RB6 - Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
Chubb is obviously one of the best runners in the NFL, but his knock for fantasy has always been the lack of use in the receiving game. Many believe that can change with Kareem Hunt not on the team anymore, but it seems as though 2nd-year RB Jerome Ford is stepping into that role. If that's the case, Chubb's role likely won't change.
Chubb has actually never had the full share of overall work in the backfield, even in the several games Hunt has missed in the past. Kevin Stefanski has always complemented Chubb with whatever random RB he had on the roster.
With that being said, Chubb is still in position to be a monster in the run game. The offense has a good chance of taking a step forward with Deshaun Watson going into Year 2 with the Browns, they have a great offensive line, and they have weapons in the receiving game who defenses have to account for. Among the 8 RBs with 250+ carries last year, Chubb was 1st in yards after contact/attempt and 1st in missed tackles forced/attempt.
He's damn good, even without the receiving, but I'm not sure we can put him in that next tier we desperately want to put him in.
RB13 - Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
Without Samaje Perine, Mixon has a good chance of staying on the field in situations where Perine was previously taking over. It doesn't seem like Mixon will be suspended this year, so you might be getting an every-down back on a great offense.
There are some concerns though... you would think a RB on an offense like the Bengals would be able to maintain some efficiency, but Mixon took a big step back last year. It was pretty bad.
There were 22 RBs who had 200 or more carries last season. Mixon was dead last in yards after contact/attempt. Among those 22 RBs, Mixon was also dead last in forced missed tackles/attempt. Not good. He also had the least amount of 10+ yard runs. I'm starting to think... is this why the Bengals felt the need to restructure?
It's worth noting that the carry threshold of a RB when he starts to break down is around 1500 carries, and Mixon is currently at more than 1400. I was pounding the table for Mixon as a value in drafts earlier in the off-season, but now I'm starting to re-think that. Maybe it's better to draft and stash Chase Brown in the event Mixon gets banged up. Brown proved he can handle a big workload in college, and maybe some fresh legs can provide a spark in the Bengals backfield.
RB14 - J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
Dobbins has a chance to shine now that he's a year removed from his ACL+ injury and that he's less likely to have an even share with Gus Edwards with a new OC. I'm expecting Dobbins to take a big jump forward this year.
There’s been chatter about his new OC using him more in the receiving game, too, which would be welcome. I think there's a narrative that Gus Edwards will be a part of the rotation the same way he has before, and I think that's the main difference we'll see, with the backfield feature Dobbins this year after the change in OC.
If I had to give you my pick for this year's Josh Jacobs, it's Dobbins - I think there's a good chance he sees 250+ carries this year, even on a more balanced offense. And if he gets that type of opportunity, the underrated talent can take over.
In his 2020 rookie season, he averaged 6 yards/carry and ranked 7th among 47 qualifying RBs in yards after contact/attempt. He was 2nd only to Nick Chubb in percentage of runs going over 15+ yards. Despite not being at full strength last year, he ranked 3rd in that category. He's finally at full strength again with a great offensive line, and a new OC should recognize that he should be THE guy in that backfield.
RB15 - Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
Najee Harris is the definition of a solid RB. He's nothing super special, but he's solid. He can carry a big workload if called upon, and he can catch the football but not do anything special with it. As a rookie last year, Jaylen Warren took over 3rd and long situations, but Najee remained the offense's 2-minute back throughout the majority of the season.
It's possible we see Warren get more work - he was pretty efficient in the run game and the receiving game as a rookie, but it's also possible that if Najee is completely healthy this year, he goes back to being the guy. The word out of camp is that Warren will likely continue to get work, and possibly get even more work this season.
At Najee's price, I think he's a solid pick, but I might prefer some of the WRs going around him given his range of outcomes. If Warren truly moves into his workload, Najee is likely overpriced. I never believed Najee was an amazing talent, but we do know he's very capable of handling a big workload - but he is volume dependent. I'd just hope the Steelers offense can take a step forward this year - it all depends on Kenny Pickett, who did look better in the second half of the year and through this preseason.