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FANTASY FOOTBALL: Top 60 PPR tailbacks for 2021, in advance of the NFL preseason kickoff

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Charting his last 19 games (covering the 2019 and '20 seasons), Panthers tailback Christian McCaffrey boasts staggering averages of 146 total yards and 1.3 touchdowns.

TOP 60 PPR RUNNING BACKS

  1. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
  2. Dalvin Cook, Vikings
  3. Derrick Henry, Titans
  4. Alvin Kamara, Saints
  5. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
  6. Jonathan Taylor, Colts
  7. Aaron Jones, Packers
  8. Austin Ekeler, Chargers
  9. Saquon Barkley, Giants
  10. Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team
  11. Nick Chubb, Browns
  12. David Montgomery, Bears
  13. Joe Mixon, Bengals
  14. D’Andre Swift, Lions
  15. Najee Harris, Steelers
  16. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs
  17. Miles Sanders, Eagles
  18. Mike Davis, Falcons
  19. Raheem Mostert, 49ers
  20. J.K. Dobbins, Ravens
  21. Chris Carson, Seahawks
  22. Darrell Henderson, Rams
  23. Josh Jacobs, Raiders
  24. Kareem Hunt, Browns
  25. Javonte Williams, Broncos
  26. James Robinson, Jaguars
  27. Myles Gaskin, Dolphins
  28. Ronald Jones, Buccaneers
  29. David Johnson, Texans
  30. Kenyan Drake, Raiders
  31. Jamaal Williams, Lions
  32. Travis Etienne, Jaguars
  33. J.D. McKissic, Washington Football Team
  34. Damien Harris, Patriots
  35. Chase Edmonds, Cardinals
  36. Melvin Gordon, Broncos
  37. Devin Singletary, Bills
  38. Tevin Coleman, Jets
  39. Zack Moss, Bills
  40. James Conner, Cardinals
  41. Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers
  42. Nyheim Hines, Colts
  43. Trey Sermon, 49ers
  44. Devontae Booker, Giants
  45. Marlon Mack, Colts
  46. Michael Carter, Jets
  47. James White, Patriots
  48. AJ Dillon, Packers
  49. Tony Pollard, Cowboys
  50. Gus Edwards, Ravens
  51. Latavius Murray, Saints
  52. Tarik Cohen, Bears
  53. Alexander Mattison, Vikings
  54. Joshua Kelley, Chargers
  55. Jeff Wilson Jr,. 49ers
  56. Justin Jackson, Chargers
  57. Phillip Lindsay, Texans
  58. Boston Scott, Eagles
  59. Mark Ingram, Texans
  60. Sony Michel, Patriots
  61. Chuba Hubbard, Panthers
  62. Rex Burkhead, Texans
  63. Salvon Ahmed, Dolphins
  64. Xavier Jones, Rams

RANKINGS RATIONALE

a) Christian McCaffrey wears the crown of Fantasy’s Most Bankable Option in 2021, despite missing 13 games to injury last season.

What makes McCaffrey (379 receiving targets from 2017-19) so special, given the short-term susceptibility to injury?

Charting his last 19 games, the Panthers star owns absurd averages of 146 total yards and 1.3 touchdowns; and let us not forget, CMC notched multiple TDs in all three outings last year.

b) Dalvin Cook boasts amazing two-year averages of 1,786 total yards and 15 touchdowns, despite not exceeding 14 games played per season.

The Vikings tailback also stands as a formidable bet for 60-plus targets every year, essentially cementing his value as the No. 2 back in PPR and 1/2 PPR leagues.

DRAFT-PREP MATERIALS

QB-STARTER RANKINGS
TOP 60 PPR TAILBACKS
TOP 75 PPR WIDE RECEIVERS
TOP 35 PPR TIGHT ENDS
TOP 125 PPR PLAYMAKERS
THE ANNUAL PPR SPECTACULAR
MOCK DRAFT SIMULATION: #4 SLOT
MOCK DRAFT SIMULATION: #11 SLOT

c) Let’s start with an acknowledgment: If Derrick Henry can become the first player in NFL history to amass 2,000 rushing yards in back-to-back campaigns … he’ll be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame by season’s end.

Here’s another acknowledgment: We’re somewhat skeptical of Henry reaching the above mark in 2021 … given how no player in league history has reached the 2K rushing threshold multiple times.

As for the fantasy angle, Henry (35 total touchdowns since 2019) should be no worse than the No. 4 overall player taken in PPR drafts, despite never eclipsing 35 receiving targets in a single season.

Think about that for a second: Henry requires little or no receiving help to rank among the PPR elite.

d) I have Alvin Kamara ranked No. 4, but it’s not a supremely confident distinction, given how the Saints have few other explosive playmaking options in the post-Drew Brees era. (Note: Receiver Michael Thomas could miss 5-10 games after ankle surgery.)

The only saving grace here: Citing his last 31 games (including the playoffs), Kamara has reached the elite-level threshold of 100-plus total yards and/or one touchdown 23 times. Throw in a handful of games with 10-plus targets and three-plus touchdowns … and we’ll momentarily stick with Kamara as a top-4 option.

e) When first crafting the tailback rankings around the July 4 holiday, I initially had Ezekiel Elliott somewhere in the 12-14 range — as a mild punishment for posting only two 100-yard rushing games last year, along with nine outings of zero touchdowns.

Upon further inspection, though, we might have been a little harsh on Elliott, citing the following reasons:

**Elliott cleared the elite-level threshold of 100 total yards and/or one touchdown in all five games started by Dak Prescott last year. In fact, during that span, Elliott enjoyed a robust catch-to-target rate of 73 percent.

**How’s this for bedrock consistency: Charting his 31 starts with Prescott in the backfield, Elliott notched 100 total yards and/or one touchdown 29 times.

Do the above factors make Elliott a lock for the No. 5 tailback? Not necessarily. At the same time, fantasy owners shouldn’t hesitate to select him midway through Round 1.

Go for young upside a few slots down the road.

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out NBA.com, MLB.com, PGATour.com, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with SI.com‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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