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Early Overvalued & Undervalued Running Backs (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Tim Brosnan
Jan 22, 2022
Early Overvalued & Undervalued Running Backs

Disclaimer: This list is intended to evaluate players based on their current ranking in the FantasyPros 2022 ECR. After much research and careful deliberation, the following players are those I have deemed (in my own opinion) as being either overvalued or undervalued. A half-PPR scoring format is assumed. 

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Overvalued

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB – KC)

Regarded as a second-round choice, and a high-end RB2 in 2021, it’s safe to say CEH owners were disappointed this season. Bring on the bullets:

  • Missed seven games in 2021 (now has missed 10 of 33 career games)
  • Finished with an average if 11.7 PPG (RB31 on a PPG basis)
  • Managed less than 80 total yards in seven of his ten games
  • Zero games with 20 carries, zero games with 20 total touches

I’ll say it. Clyde is just never going to be what we hoped he would be. We see the Chiefs backfield and we think Priest Holmes, Jamaal Charles, Kareem Hunt. Years of RB1 production. But the truth is, since Mahomes has gotten to town, Kansas City has a pass-first offense. And it works. They’ve appeared in the Super Bowl in each of the last two seasons and made it to the AFC championship in each of the last three. There’s no reason for them to adjust their approach, so it doesn’t seem likely Clyde ever becomes a focal point. Sure, being on the Chiefs offense means he’s got a shot at an explosive game each week.

But that’s kind of the only thing that keeps us coming back, isn’t it? What he might do…

To be fair, he has displayed a decent PPR floor (at least 10.0 points in 17/23 career games) but the upside still leaves much to be desired.

The truth is, in two seasons with the Chiefs (23 games) he has just two games with at least 20.5 PPR points. He has never scored over 21.0.

To put things into perspective, in 2021 Darrell Williams had:

  • Three games with 20+ touches. 11 games with three or more catches (CEH had three such games)
  • Five games with 80+ tot. yards despite being the unquestioned starter in just seven games
  • Three games with 23.5+ points

The point is, it’s not a Chiefs RB thing. It’s a CEH thing.

Being ranked as RB20 sums up just how it’s been. He started as a consensus top-15 overall pick as a rookie, fell to about the third round in 2021, and with a two season sample size, he now sits at RB20, 41st overall in FantasyPros ECR. His value continues to drop, and I predict it ends up even lower in 2023.

In the fourth-fifth round, going in the same range as players like Jaylen Waddle, Tee Higgins, Leonard Fournette, etc… It’s hard to justify drafting CEH at his current value.

D’Andre Swift (RB – DET)

This opinion is going to be very unpopular. At one point in 2021, Swift was the PPR RB2, and the future has looked bright a number of times. But there lies the problem. About 50% of his value is dependent on his receiving output. If you play in a standard league or even a half-PPR, all of a sudden he becomes much less of a threat.

I believe in Swift’s talent. He’s a good player. BUT… if there’s one thing 2021 taught me about RBs, it’s that the best quality is availability. Swift has now missed at least three games in each of his first two seasons. Please enjoy some other negative stats:

  • Carried the ball more than 14 times in just one of his 13 games in 2021
  • Rushed for 50+ yards in only three of his 13 games in 2021
  • Finished with 12 PPR points or less in five of his 13 games in 2021 (38 percent)
  • He is on the Lions

In PPR scoring, Swift finished as RB15, averaging a respectable 16.1 PPG. In half-PPR, he finished as RB17, one spot behind Derrick Henry. Derrick Henry did not play a regular season game after week eight. If you change scoring settings to standard, Swift averaged just 11.3 PPG, good enough for RB22. You see where this is going?

Swift is a good player, certainly better for PPR leagues, but with what is likely to be a second/third-round price-tag (RB11 via FantasyPros ECR) I’m respectfully going to have to pass.

In that range, when drafting a RB, I am looking for an RB2 who I believe is likely to break into RB1 territory. At this point, I am considering Swift (a player who has yet to finish a full season, or be awarded a feature role) as more of a perpetual RB2 with upside.

JK Dobbins (RB – BAL)

I was very high on Dobbins last year as the lead back of the (former) best rushing team in football. He ended up missing all of 2021 with a torn ACL suffered in the preseason. What resulted of the Ravens backfield this season was a collection of aging veterans and unproven backs (Latavius Murray, Ty’Son Williams, Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, etc.) taking turns leading the charge each week. Freeman being the only one providing (somewhat) consistent production. Overall, it was kind of a mess.

Now… Dobbins is expected to make his return in 2022, and he already projects as a fourth-round pick (RB19, 40th overall via FantasyPros ECR).

Right away he jumps off the screen as overvalued.

There is too much uncertainty surrounding Baltimore’s ability to produce a consistent fantasy back after the past two seasons. Also, not to beat a dead horse, but Dobbins is on the mend from a torn ACL. There’s no guarantee he maintains his violent running style that made him so special.

With question marks like these floating around, for him to be ranked above players like Josh Jacobs (RB17 in 2021, avg 15.1 PPG) and James Conner (RB5 in 2021, avg 17.1 PPG, 18 total TDs) seems a bit irrational.

I wouldn’t say Dobbins isn’t worth taking a shot on, but I would definitely say he is currently overvalued.

Honorable mention: Rashaad Penny (RB – SEA)

Where Penny is currently ranked (RB34, 73rd overall) isn’t necessarily overvalued. But for those willing to reach, expecting him to produce mega-RB1 numbers like he did in the 2021 fantasy playoffs, you may be disappointed.

Not many will consider the fact that Russell Wilson may not be on the Seahawks next season or the fact Chris Carson will be returning to the fold.

To reiterate: His workload should decrease. Their offense may become significantly less dynamic/more predictable.

Penny is currently ranked appropriately, but my guess is recency bias will take over here. Many will see his name, remember his end-of-season (fantasy championship-winning) production, and reach on him.

I would advise against it.

Undervalued

James Conner (RB – ARI)

Let’s see… A player who finished 2021 as RB5 in total points, averaged 17.1 PPG, and scored 18 total TDs ranked as RB23 via FantasyPros ECR.

Does that sound right to you? Me neither.

Think about it, he is the goal-line back/red-zone weapon on a young and high-powered offense with a steadily improving franchise QB. An offense that scored 50 total TDs this season and averaged 25.6 PPG. Regardless of the competition, he faces for backfield touches, that production isn’t going to disappear entirely.

While I agree that Chase Edmonds existence complicates things, I don’t think Conner belongs anywhere near the fifth/sixth round.

If Edmonds stays healthy all season, it’s likely Conner doesn’t finish as a top-five back again. Nonetheless, he is certainly better than RB23 (47th overall). Keep in mind, Conner scored 11 of his 18 total TDs in games where Edmonds was present.

In games where Edmonds was not present, Conner averaged a monstrous 26.1 PPG.

If for any reason Edmonds goes down, Conner is in a situation where he immediately becomes an RB1. Plain and simple.

Players like that don’t grow on trees. To get someone with that kind of upside in the fifth-sixth round is invaluable.

Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG)

Let’s review the resumé:

2018: RB1 overall (24.1 ppg, 2000+ total yards, 15 TDs)

2019: RB10 (18.8 ppg, 1400+ total yards, 8 TDs despite missing 3 games)

2020: torn ACL

2021: Coming off a torn ACL, dealing with a disastrous QB/coaching situation all year, 850+ total yards, 4 TDs, career-low in touches.

With questions surrounding his durability and overall efficiency, his productivity seemingly trending downward since his rookie season, Barkley’s value is sure to be at an all-time low.

2021 was a terrible year for him. There’s no getting around it. There is a Walgreens receipt-worth of negative stats about it.

He missed four games, he had just one 100-yard rushing game (his only game with at least 20 carries), sprained his ankle, etc. But keep in mind, like mentioned above, he was fresh off a torn ACL. Many players fail to return to form the following year after such a debilitating injury. He may be built differently than most, but he is only human after all. However, I don’t buy he’s already washed up.

Before hurting his ankle in week five, he began to pick up steam, racking up 220 total yards, three TDs, and 51.0 PPR points over a two-game stretch (26.5 PPG). He’s still got it. He just hasn’t quite had the chance to unleash it. Literally.

He received 18 touches in a game just five times in 2021. He averaged 17.8 PPG in those five games, and recorded 90+ total yards in 4/5. (Update: Joe Judge, the man responsible for this usage, is now gone)

The concerns are valid. The Giants are brutal to watch at times. If you drafted Saquon this year, you likely have a bad taste in your mouth. But the good thing about drafting him in 2022 is: you won’t have to pay RB1 price. Risking a third/fourth-rounder (ranked as RB17, 35th overall) to get someone who has proven his ability to finish as THE RB1? Now that should be the very definition of “under-valued”. If he even halfway snaps back to form, you’ve got yourself a steal.

Javonte Williams (RB – DEN)

The perception is the Broncos backfield will belong solely to Williams in 2022. As of now, that has him projected as a second round pick (RB10 via FantasyPros ECR). I’m here to tell you: that is too low. As a rookie, Williams:

  • led the NFL in forced broken tackles
  • Racked up 1,200+ all-purpose yards (903 rushing)
  • Recorded 43 receptions
  • Scored 7 total TDs
  • Finished as RB18 in PPR and STD scoring
  • Recorded the highest rate of forced missed tackles in a season since 2006 (31% – Tied 2014 Marshawn Lynch and 2020 Nick Chubb)

Keep in mind, he did all this while splitting touches evenly with Melvin Gordon. In his only game with the backfield to himself (week 13) Williams accumulated 178 total yards and a TD on 29 touches (29.8 PPR points). Throw on the tape and it’s clear to see Williams is a workhorse. All he requires to flourish is the opportunity to unleash his skillset. Provided Melvin Gordon is elsewhere in 2022, I don’t think taking Williams in the first round is a reach.

Honorable Mention: Melvin Gordon (RB – DEN)

Speaking of Gordon… We don’t even know where he’s going to be next season, and he’s already ranked as RB31 in 2022?! (via FantasyPros ECR). How crazy is that? Melvin Gordon, a player whose floor is 1,000 total yards and 9 TDs (fact, not opinion)

Prior to 2021, Gordon had finished as no less than RB15 in PPG since his rookie year, including three consecutive top-eight finishes (2016-18). As mentioned above, Gordon split work evenly with Javonte Williams all of 2021 and finished as RB21, despite missing one game. Provided he lands somewhere with a backfield to himself, the TD machine we know as Melvin Gordon could easily creep back into top-15 RB territory. Even if he doesn’t leave, Gordon finished as a top-25 RB in Denver with half a workload!

He might not be that top-10 guy anymore, but he’s definitely not washed up. He is still an explosive enough player to win you your week (four games with 95+ yards and a TD in 2021).

It’s hard to bet against Gordon when he gets the volume. In 2021, he averaged 18.6 PPG in games where he received at least 19 touches.

As of now, he projects as a 7-8th round pick, much like 2021. Well, it was a mistake to rank him so low last year (RB30), and I believe it will be a mistake to rank him that low again this season.

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