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Dynasty Fantasy Football Running Back Tiers: Najee Harris and Travis Etienne have RB1 potential immediately

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This time of year I get a lot of requests for “where will <rookie> fit into the rankings, once you add him?” And the truth is, I don’t really know. Yes, I put together my first run at 2021 rookie rankings. I even adjusted the pick values a little in the Dynasty Trade Chart, to reflect my feelings on the class as a whole. But actually putting them into my rankings without a 2021 projection — or even a 2021 team — is a bridge too far for me. 

To make it up to you, I’m doing a pre-draft tiers update with my expectation of where the rookies will slot in. 

At running back, it’s a two-part discussion for me. First, just how high could Najee Harris or Travis Etienne go? Second, what do we do with everyone else?

For both Harris and Etienne that answer will be determined by whether they land with the Atlanta Falcons. If Arthur Smith lands either in first two rounds it’s not hard to imagine that back being the first overall pick in rookie drafts and a borderline top-12 back in Dynasty before he takes a snap. Harris is my preference of the two and if he landed in Atlanta I’d put him squarely inside the growing Tier 3. In fact, he may be in the upper half of that tier. I couldn’t see putting him ahead of Jonathan Taylor or D’Andre Swift, but anything is possible after them. Etienne wouldn’t be far behind.

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But even if those backs don’t end up in Atlanta, I’d view them as Tier 4 backs at worst as long as they’re drafted in the first two rounds. But as I wrote in my rookie Dynasty rankings, there is a pretty big gap in my opinion between the top two backs and everyone else. Javonte Williams, Trey Sermon, and Michael Carter would all need a very good landing spot to sneak into Tier 4 as I view them now. All three look more like committee backs that fit better in Tier 5 with the likes of Kareem Hunt and Chris Carson.

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After the second tier of running backs, it gets really dicey. There will be surprises and opportunities we don’t yet envision, but currently, I’d view Kenneth Gainwell and Jaret Patterson as the next tier and I don’t envision either cracking my top five tiers.

This is a far cry from the 2020 class, which landed seven backs in my top four tiers. Their success may very well be what overshadows the 2021 rookies for years to come, especially since the 2020 backs are in many cases still younger than their 2021 counterparts.

Here are my updated Dynasty running back tiers:

What’s the exact value of every Fantasy-relevant NFL player in the rankings? And which rookie will provide shocking value? Visit SportsLine now to get optimal rankings and picks, all from a DFS pro who has won almost $2 million in his career and has simulated the entire season 10,000 times.

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