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Dynasty Veteran Sleepers: Running Backs (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Bo McBrayer | @Bo_McBigTime | Featured Writer
May 25, 2022

In corporate America, it is downright illegal to discriminate against a person because of their age. So it’s a good thing that playing football is an “at-will” position because otherwise, these teams (and dynasty managers) would be in some real hot water for pervasive ageism.

One particular position that warrants the most scrupulous attention to the expiration date printed on the side of the bottle is running back. In fact, running backs age more like avocados than fine wine. Nevertheless, we have all been repeatedly struck with the same cliches that compare running backs to cars (mileage on the tires), baseball pitchers (pitch count and fastball velocity), and even farm animals (bell cows and workhorses).

I am here to tell you that a good NFL running back for dynasty is simply a running back who is in the NFL and good enough to get playing time, kind of like a bikini body is a body that happens to be wearing a bikini. I’m tired of always taking the shallow approach in dynasty and only rostering young RBs on the rise. Sometimes, experience is better. Throw out the societal pressures about age cliffs and what other people will think if you’re seen in public with a running back over 25 years old. The horror! Should we tell him? Don’t take pity on me. I’m only using these four veteran running backs as arm candy and for winning dynasty championships.

Rankings referenced are FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings for dynasty leagues.

D’Onta Foreman (RB – CAR)
No. 200 overall | RB63

There was a time when Foreman was a vaunted prospect from the University of Texas who was a coveted workhorse back for the Houston Texans. But unfortunately, he ruptured his Achilles at the end of his 2017 rookie season. Although it was only five years ago, there was not much optimism to speak of when that injury was considered a career death sentence for a running back. It was an arduous trip back to the playing field for Foreman, but his 2021 season with the Tennessee Titans was his rise from the ashes. The 236-pound back stepped in for the injured Derrick Henry and turned in 566 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

NFL teams took notice of the burst Foreman had, much like in his Longhorn days. The Carolina Panthers, who looked rudderless when Christian McCaffrey went down, pounced at the opportunity to add valuable depth with upside. Foreman got paid and is now a very valuable insurance policy. The 26-year-old back is like the red convertible in Ferris Buehler’s Day Off. Don’t let his age fool you into thinking the odometer has been spinning. Foreman has low miles and a direct avenue to cruise to fantasy points.

Melvin Gordon (RB – DEN)
No. 124 overall | RB42

Those of us who really believe in Javonte Williams are now questioning whether our prayers were heard at all. Nothing against the vet entering his eighth NFL season out of Wisconsin, but we collectively kicked the dirt and punched the air when Gordon re-signed with the Broncos. The main reason is that MGIII was good last season. He and Williams shared an exact 50-50 split of the backfield, and Gordon averaged 1.0 more PPR points per game than the heralded rookie.

This offense figures to be a force in 2022 and beyond. The arrival of Russell Wilson gives opposing defenses so much to worry about. Gordon has only eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards once in his career, but his 918 yards, eight touchdowns and ample receiving production had him as RB22 in 2021. He is currently going at an average draft position (ADP) of 149.8 (RB44) on Sleeper dynasty. So even a reduction in his backfield snap share won’t tank him that far. MGIII is as reliable as he is talented and really hasn’t lost any juice at age 29.

Matt Breida (RB – NYG)
No. 406 overall | RB116

Sometimes a player we haven’t seen in a while slips through the cracks and finds himself in a nice situation. Breida was tossed in the trash after getting used up in the San Francisco running back meat grinder. He was mired in a muddy mess in Miami, then didn’t fit the bill in Buffalo. He has resurfaced as the backup to Saquon Barkley for the Giants. Let’s just say Saquon hasn’t been a model for exemplary health lately. Breida is joined in the New York rotation by only Gary Brightwell and Antonio Williams, neither of whom figures to be more than special teams enforcement.

It is interesting to note that Breida made enough of a positive impression in his time in Buffalo last season to latch on with the Schoen/Daboll regime in the Meadowlands. He has excellent speed and lateral agility with sure hands and good intangibles. The only question mark has been health. Nevertheless, a little bit of fortune and opportunity could mean a nice two-year jaunt for Breida’s production, especially since the club has not made any moves to threaten his prospects for 2022.

D’Ernest Johnson (RB – CLE)
No. 193 overall | RB62

The punchline to one of the biggest waiver wire jokes in fantasy history is actually a pretty good football player. In October of 2020, an injury to Nick Chubb sent a stampede of FAAB-flushed fantasy fiends rushing to acquire the services of a completely unknown running back undrafted out of USF. I remember that week fondly. I didn’t take Johnson seriously and was floored when he went for 100% FAAB (free agent acquisition budget) in nearly every league.

I didn’t even pay him enough mind to spell his name correctly. Those 9.5 fantasy points on 13 carries, followed by a whole pile of nothing, made me feel like an absolute genius. In 2021, however, the waiver frenzy was tempered when injuries struck the Cleveland backfield again. This time, I landed D’Ernest in a couple of leagues at a bargain. Johnson eclipsed 20 fantasy points three times last season. Going into 2022, the 26-year-old has signed a fresh one-year tender. The kicker here is that Kareem Hunt‘s dead cap hit is very manageable if the Browns wish to move on from him before the season.

Should they let him walk, Johnson becomes immediately valuable at the cool price of free-fifty-free. For a position of significant volatility and scarcity, that kind of transaction can vault a dynasty roster into rarified air.

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