The calendar has officially turned to September, which means we are just days from being reunited with a dear old friend. Ah yes, welcome back football! Oh, how we missed you! Of course, along with the kickoff to the 2021 NFL season come legions upon legions of fantasy football drafts. My sincerest apologies go out to those of you whose drafts were back in August. Special T’s and P’s to the J.K. Dobbins owners out there, after he became Exhibit A for why you don’t draft until after the preseason.
For the rest of you who are in leagues with competent commissioners, you’re bound to have some ADP conundrums on your plate in the lead-up to and during your fantasy football draft. We at FlurrySports are here to help! Read on for a breakdown of the fantasy football ADP battle between a trio of early-round running backs: Najee Harris, Jonathan Taylor and Antonio Gibson.
Najee Harris, Jonathan Taylor, Antonio Gibson Fantasy Football ADP Battle
Note: All ADPs and ranks reflect a 12-team, PPR draft format
Antonio Gibson Fantasy ADP: 2.03
ADP Position Rank: 12
Overall Rank: 16
Call it an upset special if you wish, but Antonio Gibson emerges as a slight favorite in this fantasy football ADP battle. Despite his current ADP ranking below those of both Najee Harris and Jonathan Taylor, Gibson arguably presents the most upside of the three backs this season. After showing out last year as a rookie, the former Memphis Tiger will look to take another step forward in what should be an improved Washington Football Team offense.
Despite only starting 10 games last season, it didn’t take long for Gibson to assert himself atop the depth chart at running back. The 23-year-old averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per tote on his way to 795 rushing yards for the season. He added 36 receptions for 247 yards and scored 11 total touchdowns. Gibson’s explosiveness was on full display both in his college years and again last season as an NFL rookie. Despite the presence of pass-catching specialist J.D. McKissic, Gibson showed that he could perform as an every-down back when called upon.
Speaking of being an every-down RB, reports from Washington training camp seem to suggest that Gibson could be a major workhorse this season. Coach Ron Rivera leaned heavily on Christian McCaffrey as a do-it-all back during his time in Carolina. Thanks to such a heavy workload, McCaffrey became a fantasy football superstar. McKissic will continue to take away some of Gibson’s work in passing down situations, but when it comes to upside appeal, the second-year pro could wind up being a tremendous fantasy football value pick.
Najee Harris Fantasy ADP: 2.01
ADP Position Rank: 10
Overall Rank: 13
After a remarkable college career at Alabama, Najee Harris was drafted in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then, the team opted not to bring back veteran James Conner. It became clear pretty quickly that Harris would assume a bell-cow workload in his maiden professional season. In fantasy football, where volume is king, Harris sets up to be a star in 2021.
If Harris’ time at Alabama was any indication, Pittsburgh figures to be set at running back for the next several years. After playing sparingly behind other future NFL backs in his first two seasons, Harris erupted in both 2019 and ‘20. After rushing for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior, the 23-year-old threw down a massive stat line of 1466 yards rushing, 425 yards receiving and 30 total touchdowns last season as the Crimson Tide rolled to a championship. If not for the electrifying season that his Alabama teammate, DeVonta Smith, had, Harris might very well have been a Heisman Trophy contender.
All in all, Harris’ current fantasy football ADP of 2.01 feels right. There will undoubtedly be a few growing pains as a rookie and this is must be taken into consideration. One key advantage that Harris presumably has over both Jonathan Taylor and Antonio Gibson in this fantasy football ADP battle is a clear stranglehold on his respective backfield. It’s highly unlikely that Benny Snell or Kalen Ballage challenge for reps on a consistent basis. However, a suspect Steelers offensive line and a lack of upside as a pass-catcher result in Harris finishing a close second to Gibson in this battle.
Jonathan Taylor Fantasy ADP: 2.02
ADP Position Rank: 11
Overall Rank: 15
Rounding out this fantasy football ADP battle is Indianapolis Colts tailback, Jonathan Taylor. Like Antonio Gibson, Taylor is coming off of a strong rookie season and will be looking to take another step forward in 2021. The 22-year-old was a highly-regarded draft prospect, after a stellar college career at Wisconsin. While it took a bit longer than many fantasy football analysts anticipated for Taylor to wrestle control of the Colts backfield as a rookie, he certainly made good on a large role as the season wore on.
Last year saw Taylor turn 236 carries into nearly 1,200 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. He does possess skills as a pass-catcher and managed to add 36 receptions for 299 yards and a score to his final stat line. The Colts figure to be a run-heavy offense once again this season, even with Carson Wentz stepping in under center. Taylor will continue to benefit from running behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
There are some concerning factors working against Taylor this season. Regarding said O-line, one key component early in the season will be the health of guard Quenton Nelson. From there, the presence of other capable backs in Indianapolis could once again hinder Taylor’s fantasy upside. Pass-catching specialist Nyheim Hines figures to be a regular factor again this season. Meanwhile, both Marlon Mack and Jordan Wilkins are skilled enough players to command at least a few touches most weeks. Taylor’s path to being a true bell-cow RB is much murkier than those of both Antonio Gibson and Najee Harris. He brings up the rear in this fantasy football ADP battle as a result.