In a relatively weak running back class, Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell is one of the higher valued running backs in dynasty formats. The best pass catcher of the class, Gainwell could be a fantasy football star but has obstacles in his way after landing with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kenneth Gainwell’s dynasty value for 2021
Gainwell is just the next player to come into the NFL Draft out of Memphis’ running back pipeline. Other running backs that have recently come out of Memphis include Tony Pollard, Darrell Henderson, and Antonio Gibson.
For my money, Gainwell is the best pass-catching back in this class and acts like a slot wide receiver out of the backfield. Hell, he even runs routes like one. Find me another RB in this class whose team is comfortable enough to have him run comeback routes. Don’t worry — I’ll wait.
Last season, one of the biggest questions in dynasty drafts surrounded Gibson — if he was so good, why did he only have 33 carries? Gainwell was the reason. He perfectly fit the role Memphis required. If he were at a Power Five school, he would have been talked about as one of the nation’s best backs.
The issue for Gainwell, like many running backs, is his landing spot had a drastic impact on his dynasty value. Heading into the NFL Draft, Gainwell was my locked-in RB4. However, things changed quickly once the Philadelphia Eagles selected him.
After falling into the fifth round, the Philadelphia Eagles snagged Gainwell at pick No. 150. Not only is it troublesome for Gainwell, but it also hurts Miles Sanders. These players’ values are predicated on their receiving skills, and there are only so many targets to go around. This could be a messy split for touches, and this is not even factoring in the designed runs for Jalen Hurts. He now slides down into the RB6 territory due to the overall lack of depth of the class.
Gainwell’s dynasty value blew up in his lone season as a starter
Like many others in the 2021 class, Gainwell faced a difficult decision last year. Given the pandemic and tumultuous NCAA season, he chose to opt-out of the season and focus on the draft. The risk of this is that it allows him to become somewhat forgotten about due to recency bias. Playing at Memphis rather than a large school didn’t help either. With that being said, Gainwell had already put together an incredible résumé.
After redshirting his first year on campus, Gainwell broke out in 2019. He started in all 14 games for the AAC champion Tigers and led all FBS freshmen with 2,069 all-purpose yards. He rushed 231 times for 1,459 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Additionally, he showed his receiving prowess by hauling in 51 receptions for 610 yards and 3 more touchdowns. Gainwell’s arguably most impressive performance came against Tulane, where he had a 200-yard receiving and 100-yard rushing game.
Even once a defender gets their hands on Gainwell, he is not easy to take down and shows incredible contact balance and elite agility. He will never be considered a power back or one you want in that scheme, but at 5’11” and 195 pounds, he is not a scatback either. Given the prep work players do to get ready for their pro days, Gainwell likely will play north of 200 pounds.
Where should you draft Gainwell in dynasty rookie drafts?
I won’t lie to you. This running back class is, well, not stellar. It is very, very top-heavy. If you look back to last season, five running backs were going inside the first six picks in rookie drafts. On the contrary, we don’t likely have six startable backs in the entire class this season.
There is an apparent tier gap for me. Najee Harris is in a league of his own, followed by Javonte Williams and Travis Etienne in Round 2. On pure talent, Gainwell would be in the third tier. With that being said, talent alone does not earn fantasy points.
In 1QB formats, Gainwell is a late-second round dynasty pick in rookie drafts. In post-draft rankings, he has been jumped by both Trey Sermon (San Francisco) and Michael Carter (New York Jets). When we change to Superflex formats, all five quarterbacks will come off the board ahead of him, pushing him into the early third round. Should anything happen to Sanders, Gainwell would be a massive value given the change in ADP.
As I said, the landing spot is a massive factor for Gainwell’s dynasty value. Sanders has two more years left on his contract, so Gainwell will be living in a timeshare for quite some time. It stands to reason he will likely never be a leading back so long as Sanders is healthy.
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