Fantasy: Backup running back rankings

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Given the rate at which injuries strike the running back position, knowing who's next in line for carries is critical for fantasy owners.

Not all backup rushers are created equal, and though the league-winning potential of players like Kareem Hunt and Tony Pollard may appear obvious, many second-string ball carriers aren't getting the respect they deserve in fantasy drafts.

Here's how we're ranking the top reserve tailbacks, broken down into tiers:

More than a backup

Rk Backup Team
1 Kareem Hunt CLE
  • Top-10 upside if Nick Chubb is injured
  • Proven RB1 during time with Chiefs
  • Could still provide RB2 production without starting

Elite options

Rk Backup Team
2 Tony Pollard DAL
3 A.J. Dillon GB
4 Alexander Mattison MIN
5 James Robinson JAX
6 Gus Edwards BAL
  • RB1 upside if starter is injured
  • Stuck behind a more talented back
  • Will flirt with flex value some weeks, even as a backup

May emerge as starter

Rk Backup Team
7 Trey Sermon SF
8 Michael Carter NYJ
9 James Conner ARI
  • Top-20 upside if starter is injured
  • Could rise to the top of the depth chart during season
  • Can provide flex value some weeks, even as a backup

Hanging around

Rk Backup Team
10 Jamaal Williams DET
11 Latavius Murray NO
12 Kenyan Drake LV
13 Melvin Gordon DEN
  • Top-20 upside if starter is injured
  • Currently in a committee with a more qualified teammate
  • Can provide flex value most weeks, even as a backup

Unproven upside

Rk Backup Team
14 Darrynton Evans TEN
15 Chuba Hubbard CAR
16 Kenneth Gainwell PHI
  • Top-24 upside if starter is injured
  • Should have notable role behind a veteran lead back
  • Can provide flex value some weeks, even as a backup

Wild cards

Rk Backup Team
17 Leonard Fournette TB
18 Devin Singletary BUF
19 Phillip Lindsay HOU
  • Top-30 upside if starting at any point
  • 2021 role yet to be determined
  • Workload questions due to crowded backfield

PPR specialists

Rk Backup Team
20 Nyheim Hines IND
21 James White NE
22 J.D.McKissic WAS
23 Tarik Cohen CHI
  • Limited upside as a fantasy insurance policy
  • Unlikely to serve as workhorse if starter is injured
  • Can offer flex value in PPR formats, even as a backup

Volume-dependent veterans

Rk Backup Team
24 Samaje Perine CIN
25 Devontae Booker NYG
  • Veteran playing behind starters with an injury history
  • Doubts surrounding hold on backup job or ability to produce if called upon
  • Would need majority of touches to be fantasy relevant

Unclear situations

Rk Backup Team
26 Malcolm Brown/Salvon Ahmed/Gerrid Doaks MIA
27 Darrel Williams/Jerick McKinnon KC
28 Rashaad Penny/Alex Collins/DeeJay Dallas SEA
29 Javian Hawkins/Qadree Ollison ATL
30 Joshua Kelley/Larry Rountree LAC
31 Kalen Ballage/Anthony McFarland Jr./Benny Snell PIT
  • Upside in quality offenses if a clear backup emerges and starter is injured
  • Value limited by possibility of committee replacement scenario
  • Players to draft as bench stashes in final rounds

Deep targets

Rk Backup Team
32 Damien Williams CHI
33 Rhamondre Stevenson NE
34 Wayne Gallman SF
35 Ty Johnson NYJ
36 Xavier Jones LAR
  • Long shots with intriguing upside if injuries hit their backfield
  • Have the skills to produce as lead back over short stretches
  • Watchlist candidates who could turn into key waiver wire pickups
Fantasy: Backup running back rankings
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