A Few to Fade: Three Fantasy Football Running Back Fades for 2021

Fantasy Football Running Back Fades

Each year, heading into draft season, we start to settle upon players we love and players we hate, relative to ADP. This article will dive into the latter portion, my fantasy football fades. We never like to see players perform poorly, but we also need to identify players that look to be in disadvantageous situations. Here are three fantasy football running back fades for 2021.

Fantasy Football Running Back Fades for 2021

Before we get into these fantasy football fades, I want to preface this by saying that all of these are relative to ADP. Of course, if any of them slip a few rounds, I’ll take a chance on them but that rarely happens. These are all based on Fantasypros PPR ADP data as of this writing. the quarterback fades for 2021 can be found here.

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1. J.K. Dobbins

J.K. Dobbins is one of the most divisive running backs in fantasy football this year. On one hand, he’s an explosive playmaker on the most run-heavy team in the NFL. On the other hand, the Baltimore Ravens like to split the workload and don’t throw the ball to the running back very often. Which of these things is a bigger factor is where so many fantasy analysts vehemently disagree. Dobbins did both in his rookie year as he led all running backs in yards per carry (6.0) and only trailed Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray among qualified players. He also crossed the goal line nine times as a rookie despite only 134 carries. The downside was that Dobbins only saw 24 targets, hauling in 18 of them.

The ultimate downfall for Dobbins is simply volume, especially in the passing game. Lamar Jackson is much more likely to take off running than he is to dump the ball off when the pocket breaks down. On top of this, Baltimore attempted the least amount of passes in the NFL in both 2020 and 2019. Add in that Jackson and Gus Edwards will both be heavily involved and Dobbins simply doesn’t have enough touches to get it done at a position where touches drive fantasy points more than anything. Dobbins’ current ADP of 31st overall as the 17th running back off the board is simply too rich when players like Terry McLaurin, Allen Robinson, and CeeDee Lamb are all going in the same range. Dobbins is a typical “dead zone” running back, especially in full PPR, making him one of the biggest fantasy football running back fades for 2021.

2. Jonathan Taylor

This one hurts as Jonathan Taylor was my rookie RB1 last year both before and after the NFL Draft and he looks like one of the most explosive and talented running backs to come into the league this side of Saquon Barkley. After a relatively slow start in 2020, Taylor went crazy from Week 11 on once he saw the majority of the snaps and touches. In those final six games, he averaged 123.5 rushing yards per game with eight total touchdowns. He averaged 24.3 fantasy points per game over that stretch. Only David Montgomery and Derrick Henry averaged more fantasy points per game in that span. Taylor also put the pass-catching worries to rest as he hauled in 36 of 39 targets and turned them into 299 yards and a score.

So where’s the bad you might ask? It has everything to do with the current setup. Originally there was no issue with using a first-round pick on Taylor and the case could be made for taking him as high as third overall. Things have changed, unfortunately. The two most important pieces of the Indianapolis Colts, are currently out after Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson underwent foot surgeries.

Nelson is one of the best offensive linemen in the league. These losses will undoubtedly hamper the Colts’ ability to move the ball and cross the plane. Taylor should still get the majority of the touches but with an ADP of 11th overall (RB8), there are too many concerns to be spending a first-round pick on him at this point. Instead take any of Aaron Jones, Austin Ekeler, Joe Mixon, or Najee Harris all of whom are either in better offenses or face less competition for snaps and touches or both. All four of these guys will likely catch more passes as well and that makes Taylor, unfortunately, a pass at the current cost.

3. D’Andre Swift

Three second-year running backs as fantasy football running back fades? What could go wrong? Admittedly this is the third straight talented running back on this list, but again it’s all about the cost. D’Andre Swift, like Jonathan Taylor, looked like a true breakout stud running back heading into 2021. Starting in Week 9 last year, Swift saw a big spike in touches. From that point on he saw 10+ carries and 5+ targets in all but one game. During that span, he averaged 16.8 fantasy points per game and was the RB11. On the season he racked up 878 total yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie. He showcased his skills as a pass-catcher all year as he finished with 46 receptions on 57 targets. Everything was set up perfectly for the typical second-year breakout and it was completely warranted.

Then the Detroit Lions dealt Matthew Stafford, let Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay walk, and signed Jamaal Williams in the off-season. None of these helped Swift’s outlook. Jared Goff, while serviceable, isn’t likely to move the ball or score as many points as Stafford did, especially with Jones and Golladay gone. The Williams signing, however, is the biggest hindrance to Swift’s fantasy outlook. Swift is a talented receiver, but then again so was Aaron Jones, and Williams annually relegated Jones to the bench more than fantasy managers would have liked.

It got to a point where Matthew Berry even coined the term #FreeAaronJones. The truth is, NFL teams don’t care about fantasy football and Williams is a good, real-life running back. He’s going to play more than people want. On top of all this, Swift has been dealing with a nagging groin injury. Soft-tissue injuries can linger and be extremely tricky. Swift, like Dobbins, is another classic “dead zone” running back being drafted 30th overall (RB16) and fantasy managers would be wise to pass in favor of one of the incredible wide receivers going in that range.

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