Gus Edwards 2021 Season Outlook

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Second-year running back J.K. Dobbins is one of the biggest breakout candidates in the fantasy football community, but everyone appears to be overlooking teammate Gus Edwards. Recently signed to a two-year, $9 million contract, Edwards has been one of the NFL’s most efficient rushers when given the opportunity over the past few years. Is he nothing more than a handcuff for Dobbins, or will the former undrafted free agent carry some value in the 2021 season?

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2021 Fantasy Football Outlook: Gus Edwards

2020 Recap

Gus Edwards entered the 2020 season as an equal part of a three-headed committee. Splitting snaps with Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, the Rutgers product never recorded more than 10 carries throughout the first five games of the season. However, as the season progressed and Mark Ingram faded into the background, Edwards started to become a bigger part of the offense.

From Week 6 onwards, Edwards averaged 9.83 fantasy points per game on 11 opportunities. Keep in mind that these numbers are slightly skewed from Week 10’s matchup against Tennessee where injury limited him to just three carries for six yards. When removing that outlier, Edwards proved to be a decent emergency flex play, even when being second-fiddle to J.K. Dobbins.

The Ravens run the ball at the highest rate in the league, and any running back sharing the field with Lamar Jackson is going to be very efficient on a touch-for-touch basis. Jackson is the NFL’s most dangerous open-field weapon, and his dual-threat ability creates wide-open running lanes for the back.

The biggest red flag with Edwards, aside from the presence of J.K. Dobbins, is his lack of involvement in the passing game. Edwards has never recorded more than nine receptions in a single season, and it’s hard to see that number increasing too dramatically. In addition to not being a natural receiver, Lamar Jackson simply does not like throwing the ball to running backs.

2021 Projection

J.K. Dobbins will be the lead back in this rushing attack, but the work should be split fairly evenly. The rookie emerged as Baltimore’s lead back in Week 7 and averaged 12.1 carries per game, while Edwards was at 10.3 (excluding the Tennessee game). I expect a similar split in 2021, as Mark Ingram only leaves 71 vacated carries. Chances are, Dobbins will handle 50% of the touches, while Edwards will be down around 40%, leaving Justice Hill or some random veteran to handle the remaining 10%.

Considering how often Baltimore runs the ball, a 40% market share still leaves Edwards with approximately 170 carries. Given the insane efficiency that comes with playing alongside Jackson, we can pencil in Edwards to finish the season with approximately 850 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Assuming minimal receiving work, this comes out to roughly 8.2 fantasy points per game. While this certainly isn’t good enough for a top-24 finish, it is good enough to justify a bench spot and an emergency flex play.

Some may worry about an increase in Baltimore’s passing volume, but I am not one of those people. As mentioned in the Lamar Jackson fantasy preview, I believe that most of the offseason additions to the receiving corps were only made to improve the efficiency of the passing attack while leaving the volume relatively unchanged.

Of course, my projections assume that Dobbins plays a full 17-game season. You should never project injuries, as staying healthy has a lot more to do with luck than actual ability. That said, if Dobbins goes down, Gus Edwards will have complete control of the most run-heavy offense in football. Edwards obviously wouldn’t earn a 90% market share in this scenario, but the increase in work could easily make him a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2. This combination of standalone value and handcuffed upside easily justifies a roster spot in any format.

Gus Edwards Fantasy Football Average Draft Position

As of this posting, FantasyData.com has Gus Edwards as the RB43 in average draft position. This puts him in the same general range of guys like Devin Singletary, Nyheim Hines, and Latavius Murray, and makes Edwards one of the best values in fantasy football.

Dobbins will finish the season with more fantasy points than Edwards, but this is going to be a fairly even split in workload. Edwards will carry some standalone value in the ultra-efficient, run-heavy attack, and his ceiling is through the roof if Edwards goes down. This combination of floor and ceiling simply does not exist with other running backs with similar ADP, making him an easy choice late in your drafts.

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