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Running Backs to Avoid (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Jared Lese | @JaredL_FF | Featured Writer
Jun 15, 2022
J.K. Dobbins

Since fantasy football first exploded onto the scene throughout the 90s and into the 2000s, RBs have primarily been the dominant force and key cogs in managers’ lineups. Whether it’s Priest Holmes’ historic, but short-lived, performances in the early 2000s, LaDainian Tomlinson’s record-breaking fantasy seasons in the mid-to-late 2000s or Christian McCaffrey‘s dual-threat fantasy dominance more recently, RBs have put on some sensational performances in fantasy football.

However, although they may possess the highest fantasy ceilings, RBs also retain increased risk due to injury, environment, and game-script dependencies. As such, and although there seems to be a shift in 2022 with managers targeting WRs earlier in drafts, it’s still critical to draft the right RBs by most effectively identifying which are likely to carry your team to the championship or lead your squad to the bottom of the standings.

Often, drafting the wrong player considering his average draft position (ADP) is all that’s needed to lead your team to heartache. Focusing on that point, this article will highlight three players you should avoid in your 2022 fantasy football drafts. Whether due to inflated draft costs or severe risks associated with them this season, selecting these RBs in 2022 may be detrimental to your team’s success.

Nick Chubb (RB – CLE)

Fantasy football is a very top-heavy game. In the end, it usually comes down to which manager has the greater upside or the top one to two players who can most likely blow up and carry the team to victory. That’s what makes McCaffrey so appealing despite the significant injury fears. As such, and for the second-consecutive season, Nick Chubb finds himself on this list of RBs to avoid in your fantasy football drafts this year.

Chubb put on a sensational rushing performance in 2021, a seemingly annual occurrence at this point in Chubb’s career, but he still only finished as the RB11 in half PPR and the RB13 in full PPR points per game. Why is this? Despite finishing second in total rushing yards (with 1,259) and scoring nine total touchdowns, Chubb’s lack of receiving numbers limited his upside, even in a season that saw his backfield partner, Kareem Hunt, miss half of the season with an injury.

With a current ranking of RB9 in half PPR per FantasyPros’ consensus rankings and ADP of RB6 per Fantasy Football Calculator, Chubb is being drafted at his peak. This is even considering that Hunt will be healthy and will continue eating away at Chubb’s upside. Even if Hunt were to be traded or released this offseason, Cleveland clearly revealed that they don’t want Chubb playing a receiving role on the team, as D’Ernest Johnson helped fill the void left by Hunt’s injury last season.

For this reason (i.e., Chubb’s limited receiving work and presumed platoon regardless of with whom he shares the backfield), you should avoid drafting Chubb at his current ADP. However, if he falls into the third round of your drafts, with Saquon Barkley, Aaron Jones and Tyreek Hill off the board, you should seriously consider drafting Chubb.

Javonte Williams (RB – DEN)

Last season, Javonte Williams’ backfield partner, Melvin Gordon, found himself on this list of RBs to avoid. Although Gordon wasn’t terribly disastrous in 2021, much was left to be desired after Denver pursued a 50/50 split between the two RBs (i.e., both RBs received exactly 203 carries, though Williams did receive 15 more targets throughout the season than Gordon).

In 2022, with Gordon heading toward free agency, many fantasy managers believed this season would be Williams’ breakout year. However, just as Williams did last year to Gordon’s outlook, Gordon is now seemingly causing the same impact on Williams in 2022 with his recently announced return to the team.

Currently ranked as the RB13 and being selected as the RB9, Williams’ current ADP and the opportunity cost of drafting him is way too steep for someone sharing the backfield so heavily with another viable RB. This is like Chubb’s situation. However, Williams is a bit cheaper and offers more receiving upside while playing on a presumably better offense following Denver’s recent trade for Russell Wilson.

Therefore, despite an ADP minimally lower than Chubb’s, Williams is also an RB to avoid in 2022 unless he falls in your drafts or Gordon gets traded (which there’s been no indicator of happening) before the season starts.

J.K. Dobbins (RB – BAL)

Currently ranked as the RB22 and being selected as the RB16 in half PPR fantasy league this season, Dobbins is listed here because he offers limited upside despite playing in a rush-heavy and electric offense led by former MVP Lamar Jackson. Though everything seems so great for Dobbins, being on a fast-paced and high-scoring offense, why is he someone you’d want to avoid as the 42nd-highest-ranked player overall in FantasyPros’ consensus rankings? He isn’t expensive at his current ADP and should produce RB2 numbers, so why not take the risk?

Dobbins isn’t as risky of a fantasy RB target in 2022 as Chubb and Williams. Still, Baltimore has shown a desire to utilize a diverse rushing approach, incorporating several RBs and leveraging Jackson’s unique dual-threat ability. In fact, since taking over as the Baltimore starting QB in 2019 (and ultimately winning MVP that season as well), Jackson has led Baltimore in rushing each of those three seasons.

It’s pretty clear that the starting RB in this system acts as the second rusher in the offense. Of course, there’s touchdown upside by playing with Jackson, as shown by Mark Ingram‘s solid season in 2019, where he out of nowhere produced 15 touchdowns and finished as the RB8 in half PPR leagues. However, fantasy managers shouldn’t target high touchdown totals when evaluating players.

Touchdowns are inherently volatile features in fantasy, so managers should focus on stickier quantitative metrics and associated qualitative context with identifying players correctly. With those things in mind, turning down players like Saquon Barkley, D.K Metcalf, George Kittle or Kyle Pitts for Dobbins is tough, which is currently happening per Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP trends.

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Jared Lese is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jared, check out his archive and follow him @JaredL_FF.

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