2021 Veteran RB Targets

The 2021 season feels like it’s just around the corner, alot of hype is building around rookies but there are still veteran RB targets. We’re in the part of the offseason where the fantasy football machine is taking us by storm.  Rankings are coming out all over the place, analysts are sharing their booms and busts for the year to come, and every day a new camp story comes out. Normally telling us about X players’ new workout regime which guarantees they’ll be top 10 at their position this year. 

Rookie Fever

A big part of this cycle is rookie fever.  It’s not a surprise, given that a huge part of playing in a dynasty league is a focus on age.  As we approach our rookie drafts (although my home league has already finished ours), we hype ourselves up for the new players entering the league.  We become convinced that they’re going to be the next big thing.  Of course, this is going to be true for some of them. Although statistically they’re not all going to perform to their rookie draft capital, as a simple look at the 2020 rookie ADP will show us.

It’s in this moment that the hype train begins to get out of control.  All offseason, you’ll hear analysts telling you that now is the right time to sell off your aging stars. This is especially the case when it comes to the running back position.  We know that RBs have a tendency to hit a cliff when they reach around age 26. And some current stars are hitting that threshold:

  • Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)
  • Dalvin Cook (MIN)
  • Derrick Henry (TEN)

The reason people get nervous is they don’t want another Todd Gurley situation. You’ve got a top tier RB talent, thinking you have an advantage and they fall off a cliff. However, I’m here to put forward the case to you that not only should you not sell these players, but you can actually look to buy them.

Performance or Potential?

The argument here is a simple one, and it starts with a question.  Why do you play fantasy football?  Is it so you can stare at your roster and tell yourself that you’re going to reach the playoffs for the next ten years?  Or is it so you can win a championship? So you can wipe the floor with your leaguemates and rub their face in how good you are?  It’s the latter.  And here’s the thing – potential doesn’t win championships.  Performance does.  It’s all good to look at your roster and think that you’ll be competitive for the next ten years, but what does it matter if you’re finishing 3rd every single year?

So if we know that we want to win championships, then the crucial thing is to look at performance.  And yes, we can look at the performance that our running backs might achieve for the next four years.  But as running back is such a fragile position, I would prefer to look merely at how I think my running backs are going to achieve for the next one year.  I’ve highlighted three “old” running backs below who I think are going to be league winners in the 2021 season. Especially compared to the value at which you’re able to acquire them.

NB – The ADPs below were taken from Sleeper Dynasty .5PPR on 21st May 2021.

Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (RB10)

Elliott is an absolute favourite target of mine this offseason – or at least, he would be if I didn’t already own him in my dynasty league. This time last year, he was the consensus dynasty RB3.  He then finished as the RB9 in PPR. That was despite playing behind a damaged OL and playing without his superstar QB in Dak Prescott. 

So what has justified his 7 place drop-off in ADP?  As far as I can tell, the main reason is merely his age. With the Cowboys OL looking better for next year, Prescott coming back, and a few players coming into the defense to make it stouter, Elliott is in for a revival this year.

I’ve seen trades where he can be acquired for an early 2021 first pick, but even if you needed to add a little more it’s worth it. If you are a contender, you might need to add a combination of picks. But, if you’re looking to win a championship this year, Elliott can step in straight away as your RB1 and push you closer

Chris Carson, SEA (RB23)

I get the reaction here.  Carson isn’t an exciting asset and here’s not someone you want holding down your dynasty roster.  But the point of this approach isn’t about the next five years – it’s about the year in front of us. And Carson, who was the RB19 last year, even though he missed four games, is certainly a value for next year.  The Seahawks seem primed to run the ball more in the upcoming season, and they just resigned Chris Carson to a two-year deal.  They’re a high-scoring offense with Russell Wilson and are always going to be up there in terms of touchdowns. That should mean Carson is locked in for a solid season.

Currently you can likely acquire Carson for a late-first or early second round pick. Great value if you need a reliable depth piece.

James Conner, ARI (RB39)

No one wants James Conner in dynasty leagues.  Maybe it’s because of how much we feel let down by him from the 2019 season – Conner was the RB10 going into the year. The fantasy community was excited by the departure of Le’Veon Bell, having seen what he was able to do in his absence the year before.  He followed up this excitement with two seasons of injury, disappointment, and poor play.  But if you actually look into it, you’ll see a slightly different story. 

Conner finished as the PPR RB27 in 2020 and the RB33 in 2019, despite missing 3 games in 2020 and 6 in 2019.  Last season, he was actually pretty good – it just didn’t feel like it.  Conner has recently signed with the Cardinals, where it seems like he has a great opportunity to be the RB1.

SeasonGames PlayedRush AttYardRush TDRecsRec YardRec TDFantasy Points Per Game (0.5PPR)Projected Full Season TotalRB Ranking

Yes, he’s injury-prone, and yes, his upside is a bit limited by Kyler Murray’s rushing, but currently, you can pick up Conner for a late second-round pick! Given the dearth of talent at RB this year, why not take a chance on a player whose ceiling is the RB1 for a high-scoring offense?

So there’s three players who I think are actually prime players to buy for the upcoming season.  Sure, you might be forced to hold for a bit longer than you want, and you might not see the value you want from them when you do sell them.  But my argument here is simple – these players will win you a championship. And that’s what this is all about.

Any other veteran RB targets that you feel are worth adding to your roster? Let us know! You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Image Credit: Kevin Jairaj – USA TODAY Sports