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Early Running Back Rankings for 2022 Fantasy Football

With the NFL Draft behind us, here is a first look at my running back rankings for 2022 fantasy football. What will Austin Ekeler do for an encore?

Welcome to the post-NFL Draft, pre-training camps 2022 fantasy football positional rankings. Below we examine my running back rankings with categorical explanations as needed.

The Elite: RB1-RB3

Jonathan Taylor (2,171), Austin Ekeler (1,558), and Najee Harris (1,667) paced the position in yards from scrimmage last year. Ekeler and Taylor found the end zone 20 times each, while Harris made 10 pay dirt trips of his own. Taylor was No. 1 in carries (332). Harris was No. 2 in carries (307) and No.1 in both RB targets (94) and RB receptions (74). Ekeler was runner-up to Harris in both (88 RB targets and 70 RB receptions).

Easy Overall RB1 Potential: RB4-RB9

Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Leonard Fournette, and James Conner all have clear-cut week winning upside. The veteran backs can absolutely play in 15 or more games this year but their injury histories are, generally speaking, more extensive than the elites. Leonard Fournette may be the most unappreciated back in fantasy.

High Floors With Potential Road Blocks, Top 12 Weekly Finishes: RB10-RB16

The Browns’ RB room is overcrowded with the addition of rookie Jerome Ford and the ascension of 2021 breakout D’Ernest Johnson. The team just re-signed Nick Chubb as well. Kareem Hunt is quietly a cut candidate as he bears the highest 2022 cap hit of the bunch—and none of the money remaining on his contract is guaranteed. Should Hunt get the axe, Chubb’s receiving opportunity would push him towards the top 5.

Aaron Jones’ receiving splits with Davante Adams out of the line up are divine.

D’Andre Swift may close 2022 as an elite play but we don’t yet know what the plan is for a now-healthy Jamaal Williams.

Alvin Kamara is in limbo with a possible suspension looming.

Javonte Williams was primed for a monstrous workload, but then Denver re-signed Russell Wilson’s brief college teammate, Melvin Gordon.

Through three NFL seasons, David Montgomery has finished 12th, 4th, and 10th in total touches.

Breece Hall has an easy path to a top 12 finish—volume. His hurdles to that end are a capable backup in Michael Carter and a developing quarterback.

Old Guard/New Guard: RB17-RB21

Raheem Mostert was lost for the 2021 season, six minutes into San Fran’s Week 1 contest and Elijah Mitchell instantly derailed the Trey Sermon hype train. The rookie took 19 carries for 104 yards and 1 touchdown in a 41-33 win over the scrappy Detroit Lions. The electric back’s 87.5 rushing yards per game were 5th most in the NFL but injuries to his shoulder, ribs, and knees bring concern as to how much work his 5-foot-10, 201 lbs frame can handle.

Ezekiel Elliott played through a knee injury last season and should be fully healthy entering camp but the veteran back has clearly lost a step, healthy or not. Dallas showed commitment to him though by allowing his bloated contract to bounce WR Amari Cooper out of town.

Cordarrelle Patterson will likely see a high-volume of touches this year but rookie back Tyler Allgeier will steal interior work and the team confusingly cut down on CPatt’s passing game work towards the end of last year.

There is still hope for Saquon Barkley to clear 250 touches in a season and this is by far the best offensive coaching staff he’s ever played under. Barkley remains an RB1 dark horse.

Travis Etienne suffered a Lisfranc tear in August of last year, causing him to miss the entirety of his rookie season. On average, running backs see a 21% dip in overall production in the year immediately following Lisfranc injuries, which is cause for concern. That said, Etienne spent two collegiate seasons side-kicking his current quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, as both a prolific rusher and receiver out of the backfield. Etienne’s primary touch competition in Jacksonville is James Robinson, who suffered a potentially career-ending torn Achilles part way through 2021, and rookie Snoop Conner, whose 29.5″ vertical jump (on par with offensive linemen) pours ice cold water on the latter’s professional prospects. Volume is the play with Etienne.

Committee Backs: RB22-RB29

Chase Edmonds’ prospects took a hit when pass protection specialist Sony Michel landed in Miami but Edmonds is still the most talented dual threat. He will also cede work to Raheem Mostert in Mike McDaniel’s RB-friendly scheme.

This is likely Josh Jacobs’ final season as a Raider.

The drafting public remains high on Cam Akers but the formerly hyped prospect performed badly upon his surprise return from an Achilles rupture last year. Darrell Henderson Jr. bears one of the league’s biggest boom/bust ranges and is the running back to bet on in LA.

J.K. Dobbins will operate as BAL’s lead back but since he’s returning from an ACL tear, expect a healthy rotation for the Ravens’ RB group.

As mentioned above, Kareem Hunt is a sneaky cut candidate but his dual threat abilities will land him an impact role somewhere in the NFL.

First Team All-Potential RB Miles Sanders gets another shot at fantasy stardom, competing with the diminutive backfield duo of Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell. The Eagles’ offense is undeniably trending upward though so there’s some reason for optimism.

A.J. Dillon broke out in his 2021 sophomore campaign. The big-bodied banger will continue to be used in a dual threat capacity in GB’s RB-friendly scheme.

Houston’s rookie RB, Dameon Pierce, had a productive college career, both through the air and on the ground. The Texans’ RB room is held together by aging duct tape so the prolific first-year player has a chance to emerge from camp as the clear-cut No. 1. He’s quietly a 200+ touch candidate.

Long-time New England pass catching maven James White suffered a devastating hip dislocation last season and according to reports, may not start the season ready to play. 2021-rookie Rhamondre Stevenson routinely put would-be tacklers on skates last year and saw a serious uptick in routes run, targets, and pass blocking snaps over the season’s final month. Damien Harris enters his fourth year in the NFL without a contract re-up after a 15-touchdown breakout season. The lack of an extension, the ascension of do-it-all sophomore Stevenson, and the addition of dual threat rookie Pierre Strong all signal a less fruitful Patriots future for Harris. While Harries should retain a rushing role, Stevenson could outright earn No. 1 back honors.

Melvin Gordon should operate as a reliable passing game component and part-time rusher with his former (freshman year) college QB at the helm.

Committee Backs With Sneaky Upside: RB29-RB36

Buffalo GM Brandon Beane spent a 2nd round pick on pass catching specialist James Cook—the highest pick he’s ever used on a running back, in his current role. Beane failed to sign J.D. McKissic this off-season and made it clear that they wanted a reliable outlet guy for Josh Allen. They got one in Dalvin Cook’s younger brother.

Seattle hysterically used an early 2nd round pick on another running back, Kenneth Walker. The talented rookie rusher will compete with the last back Pete Carroll sunk high-value draft capital into, Rashaad Penny.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire should transition to a pass catching specialist gig. With a more palatable ADP, he’s far more likely to return value than he has been to this point. News recently broke regarding a 2021 gall bladder removal that dropped CEH to 160lbs in last year’s off-season. If Edwards-Helaire is being truthful, 2022 could bring his best year yet.

Fruitful Role Players: RB37-RB43

Gus Edwards’ workload won’t be far behind J.K. Dobbins’.

Ronald Jones has a shot at 200 carries (and maybe 10 targets?), working as Kansas City’s leading rusher.

Expect another year of decent rushing production from Washington’s Antonio Gibson before the team moves onto Brian Robinson in 2023.

Devin Singletary lost his shot at being a featured running back and has been relegated to lead rushing duties.

Tony Pollard is a baller stuck behind Ezekiel Elliott’s bloated contract.

D’Ernest Johnson should be added wherever he’s available. As mentioned above, there’s a decent chance that Cleveland cuts Kareem Hunt which would create a path towards a dual threat backup role for Johnson.

J.D. McKissic; the definition of “high floor”.

San Fran’s 3rd round pick, Tyrion Davis-Price, is a far better fit for the 49ers rushing scheme than last year’s flop, Trey Sermon. The 6-foot, 219 lbs behemoth blazed an improbable 1.53-second 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash, while notching sufficient athletic marks in the remaining Combine/Pro Day activities. TDP should slot in as an 8+ touch play-maker almost immediately.

Notable Backups: RB44-RB57

Raheem Mostert will produce as a role player in Mike McDaniel’s offense. Michael Carter is a good change of pace back. Tyler Allgeier has a real shot at a notable rushing role in Atlanta. After using a committee to backup Austin Ekeler, it appears as though LAC wants to distill the non-Ekelers down to one man: Isaiah Spiller. Alexander Mattison; you know the drill. Khalil Herbert proved he’s the standalone backup last year. Samaje Perine is theoretically a dual threat backup for Joe Mixon. Sony Michel offers intriguing potential in the “Shanahan” scheme. Brian Robinson could be an end-of-season winner. Jamaal Williams will shine on Hard Knocks. Nyheim Hines; part-time pass catcher. Rachaad White would be a fantasy explosion should Leonard Fournette miss time. Hassan Haskins is a gargantuan, abysmal athlete who could plod his way to fantasy fruit, should Derrick Henry miss time.

Names to Know: RB57-RB70

Kyren Williams (LAR), Jerome Ford (CLE), and Pierre Strong Jr. (NE).

2022 Running Back Rankings
RankRunning BackTeam 
1Jonathan TaylorIND
2Christian McCaffreyCAR
3Najee HarrisPIT
4Austin EkelerLAC
5Aaron JonesGB
6Dalvin CookMIN
7Saquon BarkleyNYG
8Joe MixonCIN
9Leonard FournetteTB
10Javonte WilliamsDEN
11Nick ChubbCLE
12Breece HallNYJ
13Derrick HenryTEN
14Ezekiel ElliottDAL
15James ConnerARI
16D'Andre SwiftDET
17David MontgomeryCHI
18Elijah MitchellSF
19Travis Etienne Jr.JAC
20Miles SandersPHI
21Clyde Edwards-HelaireKC
22Chase EdmondsMIA
23Cordarrelle PattersonATL
24Josh JacobsLV
25Alvin KamaraNO
26Darrell Henderson Jr.LAR
27AJ DillonGB
28Dameon PierceHOU
29Rhamondre StevensonNE
30Damien HarrisNE
31Antonio GibsonWAS
32Kareem HuntCLE
33Tony PollardDAL
34James CookBUF
35Tyrion Davis-PriceSF
36Rashaad PennySEA
37Kenneth Walker IIISEA
38J.K. DobbinsBAL
39Melvin Gordon IIIDEN
40Ronald Jones IIKC
41Gus EdwardsBAL
42Devin SingletaryBUF
43Alexander MattisonMIN
44J.D. McKissicWAS
45Michael CarterNYJ
46Tyler AllgeierATL
47Khalil HerbertCHI
48Chris EvansCIN
49Rachaad WhiteTB
50Raheem MostertMIA
51Jamaal WilliamsDET
52Isaiah SpillerLAC
53Sony MichelMIA
54Brian Robinson Jr.WAS
55D'Ernest JohnsonCLE
56Julius ChestnutTEN
57Samaje PerineCIN
58Nyheim HinesIND
59Pierre Strong Jr.NE
60Isaih PachecoKC
61Trey SermonSF
62Kenneth GainwellPHI
63Myles GaskinMIA
64Kenyan DrakeLV
65Hassan HaskinsTEN
66Jerome FordCLE
67James WhiteNE
68Cam AkersLAR
69Kyren WilliamsLAR
70James RobinsonJAC

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