2021 Fantasy Football Best Ball Underrated Running Backs

by Davis Peng
2021 Fantasy Football Best Ball Underrated Running Backs

Welcome everybody to my 2021 Fantasy Football Best Ball Underrated Running Backs articles for Best Ball.

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Let's talk running backs. Everybody's most talked about position! So here are my 2021 Fantasy Football Best Ball Underrated Running Backs that I feel are under drafted. These players are the ones I see that are undervalued at their current ADP, and if they fall further, even better. If you have missed my overrated running backs article, catch it here.

2021 Fantasy Football Best Ball Underrated Running Backs

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Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders (ADP 43 - RB21)

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Josh Jacobs finished the season as RB8 on the season in 2020. Currently, he is being taken as RB21 and sometimes drafted outside the top 24. I understand that it was a bit bumpy and many of the weeks weren't great, but Jacobs was serviceable. Jacobs still gave nine weeks of double-digit points, with five games being 19 points or better. Jonathan Taylor gave ten weeks of double-digit points and only four weeks of 19 points or better, and he's going in the first round.

Why I'm Buying Jacobs

I am actively acquiring Jacobs because he is a full-on value buy. I understand that people are afraid of Kenyan Drake "stealing touches" from Jacobs, but here is the truth of the matter. Jacobs has touches to give away, and overall it won't be that many. Drake will be taking the vacated touches from Devontae Booker, who accounts for 110 touches. This is not including that he will probably eat into Jalen Richard and Theo Riddick's 52 touches. If Drake takes half of the backup's touches and another 30 from Jacobs, that will give him about 170 touches. 

Jacobs touched the ball 306 times last season, the third-most in the 2020 NFL season. Subtracting 30 of his touches puts him at 276, still keeping Jacobs in the upper echelon of total touches. This is equivalent to Jacob's rookie year, where he finished as RB18 while missing three games. Jacobs will be featured behind an o-line that should take a step forward.

Being able to grab Jacobs in the mid-fourth round to early fifth round makes him a value buy. Whether he is your second or third running back in your Best Ball team, Jacob's ADP allows flexibility and different ways to pivot in roster construction.

Kenyan Drake, Las Vegas Raiders (ADP 120 - RB41)

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"Davis, you just wrote about Josh Jacobs being underrated, and now you chose his teammate Kenyan Drake. You can't take two players from the same team!"

I know this may seem odd but before you click off this article, hear me out. I am not telling anybody to take two players from the same team. As I pointed out before, Drake is set to be in a role with a solid, consistent floor; I have him projected to receive 170+ touches as a backup running back. Based on last year's numbers, only three players were on pace for that many touches in a seventeen-game span that didn't have the starter miss multiple games.

Those players are Gus Edwards, Nyheim Hines, and Latavius Murray. Out of these three players, the only ones who may keep that trend are Edwards and Murray. The only other player that could have qualified in this category of 170+ touches with the starter, not missing games, is Kareem Hunt. Even when Nick Chubb was playing, Hunt still averaged 10+ touches a game. Hunt is currently being drafted in the fifth round while Kenyan Drake is going in rounds eleven or later.

Why I'm Buying Drake

Drake has shown he is talented, a good change of pace RB who is projected to receive the majority of receiving work and may get a good chunk of goal-line touches. Drake is a value depth pick that will be hard to beat, and unlike other backups/splits, he will not need to rely on his starter being injured to get consistent playing time.

We know that Gruden will have approximately 500 touches over the seventeen-game span, and he has two above-average running backs he can consistently use if the receiving corps doesn't step forward this season. If the majority of touches for Drake is receiving touches instead of rushing, this gives him a solid floor.

Based on half-PPR scoring, the RBs with splits with 10+ touches averaged approximately ten points a week by season end. If you run a modified RB1 team or a 0RB team Drake has an every-week chance to make it into your Best Ball line-up.

Phillip Lindsay, Houston Texans (ADP 176 - RB52)

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Bringing up the Houston Texans in fantasy football is equivalent to talking about the elephant graveyard in Lion King. Of course, you shouldn't go there, but you do anyway because there has to be something worthwhile, right? So let me introduce to you value pickup Phillip Lindsay.

Why I'm Buying Lindsay

Phillip Lindsay is currently being taken as RB52 and is the youngest running back on the Texans. His receiving capability isn't on the same level as lead back David Johnson, but he doesn't have to be. Lindsay only needs to be reliable on the ground and good enough to steal touches from Johnson.

In the last four seasons, David Johnson has racked up multiple injuries that have limited his ability to play at a high level and have prevented him from playing full seasons. So Lindsay is the next man up and is a better dart throw than backups Mark Ingram and Rex Burkhead.

It's not a sexy pick, but it will get the job done. Lindsay will either take the starting role from Johnson, or Johnson will lose the role due to injuries. We have seen Lindsay put up 1,000+ yards rushing seasons on a bad Broncos team in the past, and he is in a prime situation to do it for the Texans.

Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos (ADP 97 - RB34)

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If you follow me on social media, you knew Melvin Gordon would be on this list. However, I am sticking to my guns that Gordon is a value pickup in Best Ball.

With the addition of second-round running back Javonte Williams, people have begun to dump Melvin Gordon, and he is currently valued as a fringe RB3/RB4.

The ongoing narrative that Gordon himself looked terrible in 2020 is blown out of proportion, and he is slated to be one of my best value buys this season. I currently have him projected to finish as a flex play with possible RB2 numbers.

Why I'm Buying Gordon

The Broncos were the 31st ranked offense in the 2020 season, positionally from QB, O-line, and WR, it was set to fail. Offensively things don't look great for Gordon, but it was out of his control. 

Gordon faced multiple stack boxes and finished with the 8th best rushing grade, according to PFF. This is a similar grade to Jonathan Taylor and David Montgomery.

Gordons 2020 stat-line is 4.6 yards per attempt, 51 forced missed tackles (only four players are ahead of him in that category), finished 11th in yards after contact. However, he is a dual-threat RB that is capable of pass-catching. If Teddy Bridgewater is the starter in the event, I expect Gordon to be the guy to catch the flats and dump-offs.

The Broncos were middle of the pack in RB touches last season with 419 total touches split amongst three running backs due to Lindsay's injury. However, when games that included both Lindsay and Gordon healthy, they did a near-even split. The third running back was barely involved in any touches. I expect the touches to increase if both Williams and Gordon are healthy with a near 60/40 split.

Whether or not Gordon is the lead back, I expect him to get his fair share of touches still and to finish the season with a minimal 200+ touches.

The Denver Broncos are contractually in a bind with Gordon that wouldn't make sense to cut him since he would cost the team 5.5 million in dead cap. If Gordon is traded, he is most likely walking into a situation as the lead back as most teams don't want to take on that contract unless it's a win-now situation. Being traded would increase his value, do not take that as a negative.

Check out the rest of our 2021 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers!

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