2021 Dynasty Football RB Buy and Sell

by Rob Lorge
2021 Dynasty Football RB Buy and Sell

With the NFL Draft finally in the books, we can really dive into which dynasty football players we all should be looking to buy and sell. This week we’ll be specifically looking at 2021 dynasty football RB to buy and sell.

Major free agency moves are in the books and the NFL Draft is behind us. This means we can start feeling comfortable with the depth charts across all 32 teams. There will be injuries and certainly, some late-round rookies’ surprise that we’ll need to account for.

In the dynasty leagues I’m in, this is the craziest time of the season as far as roster movement. Players are changing teams faster than people change their partners in Vanderpump Rules. The one thing to be cautious of is an inflation in player prices. This is especially true for guys like Myles Gaskin.

 I like him for 2021, but putting him inside the top-15 is too high. The NFL Draft went by without Gaskin getting any competition and his value sky-rocketed. This happens every year after the draft. There’s a period of extremes from now until training camp. Over the next few months, it’ll simmer into that 18-24 range, which feels more comfortable.  It’s important to recognize those trends when you’re looking to diving into the trade market.

The dynasty running backs we should be looking to buy and sell is based on Half-PPR or Full-PPR scoring settings. This seems to have become the norm across most leagues.

2021 Dynasty Football RB Buy and Sell

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Running Back Buys

Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

Most people didn’t expect Aaron Jones to still be a Packer in 2021, but here we are. Ironically, the “other” Aaron may not be back, but we’re not going to worry about that today.

Aaron Jones finished as the RB5 in 2020 and the RB2 in 2019, so he’s unlikely to come cheap. Still, if the Jones owner is worried about Rodgers being traded or AJ Dillon stealing goal line touches and you can get him, do it.

The Packers didn’t add a wide receiver until round three. They didn’t make any substantial additions to the passing game. Jamaal Williams was not re-signed. What does all that mean? We might be looking at the most involved Jones has ever been in the passing game.

The past two seasons Jamaal Williams received 80 targets. He caught 70 of them for 489 yards and six touchdowns. AJ Dillon is not a pass catcher. Green Bay’s offense is virtually unchanged, so who is going to get Williams’ passing work? My hope and belief is it’s Aaron Jones. Matt LaFleur has kept Jones’ volume in check since he came to Green Bay, so an increase in receiving work might mean lower rushing totals. That’s no matter, receptions are worth more points anyways.

Jones has averaged 48 catches the past two seasons, but with Williams’ no longer on the roster, we could be looking at a 70 catch season from Aaron Jones. Based on the receiving work from the Packers’ running backs this still leaves AJ Dillon with 15-20 catches.

Plus, we’re talking about the best offense from 2020. They are still going to be dynamic. And in the past two drafts, they selected six offensive linemen. This is going to ensure he’s going to continue running behind an elite offensive line.

I’m all in on Aaron Jones this year. If Rodgers stays in Green Bay Aaron Jones is going to challenge for a top-3 finish in 2021. If people are hesitant surrounding the drama in Green Bay, go capitalize. Should the worst come to pass, an Aaron Rodgers trade, Jones will undoubtedly be the engine to their new-look offense. I love it either way.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

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I know, the Bengals not drafting Penei Sewell was a disappointment, but it’s not all bad. Joe Mixon is an absolute buy for me.

First off, the Bengals finally got rid of Giovani Bernard. We can finally expect a season where Joe Mixon approaches 50 catches; a number he has never reached. His three year reception average prior to 2020 where he missed 10 games is 36. During those same three years Bernard has 108 catches. There’s work to be had for Mixon in the receiving department and I think he’s going to finally get it.

The depth chart behind Mixon is bare. And despite that being the case before the draft, the Bengals only drafted one running back. In the sixth round. This is Joe Mixon’s backfield folks. The offensive coordinator for the Bengals said he doesn’t want Mixon leaving the field. Ever. I like the sound of that.

The offensive line is still not a strength. With the additions of Riley Reiff and Jackson Carman, we can expect it to at least be better. Even though Sewell might have been the most helpful to Mixon’s cause, Ja’Mar Chase will eliminate heavy boxes set up to stop the run.

A trifecta of receivers of Ja’Mar Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd with Joe Burrow under center is going to be something defensive coordinators will have to respect. Even though the offensive line will be below average Mixon likely won’t find himself running against too many eight man fronts.

Joe Mixon is still young, the offense is going to be vastly improved and he’s looking at elite volume. If anyone in your league is down on Joe Mixon after last season, he’s an easy buy.  

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

This is my guy. I’ve been a Chris Carson fan for the past couple of years and the guy just does not disappoint. Last year he was RB17 and he missed four games. He was RB11 on a PPG basis when considering running backs who played at least half the season. In 2019, he was RB11. In 2018, he was RB15.

The knock on Chris Carson is that he misses games. Where, oh where did this rumor start? He missed two games in 2018. One game in 2019 and four games in 2020. This does not sound like a guy who is injury prone. I’d love to name all the running backs who have missed more games than Carson over the three year span, but it would be far too long. That’s alright though because that misconception is going to lower his price.

The Seahawks let Carlos Hyde walk in free agency, which means the guy behind him on the depth chart is Rashaad Penny. The guy Carson has been outplaying for years. The same guy the Seahawks refused to pick up the fifth-year option on.

Carson is signed in Seattle for two more years. We can feel good about him being the main guy for both of them. Pete Carroll absolutely loves him some Chris Carson. When he had that fumbling issue in 2019, did Carroll bench him? Nope. This is his guy.

The Seahawks also got rid of their old offensive coordinator because he let Russell Wilson cook just a bit too much. Which is bad for the Seahawks overall, but good for Carson. Carroll hired a guy that is going to stay true to his philosophy of pounding the football.

The Seahawks don’t pour a lot of resources into their offensive line, but they did trade for Gabe Jackson. He’s a quality player and will help strengthen that unit.

His age and contract will likely relegate his buy status to those teams with championship aspirations this year or next. If that’s you, Chris Carson can help your team.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs

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He was anointed as a top-5 running back last year without ever playing an NFL game. With those aspirations, he disappointed. He wasn’t all bad though. He finished last year as RB22 while missing three games and sharing work with Le’Veon Bell.

Bell is gone and the Chiefs cut Damien Williams. The depth chart behind CEH isn’t scary. Darrel Williams is there and the Chiefs just signed Jerrick McKinnon, but neither guy should scare you. This should once again be CEH’s backfield, just like it was before the Bell addition.

He didn’t have a typical rookie offseason and he was walking into huge responsibility with sky-high expectations. He disappointed a bit. But Andy Reid vouched for him when he made him the first running back off the board in last year’s draft and I trust Andy Reid’s offensive mind.

CEH had some bad touchdown luck last year. He had nine carries inside the five-yard line and only scored three times. After the first half of the season, he lost some of those carries to Williams and Bell. This was one of the biggest areas he struggled with. As a sophomore with a year of experience under his belt, I expect him to be better.

One thing that will help him in this area is their offensive line. And you have to give credit to the Chiefs, they identified a weakness and they fixed it. They added All-Pro left tackle, Orlando Brown and All-Pro guard, Joe Thuney in free agency. Austin Blythe, Kyle Long and Mike Remmers were also added in free agency. They weren’t done there. In the second round they drafted Creed Humphrey. All of a sudden, this offensive line has elite talent and a ton of depth.

Defenses will always have to focus on stopping Patrick Mahomes because well, he’s Patrick Mahomes. CEH is going to see very few seven or eight-man boxes and he’s going to be running behind a much improved offensive line. The scoring opportunities are going to be abundant and the depth chart tells me CEH is the guy.

D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

D’Andre Swift isn’t getting as much love as he deserves. This is largely because he’s a Detroit Lion. And their quarterback is Jared Goff. And their offense isn’t going to be good. They also added Jamaal Williams. All of those things are true and yet, he’s a buy for me.

The Lions coach is Dan Campbell. Dan Campbell was the assistant head coach for the New Orleans Saints for the last four years. The offensive coordinator for the Lions is Anthony Lynn. Lynn was the head coach for the Los Angeles Chargers for the last four years. In that time frame (2017-2020), the Saints have averaged 334 carries to their running backs. They’ve also averaged 144 targets and 115 catches to their running backs. During those same years, the Chargers have averaged 354 carries. They’ve also targeted their running backs 148 times and averaged 117 catches. It’s no wonder Campbell hired Lynn.

They have similar offensive philosophies. Those are absolutely huge numbers. Both teams were first and second in the NFL in receptions by running backs. The Lions depth chart at wide receiver is Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams and Quintez Cephus. It’s bad. Their quarterback is Jared Goff who averaged 6.8 yards per attempt, one of the lowest in the league. You see what I’m getting at here?

D’Andre Swift is going to be peppered with targets. They have the worst receiving group in the league. They have a quarterback who struggles to throw the deep ball. And they have two coaches who have come from organizations that have been first and second in running back catches for the past four years. No small sample size. That’s not the only reason to love Swift though.

The Lions also have a top 10 offensive line. You may not believe me, but it’s true. Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Penei Sewell give them three very good players on their line. Jonah Jackson also played quite well as a rookie and it’s fair to expect him to get even better. The offensive line is a major strength. This will help out Swift in a big way.

He was electric as a rookie and despite only playing 13 games and rarely ever getting the majority of the snaps or touches, he was still RB18. In the only five games, he received 15 touches or more last year, D’Andre Swift averaged 19.42 PPG in 0.5 PPR settings. For context, Derrick Henry averaged 20.2 and Aaron Jones was at 16.8.

The Lions offense is currently set up to run through D’Andre Swift. And while it may not be a successful offense in terms of the NFL, it certainly looks to be a very fantasy-friendly one for D’Andre Swift.

Running Back Sells

Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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For whatever reason, Bruce Arians just does not seem to be a RoJo fan. The acquisition of Leonard Fournette last year. The addition of Giovani Bernard this year. And when they got into the playoffs, the games that really mattered, Arians stuck with Fournette. It’s just not a good look.

He’s a guy who has been effective when he’s gotten his number called. He almost had 1,000 yards last year and averaged over five yards per carry. Someone coming off the season that RoJo just had would normally be a buy. But how’s a guy who averaged over five yards per carry only have 192 carries? It doesn’t add up to me.

Last year, RoJo played on 54 percent of the snaps. Fournette was at 45 percent. Fournette missed three games and RoJo missed two, so it’s a pretty accurate account of how they were used. Now they’re adding Bernard. Fournette was the third-down back for the Bucs last year with RoJo used very sparingly. If Bernard sticks, I don’t expect RoJo to be used at all on passing downs. I do expect though, for Fournette and RoJo to continue splitting carries.

Despite being on a very good offense, I don’t even feel comfortable betting on an above-average touchdown rate. That’s something I could normally bank on for a running back on a good scoring offense. There are just too many mouths to feed here in Tampa for that to be the case.

If he’s getting 60 percent of the carries, zero passing game work and without a high rate of touchdowns, the upside is significantly capped. It’s almost non-existent outside of an injury to the other two.

The other issue as it relates to dynasty purposes is his long-term value. Arians just does not seem committed to RoJo. After his rookie contract, it’s hard to imagine any team giving him a leading role in their offense.

Some players may inflate the value of all Buccaneer players by virtue of playing with Tom Brady and having won the Super Bowl. If I’m able to sell RoJo, I’m looking at doing so.

James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Oh, man! Oh no! First off, my condolences for anyone who hung onto Robinson thinking there’s no way the Jaguars draft an early running back. I feel for you, honestly. It’s time to move forward and hopefully, move on.

The best-case scenario for James Robinson at this point is him being Gus Edwards. There’s going to be zero receiving work. He’s still going to get carries because Travis Etienne isn’t going to be a workhorse back like CMC or Barkley. Make no mistake though, this is going to be Etienne’s backfield sooner than later.

It’s possible that maybe James Robinson is Chris Carson and Travis Etienne is Rashaad Penny, but I wouldn’t count on it. If I can find someone who buys into Urban Meyer’s talk of Etienne only being the third-down running back and Robinson continuing to be the guy on first and second down, I’d definitely be trying to make a deal happen.

James Robinson is likely to see his 240 carries go down to that 150-170 range. His 49 receptions will drop to 10. We’re smack dab in flex range or worse. The Jaguars still profile as a slightly below-average offense and it’s not a great offensive line. If I can get low-end RB2 value or even flex value back for Robinson, I’m doing it. The only upside here is if Etienne utterly fails or gets hurt.

Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

I’ve never been a Melvin Gordon guy. In six seasons he has one 1,000 yard season. He has four seasons where he averaged below four yards per carry. He’s played 16 games just once. He’s 28 years old. The Broncos just drafted their running back of the future. For all of those reasons, he’s a must-sell.

This one is really pretty easy. If I’m a team in the midst of a rebuild, let the league know he’s available and take the best offer that comes along. If I’m contending, I’d be looking to flip Melvin Gordon for a WR3/4 with some upside because Gordon has none.

I think Javonte Williams starts pushing for work this season, even as a rookie. He’s a bowling ball. The dude cannot be brought down and he was constantly getting yards after contact in college. That style of running is going to get him on the field.

If there’s one thing you can use to sell Gordon, it’s his receiving game. He’s averaged 43 catches across his six-year career despite missing multiple games. Javonte doesn’t profile as a very good receiver out of the backfield and there’s no one else on the roster going to take that role.

The acquisition of Teddy Bridgewater might also give some league members hope the offense is better this year than it was under Drew Lock. Sell that, but don’t buy it.

Gordon has one more season left in the NFL where he’s going to get consistent touches. Sell him now while you’ve got the chance.

Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

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Miles Sanders isn’t an absolute must sell, but there are some things I’m worried about. First and foremost is Jalen Hurts. To put it simply, running quarterbacks are not good for running backs. There are a number of reasons why that’s true.

One, if Philly is going to devise some quarterback reads and designed runs that limits how many carries can go to the running backs. An NFL offense only runs the ball so often. Two, running quarterbacks do not throw to their running backs at the same rate traditional passers do. We see this with Josh Allen and we see it with Lamar Jackson. Their running backs just don’t see the same number of targets. And lastly, it’s rushing touchdowns. Any rushing touchdowns Hurts gets is one that could’ve went to Miles Sanders.

Miles Sanders saw 52 targets last year, a healthy number. He caught 28 of them. That’s awful. Most running backs are in that 70-80 percent catch rate. Sanders was at 54 percent. And in the NFL Draft, the Eagles drafted Kenneth Gainwell, who many saw as the second-best pass-catching back behind Travis Etienne. When you combine the draft pick with Sanders’ awful 2020 season catching the ball and it’s not a good look.

I also just don’t expect the Eagles to be very good this year. It’s not an offense I believe in. That’s not the end of the world as I had Swift on the buy list earlier, but the concern with Sanders centers around his volume. If his targets dry up, he could be more of a back-end RB2 as opposed to the mid RB2 he’s currently ranked as.

Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons

Unlike Gordon, Davis is going to be a much easier sell to a competing team. Mike Davis is currently locked into a workhorse role. It seems like a given he’s going to have 250 touches. Anyone who has that many touches is going to be an RB2, especially on this offense.

Davis’ direct backup is Qadree Ollison. Who? Usually, when someone says there is no one behind him, it’s a bit of an exaggeration. In Mike Davis’ case, it’s absolutely the truth. That’s something you can sell.

Mike Davis finished as RB15 last year starting 13 games. There’s a lot to use with Davis to try and sell him following the draft. His value is never going to be any higher than it is right now.

He wasn’t very effective last year despite receiving high praise for filling in for Christian McCaffrey. He averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and only 6.3 yards per reception. Both numbers are not good by any means.

I just can’t believe Davis is anything more than a one-year filler for the Falcons. He’s 28 years old and he’s been a backup his whole career. His career yards per carry is 3.7 YPC. If there’s a competing team that needs an RB2, I’m definitely looking to sell.

Approach With Care – Yield 

Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins

I’m approaching Myles Gaskin with care regarding his buy or sell status. This largely depends on what kind of team I view myself to have. All the signs point to Myles Gaskin definitely being the guy in 2021. Although, I don’t think that commitment level is there for 2022.

They tried adding Le’Veon Bell after his release from the Jets midway of last season. Reports suggest they were going to pick Javonte Williams if Denver had not traded up to select him. Both of these things tell me they don’t view Gaskin as the long-term solution. To be fair to Gaskin, he could change their minds.

If I don’t view myself as a 2021 championship contender, I’m looking to trade Gaskin right now because his value is not going to be higher. I don’t expect Gaskin is going to be the lead guy in 2022. We’ve seen the Dolphins try to add guys in 2020 and 2021 now.

But even though I’m entertaining offers for him, I’m not taking just anything like I’d be more inclined to do with James Robinson or Melvin Gordon. Myles Gaskin is going to be a very good asset in 2021. Last year he averaged 14.4 points per game. To put that into context a bit, it’s a higher number than Ezekiel Elliott, Antonio Gibson, Miles Sanders, Chris Carson, D’Andre Swift, JK Dobbins and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. You can’t just brush that aside.

Brian Flores has shown he’s a believer in a workhorse type of running back and there’s no reason to think that won’t be Myles Gaskin this year. The additions of Jaylen Waddle, Will Fuller and Liam Eichenberg (offensive linemen out of Notre Dame) are only going to help Gaskin.

Gaskin is a tough one to know what to do with, but I’m entertaining offers if I’m competing or rebuilding. If I’m rebuilding, I’m most likely taking the best offer I can get and it should net you a very nice return. If I’m competing, I’m willing to look to see if someone is willing to overpay.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans 

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This one pains me, absolutely pains me. I love Derrick Henry. I mean, how can you not? Henry’s incredibly talented. He’s one of the few elite fantasy football running backs. And he’s one of those players you can root for even if he doesn’t wear your favorite colors. And yet, I’m entertaining offers.

You certainly shouldn’t be selling Derrick Henry for nothing. In fact, the return should be significant. If it’s going to hurt you to trade him, it should hurt the other guy to trade for him. This is a gamble by both sides. How long can he continue to dominate as he has?

Derrick Henry is 27 years old. In the last three seasons, the oldest top-10 fantasy running back was 26 years old. The running back position is a young-man’s game. We know this. Henry isn’t exactly young anymore.

The 718 touches he’s accumulated in the last two years are also concerning. Last year alone he had over 400. If Henry is going to be his dominant self again this season, he’s going to have to buck a whole heck of a lot of history. We’ve seen big-time drop-offs in production from running backs following up a 400 touch season. We’ve also seen big-time drop-offs in production from running backs who rushed for 2,000 yards. Henry did both last season. Does that mean it’ll happen to him? I don’t know. History says yes, but what will Henry say?

Arthur Smith, his offensive coordinator from the past two seasons has relocated to Atlanta. Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith are gone too. Those two players were the second and third most used passing weapons in Tennessee last year. Josh Reynolds and Anthony Firkser, two marginal players thus far in their careers are expected to be their replacements.

It’s likely we see a decrease in efficiency as it relates to the Titans’ offense. This is just a normal occurrence when a coaching change happens. Learning a new system takes time. Losing Davis and Smith means defenses can lock onto the run even more. They were before anyways, but you remove those passing weapons from the equation and there’s even less of a reason not to stack the box on every play.

The other concern and I hate to even say it because Henry has never been hurt. But he’s a 27-year-old running back who has touched the ball 718 times the past two seasons. Even the year before he had 230, which isn’t a small number. Historically, running backs get hurt. Running backs who have been used this much get hurt more frequently. These are just factual statements. Does that mean Henry will get hurt? I don’t know.

I do know there are a lot of warning flags to Derrick Henry’s 2021. It doesn’t mean I’m going out looking like I have to deal Henry, but I’m entertaining the idea. He’s an elite-level talent. He’s been elite for two seasons. He needs to be treated like the elite asset he is until he proves otherwise. Bill Belichick has always said he prefers to trade his stars a year too early than a year too late. What’s that mean for Henry? I don’t know! But I do know I’m open to the idea of moving him. The question is what kind of value does he bring back and is that worth it? That, I leave up to you.

Be sure to come back next for our last edition where we’ll be focusing on wide receivers. Happy trading and good luck!

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