Welcome fantasy friends and foes to the Running Backs to Avoid for the 2022 Fantasy Football Season.
Regardless of what draft strategy fantasy managers want to utilize, whether zero RB or hero RB, there are still overvalued running backs that will sink your fantasy championship dreams.
Here are four running backs that fantasy managers should avoid for the 2022 season.
Cam Akers (RB – LAR)
Cam Akers looked like a fantasy stud in the making after he finished the 2020 season by producing 221 rushing yards, two scores, and 51 receiving yards across two playoff games. However, he was forced to miss almost the entire 2021 season after he tore his Achilles in late July. Nevertheless, Akers made a remarkable return to the field in last season’s regular-season finale and was the Rams featured back on their way to winning the Super Bowl. Sad to say, but his return was too early. Akers didn’t look like the same dynamic promising back he appeared to be before the injury.
The Rams were forced to depend on Akers with Darrell Henderson not available due to injury, and the running game was nonexistent. Akers finished with 72 carries for 175 yards (2.43 yards per rush) and zero touchdowns and lost two fumbles in the regular season finale and four playoff games combined. However, Henderson returned for the Super Bowl and outgained Akers even though Akers out-touched him sixteen to seven.
The Rams rushing attack was below-average throughout last season, finishing 27th in rushing yards per game (95.7 yards per game), including averaging just 2.75 yards per carry in their four playoff games. The 2022 Rams backfield will be without Sony Michel, who carried the running game from weeks 12-16 with three scores and two 100-yard performances. The running back room will consist of Akers as the RB1 with Darrell Henderson, who finished with 864 scrimmage yards and eight scores last season and is still expected to have a viable role in the Rams’ offense, as the RB2. In addition, the drafting of Kyren Williams in the 2022 NFL Draft prepares the team if their frequently injured backs get hit by the injury bug. Williams broke his foot during OTA’s, but he should be ready for training camp. His ability in pass protection and catching the ball should endear him to Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford.
Another concern for the running game is the shift on the offensive line. The offensive line will take a step back this season with the loss of future Hall-of-Famer left tackle Andrew Whitworth to retirement. Joseph Noteboom will take over at left tackle and is an elite pass blocker but struggles in the running game. The line also lost guard Austin Corbett, and rookie Logan Bruss will replace him. The line would need to gel quickly to ensure that the offense fires on all cylinders.
Akers is currently being drafted as the RB17, and even though reports on Akers say he feels 100 percent, fantasy managers should allow someone else to invest the draft capital.
Najee Harris (RB – PIT)
The Pittsburgh Steelers offense was dormant over the final two seasons with Ben Roethlisberger’s noodle arm, immobility, and a porous offensive line. The Steelers believed they found their bell-cow back who could provide a much-needed spark to the Steelers’ offense when they added 2021 first-round pick, Najee Harris, to the Steelers backfield. Harris became the workhorse the Steelers wanted and needed, but he was maddeningly inefficient.
Fantasy managers loved that they utilized their first-round capital on Harris, who finished as the RB4 in total points based on his massive volume. However, he finished as the RB10 in points per game (15.5). Harris was on the field for more plays than any other RB last season, and somehow he couldn’t convert that into more significant fantasy production is disturbing.
The Steelers’ rushing attack still finished 29th in rushing yards, with Harris averaging 3.9 yards per carry and 4.4 yards per touch, ranking #44 among all running backs. The volume role in the passing game included seeing the most targets (94) and most receptions (74) and was key to his valuable fantasy contributions. It’s doubtful that the former Alabama RB will see that many check-down receptions now that Roethlisberger is not behind center.
Asking Harris to improve on his rookie season is a lot to ask. He will see a significant drop in the passing game, with Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett leading the Steelers’ offense. His RB6 ADP is drafting Harris at his ceiling based upon a similar pass-game workload. Harris is overvalued and won’t reach the current draft capital level until the Steelers’ run blocking improves, and Harris becomes more efficient as a runner.
Josh Jacobs (RB – LV)
The Las Vegas Raiders kicked off an eventful offseason with the additions of new head coach Josh McDaniels and all-world wide receiver Davante Adams. Another event that had fantasy ramifications was that the Raiders declined the fifth-year option on running back Josh Jacobs. Jacobs has only played 43 games in the last three seasons and produced a career-low 872 rushing yards in 2021. Josh McDaniels will work with a loaded backfield and install a running back by committee in Las Vegas.
The New England Patriots, with McDaniels running the offense, did not have a running back who got both 200+ carries and 35+ receptions in a season. McDaniels loves to rotate backs, which will continue here with the Raiders. Jacobs will be the lead back, but he will share snaps with Kenyan Drake, Brandon Bolden, and rookie fourth-rounder Zamir White. The best bets in the Raiders backfield is that Drake and Bolden take over most of the pass-catching duties while White, who was drafted to take over for Jacobs after this season, is mixed in but will mainly spell Jacobs.
Jacobs finished as the RB14 last season on the heels of scoring nine touchdowns but more surprisingly, he set a new career high in receptions with 54 on 64 targets. It is hard to imagine Jacobs achieving that volume in this new-look Raiders offense. There are plenty of mouths to feed in this Raiders offense, and the return of tight end Darren Waller from a knee injury and adding the likes of Adams along with having Hunter Renfrow at McDaniels disposal should concern NFL defenses.
Jacobs will not be a complete bust, but temper expectations at his RB20 current draft capital. The volume will suffer this season. Last season, he greatly benefited from a lack of weapons for Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense. The Raiders will have more scoring chances, and plenty of fantasy weapons will shine. The offense explosion will push Jacobs down to a place where he will become less valuable at his current draft capital.
Alvin Kamara (RB – NO)
Completing the quartet of running backs to avoid this upcoming season is the New Orleans Saints Alvin Kamara. The challenge of being without your RB1 due to possible suspension following his arrest during Pro Bowl weekend last year in Las Vegas should alarm fantasy managers. They should not spend elite draft capital on a running back that had undoubtedly the worst season of his career last season.
Kamara has never been a 1,000-yard rusher, but he did manage to put together a respectable amount of total yards due to his versatility. He still produced 898 yards rushing to go with four touchdowns and 47 receptions and five more scores in just 13 games, the lowest of his career.
Clearly, he was not the same player due to his ankle injury. His receiving totals were the lowest of his career, even though he produced the highest target share (20.2%) of any RB in the league.
The New Orleans Saints will face new challenges this season with the keys of the offense being given to Jameis Winston. Winston went down with a season-ending knee injury, and the Saints finished a 9-8 record and didn’t qualify for the playoffs. In addition, the Saints will have a new head coach this season, with Sean Payton stepping down after 16 seasons. Dennis Allen will enter the season as the team’s new sideline leader. The former defensive coordinator takes over a team that finished 28th in total yards and dead last in passing yards.
The healthy return of Jameis Winston will combine with the improved wide receiver corps by adding veteran wideout Jarvis Landry and the drafting of Chris Olave. The wildcard in the Saints offense is Michael Thomas potentially returning and should lead to a dropoff with Kamara not being able to see the volume he is accustomed to seeing.
Kamara is currently ranked as RB14, but his inefficiency concerns and career-low production numbers across the board last season should make fantasy managers hesitant at his current ADP. The Saints running back will be forced to share targets with more weapons than in previous seasons, which will push down his volume and fantasy value.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Trade Analyzer – which allows you to instantly find out if a trade offer benefits you or your opponent – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.