Forecasting 2021 NFL Rookie RB Success: 3-Year Model

May 18, 2021
Forecasting 2021 NFL Rookie RB Success: 3-Year Model

The 2021 NFL Draft is now in the books, giving us dozens of new offensive players to consider for our fantasy teams. In this article, I will discuss some of the key rookie wide receivers to focus on going into fantasy drafts.

More Rookie Forecasts: WR | LB

Our friends over at Dynasty League Football (DLF) have already compiled some post-draft rookie ADP, and, as expected, Najee Harris is not only the top running back off the board but also the top pick overall (in non-superflex leagues). While I would personally take Ja'Marr Chase before him, Harris scores incredibly well in all of my models and will undoubtedly be a workhorse back right away. You have every reason to expect Harris to put up fantasy points worthy of a top-two rookie pick (though do keep in mind that he is already 23 years old).

Below, we will look at some of the running backs you can get later in the draft that also have a good chance to turn into productive assets for your dynasty team.

Forecasting Running Back Success

As in the past two seasons, I estimate the odds of each player putting up a top-24 season within the first three years of their career by using a combination of three analytical models. The first is a standard statistical model (built using logistic regression), the second is a more sophisticated machine learning model and the third is a newer statistical model that projects using different criteria depending on each player's categorization as a passing, big or lighter running back. The odds reported below take an average of the individual predictions of the three models.

Last season, the model did a great job of identifying Antonio Gibson as the most undervalued player, as well as indicating that all five of the top options (Taylor, Akers, Dobbins, Swift and Edwards-Helaire) were likely to be successful. That said, these rankings should not be used as the sole basis for ranking players. In particular, I combine them with other information such as John Paulsen's estimation of the player's opportunity at their landing spot in order to rank them into tiers and then look for the options that seem most undervalued where they are being drafted.

This season, here are the players that stand out to me as most undervalued (the full table of rankings appears at the bottom of the page).

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