Fantasy Football 2021: Sleeper RBs, Flex Rankings and Dynasty Cheat Sheet

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IISeptember 5, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Sleeper RBs, Flex Rankings and Dynasty Cheat Sheet

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Most fantasy football managers begin their drafts by targeting running backs in the early rounds. That's because there's a limited number of RBs who are among the NFL's elite.

    It can also be hard to try to find running backs on the waiver wire throughout the season, as many of the ones who have a chance to contribute are already on somebody's roster. The ones who aren't may only get opportunities if there are injuries that shake up the depth chart.

    So it's important to be smart about which running backs you take during the draft, because you're going to want to build valuable depth throughout your roster. Of course, the same can be said about other key positions as well.

    With the 2021 NFL campaign starting Thursday, there's not much time to get ready for the fantasy season. Here are flex rankings, dynasty rankings and some sleeper running backs to target to help you prepare for the start of the 2021 fantasy football season.

Top 40 Flex Rankings

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

    2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

    3. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

    4. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

    5. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

    6. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

    7. Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills

    8. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

    9. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

    10. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

    11. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers

    12. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

    13. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons

    14. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals

    15. Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

    16. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

    17. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

    18. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

    19. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

    20. Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team

    21. Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

    22. DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks

    23. Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears

    24. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

    25. A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans

    26. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

    27. Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Football Team

    28. James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

    29. David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears

    30. Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks

    31. Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders

    32. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

    33. D'Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions

    34. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys

    35. Julio Jones, WR, Tennessee Titans

    36. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks

    37. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    38. Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens

    39. Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams

    40. Darrell Henderson Jr., RB, Los Angeles Rams

Dynasty Rookie Rankings

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    1. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

    2. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

    3. Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons

    4. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins

    5. DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

    6. Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos

    7. Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets

    8. Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants

    9. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

    10. Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers

Jamaal Williams, RB, Detroit Lions

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Jamaal Williams never got an extensive opportunity to be the lead back during his first four NFL seasons in Green Bay, and that's not going to change now that he's in Detroit. However, he may be in a position to contribute and potentially make an impact in fantasy.

    Even though D'Andre Swift is the Detroit RB with the most potential, it's likely that the team will be getting both him and Williams involved throughout the season. And early in the year, there could be more work for Williams, considering Swift battled a groin injury throughout training camp and the preseason.

    That could make Williams worthy of flex consideration early in the season. If he performs well then, it's possible he'll carve out a role that keeps him fantasy-relevant throughout the year.

    With an average draft position in the eighth round in points-per-reception leagues, Williams should provide tremendous value in that range. Perhaps this ends up being the 26-year-old's biggest NFL season yet.

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Houston Texans

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    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    It's risky to take any Texans running back in fantasy drafts, as it's unclear how the workload will be distributed among them. Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, Mark Ingram II and Rex Burkhead are all on Houston's roster and could have roles on the offense in 2021.

    While it seems the Texans may just give the ball to the hot hand early and operate with a committee approach, the running back who is most likely to secure the spot at the top of the depth chart is Lindsay. The 27-year-old is entering his first season in Houston, and he's got a lot to prove.

    Lindsay eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground in each of his first two seasons with the Denver Broncos. However, injuries limited him to 11 games in 2020, and he didn't have a huge role when he was active, amassing only 502 rushing yards and one touchdown.

    Lindsay has an ADP late in the ninth round in PPR leagues. But if he can be effective early, he could potentially take touches away from some of Houston's other RBs and solidify himself as the lead back moving forward.

Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Kenneth Gainwell is a deep sleeper, so he won't make a fantasy impact early in the season. But that's also why his average draft position isn't until the 13th round in PPR leagues. However, the 22-year-old is an intriguing prospect.

    Although Gainwell is opening the season as the No. 3 running back on the Eagles' depth chart behind Miles Sanders and Boston Scott, he could get a bigger workload as the season moves along. If Sanders struggles again, it could create even more opportunities for Gainwell.

    In Philadelphia's preseason finale against the New York Jets, Gainwell flashed his potential by rushing for 32 yards and a touchdown on five carries. It was his best showing of the preseason, giving him positive momentum heading into his rookie season.

    For now, Gainwell is a player who should be stashed on the bench. But it'll prove to be worth it once he gets on the field and starts getting increased opportunities, which is likely to happen at some point in 2021.

         

    Draft positions via Fantasy Football Calculator.

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