Running Backs to Avoid (March 2021 Fantasy Football)

Running back is routinely the scarcest position in fantasy football. Despite that, there are always a handful of tailbacks I’ll avoid in drafts no matter what.

Last year, I mentioned Kenyan Drake, Miles Sanders, Jonathan Taylor, Sony Michel, and Ronald Jones as running backs I was avoiding due to their overvalued draft price. With the exception of Taylor’s late-season surge, that list worked out pretty well.

Let’s see if I can make it two years in a row with my 2021 running backs to avoid list:

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Chris Carson (FA): RB21 ECR
Chris Carson’s days in Seattle could be over, and so could his days of garnering at least 200 touches in a season. The Seahawks decided not to exercise the franchise tag on Carson, which makes sense, as he isn’t deserving of being paid like a top-10 back.

Now, not using the franchise tag doesn’t guarantee Carson won’t be back in Seattle. But it seems more likely than ever that Carson will hit the open market.

My guess is the next team that signs Carson won’t be signing him to be the bell cow back he was in Seattle, where he averaged 18.5 touches per game over the last three seasons. Instead, I expect Carson to play more of a complementary role as an early-down back.

While that might be good for Carson’s health — he’s missed seven games since 2018 and seems to constantly be listed on the injury report — it’s bad for his fantasy value. And right now, Carson’s being ranked as a low-end RB2.

All I can say is no, thank you.

Raheem Mostert (SF): RB28 ECR
Raheem Mostert got a contract extension and promptly missed eight games during the 2020 season. Mostert failed to deliver on the upside many hoped for, and now I’m just content to fade him entirely.

While San Francisco’s rushing game is one of the best in the league, it’s a really tough one to gauge from a fantasy perspective. That’s because coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t afraid to rotate backs, taking running back by committee to the next level. Five different running backs carried the ball at least 28 times last season. Sure, part of that was out of necessity because of the team’s rash of injuries. But part of it is just Shanahan’s nature, as he’s more apt to ride the hot hand out of the backfield.

Mostert is a nice player with good speed, but it feels like his 2019 outburst was his peak as a fantasy performer. With Tevin Coleman, Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon, and JaMycal Hasty all still on the roster, this situation screams “stay away.”

Mostert will just be another cog in Shanahan’s machine. One week he’ll put up respectable numbers, the next, he’ll disappear. The volatility is just too much, and I’m not convinced Mostert is good enough to overcome it.

Damien Harris (NE): RB29 ECR
I can see it now. The Patriots don’t add any running backs over the offseason, and suddenly there are people talking themselves into Harris as a sleeper with high-end RB2, low-end RB1 potential.

I’m not going there. Obviously, we don’t know what’ll happen this offseason. But either way, Harris will be someone I’m avoiding in drafts this summer.

Harris is a fine player. And he played fine in 10 games during the 2020 season. However, let’s keep in mind that Harris surpassed 50 yards in just five of those games and scored only twice. Oh, and when Harris was healthy and playing in Weeks 4-13, he was just the RB25.

Harris was mainly a default option on an offense devoid of talent. I suspect the Patriots will make some upgrades to their backfield, rendering Harris as just another guy on a rebuilding offense.

Don’t buy the hype on Harris.

Derrick Henry (TEN): RB3 ECR
I’m sorry if seeing Derrick Henry on this list made you gasp or spit out your drink on your computer screen. But I’m avoiding Henry in 2021 like I have every year.

There’s a reason I put Henry last on this list, and it’s because he’s made me look bad year-after-year. But I find it interesting that the common arguments of “tread on the tires” and age does not seem to apply to Henry like it does other running backs.

Now obviously, Henry is a different specimen. He’s a monster truck. But the market seems to forget that Henry has logged 948 touches over the last three seasons and is entering his age 27 season. Eventually, that workload will catch up to him, and it could be this season.

Injury isn’t the only argument against Henry in 2021. Factor in that Tennessee’s offense lost its coordinator, Arthur Smith, and may need to replace weapons like Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith that forced opponents to respect Tennessee’s passing game.

Maybe Henry’s just different. But just like the past few years, I’m willing to be wrong and miss out. I’d much rather take Alvin Kamara, Nick Chubb, and perhaps Saquon Barkley over Henry.

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Matt Barbato is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato