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Fantasy Football Draft Rankings & Player Notes: Running Backs (2022)

May 26, 2022
Najee Harris

It’s never too early to look at rankings ahead of the 2022 fantasy football season. Now is the time to see where the experts have players ranked versus the early average draft position (ADP).

Check out our top 12 running back rankings along with player notes as you prepare for your fantasy football draft.

Running Back Fantasy Football Rankings & Player Notes

1) Jonathan Taylor (IND – RB)
After playing just a 70% snap share once in 2020, Jonathan Taylor surpassed that number in nine contests in 2021, including eight weeks during the team’s last eight games. Taylor also led the NFL in red-zone touches (92), which was not that surprising considering he ranked fifth in that category as a rookie. That elite goal-line usage helped separate Taylor from the pack as the bonafide No. 1 running back in fantasy football. No player came close to sniffing his amount of volume near paydirt. Taylor’s 42 carries inside the 10-yard line were 12 more than the next-closest back (Damien Harris, 30).Pairing Taylor’s elite red-zone usage with his ascending role as a receiver – 11th in routes run and sixth in route participation in 2021 – makes him worthy of the 1.01 pick across all fantasy formats. No quarterback targeted running backs more than new Colts quarterback Matt Ryan did in 2021 – 8.6 targets per game.

2) Christian McCaffrey (CAR – RB)
The injury concerns for Christian McCaffrey are justified. Since 2020 he’s dealt with an ankle sprain, thigh injury, AC joint sprain, and high ankle sprain, missing 18 games. When he’s on the field, though, he’s still a top-three running back. Last season in the five games he played at least 48% of the snaps, he averaged 20.1 (0.5 PPR) fantasy points per game. This would have placed him as the RB3 in weekly fantasy scoring behind only Jonathan Taylor and Derrick Henry.

3) Derrick Henry (TEN – RB)
Those that faded Derrick Henry as a first-round pick in 2021 received suboptimal results. The Tennessee Titans running back led the position in fantasy PPR points per game (23.4) through eight weeks and bested his 2020 2,000-yard campaign by more than 2.5 PPR points per game. The unicorn running back averaged 29.6 touches per game – seven more than the next closest running back before his injury. And although he didn’t play again until the postseason, Henry still finished 15th in the NFL in total touches and as the RB20 overall in just eight games played. No running back better depicts the “volume is king” mantra better than the King himself and his guaranteed volume makes him nearly bulletproof. Coming off an injury-plagued season does raise some concerns about whether Henry’s body is going to break down because of his insane workload. And the lack of pass-game usage is a detriment to his value in PPR formats. But it’s impossible to ignore his workload opportunity in 2022 within a Titans’ anemic passing offense. They don’t have any reason to not feature him and there are no indications that they are going to stop with him due $15M this season. Seems more likely than not they ride Henry did his contract expires before the 2024 season when he hits age 30.

4) Najee Harris (PIT – RB)
If there is any running back that could potentially de-throne Derrick Henry as the poster child for the “volume is king” mantra, it’s Najee Harris. The Steelers rookie running back managed a league-leading 381 touches in 2021, and finished as the RB4 in half-point scoring as a result. The volume he is going to see in 2022 will ensure he is one of the safest running backs available in fantasy football. Still, the issue with Harris pertains to his true upside potential in a potentially capped offense led by a rookie quarterback. An immobile Ben Roethlisberger was a check-down target machine to Harris in 2021 which may not be the case in 2022. And despite all of his total raw touches, Harris only saw 37 touches (22nd) in the red zone and scored six red-zone touchdowns.

5) Austin Ekeler (LAC – RB)
Austin Ekeler isn’t used as a true three-down workhorse, but it’s hard to tell based on the actual amount of touches he sees in the Los Angeles Chargers offense. At 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Ekeler finished 8th in the NFL in total touches (276) and 14th in touches per game (17.2). But the raw touches hardly showcase the fantasy value Ekeler possesses, because he often commands an extremely high share of high-value targets ie. targets and red-zone opportunities. His 13.9% target share and 70 receptions ranked second behind only Najee Harris. Ekeler’s 18 red-zone touchdowns and 63 red-zone touches ranked first and second respectively. With such a secure role as a receiver out of the backfield and as a featured red-zone weapon in a high-powered offense, it’s hard to imagine a healthy Ekeler not returning at least top-5 fantasy status in 2022. He wrapped a bow on the 2021 season as the RB3 in points per game and RB2 overall in half-point scoring.

6) Dalvin Cook (MIN – RB)
The injury bug has lightly nipped at Dalvin Cook in each of the last three seasons. Over that span, he’s gutted out it, though, and only missed four games while dealing with a torn labrum, dislocated shoulder, groin strain, and left shoulder sprain. Despite the injury history, Cook will “shoulder” the load for the Vikings again in 2022. When he was on the field last year, he averaged 21.8 touches and 106.4 total yards per game as the RB11 in weekly fantasy scoring. He’s still a top 5-10 option and 20 touches per game machine this year.

7) Joe Mixon (CIN – RB)
Joe Mixon was an absolute steal in the second round of fantasy drafts in 2021 based on his easily projected large workload within an ascending offense. The Bengals running back finished the season third in total touches (334) and sixth in touches per game (20.9). Mixon also ranked third in goal-line carries (16) and tied Jonathan Taylor/James Conner in red-zone touchdowns. 2021 was the perfect storm for the fantasy RB3 in half-point scoring coming off a truncated 2020 campaign, and there’s reason to believe the positive production will continue in 2022. The Bengals’ offensive line has been revamped entirely, ensuring that Mixon will be able to repeat his top-10 PFF rushing grade from a season ago. He also flashed upside as a receiver down the playoff stretch for the Bengals, averaging nearly six targets per game while running a route on 57% of offensive dropbacks through six games. That route participation would have ranked third among all running backs during the regular season. Mixon fits all the criteria that a fantasy manager would want as a mid-range first-round selection in fantasy football. However, he owns the RB7 ADP at 12th overall in early best ball drafts.

8) Leonard Fournette (TB – RB)
Workhorse Uncle Lenn is back to trigger the haters in 2022. In Weeks 4-14, Leonard Fournette played less than 61% of the team’s snaps in only two games. Over that stretch, he averaged 19.7 touches and 103 total yards per game as the RB5 in fantasy. Fournette was also fantastic in the passing game. In that sample, he led all running backs in targets (63) and was fourth in receiving yards (344). Rachaad White might be his heir apparent, but Tampa Bay has Super Bowl aspirations, and it’s difficult to envision Tom Brady trusting a rookie in the backfield to protect him.

9) Nick Chubb (CLE – RB)
The days of Nick Chubb‘s absurd rushing efficiency going to waste have come to an end. During his four-year career, the Browns running back has never averaged fewer than five yards per carry. But at the same time, he has also never played in a top-12 scoring offense.The best offense he played was in 2020 – 13th in points per game – which by no coincidence was also Chubb’s best season from a point per game measure. The former Georgia back averaged 17.3 PPR points per game, which would have ranked sixth in 2021.The 12 rushing touchdowns definitely boosted Chubb’s numbers, and scoring double-digit TDs is well within his reach with Deshaun Watson taking charge under center for the long term. Just be wary that Chubb won’t be used as an every-down back. Even when Kareem Hunt missed time in 2021, Chubb’s role/usage didn’t change drastically with the Browns sprinkling in other running backs on the depth chart. His 17-18 touches per game average the last two seasons shouldn’t change even if the team trades Hunt this offseason. Chubb’s role as a receiver also leaves a lot to be desired after he posted a meager 4.8% target share in 2021, averaging fewer than two targets per game (1.8). His path to upside is touchdowns and that’s represented by his five top-6 weekly finishes last season – fourth among running backs.

10) Alvin Kamara (NO – RB)
Last year Alvin Kamara showed no signs of slowing down, logging his first 200-plus carry season. In the six full games with Jameis Winston under center, he was the RB5 in fantasy, averaging 23.2 touches and 5.5 targets (26.4% target share). Over that span, he was seventh in targets and sixth in receiving yards among all running backs. Kamara is a top 5-10 option at the running back position.

11) D’Andre Swift (DET – RB)
In Weeks 1-11, before suffering an AC joint sprain that kiboshed his season, D’Andre Swift was a fantasy monster. He was the RB7, averaging 19 touches and 97.5 total yards per game. While the Lions have added more passing game weapons in the offseason with D.J. Chark and Jameson Williams, Swift’s efficiency through the air allows for hope that his target share (18.4%, second among running backs) won’t see a drastic dip. In Weeks 1-11, he was ninth in yards per route run (minimum 15 targets, per PFF) among running backs.

12) James Conner (ARI – RB)
James Conner will be the Cardinals’ dependable workhorse again in 2022. In Weeks 9-14, he never played less than 77% of the snaps averaging 21.8 touches and 114.4 total yards per game. He was the RB2 in fantasy behind only Jonathan Taylor in that five-game span. His 18 total touchdowns seem hard to replicate at first glance, but it isn’t. Last season Arizona was eighth in red zone rushing rate. Conner has minimal competition on the depth chart that could take him off the field on passing downs or near paydirt.

FantasyPros Staff Consensus 2022 Redraft Fantasy Football Rankings

2022 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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