2021 Free Agent Positional Preview: Running Back
I researched the available free agent lists in late-Feb./early March in order to get a feel for the marketplace and identify key players likely on the move; players that could shift a team's fortunes under-the-radar if a team landed/grabbed a bunch of them. We have the obvious names, the under-the-radar, and the trap doors to look at.
Here’s my take on 2021 NFL free agency…the players I’m really watching for fantasy, handicapping, etc., on where they might land.
The Top 3 Available According To NFL Analysts:
1) Aaron Jones, GB – Clearly the most talented RB available in free agency. I’m sure some team is going to throw a bunch of money at Jones. I don’t think it will be Green Bay.
2) Kenyan Drake, ARI – One of the dumbest franchise/transition tags/heavy one-year spends in recent history. Arizona paid him $8M last year to be their 2nd-best RB. I suspect they won’t again this year (but he might come back super cheap with nowhere else to go). Drake is solid but not worth the money he’s seeking/thinks he’s worth.
3) Chris Carson, SEA – The try-hard, injury plagued, fumble issue workhorse from Seattle. He’s likely to find not much of a market for his services this free agency, but you never know what any NFL might do…
The Top 3 Talents Available/To Target If I Were an NFL GM:
1) None – Any team spending good/big money on a free agent running back is a poorly run team. I would NEVER allocate a chunk of my CAP towards the RB position. And this year’s crop does not interest me at all (among the top names).
2) Jamaal Williams, GB – The RB that coaches love…a dirty works RB who can run the ball heavy, block in the passing game, catch the ball well out of the backfield. He’s not great, talent-wise, but is very stable/solid. I think Green Bay will sign Jamaal and let Aaron go.
3) Wayne Gallman, NYG – Impressed me with his running in 2020. I didn’t think he had enough juice to make it as a legit runner in the NFL, but he slimmed down/lean-muscled up and really played solid ball in 2020. What I’ve liked about Gallman’s game is receiving hands…he could be a slot WR if he wanted to be.
I don’t pursue Gallman to be a starter, but only as a cheap backup RB who can run the ball effectively, catch it well but who I could also use as a WR for roster flexibility. His flexibility lands him here, not his star power. He’s a part of an RB ensemble (a cheap one, I’d want to construct).
The Top 3 Values/Sleepers According to FFM:
1) Kalen Ballage, LAC – I’ve not been a fan in the past but at the likely price now I’m sitting at the poker table. Ballage showed some worth during his stint with the Chargers – he can run with power, if he stops trying to dance and just runs straight ahead…plus he has very good+ hands in the passing game while built like Adrian Peterson. He’s an excellent guy to have in an RB rotation trio…he’s not a three-down lead back/franchise back.
If he’s not a Detroit Lion, reunited with Anthony Lynn in 2021…then I don’t know what we’re doing.
2) Samaje Perine, CIN – One of my favorite NFL workers. Again, not a star but a bully power runner with good hands and can/will do dirty work blocking…can even be an emergency fullback/H-back worker. Quality guy. Great for a locker room.
3) Josh Adams, NYJ – Adams is a 1,000+ yard rusher if some team would give him the chance. One of the more talented runners of the ball in the NFL…totally overlooked. Became the Eagles best lead back in 2018 when he went from UDFA, to practice squad, to emergency starter…to their top guy in a matter of weeks in 2018. Got buried/cut the following year. Racked 5.4 yards per carry with the Jets in limited time in 2020…was the Jets best pure runner, but they fought giving him a greater chance.
If I were an NFL GM announced today, say like to the Texans -- he’d be one of my first phone calls to help rebuild the team. Low/no cost look here to see if I’m right.
The Top 3 Problems According to FFM:
1) Duke Johnson, HOU – How many years are people going to pine for this guy and yet he never pays off? He bulked up last year and looked very slow and completely ineffective. Some low esteem NFL team will jump at the chance to add Duke.
2) Le’Veon Bell, KC – Once was great, now is shot. He’s the new LeSean McCoy token veteran hopping from contender-to-contender on one-year deals, hanging on for paychecks.
3) Todd Gurley, LAR – It looks like his knee injuries have finally caught up with him completely. He was a shell of himself 2nd-half of 2020, propped in fan’s minds because he scored a flurry of short TDs. He was literally running the ball into the line and curling up before the contact by the end of 2020 season. Let the guy go enjoy his millions he stole from the Rams. I hope he won’t be enabled to try to drink down another few million from some team for another season, but he will.
-- Aaron Jones to sign with the NY Jets, not Green Bay. Clearing the way for Jamaal Williams to re-sign with Green Bay, making Jamaal the A.J. Dillon handcuff.
-- Kenyan Drake might limp back to Arizona after finding little market for his services. I pray, for Chase Edmonds that is not true.
-- James Conner could return to the Steelers on a nothing deal when no one wants him in free agency.
-- If the market is cheap, Chris Carson might wind up in Jacksonville (Schottenheimer tips off management)…but Seattle is his best bet as the only place that sees him as a #1 RB.
-- I fear Marlon Mack will sign with Indy and be a hit to Jonathan Taylor’s value. Don’t rule out the Eagles if the price falls enough.
-- James White is headed straight to Tampa Bay, no doubt about it.
-- I hope Samaje Perine goes to Houston, as I have some inside info on it…info that might be reliable.
-- The Baltimore Ravens might make a run at Leonard Fournette and corrupt J.K. Dobbins’ value.
-- Le’Veon Bell could get a look in Arizona if Kenyan Drake does not re-sign there.
-- Remember when Matt Breida was going to be a star? He’s a free agent this year, and no one cares…
-- Mike Davis will probably wind up with Carolina again.
-- I bet Wayne Gallman is waiting to see where Deshaun Watson might wind up before he signs a deal, but he may need to sign ASAP once free agency starts. Wild guess of Wayne Gallman to Seattle…since he had a big game against them in 2020.
College Football Metrics (CFM) 2021 Season – For Dynasty Rookie Drafts, NFL Drafts, Handicapping, etc.
It’s going to be a scouting NFL Draft season like no other – some top prospects opting out of their final college season, a unique schedule for CFB teams to have played, a different type of bowl season…a whole new backdrop to scout against. An experienced, talented scouting eye is going to rule. I have 10+ years of successful CFM scouting and analytics to lean on – I’m ready for the challenge.
I know the mainstream football analysis is going to butcher this year’s class even worse than normal – because they are going to blindly favor big school prospects more than ever, because those schools will have the only names they are truly familiar with, and it’s just the ‘name’ they are familiar with not their ‘game’. They’ll ‘hive mind’ run with whatever names the collective seems to be buzzing about – because they don’t put in the work, they just echo things they’ve heard. I’m not saying that to be a jerk – it’s the open window of opportunity (their failure) that I was able to build my career/business upon.
I spend many hours each offseason day/week/month researching the current class of top 100+ prospects individually as well as all the smaller school and ‘lesser named’ prospects our computer models start to identify. I study and compare prospect’s tape, and I input the performance data (weighted with our secret, proprietary scouting formulas) to get a firsthand feel for it so I can analyze and test/challenge all our analytics. I get to know these prospects on the field, statistically, and do character background research as well -- so I can boil it down to reports so my private clients and subscribers (from serious fantasy players, to professional handicappers, to agents, to NFL war room personnel) can know these prospects by description and statistically – for NFL purposes, for Dynasty Rookie Draft purposes, for Fantasy Best Ball/Redraft purposes in the preseason, and for handicapping and prop betting purposes.
If you love Fantasy Football, if you love the NFL Draft process – I guarantee you’ll never look at the process the same way again with a CFM subscription.
As the regular season football ends, a whole new season of football discovery begins with our ‘CFM’ subscription and study or current and past rookies (offense and defense) – and material flows daily all offseason January to September (NFL season start), leading us to using the material to our advantage for the NFL regular season.
Go to our College Football Metrics or Fantasy Football Metrics subscription pages for more information.
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