The 2021 rookie draft is shallower than the past few loaded classes. This is felt most at the running back position. Depending on how you view Trey Sermon and Michael Carter, this running back class is shallower than the girl who rejected me in college for driving a Ford Focus. Like my first car, there is value and reliability to be found if you know where to look. This article breaks down a handful of running backs going in the third round or later in Superflex rookie drafts. I highlight some players who have upside this season, next season, or might be out of the league next year.
Gerrid Doaks (May SF ADP of 46.2)
While Miles Gaskin had a breakout season last year, early on the Dolphins tried to force feed Jordan Howard in the red zone. Howard was not the answer. This off season, Miami signed Malcolm Brown. This signals that the Phins would prefer a bigger back to either take goal line work or be the 1B to Gaskin.
Enter Gerrid Doaks, seventh round pick out of University of Cincinnati. Doaks is a bigger back at 6’ and 230 lbs. Doaks does not have any elite physical traits besides size that would translate for fantasy. I am not here beating the drum for Doaks to turn into an elite fantasy asset. What Doaks does offer is a skill set that will endear him to Tua and the Miami coaching staff and earn himself early snaps. Doaks is an elite pass protector and is more elusive than his weight would suggest. He was underutilized as a pass catcher in college, but showed some upside there averaging 14.4 yards per reception his final season in Cincinnati. He is a handful to bring down in the open field between his size and contact balance. Doaks is a player who offers a ton of yards after contact. If Doaks can beat out Malcolm Brown in camp, he has an easy path to third down work and red zone carries.
Verdict: If Miami is willing to put Gaskin in a timeshare, which I firmly believe they are, Doaks is a potential RB3 with RB2 upside. I have been taking Doaks in all of my rookie drafts and picking up Malcolm Brown off the waiver wire wherever possible.
Elijah Mitchell (31.9 ADP)
Elijah Mitchell was one of my favorite pre-draft sleepers. Despite San Francisco taking Trey Sermon in the third round and having one of the most crowded backfields in the NFL, I still like Mitchell’s upside. Mitchell is slightly undersized at 5’10 and 201 lbs but ran an electric 4.35 at his pro day. Mitchell was a three year starter in a surprisingly crowded backfield for a small school. He split carries with Trey Ragas and Raymond Calais at University of Louisiana Lafayette. He displayed good hands out of the backfield and is difficult to bring down despite his slimmer playing weight.
Mitchell enters a crowded backfield and his best traits of speed and hands mirror what Mostert and Jeff Wilson offer the 49ers. Both backs struggle with injuries and are unrestricted free agents next year. Mitchell will likely be inactive on game days until another running back goes down with injury. Once he gets his chance, Mitchell has the ability to carve out a role on the 49er’s offense. With Mostert and Wilson’s injury-proneness, I am betting Mitchell is given the chance to showcase his talents before the 2022 season.
EDIT: This article was drafted prior to the news Jeff Wilson would miss 4-6 months with a torn meniscus. With Wilson’s injury, I am projecting more carries for Trey Sermon as they play similar roles. However, the injury elevates Mitchell to the RB3 on the depth chart and I am projecting about 4-5 touches a game as the depth chart currently stands. I still love Mitchell’s value at the midpoint of the third round, but if he creeps up draft boards it may become a more team dependent decision for me. I also love Nico Collins or a flyer on Davis Mills or Kellen Mond early in the third round.
Verdict: Unstartable barring injury to Mostert. Chances are Mostert will miss multiple games in 2021. RB2 in games where Mostert is out. RB2 or high end RB3 in 2022.
Larry Rountree (46.9 ADP)
Rountree has the requisite size and weight to play in the NFL at 5’10 and 211 lbs. Rountree unfortunately pairs his NFL size with below average speed and agility. His athleticism is what caused Rountree to fall to the 6th round, despite the fact that he was a 4 year starter at Missouri. However, Roundtree landing with the Chargers is a best case scenario. Austin Ekeler is an elite, but smaller back. Rountree only needs to beat out Joshua Kelley to become the Charger’s goal line back. Rountree’s biggest weaknesses are pass catching, athleticism, and outside running. With Ekeler on the roster, the Chargers are free to use Rountree for inside carries, pass protection, and goal line work. My biggest concern for Rountree is that Joshua Kelley was a fourth round pick only a year ago and offers similar size and weight with a lot more speed.
Verdict: Unstartable unless he can beat out Joshua Kelley in camp. I have my doubts about Rountree’s ability to do so, but he’s worth the risk in the fifth round. There are better players available in the fourth round.
Rhamondre Stevenson (27.9 ADP)
Both Michael Carter and Rhamondre Stevenson were taken in the 4th round of this year’s draft. Yet Stevenson is routinely available one round after Carter is taken in dynasty rookie drafts. Is the ADP gap justified? Yes, Carter was a significantly better prospect than Stevenson. Stevenson also enters a crowded backfield in New England. However, Stevenson may have a clear path to touches in the 2022 season. James White and Sony Michel are both free agents after this season. However, I just don’t see the potential upside in Stevenson that I do in other late round prospects. He’s a large back, well suited for goal line work who lacks the speed to become a three down starter.
Verdict: I’ll pass at Stevenson’s current ADP to take a shot on a back with a potential three down skill set or a goalline back who offers some upside in 2021.
Khalil Herbert (39.7 ADP) and Kylin Hill (46.0 ADP)
Both are late round NFC North selections with established starters and backups in front of them. I believe in the talent of both players and was shocked they fell to the 6th and 7th rounds respectively. Both players bring NFL size and athleticism to the position. Herbert is behind David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, and Damien Williams. Hill is likely to open the year as the RB3 on the depth chart behind Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Should Jones go down with injury, Kylin Hill could carve out a meaningful role on Green Bay’s offense as the pass catching back along with offering some upside as a runner.
Verdict: I am happy to take either of these guys in the 5th round of my rookie drafts, but I liked Hill better pre-draft and believe he has the clearest path to touches.
I am looking at taking Mitchell with a late third round pick and Doaks in the late fourth. The fifth round is a crapshoot and it’s worth rolling the dice on any of the guys there. If I need the potential for immediate production, I am targeting Rountree. If I am aiming for pure upside, I would target Hill in the final round. No one is mistaking these backs for Najee Harris but they could turn into a Ford Focus in the right circumstance. Hopefully I’ve guided you into finding your Ford Focus and not the next Pinto.
You can find me on Twitter @TheRotoRob and on Reddit u/TheRotoRob. Feel free to reach out with any questions, but please keep them fantasy related. I am no mechanic.