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2021 Rookie State of the Union: Running Backs

journey brown 2021 rookie running backs

My fellow fantasy players, we continue our Rookie State of the Union with the 2021 rookie running backs class. 


Last week we discussed the three quarterbacks who were worth a first-round pick in Superflex leagues. This week, I’ll be hitting you with two articles as I look at running backs as well as the 2021 tight end class. Compared to the quarterbacks, we’ll be looking at running backs who, regardless of landing spots right now, are worth drafting in rounds one AND two.


We will have some sort of college season waiting just around the corner that may change things, but this gives you a good idea of what to do if your team becomes a seller or a buyer as the NFL season progresses. Turning your players into draft picks is something general managers do at every level once their team enters sell mode and it is important you realize who to grab and where.


Looking back on this a year from now, there may be some names missed based on landing spots and late-risers when it’s all said and done. A prime example is Antonio Gibson. Gibson now looks like a steal being picked in rookie drafts in rounds three to four. If drafts happened today he would be a top-five pick in extreme cases but a solid first-rounder no matter what. 


The goal of this piece is to get some 2021 rookie names in your head while also giving you a temporary value so you can better acquire picks. 


First Round Picks


Travis Etienne, Clemson

Last year we had the preseason report that Travis Etienne was not completely comfortable as a pass-catcher. He showed the opposite, however, by responding with a career-high in receptions along with over 2,000 total yards. He projects to be a fringe first to an early second-round pick in the NFL Draft but he has cemented himself as a top-end first-round pick in future rookie drafts.


Najee Harris, Alabama

Arguably the most impressive player on an Alabama team that already had four first-round picks, and potentially two to three more, Najee Harris balled out last year. His coming-out party came against South Carolina and from there he continued to dominate and then become the bell cow for the Tua-less Crimson tide. As for the NFL, he has the physical build and style similar to Josh Jacobs and while it may come across as a lazy comp, it just makes too much sense.


Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State

The next influx of talent from the great white north, Chuba Hubbard was the best running back on the hottest streak in all of college football last year. When he announced he was returning to Stillwater many draft pundits were surprised but now with him returning, he has another year to showcase his talent in an offense meant to do so.


Related | 2021 Rookie Introduction: Ja’Marr Chase


Second round Picks


Journey Brown, Penn State

The man who had over 700 yards in a high school game, Journey Brown has become Penn State’s home run hitter on offense. With the departure of fellow game-breaker K.J. Hamler, Brown now looks to become the main weapon at Penn State but whether he stays for a Big Ten season to happen or depart for the draft has yet to be seen. If he comes out he will be fresh and he will be ready for the NFL’s game.

I will add, he is currently my RB1 for the 2021 rookie class. (Fire emjoi. Fire emoji. Fire emoji).


Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis

Memphis has quietly become a reliable source of NFL running back talent – Darrell Henderson and Antonio Gibson before him – but now Gainwell may be the best prospect of them all. We are now seeing the late rise in the process for Gibson and I expect wherever Gainwell ends up, the same thing will happen. The man is a complete back and so versatile that teams will find a role and then get him reps to become a difference-maker on offense.


Kylin Hill, Mississippi State

Plain and simple, Kylin Hill with Mike Leach is going to be FUN. Hill will be getting the most targets that he’s ever seen and we should see numbers similar to what Max Borghi did at Washington State. The difference? He is a more pure runner than Borghi with better vision and a more athletic play style. Hill may sneak into round one of some drafts depending on the landing spot but for now, he is safely in round 2 of rookie drafts. He is one of the biggest wildcards of the 2021 rookie running backs.

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