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Best Ball Draft Advice & Rankings: Running Backs the Experts are Avoiding (2022 Fantasy Football)

May 20, 2022
Antonio Gibson

While the redraft season is still a few months away, you can draft anytime by participating in best ball leagues! We have you covered with our best ball content, rankings, average draft position (ADP), and mock draft simulator.

Let’s take a look at players our experts are avoiding based on their ADP.

Best Ball Draft Advice: Players the Experts are Avoiding

Javonte Williams (RB – DEN)
ECR RB16 | ADP RB12

Running back Melvin Gordon signed a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos, ultimately halting the Javonte Williams 2022 breakout season. The idea of Williams playing a three-down role was salivating, but Gordon’s return should not be overlooked after a seriously underrated 2021 campaign.MG3’s return definitely hurts Williams’ top-tier fantasy ceiling. He’s going to split work with another capable back in Gordon which is exactly what new head coach Nathaniel Hackett desires and spoke on at the NFL owners meeting in March. However, keep in mind that Williams finished 13th in touches last season (246, 14.6 per game) and would be the favorite to take another step forward in the passing game – Aaron Jones-esque – after finishing as one of two rookie RBs inside the top-15 in route participation in 2021: Najee Harris (first) and Javonte Williams (13th). Williams falls just out of the fantasy RB1 conversation for me in redraft and best ball, but he’s right on the cusp. I don’t think he can be ranked worse than RB15 considering that’s where he finished as a rookie amid a split workload in a much worse offensive environment.

Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS)
ECR RB19 | ADP RB17

Antonio Gibson has been a solid option over the last two seasons as the RB16 and RB17 in fantasy points per game. He also ranked tenth in yards per route run, fifth in evaded tackles, and 14th in juke rate. He was tied for seventh in carries inside the five-yard line and eighth in weighted opportunities. We already know the pass game usage is capped with J.D. McKissic resigned, but now the goalline could be in jeopardy with Brian Robinson on the depth chart. The team has talked about lightening Gibson’s load, so the threat of Robinson is real, especially if Gibson keeps putting the ball on the turf. Since 2020 he’s tied with Ezekiel Elliott for the most fumbles (six) in the NFL among running backs.

Kenneth Walker (RB – SEA)
ECR RB30 | ADP RB27

Kenneth Walker III made a massive splash upon transferring to Michigan State in 2021, leading his class in rushing yards (1,634), missed forced tackles (89) and explosive runs (46) en route to winning the Doak Walker Award – an honor bestowed upon college football’s best running back. His success earned him a 34% dominator rating, which considers the number of touchdowns and receiving yards a player commands within their offense.

The number is solid considering Walker commanded just a 4% target share in his junior year, catching 13 passes for 80 receiving yards. His massive accomplishments this past season were inevitable after he rushed for 13 touchdowns as PFF’s 15th-best graded running back in 2020 as a sophomore at Wake. With the second-most missed tackles forced over the past two seasons – trailing only Iowa State’s Breece Hall – and third-most rushing yards after contact, Walker possesses the groundwork to be an effective rusher at the next level. Breaking tackles and creating after contact in college translates to the pros extremely well, as seen most recently by Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams.

Williams led the nation in missed tackle rate (48%) in his final season at North Carolina and would go on to lead the NFL in the same metric at the conclusion of his stellar rookie season. Elusiveness is just one trait Walker has in common with Williams, as both skipped their senior years to enter the draft. Declaring early is a positive sign for a running back in dynasty formats, as they save themselves from another year of wear and tear. The lack of work in the passing game is really the only major blemish on Walker’s prospect profile because his testing at the NFL scouting combine was also exceptional. He weighed in at 211 pounds and ran a 4.38 40-yard dash (96th percentile).”The player I am avoiding is running back Kenneth Walker III. With a rookie draft ADP in the top-3, it’s just too steep a price to pay for a running back that is projected to be used heavily on early downs on an offense that easily projects to be bottom-5 in the NFL led by the unsurprising duo of Drew Lock/Geno Smith at quarterback. Even if Walker can carve out a first-year workload similar to that of Chris Carson circa 2020 – 16.4 touches per game, 56% snaps share when healthy – it’s still going to be a massive uphill battle for him to be a fantasy producer in Year 1.

Pete Carroll has a stable of backs including Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, and DeeJay Dallas who all figure to work in at some point despite Walker’s Round 2 draft capital. Again, even when Carson was the RB1, he was splitting snaps. Penny was brought back on a one-year deal for $5 million (12tth-highest cap hit), Chris Carson – if healthy – is due $6.1 million (10th-highest cap hit) and Homer/Dallas have routinely worked as pass-catchers out of the backfield. Seattle also finished dead-last in targets to the RB position last season, creating serious doubt that Walker will be used in that fashion in any capacity as a rookie. Part of that is on Russell Wilson‘s lack of juice in the screen game, but the offense itself doesn’t predicate much RB pass-game usage. Geno Smith posted a meager 12% RB target rate (three per game) in his three starts last season. Drew Lock was at 17%. The Seahawks have the chance to be a running back by committee and dumpster fire on offense this season for all the reasons I’ve laid out, which is why I am adamantly against paying the premium for Walker. If this team falls behind in games, there’s no telling which RB will even be on the field. I feel so much better about going with one of the many rookie WRs selected in Round 1 ahead of Walker based on his landing spot. Hopefully, opportunities should open in this backfield in Year 2 for Walker with Penny likely leaving in free agency. But does he get replaced with another Day 2 running back? Will Seattle’s offense even be efficient in 2023 and beyond? So much uncertainty with this entire situation has me hesitant.

2022 Consensus Best Ball Rankings

2022 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyProsECR (TM) – Expert Consensus Rankings

 

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