Fantasy Football season is here. It is without a doubt that the running back position is not only the most shallow position but also the most important to win the championship. Having a solid core of RBs is the most efficient and reliable way to ensure fantasy success. This article will go into depth about certain running backs with difficult schedules in the fantasy playoffs that drafters should be wary of. These statistics are from the .5 PPR scoring format
Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
Henry has been one of the most consistent running backs in the NFL over the past few years. He put up unreal numbers in the fantasy playoffs last season, running for 200 yards or more in 2 of his last 4 games of the season. The volume was clearly there for Henry in 2020, receiving 378 carries which were 66 more than any other running back. However, the last stretch of Henry’s schedule for 2021 may cause some concern for fantasy managers. The Titans face the Steelers, 49ers, and Dolphins weeks 15 – 17 this season. Henry averaged 5.4 yards per carry last season, which was 4th among qualified running backs. During his game against the Steelers last year, Henry ran for 75 yards on 20 carries (3.75 YPC). Those 3 teams on average allowed 17.45 points per game to running backs last year, while the average team allowed 20. These stats suggest that Henry’s productivity won’t be up to his normal standards but due to his immense volume, should still be a top target in fantasy drafts.
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
Sanders did not live up to his high draft stock last season, missing 4 games to injury. He rushed for over 100 yards twice last season and scored 6 touchdowns, finishing as the RB23 in 2020. Sanders plays the Washington Football Team twice and the New York Giants during the fantasy playoffs this season. Both of those teams were in the top 10 against the run last season, with the Football Team being in the top 5 for fantasy points. Sanders additionally has a bye week in week 14, which could be a make-or-break week for some managers. The Eagles ran the ball on about 40% of their plays last year, which was almost in the bottom 10 in 2020. Jalen Hurts will continue to vulture touchdowns and yards away from Sanders who has not received confidence from the new coaching staff. His current average draft position places him around players like Josh Jacobs and Chris Carson who have both proved themselves to be much more reliable than Sanders.
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
There’s no debate that McCaffrey is among the best running backs in fantasy this year. After missing most of last year due to injury, he is ready to get back to racking up points, especially in PPR leagues. The Panthers have a tough schedule down the stretch of the season, playing the Bills, Saints, and Buccaneers in the fantasy playoffs. The Bucs were the best at limiting big running plays last season, holding opposing running backs to 3.5 yards per carry, the lowest in the league. McCaffrey averaged 3.28 YPC in his game against Tampa the last season, and the Bucs have retained every starter on their team for this season. Additionally, the Saints had the 5th lowest YPC for opposing running backs at 3.84. With Sam Darnold as the presumed starter for this year, McCaffrey may not get as many looks in the passing game as the previous seasons. Darnold targeted the running back position 54 times in 2020 which was one of the lowest rates in the league. In addition, the Bills were an offensive powerhouse last season, so the Panthers may not be able to run the ball against them.
DeAndre Swift, Detroit Lions
Swift impressed many people in his rookie season, averaging 4.6 yards per carry in his 4 games starting last year. The Lions got rid of the majority of their starting receivers and traded for QB Jared Goff from Los Angeles. With an entirely new, but not necessarily improved, offense, Swift should get more volume than he received in 2020. However, in the fantasy playoffs, he faces the Falcons, Cardinals, and Seahawks. The Falcons allowed the 2nd least amount of yards to running backs last season, and the Seahawks allowed the 6th least. These strong run defenses may be an issue for Swift as they were last year. Swift ran for 27 yards on 9 carries last season against the Falcons, only averaging 3 yards per carry. It will be interesting to see how this offense will operate this year, but Swift may run into trouble when fantasy managers need him most.