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Boom or Bust Report: Running Backs (2022 Fantasy Football)

Aug 22, 2022
Melvin Gordon

One of the best and underutilized tools on the FantasyPros website is the Boom or Bust Report. I was recently re-introduced to the tool while conducting research for the launch of the 2022 FantasyPros Draft Kit.

Beyond our fantasy football content, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our free mock Draft Simulator – which allows you to mock draft against realistic opponents – to our Draft Assistant – that optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football draft season.

Fantasy Football Redraft Draft Kit

It’s an invaluable tool for regular 2022 redraft fantasy football leagues and a topic that was covered in great depth by the late Mike Tagliere in his terrific “Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between” series.

The focus will be leveraging this terrific report to identify the players with the most spiked week potential and provide context behind players’ up-and-down performances from 2021.

And as a reminder for this report and the ones to follow for each position — the boom/bust thresholds on the Boom or Bust Report are calculated based on the weekly averages from that year.

For QBs and TEs, a boom week is when the player was at or above the average weekly QB3/TE3 points total. For RBs/WRs, it’s the RB6/WR6 points total.

For QBs and TEs, a bust week is when the player was at or below the average weekly QB18/TE18 points total. For RBs and WRs, it’s the RB40/WR56.

Running Backs

Quick Takeaways (Half-Point Scoring)

  • Jonathan Taylor: Top-12 fantasy finish rate at 75% — highest mark among RBs. Also, seven boom games (top-six finishes) tied with Joe Mixon for the most among running backs.
  • Josh Jacobs: Zero top-six finishes (boom games) and only top-30 running back season finisher to do so. Saquon Barkley, in a trash offense, had a higher percentage of top-12 finishes than Jacobs did. It seems unsustainable that Jacobs would see so few high-scoring games if he carves out the role as the main red zone back in the Raiders’ new-look offense in 2022.
  • Devin Singletary: “Busted” the most among the top-24 RB finishers last season, finishing outside the top 40 six times. He was not featured from the start into the middle of the season and back-loaded nearly all of his fantasy production from Weeks 13-18.
  • Melvin Gordon: Was a top-36 running back in 80% of his games last season while in a timeshare. His current average draft position (ADP) is RB36.
  • A.J. Dillon: Was the next most inconsistent running back, busting four times as the RB22 on the season while operating in a committee.
  • Austin Ekeler: One performance outside the top-36 over the past two seasons.
  • Rhamondre Stevenson: Top-36 hit rate of 55% and 45% bust rate. Extremely boom-or-bust. I would expect more hits than misses as he enters Year 2 after he carved out a legitimate role at the end of last season.
  • Kareem Hunt: Played in just eight games last season — four of which he finished as a top-six running back. And that’s including the two games after he returned from injury when he was extremely limited.
  • Hunt and Rashaad Penny: Two RBs being drafted outside the top-24 who posted boom rates in the 85th percentile or higher. The other 10 RBs are being selected in the first two rounds.
  • The RBs with the lowest “boom” rates in the top two rounds include Javonte Williams and Aaron Jones. Nathaniel Hackett (formerly of the Packers) is now head coach of the Broncos.
  • Christian McCaffrey: He played in only seven games last season and was a top-six scorer in four of them — all the games, he played at least 50% of the snaps. He also boomed in his only three games played in 2020. In CMC’s 26 games played since 2019, he has finished as a top-six weekly running back at a 69% hit rate. Nice.

  • Aaron Jones: Finished as a top-12 running back in just 33% of his 15 games last season. He had one top-10 finish from Week 9 onward. Dillon had two.
  • Miles Sanders: Never finished as fantasy RB1 (top-12) last season. Not scoring any TDs nuked his fantasy upside.
  • Conversely, James Conner finished as a top-12 running back in just 43% of his games (six times) — four of which came after Chase Edmonds got hurt. Conner scored 18 touchdowns last season — six more than expected.
  • Newly-signed Arizona Cardinals RB Darrel Williams has more boom games (three) than Conner (two) in 2021.
  • RBs with the highest RB1 hit rate last season being drafted outside the first round include D’Andre Swift, Alvin Kamara and Conner.
  • Kamara finished as RB1 in 58% of his games last season because volume is king. Should he miss any time, Mark Ingram is the next logical replacement. In his first three games with the Saints, Ingram finished as RB36, RB10 and RB13 — the two later performances coming with Kamara entirely out of the lineup.
  • Ezekiel Elliott: Has finished as a top-12 fantasy RB1 in just 35% of his games the past two seasons. Last year, he finished as an RB1 as often as *gulp* David Montgomery. Not company you want to be a part of.

  • Chase Edmonds finished as an RB2 (top-24 running back) in 50% of his games but finished as an RB1 in just 8%.
  • New Dolphins’ running back Sony Michel finished at a higher RB1 rate (19%).
  • Detroit Lions’ backup running back, Craig Reynolds, only played in four games last season but finished as a top-24 back in half of them.
  • 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.
  • List of running backs being drafted outside the top-24 that finished at least half their games as a top-24 back last season: Damien Harris, Kareem Hunt, Cordarelle Patterson, Chase Edmonds, Darrell Henderson and James Robinson.
  • Highest running backs being drafted who finished fewer than half their games as a top-24 back last season: Javonte Williams, Saquon Barkley, David Montgomery, A.J. Dillon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
  • Chuba Hubbard showed his value as McCaffrey’s backup in 2021, finishing as a top-36 running back in nine games. It bodes well for him and/or D’Onta Foreman to have a solid fantasy role as the presumed handcuff(s) should McCaffrey suffer an injury. He finished as a top-36 back in six of his eight games played last year after signing with the Titans as a free agent.
  • Antonio Gibson finished as a fantasy RB2 in just 53% of his games last season. Three of them came in games that J.D. McKissic missed last season. McKissic — keep in mind half-point scoring — finished as fantasy RB2 in 45% in the 11 games he played last season.
  • Nyheim Hines busted in over 69% of his games with Carson Wentz as his quarterback. However, I’d project that his spike week potential improves dramatically with Matt Ryan, who profiles much as a check-down artist like former Colts’ QB Philip Rivers. In 2020, Hines’ bust rate was just 36%, in addition to a 31% top-24 finisher rate.
  • With Ryan at quarterback for the Falcons, Cordarelle Patterson and Mike Davis combined for 21 top-36 performances and 14 top-24 performances. Hines is RB46 per ADP.
  • Rex Burkhead has had four RB1 finishes over the last two seasons. He is a component pass-catching back who should experience spiked weeks of production when he sees his snaps dialed up when the Texans are trailing. He’s free across all formats.
  • Despite playing for the Jaguars, James Robinson finished as an RB2 at a higher rater than Antonio Gibson. He also finished as a top-six running back at a higher rate than either Packers running back. It just goes to show that these split backfields with easily projectable roles for multiple backs are difficult to bank versus sheer volume backs.
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire: Finished as a top-36 running back over 82% of his games played the past two seasons. Zero “boom” performance to go along with five top-12 finishes (22%). RBs who finished as RB1s less than 25% of the time last season being selected before CEH include A.J. Dillon, Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley and Javonte Williams.
  • Leonard Fournette, Elijah Mitchell and Damien Harris all finished as RB1s (36%, 14th) and RB2s (64%, 12th) at the exact same percentages last season.
  • Ezekiel Elliott’s boom-bust and everything in between percentages last season were nearly identical to Damien Harris. ADPs were vastly different.

Top-10 Takeaways

  1. Melvin Gordon, Kareem Hunt and Rashaad Penny remain values.
  2. The Packers’ RBs might have inconsistent production based on their split workload and game script-dependent production profiles.
  3. This piece, in particular, was not kind for those high on Aaron Jones.
  4. Rhamondre Stevenson and Nyheim Hines have a lot of spiked week potential should their coaches actually increase their roles in 2022. I, for one, am extremely bullish on Stevenson taking another step forward.
  5. Sony Michel — has a more proven RB1 history versus other Miami backs.
  6. 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.
  7. Antonio Gibson is facing a major uphill battle for maximum upside that he’s virtually hands-off in the first five rounds. McKissic + Brian Robinson Jr. working on early downs/red zone signals disaster.
  8. Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s “upside” in the Chiefs’ offense is being overblown. Two years and he has five top-12 finishes to show for it (22%).
  9. D’Andre Swift is a value when he falls into the second round. It’s rare to find a running back who produces RB1-type numbers more than half the time fall outside the top-12 picks.
  10. Looking for this year’s next James Conner or Leonard Fournette? Based on their boom-or-bust profiles from 2020, here are the most likely candidates. Keep in mind the average of the two results (from Fournette and Conner_ resulted in a 20% RB1, 47% RB2, 64% RB3, 4% Boom and 36% Bust rates. Rhamondre Stevenson: 18% boom rate -> better than Damien Harris, Aaron Jones, Javonte Williams, David Montgomery and James Conner. And be aware that Harris’ numbers last season were eerily similar to that of Conner and Fournette. Ergo, this Patriots backfield — even in a committee can produce a league-winning fantasy running back. Other notable candidates: Sony Michel, Melvin Gordon, Darrel Williams and Devin Singletary.
Player Year RB1 % RB2 % RB3 % Boom % Bust %
Leonard Fournette

2020 16.7% 33.3% 58.3% 8.3% 41.7%
James Conner

2020 23.1% 61.5% 69.2% 0.0% 30.8%

Other Insights

The RB dead zone glares its ugly head once again. After the first two rounds, it’s really easy to see a significant drop-off in RBs offering boom potential. For example, RBs drafted from Round 3 into Round 7 average boom rate (9%) was inferior to RBs in Rounds 8-10 (13% boom rate).

Ergo, the running backs being drafted from rounds 8-10 have shown they offer equal if not more weekly top-end upside than those taken from Rounds 3-7…aka the dead zone backs. So you are essentially paying more for a “so-called” floor, which hardly justifies the price. 

When we expand to include top-12 finishes, the RBs being drafted from Rounds 3-7 have much better production with a 27% top-12 finisher rate compared to those from Rounds 8-10 at 17%. That trend continues when the sample expands into the top-24 finishes, with the Rounds 3-7 RBs finishing as RB2s at a 51% clip versus 38% for RBs going post-Round 7.

These findings suggest that there’s a massive drop-off in the expected fantasy ceiling after the first two rounds at the running back position, and even if you “hit” on an RB in this range, they are likely just meeting expectations as a fantasy RB2 or barely exceeding as a backend fantasy RB1.

These guys don’t provide the spike potential that fuels week-winning weeks. Therefore, they shouldn’t be prioritized as draft targets — at least the ones who are already “proven” commodities. Instead, the more unproven and unknown backs in this range like Breece Hall, Travis Etienne and Cam Akers are your best bets on finding success in middle rounds at running back.



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