A Top-10 running back is a difference maker because not only do they score among the highest fantasy points of any position, but they do so with greater consistency. The position is always gives up most of the first round in any fantasy draft. Likely the second as well.
Below are the running backs that produced a Top-10 finish in any of the past five seasons, and what they did in the other years. This shows the volatility of the position and how rarely backs actually return to the Top-10 the following season, despite the fact we all draft like they are going to repeat.
Hats off to Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara.
They are the only backs with a shred of repeatability beyond two seasons. No other running backs had more than two years as a Top-10 in a row. Injury certainly comes into play for the position, but that’s good to know as running backs become riskier. All other positions incur fewer injuries, so drafting running backs with your first four picks may feel good, but you are skipping over other positions that are less likely to miss games.
At best, only half return to the Top-10 the next season. Notable too is that last year’s Top-6 contained only one player from the previous Top-10 of 2020. The other five ranked no better than No. 25 (Austin Ekeler) the previous year. Said another way, four of the Top-6 were not even RB2-worthy in 2020 and Najee Harris was a rookie. That’s monumental shifting from year to year.
In fairness, only Kareem Hunt went from Top-10 to worse than No. 24, so that is consistency as falling to no worse than a RB2.
For those in dynasty leagues, notice how quickly great seasons turn into mediocrity. Seven of the Top-10 of 2017 have fallen off the map.
All fantasy leagues use at least two running backs and most allow three. So taking a Top-10 running back from the previous year may not provide a difference-maker, but it also won’t usually hurt your team much. But don’t get too excited about spending big on rookie rushers in your dynasty league.