Fantasy Football Running Back Shuffle Up: Don't sweat the Derrick Henry mileage

·7-min read

Fantasy Draft season is here, and it’s time for the most important position, the running backs. 

A few of the usual caveats upfront. The salaries are unscientific in nature, merely used as a way to compare players within their position. I do not compare salaries outside of position — the salary of a running back is only meant to be considered within his positional class. I am generally far less expectant with injury returning players, so don’t be surprised when I like them less than you do.

Every Shuffle Up is done from scratch. I think it’s counterproductive to justify an old, dated list.

Players with the same salary are considered even. Assume a half-point PPR scoring system.

First-Round Tickets 

$57 Christian McCaffrey

$55 Dalvin Cook

$52 Ezekiel Elliott

$50 Derrick Henry

$47 Alvin Kamara

$47 Aaron Jones

$45 Nick Chubb

$45 Saquon Barkley

$45 Austin Ekeler

McCaffrey’s chops in the passing game keep him game-script proof, and it also helps towards durability. You want him tackled by the lighter defenders, not the heavier ones. Of course, when you see McCaffrey and Cook at the top of everyone’s board, you’re quickly reminded of the gravity of running backs and injuries. You can talk down anyone, and you have to worry about everyone . . . Elliott might be past his theoretical peak, but he’s still tied to an offense with an enormous upside, and the Pokes are going to play to the contract as they draw up game plans. Said another way, yes, I’m a Tony Pollard fan, but no, I don’t think he’s a major threat to Elliott’s major workload projection. 

Henry is light on the pass-catching, but the Titans probably will stick to their general plan, which is to feature Henry no matter what the game flow looks like. I have no problem spending a protective pick on the NFL’s most dynamic power back . . . Now that the Aaron Rodgers dance has been resolved, we can go back to drafting Jones proactively. AJ Dillon steps into a secondary role, but we saw that with Jamaal Williams in previous years; nothing to sweat . . . The Saints make me nervous, with uncertainty at quarterback and a thin receiver room. And even if Taysom Hill pans out, is that really good for Kamara? To some extent, their games contradict each other . . . Chubb’s efficiency blew away Kareem Hunt’s efficiency last year. If the Browns ever come to the conclusion that Chubb is significantly ahead of their change-of-pace back, maybe Chubb truly has latent upside that’s not fully priced into his current ADP. Mix in a positive offensive line and a strong defense, not to mention a get-it coach in Kevin Stefanski, and Chubb is a perfectly reasonable first-round pick for me. 

Ideally a building block 

$42 Antonio Gibson

$41 Joe Mixon

$40 Najee Harris

$40 J.K. Dobbins

$40 Clyde Edwards-Helaire

$39 Jonathan Taylor

$35 David Montgomery

$33 Miles Sanders

$33 Chris Carson

$30 D'Andre Swift

$29 Josh Jacobs

It’s scary to think of what Gibson might be capable of once he really figures out how to be a running back; remember, he hardly ran the ball at Memphis. So long as the toe is okay, this is an arrow pointing upward . . . Harris landed with a team that wants to reinvent itself as a ground-and-pound unit, but will a substandard offensive line allow that to happen? I’m also reluctant to tie myself to an offense that’s dealing with the last days of a compromised Ben Roethlisberger (no matter how strong Pittsburgh’s receiver room may be) . . . I’m generally betting against Jacobs because I want to bet against Jon Gruden, the quickest way to blow $100 million. The Raiders also have offense line concerns, and Jacobs has never been used as a proactive pass catcher — and now Kenyan Drake is here . . . I’m concerned the Lions view Swift and Williams as co-chairmen of their backfield when Swift deserves to have the upper hand. Often the talent and the play on the field sorts these things out and the talented guy rises to the top, but Anthony Lynn’s track record doesn’t inspire confidence.

Carson’s ceiling is never exciting, but he’s more durable than given credit for, and he regularly gets what’s blocked plus an extra yard or two. You wouldn’t want him to be your first back, but he’s reasonable as a strong RB2 . . . Dobbins can hit or beat his ADP if the Ravens make good on their desire to use him more as a receiver. Dobbins probably won’t get a lot of catches out of structure — those plays generally become Lamar Jackson ad-libs — but it’s plausible he could be designed into 40 or more receptions. He wasn’t a volume receiver at Ohio State, but he was exciting working the perimeter.

Running back Chris Carson #32 of the Seattle Seahawks
Chris Carson is as good as it gets when it comes to a second fantasy RB. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Talk them up, talk them down 

$23 Mike Davis

$23 Myles Gaskin

$23 Travis Etienne

$20 James Robinson

$17 Trey Sermon

$16 Leonard Fournette

$16 Darrell Henderson

$15 Chase Edmonds

$14 Raheem Mostert

$14 Javonte Williams

$14 Melvin Gordon

$13 Michael Carter

$13 Kareem Hunt

$13 Zack Moss

$13 Ronald Jones II

$13 Damien Harris 

Davis deserves the journeyman tag, but the depth chart after him is wafer-thin. The Falcons don’t really have a choice, Davis needs to be on the field in most packages . . . Gaskin doesn’t have the size to tackle a major workload, but he was the league’s best backfield receiver last year on a per-target basis. He’s underrated . . . Regression is the obvious call for Robinson after an out-of-nowhere season, but I don’t think he’ll be completely mothballed, either. And you can make the case that he and Etienne have different skill sets, and can work in a complimentary offense. The rank of your Jags also comes down to how you feel about three interesting but somewhat polarizing offensive minds; head coach Urban Meyer, OC Darrell Bevell, and passing coordinator Brian Schottenheimer . . . I had Williams over Gordon in Denver a few weeks back, but I’ve deadlocked them now, no longer confident that Williams will shove Gordon out of the way. Mind you, if I were the Broncos, I’d float a note across town to the Rams, seeing if they had any Gordon interest . . . Solving the Niners is always a challenge we want to accept, especially in 2021, given that San Francisco’s schedule is filled with delicious draws. The Niners play everyone in the AFC South, the out-of-conference draw everyone wants. 

Everyone needs depth 

$11 David Johnson

$10 Gus Edwards

$10 Jamaal Williams

$9 Latavius Murray

$9 James Conner

$9 Kenyan Drake

$8 AJ Dillon

$7 Tony Pollard

$5 Devin Singletary

$5 Kenneth Gainwell

$5 Alexander Mattison

$4 Salvon Ahmed

$4 Chuba Hubbard

$4 J.D. McKissic

$4 Darrel Williams

$4 Nyheim Hines

$3 Giovani Bernard

$3 Tevin Coleman

$3 James White

$3 Jake Funk

$3 Darrynton Evans

Ahmed’s Washington stats weren’t that much different from college teammate Gaskin's; I suspect there will be a handful of Ahmed moments in 2021 . . . Johnson played better last year than was commonly recognized, but the Houston roster at the moment is an undeniable mess. And if the Texans look like a 2-4 win outfit, how can we draft their presumed feature back with any confidence? . . . Although Williams did nothing special behind the makeshift Kansas City line last year, he was a priority member of the offense in the money weeks. His snap share in three playoff games: 79, 46, and 55 percent . . . Hubbard landed in Carolina at the recommendation of Julie Rhule, Matt Rhule’s wife. Hubbard impressed the Rhule family in college when he rolled up 171 yards and a couple of touchdowns against Baylor. 

Bargain Bin 

$2 Phillip Lindsay

$2 Sony Michel

$2 Damien Williams

$2 Joshua Kelley

$2 Jerick McKinnon

$2 Tarik Cohen

$2 Rhamondre Stevenson

$2 Marlon Mack

$2 Matt Breida

$2 Mike Boone

$2 Wayne Gallman

$1 Rashaad Penny

$1 Lamical Perine

$1 Lynn Bowden

$1 Elijah Mitchell

$1 Devontae Booker

$1 Boston Scott

$1 Ty Johnson

$1 Samaje Perine

$1 Carlos Hyde

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