2021 RSO Contracts: RBs

Updated: August 1st 2021

My annual look at RSO auction values moves to running backs.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished this year.  The data comes from a variety of different types of leagues with varying scoring rules and starting requirements which can drastically alter player values so be cautious in expecting values to match your particular league.  The information does provide a useful starting point for examining how RSO owners value players at a certain position relative to one another and the length of contract they are willing to invest.  Provided fantasy stats and rankings utilize PPR per game scoring.

Average RSO Running Back Contracts

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Perhaps the most striking aspect for top running backs is how close the top contracts are together.  The top-6 average contracts are within $3 million per year of each other.  McCaffrey, Barkley, Cook and Kamara should be no surprise near the top.  Once again, rookies come at a premium in early auctions with the caveat of extremely small samples so don’t be surprised to see Harris this far up.  He’s virtually assured of a huge workload for Pittsburgh with volume in the run and passing game.  Taylor was a bulletproof prospect coming out of Wisconsin with a striking athletic and production profile and landed behind one of the better offensive lines in the NFL.  He only got better as 2020 went on adjusting to the Colt’s rushing scheme.  The main question is how much receiving work he gets with Nyheim Hines cemented as the passing down back.

Henry posted the 5th highest rushing season of all time with over 2,000 yards. He was still significantly behind McCaffery, Kamara, and Cook in per game scoring bringing nothing as a route runner where he pitifully averaged less than four yards per target last season.  There’s definitely a cap in non-PPR leagues.  Fortunately that cap is high.  Chubb has similar issues to Henry as maybe the best pure rusher in the league but with limited passing game volume.  He also shares work with likely the league’s best RB2 in Kareem Hunt.   The masses downgraded Elliott’s projections after a disappointing 2020.  He gets his offensive line back healthy and is supposedly in the best shape of his career.   Mixon deals with the same issues as last season, a great all-around running back playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league limiting his efficiency.  Gio Bernard signed with Tampa Bay potentially opening up even more passing volume.

In the RB2 Mix

Second year running backs dominate the top of the RB2 contract tier.  The Rams lost Akers for (at least) the season with a devastating Achilles tear that could derail his career just as it was really beginning.    The dynamic Dobbins averaged a robust 6 yards per carry as a rookie in a Lamar Jackson –centric offense set up for big rushing totals.  Jackson and Edwards extracted over 300 rushes and a rushing QB like Jackson isn’t known for utilizing running backs in the passing game much.  Gibson far exceeded expectations as a rookie for a player with limited running back snaps in college, finishing as the fantasy RB20 as Washington’s main back.  He wasn’t particularly effective in the passing game for a player known as a receiver coming out of school, produced an extremely high touchdown rate bound to regress, and averaged only 43% of snaps his rookie year.  The dynamic rusher needs a big boost in play time to meet expectations this season but has top-five upside if he manages a true workhorse load.  Edwards-Helaire averaged over 20 touches per game and was on pace for over 1.800 total yards prior to the signing of LeVeon Bell (who is now off the team) plus is due for serious positive touchdown regression on the league’s top offense after only five scores last year.  Will Kansas City feature him next season?  Swift runs behind Detroit’s heavily invested offensive line and should be a featured part of the Lions’ passing game.  How much work does Jamaal Williams take and will the offense overall be effective enough to manufacture enough scoring chances?

Jones produced consecutive top-5 fantasy seasons.  The Aaron Rodgers discontentment news seems to have depressed his value significantly.  Ekeler likely won’t ever be a true bellcow but maintains massive receiving upside which can easily put him in RB1 territory.  We also see the two other highly drafted rookies, Etienne and Williams, in this group.  Both should have significant roles from the beginning but not might have dominant usage with quality veterans in the fold on Jacksonville and Denver.   The fantasy community is down on Jacobs and Montgomery after top-15 seasons largely due to perceived increased competition.  Injury concerns probably depress Carson’s price as he’s had two consecutive top-15 seasons without any significant additions in Seattle.

Uncertain Roles and Committee Backs

It won’t surprise me if Davis, Gaskin, or Edmunds maintains consistent lead roles and provide solid RB2 value.  It also wouldn’t shock me if they are mere cogs in running back committees.  How long do Robinson and Gordon keep key roles away from the highly drafted rookies?  Does Mostert, Sermon, or any other San Francisco back take a big enough role in a high volume rushing attack to warrant every-week fantasy starter status?  Moss played well last season and looked to be the back in Buffalo for high-leverage goal-line and passing downs.  Will there be enough work in an offense that transformed from one of the most run-heavy to one of the most pass-heavy, especially with quarterback Josh Allen commanding healthy redzone usage?

Outside the Top-40

The Rams lost Akers which opens the door for Henderson to assume lead duties.  He gets a major value bump but expect a significant veteran presence added to a running back room devoid of much NFL experience.  Williams and Singletary should have consistent weekly touches in limited upside environments, classic “zero RB” candidates (yes the term “zero RB” makes no sense).  Hines averaged over 55 receptions per year in his career on a Colts team without many established receiving threats.  His role does not really change with a Taylor injury so he’s not really a handcuff with upside.  Pollard, Mattison, and Murray are among the top handcuffs with limited fantasy usage outside of injury to the starter.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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