By Brendan Semon:
Running backs in fantasy football can be one of the trickiest positions to key in on in the draft. Because these players can be so easily replaceable, it's draining trying to figure out who will be your bell cow back for the entire season. In a PPR league, a good running back can be the
difference in winning it all or settling for 7th place for the third year in a row. For those who need an extra hand in selecting one of the top talents for your team, here are five safe picks at running back in your PPR fantasy football league.
1. Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers)
When it comes to running and receiving, there is no running back that does it better than Stanford product Christian McCaffrey for the Carolina Panthers. Since the 2018 NFL season, CMAC has averaged more than 24.1 fantasy points per game and has seen a yearly increase in that category since entering the league in 2017. In his magical 2019 run, he accumulated 1,387 rushing yards coupled with 1,005 receiving yards with a total of 19 touchdowns on the ground and the air and finished with an astounding 29.4 FPTS/G. This number was able to increase in 2020 to 30.1 FPTS/G, but carried some misfortune as the elusive back would play only 3 games during the season. Coming off of a full offseason of recovery, McCaffrey is ready to carry the Panthers and Team Smith to victory for the 2021 season. If he's your running back, there's three things you'll never have to worry about: dropped passes, fumbles, and <15 points. He truly can and will do it all.
2. Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings)
2020 was a breakout year for Dalvin Cook as he registered 1,557 rushing yards on 312 attempts for 5.0 yards per carry (is that good?) while finishing in the end zone 17 times on the year. Now that he's gained the trust of head coach Mike Zimmer and quarterback Kirk Cousins, Cook's role is only going to grow in the Minnesota Vikings' offense. Thus, his 24.1 FPTS/G in 2020 is just the beginning. Fine tuned with incredible finesse and power in his game, we can easily expect for Dalvin Cook to be targeted immensely more than the 54 times he was a year ago. His best performance came in Week 8 when he single-handedly dominated the Green Bay Packers with 206 rushing yards on just 22 carries along with two receptions for 46 yards. He finished the day with a subtle 4 total touchdowns and 48.6 points. Cook may be the streakiest player on this list, but when he has a good week, he has a good week.
3. Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans)
You can never go wrong with drafting the 2020 NFL rushing yards leader in Derrick Henry, who held a strong case for MVP due to his monstrous 2,027 rushing yards. The sole reason as to why he comes in at number three on this list is due to his lack of participation in the passing game. In a PPR league, you need a running back who can dominate on the ground and in the air, and while Henry is unmatched on the ground, his 31 targets in 2020 is less than intimidating. It's far from realistic to expect Derrick Henry to come close to repeating the same success running the ball in the 2021 season, especially due to the fact that quarterback Ryan Tannehill has a new toy in wide receiver Julio Jones (ever heard of him?), but we can still expect him to continue on the 19.4 fantasy points per game pace he held in 2020, should he be more involved in the air attack this season.
4. Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints)
Alvin Kamara is the definition of a PPR hero in fantasy football. Since coming into the NFL in 2017, he's recorded 81 receptions in three straight seasons, and finished with 83 in the 2020 campaign. Without Drew Brees as the quarterback, wide receivers for the New Orleans Saints are surely to receive some decline in production. For Kamara though, 2021 might be the year he reaches 100 receptions. With Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill duking it out for the starting quarterback slot, they'll be checking down on passing plays more than Tom Brady has in his entire career. Because AK is more of a receiving back, he can hit some ups and downs in the run game throughout the season, but one of his ups in 2020 was a 6 rushing touchdown performance against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16 in which he finished with 56.2 points, a Christmas miracle that caused tears of joy and despair. Simply just click [Draft] on Alvin Kamara and let him do his thing.
5. Aaron Jones (Green Bay Packers)
Under the Matt LeFleur offense in Green Bay, running back Aaron Jones has reached the 1,000 rushing yards mark in 2019 and 2020 while averaging 19.7 and 18.5 FPTS/G respectively. 2021 bodes a special year for Jones as the Packers will be opening another chapter of their dynamic offensive playbook that will see more targets for him in the passing game. Since LeFleur was hired as the head coach, Jones has averaged 65.5 targets a season and with Aaron Rodgers looking for one last ring, he's going to see those numbers increase. Jones is one of the safest picks at running back due to his unconscious ability to finish drives with a touchdown. In the past two seasons alone, #33 has 30 total touchdowns. Not bad for a fifth round pick. Adding Aaron Jones to your team will secure the bag indefinitely.
You can read more of Brendan's work at ahittothehead.com