Gus Edwards’s fantasy outlook and projection for 2021

What is Gus Edwards’s fantasy outlook?

By Chris Moore (Twitter: @fantasy_moore)

After an unfortunate season-ending injury to Ravens star running back J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards is now in store for a larger workload in 2021. Edwards has soured up fantasy draft boards over the past few days due to his new role in the Ravens backfield. While he may not be the talent J.K. Dobbins is, Edwards has been a highly efficient running back during his time with the Ravens. Over the past three NFL seasons, there have only been six running backs with over 700 plus rushing yards. Aaron Jones, Ezekiel Elliot, Nick Chubb, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, and Gus Edwards. That’s an impressive list. I think it’s fair to say Edwards has been sneaky good over his NFL career so far. Edwards has averaged five yards a carry over his first three years in the league.

While Edwards took a backseat to J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram in the Ravens running back committee last season, he produced 723 rushing yards on 144 carries and scored six touchdowns. Like him or not, Edwards has been rock solid for the Ravens in his short career, rushing for over 700 yards in each of his first three years in Baltimore. The Ravens believe in Edwards as a player, bringing him back on a two-year deal earlier this offseason. Edwards might not be the most talented runner in the NFL, but he is a highly efficient back who is underrated.  

Gus Edwards’ new fantasy ADP

Like I stated earlier in the article, Gus Edwards’ ADP has already skyrocketed in drafts over the past week. Edwards is currently the 77th player off the board in PPR leagues, being drafted as the RB29. With Edwards set to lead the Ravens backfield in carries in 2021, I think it’s safe to say Edwards has a very high chance of exceeding his current ADP. Volume is king in fantasy football, and Edwards will see a lot of it in 2021. With the Ravens having one of the league’s best rushing attacks, Edwards has the potential in 2021 to finish as a high-end RB2. While we don’t know if the Ravens will add more competition to their backfield before the start of the season, Edwards should be the primary ball carrier for the Ravens in 2021.

2021 fantasy projection  

With J.K. Dobbins set to miss the entire season, Edwards is a solid RB2 option for fantasy managers in 2021. The Ravens will still run the ball a ton, giving Edwards and Jackson plenty of opportunities to produce on the ground. I project Edwards to rush for over 1,000 yards and have around 8-10 rushing touchdowns in this offense this season with the potential for more. While Edwards’ fantasy potential is limited due to his lack of receiving production, he is still a solid RB2 with upside.

The Ravens have led the NFL in rushing yards and attempts over the past two seasons, and I expect that trend to continue this year. Edwards is in one of the best rushing offenses in the entire NFL, and he should have a huge season operating as the Ravens’ lead rusher in 2021.

Projected fantasy finish: RB18

Dynasty: 3 sleeper RBs to trade for

Target RB Kenyan Drake

The dynasty fantasy football season is heating up as the 2021 NFL season approaches. It’s important for fantasy addicts to stay on their heels, as nobody expectedly takes days off in the 365-day gauntlet.

The most important fantasy position to prioritize is undoubtedly the running back spot. RBs highlight first rounds of drafts, likely fill out three starting spots, and there are many unheralded names to understand.

With that being stated, I’m going to outline three RB names that should be sought out in hopes of improving your late August roster. These RBs are underlooked, in golden situations, and will help your fantasy championship dreams in 2021. Let’s begin.

Kenyan Drake – Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders are the perfect place for all-purpose back Kenyan Drake. The former Arizona Cardinal has a Top 3 TE in Darren Waller by his side, no go-to slot WR in the huddle, and the right mind with Jon Gruden calling the plays. Drake should be able to fit in quite well. Once Drake is in sync, number 4’s offense should excel. It’s no wonder why Drake stated that his offense “was going to space” earlier in July.

Kenyan Drake will be heavily involved, yet he won’t be called on to handle the load. Lots of screens, quick passes, and red zone touches will be on Drake’s plate in the near future. The revamped OL will take several weeks to get in sync. It would only make sense for the talented skat back to be very involved, particularly early on.

Everybody is watching Derek Carr and the LV Raiders compete in the Death Star this season. Expect the 27-year-old receiving back to be the right complement to Josh Jacobs for years to come and to be the true x-factor on the new-look Raiders offense.

Tony Pollard – Dallas Cowboys

Do not give up “close to a lot” for Tony Pollard, but the Dallas Cowboys RB2 in a healthy Dak Prescott’s offense will be a noticeable factor next season. Ezekiel Elliot had his first non-1,000-yard season in 2020 and his outlook is not the same. Expect Pollard, who shined well with the chance last season, to help the wear and tear on Zeke moving forward. Pollard flashed his electric ability in pre-season against the Texans a week ago.

The Cowboys were not in many positions to control the clock and play the game toward their strength last season. However, I expect the Cowboys with a healthy Tyron Smith upfront to return to dominating the ground game. Pollard will have a major uptick in involvement and production soon. Pollard will also cost truly little in such an exchange.

Trey Sermon – San Francisco 49ers

I love Trey Sermon’s outlook looking ahead. The SF 49ers will look to reclaim the top 3 rushing offenses they held in 2020 with rookie Trey Sermon at the RB throne. Raheem Mostert is a few years past his elite playing days, the other former Super Bowl RBs have left the room, and now rookie Sermon will take the load. Shanny made DeVonta Freeman transform from an average RB to an elite stud in Atlanta. The former WFT offensive coordinator also brought life to undrafted Alfred Morris’s career.

The darkhorse candidate for OROY by PFF has shown to be the true complement to the injury-prone Raheem Mostert. Mostert will take the reigns, but the 29-year-old RB that’s missed nearly half the season in two of the past three seasons has a far from daunting outlook.

Expect Sermon, who was drafted early for the RB spot, to be a major threat and OROY candidate in Shanahan’s well-oiled offensive machine. The 49ers also carry a “very young offensive attack” that should routinely be lighting up the scoreboards for the next several years.

Three Sleeper RBs for the 2021 Season

Target Texans RB Phillip Lindsay

Marcel Boudreau (@Marcel_BFF)

With 32 teams in the NFL, and typically only one running back (RB) on the field at a time, it’s important to strike value on later-round running backs that other league mates are undervaluing. It would be easy to write an article on the known commodities with known upsides like the Gus Edwards, Jamaal Williams, and AJ Dillon’s of the fantasy world. The goal of this article is to highlight RBs going outside of the top 48 RBs (as per 4for4.com ADP), that have a chance of finishing as a valuable fantasy asset and are worth stashing in your drafts.

Phillip Lindsay (RB50 – 165 overall)

Lindsay is the easiest player to talk about in this section, especially with the release of the Houston Texans unofficial depth chart. Lindsay was “co-starter” with Mark Ingram, both ahead of last season’s RB21 overall and 2017’s consensus fantasy first overall pick, David Johnson. Lindsay has career yards per carry of 4.78, which is a very impressive mark. His reputation was stained last season when he failed to score touchdowns as Melvin Gordon was brought into Denver and took the goal-line role. This should not alter how we see Lindsay, as the two years before he averaged 8 touchdowns per season, and caught 35 passes per year, to lead him to 19th and 13th overall finishes. It is also key to note that the Denver offense has struggled over the last three seasons, limiting Lindsay’s scoring attempts and positive game script carries. Other than his smaller frame, there are not many reasons we cannot see Lindsay take over as the RB1 in this offense, and finish as a top 30 RB. 

Kenneth Gainwell (RB62 – 224 overall)

Gainwell slipped much further in the 2021 draft than most expected. This may have been due to a lack of RB need across the league, his smaller body size, or his decision to opt-out of the 2020 college season for COVID reasons. Regardless, Gainwell is an extremely talented pass-catching RB, and many ranked him top 3 in this draft class as a pass-catcher. Why is this relevant? Philadelphia Eagles starting RB, Miles Sanders, struggled mightily in the passing game last season. This Philly team brought in Nick Sirianni as the head coach, who comes from the Frank Reich tree of coaching, who produced the RB15, Nyheim Hines, along with the RB6, Jonathan Taylor just last season (both in PPR scoring). The Philly backfield duo will not produce these finishes, but it comes to show the usage in this running back by committee approach. If Gainwell is lucky enough to see near the passing work that Hines had, Gainwell could produce high floor PPR weeks, with a decent ceiling due to his break-away ability. On top of this, Sanders missed 4 games last season, which could open the door for Gainwell to have top-20 weeks if Sanders misses more time next season. 

Rashaad Penny (RB52 – 181 overall)

Yes, we’re doing it again. When on the field, and on a per touch basis, Rashaad Penny has been very good. In fact, in his five career games with 10+ attempts, Penny has put up four top-14 weekly finishes. Why is he not being drafted higher? A combination of his horrendous injury history and splitting the backfield with Chris Carson. The Seahawks have been rumored all off-season to want to run the ball more, and because of this, there’s a world where both these backs can co-exist, while both being relevant fantasy options. To add, Chris Carson has yet to play a full season in the NFL, and if he were to miss any time, Penny would be an auto-start top-20 RB with weekly top-10 upside. Penny is a player you want to stash at the end of drafts to see his role in the offense in week 1. He has shed some weight and is reported to be looking a lot more explosive in camp, which is a scary thought, for a player who has a lot to prove after being a former first-round pick and potentially entering free agency following the season. 

To conclude, these are not the only guys that have the potential to outproduce ADP at the end of the draft, but these are backs who have could have sneaky weekly upside. Other honorable mentions: Darrynton Evans, Xavier Jones, Gerrid Doaks. I hope this article helps you prepare to go into re-draft season! Thanks for reading.

Fantasy Football: 3 RBs to avoid

Do not draft Bengals RB Joe Mixon

By Jesse Moeller (Twitter: @JMoeller05)

Have you ever heard the phrase “Shooting for the Stars”? This phrase perfectly describes fantasy football to me. Upside wins you championships, as teams with Alvin Kamara in 2020 or Christian McCaffery in 2019 can attest. No one remembers the RB4 performance from LeVeon Bell in 2016. What they do remember is David Johnson breaking fantasy during that season. Hitting on a player who becomes the RB1 in fantasy football gives you a massive advantage over the competition.

It is the gold standard all fantasy managers end up be chasing. Settling for the floor is never a winning strategy, as that hurts your team more than it helps. Target players with paths to notable roles in opportunity shares, target shares, and touchdowns. Touchdowns are the most fickle of the three but can boost a player into contention. Since 2016 no RB1 has less than 64 receptions or 15 touchdowns. That is the baseline for any player to reach the RB1 status. If you cannot reasonably project a player to hit those thresholds, you will have to reevaluate how you feel about that player.

 Derrick Henry RB3

What both tweets reference is an asymmetrical upside that only specific players possess in this game. I am here to explain why Henry is not one of those players.


Once again, I ask why Derrick Henry is going off the board as the third running back in redraft this season? Unless you are playing in standard leagues, where Henry truly is the king, there is no chance Henry pays off his current price. Derrick Henry is one of the safest players in fantasy, and as you know, he will likely be near the league leaders in carries again this season. Which is great and gives him a safe floor, but why are you chasing the floor? The third pick is ideal for upside players such as Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, Jonathon Taylor, Ezekiel Elliot, and if you believe in Antonio Gibson or Najee Harris. These players possess the league-winning RB1 upside that is not in the cards for Henry.

Henry is one of the best running backs in football, his skillset will never allow him to reach the RB1 of fantasy, and that’s ok. Drafting Henry at pick three is playing scared, and scared money does not make money. Fade Henry at cost, and invest in other players at the same range. Let someone else grab Henry earlier than you.

Joe Mixon RB13

That is some extreme inefficiency from Mixon last year.

Another season and the Mixon hype train is taking off. Boosting him top a borderline top 12 running back. It has propelled him into talk of being “The Best Value.” As an early second-round pick where people talk themselves into an upside with Mixon that does not exist. Mixon has been an inefficient volume play so far in his career. Why is Mixon going ahead of names such as C.E.H., Swift, Dobbins, Sanders, and Carson? Are you able to project Mixon for increased efficiency when last year he was among his most inefficient in the NFL with a rookie Joey Burrow as his quarterback? Or are you alright with boom busts weeks for Mixon that will undoubtedly drive you crazy as a manager?

What is working in Mixon’s favor? Of course, that would be the volume, as he will once again receive most of the rushing work for Cincinnati. It becomes fascinating if you can project Mixon for an increased role in the passing game, along with his efficiency moving in the right direction. In 2020 Mixon faced only 6.5 defenders in the box, and the seventh-best light front carries rate, and somehow his fantasy points per opportunity finished as .64, ranking 108th in the NFL last year.

The Bengals invested a first-round pick in superstar prospect Ja’Marr Chase and now have three bonafide wide receivers who will control the target distribution in Cincinnati this season. Regrettably, leaning on Mixon in favor of those three wide receivers is a lousy process by the coaching staff. So let someone else suffer through the roller coaster ride that is Joe Mixon in 2021.

Kareem Hunt RB24

Kareem Hunt is genuinely an expensive backup in Cleveland who had an unsustainably high touchdown rate in 2020. Regression is coming for the Browns 1B to Chubb’s 1A. Last year it was a consensus thought that Hunt was the backup to own in the NFL. If Chubb were to suffer an injury, Hunt would become the league winner. This exact scenario played out, and Hunt was no better than he was with Chubb on the field. So, what is the upside when selecting Hunt?

Hunt reminds fantasy players of the rookie who broke out in Kansas City to finish as the RB5 back in 2017. Unfortunately, he is not that player anymore, and you are better letting someone else chase the upside that does not exist for him for the next two seasons, as Hunt is tied to Cleveland as Chubb’s backup until 2023. Hunt played every game in 2020 and only managed 38 receptions, so without the receiving upside for Hunt, what value to your team does he present?

At his price, take a shot on a player that presents the upside you are looking for in one of Travis Etienne, Chase Edmonds, Javonte Williams, or Miles Gaskin.

Remember that upside is king in fantasy. Going after floor players because “they are safe” hurts your teams instead of winning you championships, which is the goal we all have when we start playing fantasy football. At a certain point, all of the players I listed do become a value in drafts. However, at the current ADP they maintain, they are a fade for me. As I do not hate players, I’m not too fond of overinflated ADPs.

Why Saquon Barkley is a top five running back

Why Giants Saquon Barkley is very elite

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes 

Introduction

The New York Giants questionably drafted Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second draft pick of the 2018 NFL draft. The Giants’ front office, likely influenced by their ownership, chose to try and extend the career of Eli Manning instead of selecting a future quarterback (the options were Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, John Rosen, and Lamar Jackson). Selecting a running back in the first round does not typically yield great results for a team, but Barkley made a tremendous impact during his first season. Saquon was the focal point of the Giants’ offense and even claimed the offensive rookie of the year award over quarterback Baker Mayfield. Though Saquon Barkley has battled injuries during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the sky’s the limit for Barkley this season.

Unique Athleticism 

When Saquon Barkley came into the pros during the 2018 draft cycle, he was a generational talent. When talking about his college tape, Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman said “Saquon is a 9. I have never given out a perfect nine as a scout.” Simply put, Saquon was the greatest player to grace the gridiron in the eyes of the Giants’ staff. 

Barkley lit the combine on fire. His 4.40 forty at 233 pounds is in the 97th percentile in terms of raw score and 99th percentile when adjusted for weight. As an athlete, Saquon is one-of-one. Barkley’s athleticism is always on full display when he suits up, whether it be stiff-arming a defender onto the ground or running past an entire defense.

Unparalleled rookie production 

Saquon came into his rookie season with high expectations. After years of poorly executed running back by committee, the Giants were ready to utilize a bell cow. 

During his rookie year, Saquon broke fantasy football with his production. Though Barkley typically went in the first round of fantasy drafts, no one expected him to finish as the overall running back one. Saquon rushed for 1,307 yards and added 721 yards through the air during his 2018 campaign. Barkley totaled 15 touchdowns during his rookie season too. Adjusting to the NFL is not as easy as Saquon Barkley made it look. Recent first-round picks like Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Josh Jacobs did not post eye-popping numbers despite their massive volume. 

A weapon as a receiver

Over the past decade, the running back position has become devalued due to a plethora of studies that demonstrated the issues that come with paying top dollar (in draft capital or salary) to a running back. Most running backs deteriorate after their rookie contracts expire. However, capturing running backs that can stay productive into their second contracts is still valuable. 

The running backs that rely on breaking tackles and running between the tackles do not fare well in their late 20s. Even backs like Leonard Fournette are just backup caliber players in their fourth year in the league. However, backs like Giovanni Bernard can play meaningful snaps well into their 30s. Saquon had an almost unheard-of 20 percent target share as a rookie. Barkley can line up out of the backfield or in the slot and separate like a receiver. When Saquon Barkley is healthy, he is a menace whenever the ball is in his hands.

Why Antonio Gibson and J.K. Dobbins will dominate in 2021

J.K. Dobbins will take the next step in Ravens offense

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes

Introduction

In fantasy football land, top-performing running backs are coveted. In the National Football League, efficient backs on rookie contracts are valuable. A sophomore running back still has three years remaining on their rookie deal, but often has the chance to produce at league-leading levels. Last year, Miles Sanders and Josh Jacobs were given pre-season hype from their coaches. These comments led the fantasy community to expect them to take the sought-after sophomore breakout. However, David Montgomery was the back that took the jump. Sanders and Jacobs were expected to receive more targets and secure a three-down role, but both did not meet expectations. Montgomery’s jump occurred after Tarik Cohen tore his ACL, causing Monty to receive most of the team’s running back targets.

The 2020 running back class is one of the best in recent memory. Though Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the only first-round running back, five other running backs came off the board between picks 35 and 66. D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Cam Akers, J.K. Dobbins, and Antonio Gibson are all primed to be the lead backs on their team. In 2020, Taylor was the Colts’ premier runner once Marlon Mack went down with an Achilles injury during week one. D’Andre Swift is on a Detroit Lions team that can be described as a work-in-progress as best, so it is unlikely he becomes a star this year. Though Akers has the opportunity to dominate for the Rams, his injury-riddled 2020 season did not impress. However, the rest of those sophomores stand a great chance to lead their teams to the playoffs and bring fantasy managers to their championships.

Antonio Gibson

The Washington Football Team won the NFC (L)East with a losing record in 2020. Their defense played as expected, with star defensive lineman Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, and Daron Payne leading the unit. Despite lackluster Quarterback play, the weapons on the team excelled. Wide Receiver Terry Mclaurin proved that he was a premier outside playmaker, even if his Quarterbacks could not throw the ball more than 20 yards downfield. 

The Football Team made numerous additions to their offensive during the offseason. During Free Agency, the team signed Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Wide Receiver Curtis Samuel and Offensive Tackle Charles Leno.The Football Team selected tackle Samuel Cosmi and Wide Receiver Dyami Brown during the 2021 NFL draft. All of this is to say that the new-look Football Team could be far better than we anticipate. 

If Washington’s offense improves, Antonio Gibson will be a key benefactor. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner has already said that he wants to prioritize getting the ball to Antonio in the passing game. Gibson, a former college receiver, was an afterthought in the passing game because JD McKissic, another college wideout, received a majority of the backfield targets. McKissic received a position-leading 110 targets last season with Captain Checkdown, Alex Smith, at Quarterback. McKissic’s slot usage will take a hit because of Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown’s presence. There is a chance that McKissic is irrelevant altogether if Gibson takes on more receiving work. 

Antonio Gibson played his first year at running back in the highest level of professional football, and he fared pretty well. His natural athleticism, specifically his 4.39 speed at 228 pounds, came through on countless breakaway runs. Gibson will only get more comfortable at the position with more playing time and his first full offseason. If Washington’s offense takes a step forward and decides to unleash Antonio Gibson in the receiving game, the sky’s the limit for him.

Projected Statline: 272 carries, 1,306 yards, 70 targets, 61 receptions, 447 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns

277.8 .5 PPR Fantasy Points (16.3 Fantasy Points Per Game)

J.K. Dobbins

The best pure football player coming out of the 2020 draft at the running back position was J.K. Dobbins. His blend of track star speed (4.30 Forty time) and impeccable vision make him a premier back in the National Football League. Dobbins rushed for a position-leading 6.0 yards-per-carry last year. The fact that he is not regarded as a top back in the league is baffling, yet understandable at the same time. On the one hand, Dobbins was a hyper-efficient running back on an electric offense with versatility as a receiver. On the other hand, Dobbins only carried the ball 134 times last season and barely eclipsed 800 yards while competing with Gus Edwards for touches. 

The Chiefs should have picked Dobbins over Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round of the 2020 draft, but Dobbins fell to the 55th pick in the second round. The Ravens saw how much success Dobbins had running beside Justin Fields, so they paired with their dual-threat quarterback, Lamar Jackson. Any running back benefits from a mobile quarterback, as it makes defenders key in on multiple potential runners every play. However, J.K.’s skillset relies on making defenders miss in short areas. If Dobbins only has one defender to beat to the edge, he can use his video game-like change-of-direction to juke them out and take any run to the end zone. 

Throughout the first few weeks of minicamp and OTAs, the Ravens vocalized their desire to use Dobbins as a wide receiver. Dobbins would undoubtedly improve the Ravens’ passing attack. However, there is a chance that the Ravens are giving the public “Coach Speak” and misleading the public. If the Ravens do only give Dobbins 1-2 targets a game, he will still be a solid contributor. 

However, the upside that Dobbins possesses can transform the Baltimore offense and boost your fantasy team. The chance to get targets in the most run-heavy offense in the league is rare, but the Ravens keep touting Dobbins. His 2020 season was littered with drops, but the Ravens’ confidence in the young man indicates that he will move past the rookie errors. Though Dobbins will not see a Christian McCaffrey, or even Antonio Gibson, type workload, he does not need to. The lead back in the Baltimore committee is undervalued, and you should take advantage before the public catches on.

Projected Statline: 231 carries, 1,331 yards, 48 targets, 38 receptions, 285 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns

246.6 .5 PPR Fantasy Points (14.5 Fantasy Points Per Game)

Ezekiel Elliot has proven to be a historical talent at the RB position

“The Quest for Canton” Mini-Series: Article 4 of 20

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

Background:

As the NFL offseason slowly moves along, there is increasingly less to talk about as we wait for the season to roll around. With more time on our hands, writers and journalists are looking for anything to write about. That was where the idea for this series arose from.

In the NFL today, there are many young talents who seem to already be heading towards acquiring a bust in Canton. Reaching the NFL Hall-of-Fame is one of the most prestigious honors any player can hope to achieve in their careers and is what motivate many players to improve and play at the highest level. In this series, we will discuss how some of these players have already left their marks and what they can do to ensure their eventual enshrinement.

Over the next ten weeks, we will make our way through twenty total players in the NFL today under the age of 28 who are well on their ways to the Hall. Twice a week, a new name will be discussed and debated in order to see where they stand and what they can do in their “Quest for Canton”.

Article:

In 2016, the Cowboy’s started a three-year run of a team drafting a running back with a top five pick in the NFL draft, selecting Ohio State star Ezekiel Elliot with the 4th overall selection of the class. The Jacksonville Jaguars followed suit the next season, taking LSU bruiser Leonard Fournette with the same selection, and In 2018, the Giants finished the trifecta, selecting Penn State superstar Saquon Barkley as the second overall pick. Since then, each back has gone on to have success in their respective careers, with Fournette playing a key role in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020-21 title run and Barkley dominating when healthy, even leading the league in scrimmage yards as a rookie.

What “Zeke” has done through five seasons, however, dwarfs anything the other two have accomplished, as well as the majority of every other first five years a running back has had in league history. In that time, the young Cowboy’s rusher has already led the league in rushing yards twice and led as well in rushing yards per game in each of his first three seasons. 

Through a players first 50 career games, Elliott finishes third in yards from scrimmage since the merger, with his 6,300 trailing just Edgerrin James (6,506) and LaDanian Tomlinson (6,425). He also made an immediate impact in Dallas, totaling 1,631 rushing yards and 15 rushing scores as a rookie and helping propel the Cowboys to the second-best record in the league (13-3) and pairing with fellow rookie, quarterback Dak Prescott, to dominate the league.

Despite a down year in 2020, in which the team lost Prescott early to injury and never recovered, Elliott’s early years remain some of the greatest in history. He ranks in the top 15 in NFL history in both rushing yards and touchdowns through a players first five seasons, with all 14 ahead of him either currently or soon-to-be enshrined in the Hall. Zeke should return back to prior form with a healthy Prescott keeping defenses honest once more in 2021 and continue his run as one of the best backs of this generation.

As it stands, Zeke is already well on his way to Canton, and should join the ranks of the greats soon enough should he continue his amazing career start!

Tune in early next week as we hit the quarter-way mark of the series and break down another legendary running back of this generation: Carolina Panthers superstar Christian McCaffrey.

PFF Ranks Indianapolis Colts Running Back Unit Second in the NFL

What makes the Colts rushing attack one of the best in the league?

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

On June 2nd, Pro Football Focus released their ranking of the top rushing attacks across the league. Atop the list sit the Cleveland Browns, and undebatable selection for the top slot. The Browns have arguably two top-10 rushers in the league in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and their rushing attack is unmatched by any other running back room in the league.

Second on that list, we find the Indianapolis Colts.

This was where many people seemed to disagree, as numerous complaints were made across social media that the Colts being slotted second was “a joke”. Many people wanted the Saints and/or Vikings above Indy, but PFF did get this one right, despite the criticism. Here’s why.

In 2021, behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, the Colts run game blew up. With rookie Jonathan Taylor leading the way to the tune of 1,169 rushing yards (third in the league) with 12 touchdowns, and pass-catcher extraordinaire Nyheim Hines pitching in 862 total yards and seven scores, the team’s once laughable running back stable dominated.

Prior to the season, however, the team was looking at former starter Marlon Mack to head the backfield for the team. When he went down in the first game of the season, Taylor was thrust into action as the lead back, and it showed in how overwhelmed he seemed through his first few starts.

Now, the team’s 1,000-yard rusher from 2019 is set to be the teams RB3 in 2021, which is something not many teams can say. To have a 1,000-yard guy as someone who might not even see major playing time is amazing, and allows the team to worry less about injuries, as unlike other squads, the team can cover itself almost to perfection.

While many teams high on the list, including New Orleans and Minnesota, have great 1-2 punches, the Colts are the only team in the league with three guys who could arguably be an RB1. No other team can match that level of skill and talent three-deep.

With the trio set to go strong into 2021, expect the team to use their rushing attack to great effect, pairing with quarterback Carson Wentz in an attempt to push the offense up to elite status. As it stands, the running back stable is well set to help carry the team to the playoffs and potentially help the team make a deep run.

3 Surprise 1,000 Yard RBs

Which sleeper RBs could be stars in 2021?

By: Zach Owen

Before jumping into the players, I want to address a pretty big change for the upcoming season. The 2021 NFL season will have 17 games this year. One game might not sound like much but it will impact all kinds of statistics this year. The obvious takeaway is that more games means more yards, passes, receptions, touchdowns, etc. for everyone. Don’t get too excited though; it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Football is a tough sport and most teams aren’t going to run their big money players into the ground, especially if they are playoff hopefuls. Expect some amount of snap management from coaches, especially for RBs. More NFL teams are already starting to move towards a RBBC setup anyways. Now with an extra game, I only expect that type of usage to go up. You can also expect some more injuries with an extra game. That could happen to anyone at any time though so trying to predict them will be very difficult. With those notes, let’s look at some players.

Javonte Williams

Bottom line up front, I expect all rookies to get used more often this year due to the extra game. They are younger, fresher, and generally have had less injuries than the vets. So, despite joining Melvin Gordon, a strong veteran RB, Javonte Williams is in a position to break the 1,000 yard mark this year. They will definitely start off in a timeshare but I expect the ball will get spread out enough for him to get there. I am also a pretty big fan of Williams in general and expect him to take over a majority of the snaps as the season goes on. This isn’t so much a knock on Gordon as it is praise for Williams. Gordon performed well last year, coming in at 986 rushing yards while missing a game. The return of Courtland Sutton should also open up the Denver offense which helps. So the opportunity is there for the Denver RBs to get a lot of yards in.

Mike Davis

On the other end of the age spectrum is Mike Davis. In games where he started last year when Christian McCaffrey was injured, Davis averaged 53 yards per game. Now that is short of what he would need this year to break the 1,000 yard mark (59 is the number to get) but he’s on a team to do it. First, the Falcons have one of the most dangerous passing games in the league. Matt Ryan is still a great QB and his receiving weapons are insane with Julio, Ridley, Pitts, Gage, and Hurst. Teams are going to have to defend the pass or get torched. That leaves the running game wide open for Mike Davis to pump out some extra yards each game. The Falcons new head coach Arthur Smith, previous OC of the Titans, also knows how to use a RB. Derrick Henry ran for 2,000 yards last year under Smith. While Davis is obviously not Henry, Smith will take advantage of Davis’ skills. Davis will get a lot of receiving work in, which he excelled at last year, but he’ll be a solid threat on the ground as well.

Chris Carson

Chris Carson is another veteran that I could see taking advantage of a hopeful situation. Not counting the game he got injured, Carson averaged 58 yards per game last year. This was right on the cusp of where he would need to be this year to break the 1,000 mark. He’s another RB in a strong passing game offense with Wilson, Metcalf, Lockett, and the newly added Eskridge and Everett. Also, Pete Carroll (their head coach) said he wants to run the ball more which is good news for Carson. Now the return of Rashaad Penny could be good news or bad news for Carson but I see it as a positive. Penny has dealt with injuries for most of his career. So despite his abilities, I don’t expect him to take the reins away from Carson. Carson got paid $10M over the next two years which to me is not backup money. So Penny, if he plays, should actually help Carson out to help keep them both fresh and hopefully injury free.

How does Travis Etienne compare to Alvin Kamara?

Can Etienne be the next Kamara?

By: Will Baptist

The running back position has seen a drastic change over the years, and they are required to be more complete backs now. Catching the ball out of the backfield, and having a good enough route tree to line up in the slot is a major aspect of being an every-down back.

Alvin Kamara is arguably the best example of that in the NFL right now. He has the strength and size to run it up the middle throughout the game, while having the quickness and route running ability to run numerous different routes, and stay on the field on third down.

Kamara was drafted in 2017, and already has 4 Pro Bowls under his belt. We have yet to see a running back with the unique size and quickness comparable to Kamara since he entered the league, but it seems there is one on the horizon.

Travis Etienne, a first-round pick out of Clemson, is the best comparison we have seen to Kamara. Etienne is poised for a big rookie season on the Jaguars, especially since his quarterback will be his former college teammate, Trevor Lawrence. They already have familiarity with each other and know the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s game.

Similarities in Styles

Etienne and Kamara are the exact same size, at 5’10 and 215 pounds. They play very similar styles, with their patience and explosiveness. Etienne is physical and able to run between the tackles, but has the straight line speed to score on any play.

Etienne is extremely difficult to bring down, and it normally takes at least two defenders to do so. He was able to run a wide array of routes during his final two seasons at Clemson, and showed that he has the ability do that consistently at the next level. He improved as a pass blocker throughout his career as well, which bodes will for his ability to stay on the field on the third down moving forward. Kamara also showed flashes in college of how great of a pass catcher he could be during his tenure in Tennessee.

Urban Meyer will unleash that aspect of Etienne’s game, and it would not be shocking to see him catch 60-70 passes as a rookie. He is the complete package, and his strength and size are reminiscent of Kamara as a college back. Their quickness jumps out on tape and their ability to move in and out of cuts is staggering.

One major difference is Kamara ran a 4.56 40-yard dash, while Etienne ran a 4.32 40-yard dash. That speed is going to translate immediately at the next level, and as long as Etienne can hold his own as a pass blocker, he will be on the field a ton as a rookie. They have other backs in place in Jacksonville, so he will not have to shoulder the load, which gives time to learn and grow.

The biggest similarity between them is the strength and ability to bounce of defenders. They both understand leverage and how to use their size to break tackles on every play. This will be a nightmare for opposing defensive backs when they are put on an island on a swing pass, and try to bring down Etienne. He is in prime position to be Offensive Rookie of the Year, just as Kamara was in 2017.

Similarities in Statistics

Etienne shattered the record books during his 4-year career at Clemson. He holds the ACC career record for rushing yards (4,952), total touchdowns (78) and total points (468). Etienne had the luxury of being on one of most the prolific teams in the NCAA all four years. When he stepped on campus as a freshman, it was evident he was the premiere back on the team, while totaling 766 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, along with 7.2 yards per carry as a true freshman.

This was only the beginning for Etienne, as he went on to rush for for consecutive 1600+ yard seasons with at least 23 total touchdowns as a sophomore and junior. His junior season, Clemson began to use him as a pass catcher and expand on how he can contribute out of the backfield. He had 37 catches, 432 yards and four touchdowns through the air, showing that he can be an every down back. It was clear how special he was and his yards per carry never dipped below 7.2 his first three seasons.

Every player’s statistics and production should have an asterisks by it for the 2020 season, considering the global pandemic was in full force. Etienne is no exception, and this forced him to play only 12 games, as opposed to the 15 games that he played the two seasons prior. His rushing stats took a dip , but he exploded as a receiver and showed his full capabilities. He hauled in 48 catches, 588 receiving yards, two touchdowns and 12.3 yards per catch.

Kamara had very similar production as a receiver during his time in Tennessee. He was primarily used at a pass catcher, but still dominated on the ground. In his two years at Tennessee, he totaled 1,294 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns, 6.2 yards per carry, while catching 74 passes, 683 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns. All this production occurred in a 24-game span, and it was clear Kamara was a diamond in the rough, and if he totaled the same amount of games as Etienne did in college, their statistics could be identical.

The similarities between Etienne and Kamara are uncanny, but being drafted into the right organization plays a major role in how successful the player can be. Kamara was drafted into the perfect situation, with no lofty expectations as a third rounder, and going to one of the most genius offensive minds in Sean Payton, and future Hall of Fame quarterback, Drew Brees. Etienne is going to a first time NFL head coach, Urban Meyer, and an organization that does not have much of a history of winning. For the Jaguars sake, hopefully Etienne paired with Lawrence can provide them with hope for the future, because their talent is undeniable.

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