Fantasy Football Offseason Winners and Losers: Running Backs

Who were the running backs that gained or lost value during the offseason?
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Dynasty fantasy football players tend to get excited about the rookies coming into the league and their fantasy upside. However, that is not the only impact of the offseason. The perceived fantasy values of players already in the NFL can shift a lot based on the moves their team makes. Here is a look at a few winners and losers of the offseason at the running back position:

Mike Davis has shown promise to take over the lead running back job in Atlanta.

Mike Davis has shown promise to take over the lead running back job in Atlanta.

Winner: Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons did not make any significant additions to the backfield in free agency or the NFL Draft besides Davis, which leaves him as the primary candidate to have the largest share of the running attack. Atlanta running backs have been valuable for fantasy in past years. Even last season, when Todd Gurley was clearly not the same physical player anymore, he still finished the season with nine touchdowns. Davis had an opportunity to show that he can produce for fantasy while filling in for the injured Christian McCaffrey last season. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, which has played a valuable role for Matt Ryan at quarterback in the past. Davis might not be an exciting name or player, but the actions of the team this offseason have given his fantasy value a boost, even if it is only for the short term.

While James Robinson had a productive rookie season, he's likely to take a gigantic step back after the Jaguars drafted Clemson's running back Travis Etienne in the 2021 NFL Draft.

While James Robinson had a productive rookie season, he's likely to take a gigantic step back after the Jaguars drafted Clemson's running back Travis Etienne in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Loser: James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Robinson was a player that was debated a lot in the offseason by dynasty fantasy football players. Almost everything the team has done this offseason hurt the fantasy value of Robinson. The team brought in a new coach that has no connection to him. The Jaguars drafted Travis Etienne in the first round of the NFL Draft. The difference in draft capital between him and the undrafted Robinson will significantly impact how much leeway each player is given. Even in the best-case scenario, Robinson will lose many of the passing game opportunities he saw to Etienne, which will hurt his value in fantasy. A target is more valuable than a carry for running backs in fantasy. Robinson will find himself in more of a platoon at the running back position this season when he had no real competition for touches in 2020. Robinson’s dynasty value will likely never be higher than it was at the end of the last season. Players who were able to trade high before the NFL Draft must be smiling now.

With the Dolphins skipping on selecting one of the top-tier running backs in the 2021 NFL Draft, this shows that they have confidence in Myles Gaskin to be their lead running back.

With the Dolphins skipping on selecting one of the top-tier running backs in the 2021 NFL Draft, this shows that they have confidence in Myles Gaskin to be their lead running back.

Winner: Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins were often talked about as a potential running back landing spot in the NFL Draft, but in the end, they added running back Gerrid Doaks in the seventh round. The team also signed Malcolm Brown to add to the running back room. Things may be slightly more crowded in the Miami backfield now, but Gaskin will come into the season as the starter to lead this group. He finds himself in a much more relevant position than if the Dolphins had invested any significant draft assets in a running back. The variable for the Dolphins as a team will be what they get from the quarterback position, but the team is in a position to take a step forward if Tua Tagovailoa is up to the task. The starting running back on a team on the rise with a good defense is a good formula for fantasy success. Gaskin showed what he could to both on the ground and in the passing game when given a chance last year. Now it is time to see what he can do for an entire season.

With the Broncos investing in a running back in the 2021 NFL Draft, Melvin Gordon's fantasy football stock likely takes a monster hit.

With the Broncos investing in a running back in the 2021 NFL Draft, Melvin Gordon's fantasy football stock likely takes a monster hit.

Loser: Melvin Gordon III, Denver Broncos

Here is another situation where the NFL Draft hurt the value of a player. Javonte Williams is a player many people were excited about, and now Gordon will find himself sharing the backfield with him. Gordon is approaching the age where running backs can see their skills diminish quickly, and Williams will be seen as part of the future of the Broncos. He lines up more with other young players on the offensive side of the ball for the Broncos, and it is not hard to envision a scenario where this backfield becomes an even split or begins to lean toward Williams as the season goes along. Gordon didn't have much competition for touches last season, but 2021 and beyond will be a different story. Gordon has the size to continue to be the primary back around the goal line, but his fantasy value could end up very touchdown-dependent if the volume of work is not there for him.