4 RB Dead Zone Running Backs to Avoid (2022 Fantasy Football)
It’s important to be flexible as you prepare and complete your fantasy football draft. There are a bevy of fantasy football draft strategies to consider, but flexibility and the ability to take what the draft board gives you is key. It’s good to know of the different strategies so you can keep calm and build a solid roster even as your leaguemates and sniping you and otherwise throwing you curves with their picks.
Over the past few years, the concept of the RB dead zone has become popularized by fantasy football content creators. For those new to the idea, the RB dead zone is generally referred to as rounds 3-6 in fantasy drafts where RB hit rates have been historically poor. If you have taken in much fantasy content this offseason, then you have likely heard of the dangers of drafting RBs from the dead zone. Here are players to avoid in the RB Dead Zone.
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Rankings noted using FantasyPros half-PPR Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) and Consensus ADP.
Dead Zone Running Backs to Avoid
Despite being an entrenched workhorse, David Montgomery finished as a top-24 running back in fewer than half of his contests last season (46%). Former sixth-rounder Khalil Herbert was a top-12 running back in two of his five games last season when he received at least a 50% snap share.
Just don’t draft David Montgomery. Projected volume is the only reason he’s going where his ADP is, but a new coaching staff could approach the backfield differently. In my heart of hearts, I think Herbert is the better, more explosive back. Monty finished outside the top 24 in more than half of his games last season. His 2022 ADP hits inside the top-20 RBs. No thanks.
Josh Jacobs was a volume hog last year, ranking ninth in opportunity share and weighted opportunity, but that will be difficult to repeat in 2022. Jacobs’ ranking of RB22 in ECR is ambitious, considering he’ll be sitting on the sidelines on many passing downs. Brandon Bolden, Kenyan Drake, and Ameer Abdullah ranked fourth, sixth, and 15th in yards per route run last year among running backs (minimum 20 targets, per PFF). If any of these backs also eat into his red-zone work, he’s toast in 2022.
Antonio Gibson has been a solid option over the last two seasons as the RB16 and RB17 in fantasy points per game. He also ranked tenth in yards per route run, fifth in evaded tackles, and 14th in juke rate. He was tied for seventh in carries inside the five-yard line and eighth in weighted opportunities. We already know the pass game usage is capped with J.D. McKissic resigned, but now the goalline could be in jeopardy with Brian Robinson on the depth chart. The team has talked about lightening Gibson’s load, so the threat of Robinson is real, especially if Gibson keeps putting the ball on the turf. Since 2020 he’s tied with Ezekiel Elliott for the most fumbles (six) in the NFL among running backs.
Ezekiel Elliott is coming off a down season where some of this could be related to the fact he dealt with a partially torn PCL for much of the season (since Week 4). The spliced-up workload and his declining effectiveness could result from the injury or his advancing age and the toll that the NFL has taken on him. Elliott has amassed 1,938 touches (22 per game) over his six-year career, never handling less than 268 touches in any season. Elliott should be viewed as an RB2 in many formats that could slowly dissolve into a high-end RB3 if Tony Pollard gets more run in 2022.
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Mike Maher is an editor and content manager at FantasyPros and BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive, follow him on Twitter @MikeMaher, and visit his Philadelphia Eagles blog, The Birds Blitz.