When it comes to sizing up the fantasy football running back options for the 2021 season, the most important factor to consider may be something that's hard to quantify – health. While there is certainly no lack of options to choose from, if last season showed us anything it's that running backs get hurt, a lot.
Consider that among the top 10 for 2021 (see below), more than half (six) missed at least two games. Ironically, part of the reason these guys are in the top 10 likewise increases their chances of getting hurt – they are the ones most likely to see a heavy workload.
Related: RB Tiers for 2021
This doesn't mean that you should shy away from these guys. Christian McCaffrey played in just three games last season. But it's what he did in those three games (474 total yards, six TDs) that makes him not just the No. 1 running back but the No. 1 player in fantasy overall. Neither he nor Saquon Barkley, who is coming back from a torn ACL, figure to last long in drafts, and for good reason.
But any player's injury history can't be ignored either, especially with the increase to 17 games in the regular season. Cam Akers, one running back who was on everyone's breakout list this summer, won't even play in 2021 after tearing his Achilles working out before the start of training camp. And Travis Etienne, the Jaguars' second first-round pick, also will miss the season after suffering a Lisfranc injury during the team's second preseason game. This means that James Robinson, who went from UDFA to fantasy stud last season, is now back in the RB2 conversation while Carlos Hyde becomes relevant as the likely backup. Additionally, the Rams acquired Sony Michel from the Patriots to bolster their backfield depth behind Darrell Henderson Jr.
So don't drop the studs down your draft boards too far just because there's a very good chance they will end up missing a game or two. Just be sure to build enough depth in your fantasy backfield so that you can weather the inevitable injury instead of seeing your season go down the tubes because of one.