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Andrew Erickson’s Running Backs to Target (2022 Fantasy Football)

Aug 15, 2022
Saquon Barkley

As the best player in the New York offense, Saquon Barkley has a shot to be an RB1 again in 2022.

The 2022 NFL season is approaching, and that means it’s time to prepare for your fantasy football draft. What better way to do that than to practice drafting with our free mock draft simulator! Beyond our tools, we’re also going to have you covered throughout the draft prep season with our content.

One of the most important aspects of completing a successful fantasy football draft is knowing who to target. Sure, there could be ‘value’ that presents itself through the draft, but it’s important to know which players you should not only target as values but also those you need to circle on your cheat sheets and prepare to reach for if needed. Here are a few of Andrew Erickson’s fantasy football draft targets. You can find all of his top players to target in 2022 fantasy football drafts here.

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Andrew Erickson’s Running Backs to Target

Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG)

We’ve come full circle. Draft Saquon Barkley. 2022 is the year to buy back in.

He’s fully healthy and showed flashes of a top-10 fantasy RB just last year. In five games last season when Barkley played a full snap share with Daniel Jones under center, the Giants RB averaged 16.2 PPR points per game (RB10).

And before his freak injury versus the Cowboys, he averaged 23 points per game in his two healthy starts.

I see no serious threat for touches behind Barkley on the depth chart, and the Giants have all the reason to feature Barkley as much as possible for two reasons.

1) He’s the best player on the offense.

2) He’s an impending free agent.

Barkley is still an RB at just 25 years old who looks slated to recapture his rookie form when he caught 91 balls.

And good lord, Barkley is due for some more red-zone looks. The Giants’ horrible offense limited him to just 13 red-zone touches all last season.

With improvements across the board for Big Blue’s offense, Barkley will be the major benefactor.

Cam Akers (RB – LAR)

The experts and sharps are convinced that Cam Akers sucks at football after he averaged an abysmal 2.4 yards per carry during the 2021 season after returning from his Achilles injury — the worst mark of any running back with at least 70 carries. But his inefficient production is partially related to the juggernaut of run defenses he faced down the stretch — San Francisco 49ers (twice) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — when in fact no Rams RB ran efficiently. 9

5% of his rushing yards in 2021 came after contact — the highest mark in the NFL.

Did I also mention he was never even supposed to come back at ALL last season from his Achilles injury? If Travis Etienne came back from his injury and failed to perform, would that be held against his draft stock?

There’s simply too much emphasis placed on Akers’ production when touch volume is the key driver to fantasy success at running back. In the Rams’ divisional playoff win versus the Buccaneers, Akers played 81% of Los Angeles’ offensive snaps and out-touched Sony Michel (signed with Miami this offseason) 27 to 3.

I expect Akers to be dialed back in as the top RB next season in Sean McVay’s consistent 1-RB offense, where the team’s lead back averages 20-plus touches per game. Darrell Henderson has proven he’s nothing more than a replaceable running back that the Rams continue to try and replace.

Not to mention, Akers has a cakewalk of soft run defenses to open the season: Bills, Falcons, and Cardinals. It won’t take long for Akers to pay off his early Round 4 ADP in a high-powered offense.

Travis Etienne Jr. (RB – JAC)

Travis Etienne Jr. was a standout college football running back for the Clemson Tigers from 2017 to 2020 and was selected by the Jaguars in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft — 25th overall. However, his rookie season was cut short by a preseason Lisfranc injury. Some NFL personnel reported that Etienne could have come back towards the end of the year had the Jaguars been in playoff contention instead of being the league’s laughing stock.

Etienne is looking like his old self from an explosion standpoint in training camp, giving him a leg up on being the most productive running back as the Jacksonville Jaguars install a new offense under new head coach Doug Pederson. With James Robinson attempting to come back from a torn Achilles injury suffered on December 26, Etienne should be able to separate himself. 

Do not forget what this guy did at Clemson with Trevor Lawrence as his quarterback. During his final season as a Clemson Tiger, he led the country in receiving yards and ranked second in receptions among running backs. Etienne also racked up the most rushing attempts of 20-plus yards (40) from 2018 to 2019 while only carrying the ball 20-plus times once since 2018.

With an explosive pass-catching skill set, Etienne checks off the requisite boxes of a fantasy RB poised to make noise in 2022. And he can be obtained for the suppressed price of a back-end RB2 as the RB20, per ADP.

Rhamondre Stevenson (RB – NE)

Stevenson experienced a very successful rookie season that should not be overlooked. After fully escaping the Bill Belichick doghouse in Week 9, Stevenson earned top grades across the board. He was PFF’s third-highest graded running back (84.2). Stevenson also ranked 13th in rushing yards and yards per route run (1.41).

For fantasy, the rookie running back was the RB25 in total points scored, eight spots behind his backfield teammate Damien Harris. Stevenson (93) and Harris (86) split touches nearly 50/50 in the team’s remaining seven games. In the six games together, Stevenson slightly edged out Harris in expected fantasy points per game (9.3 vs. 8.9) with more favorable usage.

With impressive reports coming out of Foxborough as a receiver, Stevenson is a dark horse to see an expanded role on third downs with James White returning from a hip injury. The second-year back needs to be a priority target as the draft slips into the double-digit rounds.

He was PFF’s highest-graded rookie RB last year…putting him into a tier with the likes of Jonathan Taylor, Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb and Alvin Kamara — all of who were top-8 fantasy RBs in their second seasons.

Andrew Erickson’s 2022 Redraft Fantasy Football Rankings

 

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