Fantasy: 3 RBs You’re Sleeping on in 2021

Three sleeper fantasy RBs to target

By: Jeremy Shulman

AJ Dillon

RB, Green Bay Packers

Current ADP: 63.6, RB28

I am shouting this one from the rooftops early this offseason. Dillon will appear everywhere in my writeups for the foreseeable future, because chances are you are too low on the second-year back.

Though Dillon’s claim to thigh supremacy in the league has been challenged recently by the Falcon’s Mike Davis thanks to Atlanta’s OTA Twitter posts, he’s still the reigning champion thanks to this:

Dillon has fully embraced his strengths, and it seems his team has, too.

Aside from inking starting running back Aaron Jones to a new, lucrative deal, the Green Bay Packers have seemed content to roll with Dillon as their RB2 in 2021. They began the offseason by letting former, productive backup Jamaal Williams walk in free agency, and the have added little competition in the backfield to-date. It’s doubtful anyone left on the wire can meaningfully compete with the Boston College product, and seventh-round draft pick Kylin Hill is likely just a special teams add.

As Green Bay’s RB2, Dillon projects to see somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 attempts on the ground and even a couple shots through the air. Though not a prolific pass catcher, he should be used to spell Jones and keep him fresh during the season on early downs and could be incorporated in drive rotations much like Dallas’ Tony Pollard has been utilized in the past. If quarterback Aaron Rodgers sticks around, this offense is elite and should push for another 13-win season, making mop up duty routine. If Rodgers refuses to reunite with the team, a reliance on the running game is probable and Dillon wins again.

For 2021, Dillon is an elite backup option who should be taken before almost all others who won’t receive a full workload. His ADP isn’t exactly low, but when you’re looking at Pollard, Kenyan Drake and Ronald Jones, take Dillon first and enjoy the production with extreme upside if Jones goes down.

Gus Edwards

RB, Baltimore Ravens

Current ADP: 108.5, RB45

This one makes no sense to me. Edwards is only 26 years old and has recently received the backing of his team with a nice salary bump in 2021. Given his previous usage, the departure of Mark Ingram and the Ravens’ reliance on the running game, it’s clear that Edwards is primed to outperform his current ADP.

First, Edwards has averaged 138 carries per season. Plus, he’s hovered around that number in each of his 3 years, so that carry mark should be considered his floor in 2021. Though Dobbins is primed to see more than the 134 carries he earned last season, and Lamar should top out at his career average of 160 per year, there should be plenty of work for Edwards to exceed value this year. And, with team RB3 Justice Hill not posing much of a threat, the pie is split just three ways in Baltimore.

Considering Mark Ingram’s move to Houston, there are just 72 carries up for grabs in this offense. Though that’s not much of a vacated workload, Ingram earned a 25.8% snap share and a 30.3% opportunity share according to Player Profiler in 2020. While many expect Dobbins to eat up most of the available work, I see it more as a 50/50 split. Edwards is assured to see the field more often, which should yield more fantasy points given his top-10 efficiency numbers at the position from a year ago.

Finally, it’s no secret by now that the Ravens run more than any team in the NFL. Last season, not even the Patriots and Titans came close to the 55/45 rushing to passing split that Baltimore employed. Though Roman and the team have made a concerted effort to bolster the wide receiver room this offseason, it’s still a good bet that the Ravens lead the league in rushing attempts again in 2021. If the trend holds, you’ll want the RB2 in this offense.

As with AJ Dillon, Edwards has historical usage on his side and a clear RB2 role out of the gate. If something happens to Dobbins, he’ll dominate touches with Hill likely mixed in at a lower rate and on third downs. Get Edwards on your team this season.

Travis Etienne

RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Current ADP: 117.4, RB49

With both Dillon and Edwards, I’m still expecting their teams’ RB1s to have great seasons. For Travis Etienne, however, I’m expecting he takes the reins as the Jaguars’ lead back in short order.

Etienne currently sits in a position to smash his ADP in 2021 thanks to a new coach familiar with his work and the top QB in the class pushing to get his college teammate on his new pro squad. The rookie back is a first round selection in Urban Meyer’s first season. That alone displays a supreme investment in the Clemson product, and it may hint at Meyer’s feelings about last year’s breakout, UDFA James Robinson.

We love Robinson in the fantasy community. He literally came out of nowhere to post top-10 numbers at the position. Forced into action after the Jags jettisoned Leonard Fournette and with backs ahead of him contracting COVID, Robinson took hold of the job over the summer and never let it go. However, Ryquell Armstead and Devine Ozigbo weren’t exactly elite competition, allowing Robinson to record the #1 opportunity share for all backs in the NFL in 2020 according to Player Profiler. And the Jags didn’t exactly have any expectations for their season, evidenced by their #1 overall pick in the draft this year.

Enter Meyer, Lawrence and, now, Etienne, who come with high expectations to turn this team around in short order. With the 25th overall selection, Etienne should see a significant split in the backfield immediately as Robinson is phased out of the workhorse role. Etienne also profiles as the better receiving back, even working as a receiver during rookie minicamp, giving more credence to the idea that an initial third down role, and maybe some positional versatility, is in his future.

With the rapport Lawrence and Etienne have already developed in their three years together at Clemson, with the significant draft capital investment this new regime has bestowed upon him and with the fact that Robinson carries no contract concerns given his UDFA status last season, Etienne will take over this backfield sooner rather than later. Don’t miss out at his current low price, especially in PPR leagues.

Grab any or all of these RBs in your 2021 drafts and you’ll finally be able to rest easy.

*all ADP data used in this article sourced from: https://fantasydata.com/nfl/fantasy-football-ppr-adp-rankings/rb

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