by Michael Nazarek/John Holler
Note: Below you will find a portion of our Fantasy Football Runningback
Rankings Analysis & Drafting Tips for 2022. If you'd
like to read all RB rankings analysis, please click HERE
to order our 2022 Pre-Season Draft Guide.
POSITION OVERVIEW - The running back position has always been an anomaly in fantasy football. As the passing game has become far more dominant, the value of elite running backs has continued to rise. If youâ€™re going to win a league title, having a bell cow running back is a must. The problem is that too many of the top-end players have significant injury histories, including Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott. With young players emerging and climbing the list, this could be one of the most interesting running back draft classes in years as owners roll this dice on hitting the jackpot.
RB Draft Tips- Found exclusively in the Guide.
THE MASTERMIND'S BEST BET:Found exclusively in the Guide.
The following rankings are based upon PPR (point-per-reception) leagues!
1ST TIER (THE ELITE STUD RBs)
1) Jonathan Taylor, IND â€“ In just two seasons, Taylor has clawed his way to the top of NFL running backs. In 15 games as a rookie, he set a high bar by rushing for 1,169 yards, catching 36 passes and scoring 12 touchdowns to vault himself into the discussion of the top running backs in the league. In 2021, he took it to another level â€“ rushing a league-high 332 times for 1,811 yards, caught 40 passes and scored a league-best 20 touchdowns. As the Colts continue to cycle through quarterbacks (Matt Ryan is the fifth different starter in the last five years), the one constant is Taylor. He has fresh legs and, coming off a phenomenal second season, what can he do for an encore? STAT FACT: After a slow start (171 rushing yards in his first three games), Taylor never rushed for less than 70 yards in his final 12 games, had more than 100 rushing yards 10 times and scored 17 touchdowns.
2) Austin Ekeler, LAC â€“ Ekeler has been an enigma in his five NFL seasons. Prior to last year, he had been part of a platoon system with Melvin Gordon and was seen as more of a receiver than a running back. Before 2021, his high for carries in a season was 132 and his high-water mark for rushing yards was 557. He made up for that by catching 146 passes in 2019-20 and scoring 10 receiving touchdowns. He finally got the chance to be the unquestioned No. 1 guy in the Chargers backfield and responded with 911 rushing yards, 70 receptions for 647 yards and tying for the league lead in touchdowns with 20. There are concerns about his durability, but his explosiveness and scoring capability make him hard to ever ignore. STAT FACT: Although he is the main rusher in L.A.â€™s lineup, his career stats remain almost even split. He has 5,538 yards from scrimmage (2,812 rushing, 2726 receiving) and has scored 45 touchdowns (21 rushing, 24 receiving).
3) Christian McCaffrey, CAR â€“ For the third year running, McCaffrey is likely to be among the top three players coming off draft boards and costing the most in auctions. There was good reason for that. In 2019, he put together one of the greatest fantasy seasons in history, rushing for 1,387 yards, caught 116 passes for 1,005 yards and scored 19 touchdowns. That was the good news. The bad news is that in the two seasons since, McCaffrey has only played in 10 games. When he came into the league, there were concerns about whether or not his body could take the beating featured backs take. For three seasons, he was able to hold up. The last two has not only seen him sidelined, but forced out numerous times with different injuries. When healthy, he dominates, but that is a big question mark and some fantasy owners will have him ranked lower than this. STAT FACT: There is a reason McCaffrey is always rated so high. When he plays, he puts up points. In 42 games over the last four years, he has scored 40 touchdowns.
2ND TIER (VERY CLOSE TO ELITE STUD RB STATUS)
4) Najee Harris, PIT â€“ As a rookie in 2021, Harris immediately made a huge impact as the centerpiece of the Steelers offense. He rushed 307 times for 1,200 yards, caught 74 passes for 467 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. He was a dominant force, posting eight games with 20 or more carries and putting himself up on the all-time single-season list for a franchise known for its star running backs. As he enters his second season, Harris is in line to be the focal point of the offense again as Pittsburgh moves on from the Ben Roethlisberger era and tries to find its way into unchartered waters with only one certainty â€“ they can lean on Harris to get the job done. STAT FACT: Despite having 11 games with 15 or more carries and eight with 20 or more rushes, he only had three 100-yard rushing games â€“ all at Heinz Field.
5) Derrick Henry, TEN â€“ The big concern fantasy owners have always had is whether a running back can hold up to the kind of workload the ultimate bell cows have endured. In 2019-20, Henry played in 31 games, carrying the ball a whopping 681 times for 3,567 yards and 33 touchdowns. When you add in 37 receptions (and two more TDs), Henry had more than 700 touches in two years. He was on pace to shatter those records as well before he went down in the eighth game of the 2021 season. He remained among the top rushers despite missing more than half the season with a foot injury, finishing with 219 carries for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns. At that pace, he would have finished the season with 465 carries for 1,991 yards and 21 touchdowns. Historically, running backs who have had the back-to-back seasons Henry had â€“ three actually because of the massive numbers he was putting up â€“ have never been as dominant after that massive workload. Will Henry be the exception to the rule? 2022 will go a long way to determining that. STAT FACT: Most fantasy owners look for a bell cow running back that carries the ball 20 times often enough that it becomes a habit. Nobody has done that more than Henry. In his last 30 games, he has had 20 or more rushing attempts in 23 of them.
6) Joe Mixon, CIN â€“ After splitting time as a rookie in 2017, Mixon became the full-time starter in 2018 and has posted three seasons with more than 1,100 rushing yards â€“ including a career-high 1,205 rushing yards last season. He would have a streak of four straight, but went down early in 2020 after rushing for 428 yards in just six games. He has been a steady receiver who has been goot for 30-40 receptions each year, including 42 catches (one off his personal best) for a career-high 314 yards. With the Bengals looking like one of the best young offenses in the NFL with a bright future in front of them, Mixon figures to be in the middle of all of it. STAT FACT: The one missing element of Mixonâ€™s fantasy game was his low touchdown numbers for the amount of times he had his hands on the ball. In his first four seasons (50) games, Mixon scored 25 touchdowns â€“ an average of one TD every two games. In 2022, he played in 16 games and scored 16 touchdowns â€“ double his career average.
3RD TIER (SOLID #1 FANTASY RBs)
If you'd like to read all RB rankings analysis, please click HERE to order our 2022 Pre-Season Draft Guide.
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