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Must-Have Dynasty Running Backs (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Anthony Corrente | @dynastydrive | Featured Writer
Jun 14, 2022
Travis Etienne

The valuation of the running back position has shifted substantially in the last decade. Once thought of as the lynchpin to any championship-caliber fantasy football roster, there is a myriad of ways you can build out a contending roster in today’s fantasy football landscape.

That said, addressing value at the running back position remains essential. While you can opt for loading up on high-end wide receivers and operating under a zero-RB mindset, you will still need playable pieces at running back that possess a level of upside. It’s easy to point out the top-end, young running backs like Jonathan Taylor and Najee Harris, but it’s paramount to find players who have a lower cost to acquire that can still return significant value to your roster.


Travis Etienne (RB – JAX)

After missing all of the 2021 season after suffering a Lisfranc injury, the hype is swelling again for second-year running back Travis Etienne. Nothing went according to plan last year for the Jaguars. The failed Urban Meyer experiment trickled down throughout the entire roster, and we saw the team finish as the worst team in the league yet again. With Doug Pederson calling the shots for the Jaguars, they have the potential to stabilize their offense.

Despite not having a 1,000-yard rusher during his tenure as Eagles head coach, Pederson’s arrival could be positive for Etienne. We’re seeing Etienne highlighted as a receiver during OTAs, which is something we hoped to see last year before the injury. While Pederson largely employed a committee approach at the running back position in Philadelphia, there could be enough work for Etienne and James Robinson to share when the latter returns from injury.

In 2020, the Eagles targeted Miles Sanders 52 times, and it’s reasonable to expect Etienne to see at least 50 targets in 2022 for the Jaguars. The price is rising now that he’s back on the field and practicing, but there’s a chance the cost to acquire Etienne only increases from here. As long as he stays healthy, he has a middle-of-the-road RB2 floor and a backend RB1 ceiling if the Jaguars’ offense takes a step in the right direction.

Tony Pollard (RB – DAL)

The 2021 season saw Tony Pollard receive his highest career utilization in the Cowboys’ offense, and that role could grow even more during the 2022 season. Ezekiel Elliott will still slot in as the Cowboys’ primary ball carrier. Still, Pollard has a real shot to close the gap in touches between the two after showcasing high-level efficiency just a season ago.

In the offseason, the Cowboys moved on from Amari Cooper, and Pollard could gain some of the passing work left behind. Elliott’s 237 carries were the lowest of his six seasons in the NFL, and it’s reasonable to believe that carry total could drop even closer to 200 in 2022. If Pollard receives around 150 carries and 50 targets in the passing game, he has a solid chance at finishing inside the top-24 at the running back position, even in a timeshare with Elliott.

If Elliott deals with nagging injuries again as he did in 2021, or if he misses any time, Pollard has league-winning upside. His big-play ability makes him a threat to score at any moment, and the efficiency he displayed in 2021 should lead to him seeing even more opportunities this season. He finished as a high-end RB3 in 2021 (PPR RB28), which should be treated like his floor in 2022.

Rhamondre Stevenson (RB – NE)

There is value to be had in the Patriots backfield despite many dynasty managers avoiding the situation based on the notion that multiple players will be involved.

Rhamondre Stevenson was every bit as efficient on a per-carry basis as Damien Harris was in the 2021 season, and he can find himself narrowing the gap in workload between the two this year. The touchdowns all bounced Harris’s way in 2021, as he racked up 15 scores on the ground compared to Stevenson’s five rushing scores. However, that’s not the stickiest stat to project moving forward. We may see Stevenson’s touchdown number climb some to meet Harris somewhere in the middle, but the real value with Stevenson lies in 2023.

The safe bet would be Harris moving on as an unrestricted free agent following the 2022 season, as the Patriots will have Stevenson, Kevin Harris, and Pierre Strong Jr. all under contract long term. If that is the case, Stevenson could find himself in the desirable position of being the lead back in this offense that saw Harris rack up double-digit scores just one season ago.

Aaron Jones (RB – GB) & AJ Dillon (RB – GB)

It feels like a copout to choose an entire backfield here, but the truth is that Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are both players you want on your dynasty roster for various reasons.

The Packers made shockwaves by trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason. The logical first step is to look at what moves the team made to address the wide receiver position following that blockbuster trade, but that might not tell the whole story.

With Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling both playing for new teams this season, it leaves 224 targets up for grabs in the Packers’ offense. It’s unfair to assume Christian Watson and Allen Lazard soak up all those vacated targets, and we could be poised to see a renewed focus on the ground game.

AJ Dillon already led the Packers in rushing attempts in 2021, which will likely be the case again in 2022. In the absence of Davante Adams, leaning on Aaron Jones in the passing game even more than they have in past seasons would be a smart move by the Packers coaching staff could make.

Both of these runners finished inside the top-24 running backs in 2021 in PPR formats. That should be a safe bet to repeat, with the possibility looming that both could be top-15 options at the position.


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