In the past two NFL seasons, Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry has either led the league or tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns. In 2020, Henry alone was the NFL leader with 17 touchdowns on the ground. The prior season, Henry and Green Bay’s Aaron Jones tied for the title with 16.
It’s no surprise then that both Henry and Jones are among the top ten favorites to capture the 2021 rushing touchdown title. The big question is there another running back in the mix that is worthy of using as one of your best bets?
Best Bets: The Favorites
For oddsmakers, the answer to that question seems to be no right now. Henry sits atop the betting board listed at +450 to win a third straight crown. Over the course of his five-year NFL career, Henry has increased his rushing yards and rushing touchdowns total each season. The Titans star ran for 12 scores in 2018, 16 in 2019, and 17 last year. Henry also became just the eighth player in NFL history to surpass the 2,000-yard mark with 2,027 yards on the ground last season.
Henry isn’t the only favorite though. Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook also checks in at +450. The Vikings’ fifth-year running back set career highs in carries (312), yards (1,557), yards per carry (5.0), and rushing touchdowns (16) last season. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is a big believer in defense and the running game, so Cook should see plenty of opportunities to score in 2021.
Best Bets: Top Contenders
Like Zimmer, Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski understands the importance of the running game. The Browns are headed in the right direction thanks to a much-improved ground attack led by Nick Chubb. Cleveland finished third in rushing yards per game (148.4) last season and one of the big reasons was the running of Chubb. He ended up with 12 touchdowns, a career-best, last season.
The problem that faces Chubb is the Browns other running back, Kareem Hunt. While Chubb’s touchdown numbers increased from 2019 to 2020, his yardage – 1,494 in 2019 to 1,067 in 2020 – dropped. That’s because Hunt received a significant number of carries. That is likely to continue in 2021 and that is why Chubb’s odds in this category are a little longer at +800.
Also listed at +800 are Carolina star Christian McCaffrey and Indianapolis RB Jonathan Taylor. McCaffrey missed most of last season suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 2 and then a shoulder injury in Week 9 that ended his 2020 season. McCaffrey did rush for 15 touchdowns in 2019, the same season in which he became just the third player in NFL history to have 1,000-yards-plus both rushing and receiving in the same season.
Taylor offers some value since he will run behind what is arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. He wound up starting 13 games as a rookie last year and totaled 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Colts will start this season without starting QB Carson Wentz, who is out with a foot injury. That may mean more opportunities for Taylor on the ground.
Best Bets: The Longshots
It’s almost hard to put “longshot” and Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliott in the same sentence, but it’s happening. Kamara is listed at +1400 just a year after finishing one touchdown short (16) of Henry for the league lead. As good as Kamara is, he has yet to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season. This could be the year as the Saints will be without future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees who retired after last season.
Right behind Kamara on the board is Elliott, another veteran who has seen plenty of the end zone during his career (46 times to be exact). Elliott is coming off what was his worst season as a pro in 2020. He averaged a career-low 4.0 yards per carry and totaled just 979 yards. The Cowboys star scored just six touchdowns. The 2021 season could be a redemption tour for Elliott and his Dallas teammates who are looking to bounce back after a 6-10 campaign in 2020.
Despite tying for the league lead in rushing touchdowns just two seasons ago, Jones also finds himself as a longshot at +1800. Jones did set a career-high in yards rushing with 1,104 last season, but he only scored nine rushing touchdowns as his teammate Aaron Rodgers won the league MVP award. After Rodgers’ tumultuous offseason, Jones may help take some of the pressure off of his teammate which would mean more opportunities to score.