars don’t want to use him for what he’s good at only. At least he’s going to be teammates with his college quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Etienne is a high risk pick. Towards the end of your fantasy draft is Etienne is sitting there, why not take a chance on him? If he doesn’t pan out, you can always release or trade him to someone else.
4. Javonte Williams Denver Broncos
Williams was part of the dynamic duo North Carolina had in their backfield. So, he should be used to sharing the backfield with someone else which is exactly what will happen in Denver. Unless Williams absolutely shines during training camp, the starting running back in Denver will be Melvin Gordon. But, that doesn’t mean Williams won’t get meaningful playing time. He will. The Broncos will use Williams just like how the Baltimore Ravens used J.K. Dobbins last year while he shared touches with Mark Ingram. Williams had 19 touchdowns and 1,140 rushing yards last year with North Carolina and now he brings that explosive rushing attack to Denver. Draft Williams late and leave him on the bench to start the season. Once Williams really gets going, then insert him into the flex.
5. Trey Sermon San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers backfield is crowded. But, Sermon should not be overlooked in this crowded backfield. He won’t be the starter, but he will still have meaningful playing time. Trey Sermon is coming from Ohio State where in eight games he had four touchdowns and 870 rushing yards. He’s serviceable in this young 49ers offense that will led by either Jimmy G or Trey Lance. Kyle Shanahan will find a way to use Sermon. Sermon should be drafted very late due to the fact that for now, theres no wiggle room in the 49ers backfield.
So those are the top five running backs to draft in fantasy football. Each year there’s always that one rookie running back that has a fantastic rookie season that was on nobody’s radar. It should be fun to see how all the rookie running backs do this year!
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-Matt Burnett (@mattthew_jordan on Twitter)