Long Shots – NFL Rushing Yards Betting Futures


As I mentioned in my piece on longshot quarterbacks to lead the NFL in passing, I view season-long player futures more as profitable entertainments and less as hardcore investments, so when I bet in this market I tend to gravitate toward players who have longer odds (+1000 or higher).

With that in mind, here are six running backs I’m betting on to lead the league in rushing based on what I see in our 2021 FTN player projections, the best odds available in our Prop Shop Tool, and the implied probabilities that accompany the odds (easily accessed via our new Betting Odds Calculator).

To see the other bets I’ve made for the upcoming NFL season — including a side or total for every Week 1 game — check out our FTN Bet Tracker.

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Jonathan Taylor odds – Most rushing yards 2021

  • FTN projection: 1,178 yards
  • Best odds: +1200 at Caesars
  • Implied probability: 7.69%

Most sharp projections have Jonathan Taylor at No. 4 in rushing total for 2021, right after Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook and Nick Chubb.

But Henry will be without offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, Cook has never managed to play an entire season, and Chubb has a capped ceiling thanks to the presence of Kareem Hunt in his backfield.

It’s not hard to see how Taylor could disappoint this year: After all, Carson Wentz is his quarterback.

But when betting on season-long futures, I like to focus on a player’s path to a best-case outcome, and Taylor has a conceivable path to 2021 rushing dominance.

Taylor could take a sizable step forward in his second season, and he balled out as a rookie starting in Week 10 with 140-819-8 rushing in his final seven games (including playoffs).

The Colts are No. 7 in NFL guru Brett Whitefield’s offensive line rankings, and with Wentz at quarterback they could lean heavily on the running game.

I think Taylor’s true odds of leading the league in rushing are probably closer to 10% than the 7.69% implied probability found at Caesars.

Ezekiel Elliott odds – Most rushing yards 2021

  • FTN projection: 1,070 yards
  • Best odds: +2100 at FanDuel Sportsbook
  • Implied probability: 4.55%

I’m a Cowboys fan and a relatively intelligent person with a full-time job in sports media — and I still struggle to remember how Ezekiel Elliott spells his last name. Anyway …

Elliott has led the league in rushing yards twice over the past five years, and his offensive line should be much better this year with the returns of left tackle Tyron Smith, right guard Zack Martin, and right tackle La’el Collins, development of center Tyler Biadasz, and addition of reserve tackle Ty Nsekhe.

With quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys are expected to have an efficient pass-heavy offense — but what if, instead, they lean on their high-paid running back to protect their franchise-tagged signal caller?

While he had a career-low 65.3 yards rushing per game last year, if Elliott this season manages to return to his five-year average of 89.9 yards, he will very much be in the running to lead the league in rushing.

Antonio Gibson odds – Most rushing yards 2021

  • FTN projection: 1,011 yards
  • Best odds: +3000 at Caesars
  • Implied probability: 3.23%

In his final eight games of the regular season last year, Antonio Gibson had a respectable 552 yards rushing in his first season as a running back.

This year, the Football Team offense should be better with the addition of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Gibson could benefit from the standard second-year progression most skill-position players enjoy.

On top of that, the Football Team offensive line should be better with the offseason additions of left tackle Charles Leno (free agency), left guard Ereck Flowers (trade), and right tackle Samuel Cosmi (draft).

And in fantasy, Gibson is a player to buy. He’s one of high-stakes savant Nelson Sousa’s breakout running backs for 2021.

To get all of Sousa’s analysis, check out his high-stakes fantasy package, which comes with coaching sessions and Sousa’s rankings.

(Get an All Access pass to FTN NFL coverage across all sites for $349.99.)

J.K. Dobbins odds – Most rushing yards 2021

  • FTN projection: 994 yards
  • Best odds: +3100 at FanDuel Sportsbook
  • Implied probability: 3.13%

LIke Taylor and Gibson, the ascendant J.K. Dobbins is a second-year back with the potential to go off.

Last year, he was No. 5 with 3.49 yards after contact per carry and No. 6 with a 14% gash run rate (percentage of runs that are 10-plus yards) among all running backs with at least 50 carries (per our Advanced Rushing Stats Tool).

On top of that, he was No. 2 at the position with a 43.2% explosion rate (the percentage of yards from runs of 15-plus yards, per our Explosive Run Rate Tool).

Last year, the Ravens were No. 1 in the league with 3,071 yards rushing. The year before that, No. 1 with 3,296 yards.

After returning from the COVID-19 list last year, Dobbins averaged 85 yards rushing across his final five games of the regular season.

While Dobbins is likely to split carries with veteran Gus Edwards, he could have a massive campaign if the Ravens lean on Edwards and also quarterback Lamar Jackson a little less than expected.

Miles Sanders odds – Most rushing yards 2021

  • FTN projection: 991 yards
  • Best odds: +8000 at PointsBet
  • Implied probability: 1.23%

Miles Sanders has disappointed over the past two years, but he hasn’t been bad. He has 4.9 yards per carry for his career, and in his three games last year with quarterback Jalen Hurts as the starter he was 46-236-3 rushing.

The truth is we have limited knowledge as to how Sanders will be used by the new coaching staff, but Derek Brown clearly articulates his upside in his Eagles coaching and coordinator breakdown:

“Sanders was the RB8 in fantasy points per game with Hurts under center, and while he likely doesn’t see that type of production in 2021, the floor is still high. Hurts’ mobility will give defenses fits when paired with a rusher of Sanders’ talent. Among all running backs with 75 or more rushing attempts last season, he ranked ninth in yards after contact per attempt (3.38).”

Do yourself a favor and check out the entirety of Derek’s NFL coaching and coordinator series.

And the Eagles could have one of the best offensive lines. From Bett Whitefield:

“Assuming the Eagles line stays healthy this year, it has a chance to be a phenomenal unit. From center to right tackle the Eagles have studs in each spot with Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson. The two big questions will be the development of left tackle Andre Dillard, who missed all of the 2020 season, and how rookie second-rounder Landon Dickerson fits in. If Dickerson is good out of the gate the Eagles could make the case for best interior OL in the league.”

Based on his ability and potential usage, Sanders offers great value at this line.

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Raheem Mostert odds – Most rushing yards 2021

“Well, everyone knows that Custer died at Little Big Horn. What this book presupposes is … maybe he didn’t?” — Eli Cash, in Royal Tenenbaums

Everyone assumes that rookie Trey Sermon — just selected in the third round — will split carries with veteran Raheem Mostert and eventually emerge as the lead back.

But what if we presuppose that … maybe he won’t?

Going back to 2019, Mostert is 221-1,236-13 rushing over his past 16 games (including playoffs).

If Sermon underwhelms and Mostert stays healthy and keeps the No. 1 back job, he could be a surprise league leader at the end of the season.

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