2021 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs

by Mike Bonni
2021 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs

Welcome everyone to the 2021 Fantasy Football: Rookie Running Backs article. In this article, I will be going over the top-ten rookie running backs for 2021. Mainly, I will be going over the RB’s that have a shot at helping you win the championship, hopefully.

Most of the rookie RB’s don’t have a shot at making a huge impact, but there is a handful that can help win your fantasy leagues this year. Will Najee Harris or Travis Etienne have a better year? OR does Javonte Williams come out of nowhere and surprise everyone? Or will a no-name rookie RB take the league by storm (James Robinson, 2020).

It should make for an interesting 2021.

Let’s dive into my 2021 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs article.

2021 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs

Complete a free five-minute mock draft against industry experts and custom analysis for your team with the FantasyPros Draft Wizard.

Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

Embed from Getty Images

Najee Harris is the number one rookie RB going into 2021. There is no argument to be made for anyone else really. He has no competition to take carries away (Anthony McFarland) and he should be the main targeted RB in the passing game. It is safe to say that Najee Harris might never leave the field.

In College, Najee was a beast. He rushed for 1466 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2020. He also added 43 catches. It took him till his Junior year to break out, so that is a little concerning for some.

Other than the late break-out age, there are a few other concerns I have. The offensive line was 31st in run blocking last year. To fix this, they released almost their whole offensive line. This includes David DeCastro, their best lineman. This all seems very odd considering you spent a first-round pick on a running back.

I still believe Najee Harris is going to get 300+ carries, along with 60+ targets. This will easily vault him into borderline RB1 (1-12) consideration. He could easily sneak into the top-12 RB’s though. He is currently being drafted as RB12 in PPR formats according to fantasydata.com.

Personally, I would rather draft CEH, Chris Carson, Akers, and Swift before Najee Harris. I don’t believe in the offensive line.

Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars

Embed from Getty Images

Going into the draft, Travis Etienne was my RB1. In my eyes, he is more explosive than Najee, faster, with better hands, and more of a playmaker. At any point in college, he was able to take it to the house. Will he be able to do that in the NFL? I believe he can.

Unfortunately, Etienne went to a worse situation than Najee. This is why I have to rank him lower. Etienne was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round, which was weird, to be honest. They just had a break-out RB in 2020 with James Robinson, so drafting Etienne didn’t make the most sense right away. It wasn’t till you dug a little deeper, there you will find the reason for drafting Etienne.

James Robinson struggled with big plays, and this is where Etienne excels at. That right there is one of the main reasons for getting Etienne. That, and the fact that he is an amazing pass catcher. In college, Etienne caught 102 balls for 1155 yards in his four-year career at Clemson.

Etienne will be lucky to see 200+ carries, but what he will see is 60 + targets. Maybe even more could be coming his way. Currently being drafted as RB19 now, according to fantasydata.com. This is way too high to be drafting Etienne.

I would take him no higher than RB25, or somewhere in that range. I would rather have Sanders, Montgomery, Mike Davis, and maybe even Miles Gaskin. Please draft Etienne at the right spot, don’t be reaching on him.

Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos

Javonte Williams couldn’t have gone to a better situation, especially since the Steelers already picked their running back. The only competition Williams has is Melvin Gordon, which he is a shell of himself these days.



In college, Javonte was never a full workhorse back. At UNC, he split carries with Michael Carter. He was still insanely good though. In 2020, he rushed for 1,140 yards (7.3 average) and 19 touchdowns. He also added 25 catches for 305 yards.

Javonte is currently being drafted as RB28, right behind Melvin Gordon. I believe for 2021, both RB’s are going to be getting theirs. In the future, though it’s Javonte Williams to lose. For Dynasty purposes, please draft Williams as much as you can. If you are in a redraft, I would simmer down on him just a bit.

The Best of the Rest

These RB’s have a shot at making a difference in 2021. More than likely, they will have scattered opportunities to make a difference. Unless an injury happens, leave these guys undrafted, or draft them in the late rounds.

Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers

Embed from Getty Images

In 2020, Trey Sermon was okay at Ohio State where he rushed for 870 yards (7.5 average) and added four touchdowns. He had a lot of competition to deal with at Ohio State, which explains his low rush total. He has actually never rushed for over 1000 yards in college.

I would temper your expectations on Trey Sermon this year. He is currently being drafted as RB33, which is way too high for me. There is no chance he usurps Raheem Mostert this year. I would still suggest drafting Trey Sermon, but nowhere near that high.

Michael Carter, New York Jets

There is a very good chance that Carter becomes the lead back in New York, so please draft accordingly. He doesn’t have much competition to take it over either. Although he has never been a workhorse back in college, he was still pretty dominant.

In 2020, he rushed for 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns. He also added 25 catches for 267 yards. He did this with Javonte Williams on the same team. Michael Carter could be a steal in drafts, so please take a shot on him. He is more talented than the other RB’s on the roster.

He is currently being drafted as RB34, which is a little high for a guy who might not start right away. If you can get him later than that, that would be great.

Chuba Hubbard, Carolina Panthers

Easily my favorite RB in the draft. If it wasn’t for his rough 2020 season, Chuba could have easily been drafted as a top-three RB in this draft class. In his college career, Chuba was deadly. He rushed for 2094 yards in 2019 (6.4 average), with 21 touchdowns. In 2020 though, he only rushed for 625 yards (4.7 average).

Chuba is now backing up the most important RB in fantasy football. Last year when Christian McCaffery went down, the backup Mike Davis finished as RB12. Will Chuba be able to do this if C-Mac goes down again? I would like to think so.

Chuba Hubbard is worth drafting, so please do so. If C-Mac goes down, Hubbard could be a league winner. Maybe.

Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles

Kenneth Gainwell was selected in the fifth round by the Eagles. He was solid in college, rushing for 1,459 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2019. It’s Miles Sanders‘ job in Philly, so I don’t expect to see Gainwell do much this year. Leave him off your draft boards for now.

Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots

It’s unlikely that Rhamondre sees the field much. In the future, he has an opportunity to be a lead back. In college, Stevenson ran for 1,180 yards in his two-year college career. Don’t draft but monitor his situation.

Final Thoughts

Embed from Getty Images


  • Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, Javonte Williams are the big three. If you draft any rookie RB, make sure it is one of these three.
  • Trey Sermon has some players to hurdle, but it is possible for him to finish 2021 as the lead back in San Fran
  • Can Michael Carter be a lead back in New York? Not much competition there, so it’s possible.
  • Chubba Hubbard, the ultimate handcuff? I believe he is.
  • Kenneth Gainwell has to impress to move up the depth chart
  • Don’t sleep on Kahlil Herbert, drafted by Chicago Bears. He can be a difference-maker.

That should do it for the 2021 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs article. I hope you enjoyed it.


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

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow us on social media

A Six Pack of Fantasy Sports

Copyright © 2022 Fantasy Six Pack.