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6 League-Winning Running Backs to Target (2022 Fantasy Football)

Aug 8, 2022

The top five RB scorers in half-PPR last year were Jonathan Taylor, Austin Ekeler, Joe Mixon, Najee Harris and James Conner. What’s crazy is that those players had 2021 ADPs of RB8, RB10, RB13, RB11 and RB37, respectively. Taylor was the only member of the top-five with a first-round ADP, while Conner found himself being snagged at the end of the eighth round last year. Other RBs who snuck into the top 10 were Leonard Fournette (2021 ADP – RB33) and Cordarrelle Patterson (2021 ADP – RB71).

Last season was a prime example of how league winners are often not the players taken with the first several picks. Players with championship-clinching upside can be snagged at any point in the draft. The main issue is identifying who those high-ceiling individuals are. That’s where our featured experts come in. Each has chosen both an early-round and later-round tailback they think will reach their lofty upside. Now remember, none of the players mentioned here are locks to win you a title. They are just the guys who have that upside within their range of outcomes, while also boasting a decent chance of achieving that status.

Fantasy Football Redraft Draft Kit

6 League-Winning Running Backs to Target

Q1. Which RB between RB6-20 in our consensus half-PPR RB ADP has the most league-winning upside?

Javonte Williams (DEN): Consensus ADP – RB11 | 18th Overall
“Javonte Williams is expected to be on one of the top offenses in the league, which offers an increase in touchdown opportunities. The addition of Melvin Gordon has dropped his price to the second round. Williams broke 31 tackles at a 15.3% rate. While sharing a backfield on a bad offense, Williams was still an RB2 as a rookie. If Williams gets the 70/30 split, there is no doubt he will be in the top 10 and could have a path for #1 overall. ”
David Heilman (Sports Gambling Podcast)

“Some of the air was released from the Javonte Williams hype when Denver re-signed Melvin Gordon late in free agency. Gordon’s $2.5 million contract is in line with, or less than, other backup running backs, which to me indicates this is more Williams’ backfield than a full time-share. In 2021, Williams was the RB16 while sharing the workload equally with Gordon. Even with a 10-15 % increase in opportunity, Williams has the potential to finish as a top 5 running back.”
Rich Piazza (Fantasy Shed)

Dalvin Cook (MIN): Consensus ADP – RB6 | 7th Overall
“OK, I know I’m taking the easy layup here going with the RB6 off the board, but Dalvin Cook is also my favorite dark horse candidate for RB1 overall this season. After back-to-back seasons as the RB2 in fantasy points per game, Cook dipped to RB9 last year. This wasn’t because of any fall-off in talent, as Cook was 11th in evaded tackles and fourth in breakaway run rate last season. The muted season can be traced to simply being unlucky in the touchdown department. Cook was ninth in red zone touches but only 38th in red-zone touchdown conversion rate. The arrow is pointing up for Cook in 2022 in a revitalized offensive scheme to see massive touchdown regression. ”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Saquon Barkley (NYG): Consensus ADP – RB14 | 22nd Overall
“Under a new coaching staff and with a vastly improved offensive line, there’s reason to buy back in on Saquon Barkley at a massive discount to years prior. 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). 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. He’s the best player on the offense while also an impending free agent. Barkley is still just 25 years old and looks slated to recapture his rookie form when he caught 91 balls.”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

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Q2. Which RB outside the top 20 in our consensus half-PPR RB ADP has the most league-winning upside?

Travis Etienne (JAC): Consensus ADP – RB23 | 46th Overall
“With James Robinson attempting a comeback from a late-season torn Achilles, Travis Etienne figures to be the featured back after a lost rookie season. During his final season as a Clemson Tiger, he led the country in receiving yards by a running back and ranked second in receptions among RBs. With an explosive pass-catching skill set in a pass-heavy offense, to go along with an underrated role in the red zone (most carries inside the five-yard line among FBS running backs from 2018-2020), Etienne checks off the boxes of a fantasy RB poised to make noise in 2022. And even if it is a “committee approach,” Etienne can still thrive in Doug Pederson’s offense. Miles Sanders was RB15 as a rookie on just a 53% snap share. So don’t be overly concerned that James Robinson is listed as the “starter” on the Jaguars depth chart. He will work in some, but I am not expecting him to light the world on fire coming off an Achilles injury so soon. ”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

“This is easy. Any back I’m looking for league-changing upside with has to be involved in the passing game. Receptions and routes allow access to big chunk plays in space and massive ceiling outcomes. The back who fits this profile is none other than Travis Etienne. His pass game chops aren’t in question after he ranked 14th and fourth in yards per route run in his final two seasons at Clemson (per PFF, minimum 20 targets). With a lackluster wide receiver room outside of Christian Kirk and James Robinson unlikely to be his old self this season, Etienne can gobble up targets and get the call for goal-line plunges. A true three-down upside swing this late in drafts is a treat. Enjoy. ”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Rashaad Penny (SEA): Consensus ADP – RB30 | 82nd Overall
“Rashaad Penny: Ability and talent were never an issue for Penny, but opportunity and health have been. Playing in only 37 games in four seasons, and playing behind Chris Carson, has limited what Penny can do. However, we may have seen a glimpse of what he’s capable of in the final five games of 2021. In those five games, Penny had 92 carries, 671 yards, (7.2 YPC) and six touchdowns, and he was the RB1 over that span. Kenneth Walker III is the hot name in the Seattle backfield, as is usually the case with rookies, but as long as Penny is healthy, Walker may have to wait a year before the featured role is his. I know it’s difficult to overlook the injury history, but given his ADP, it is hard to find someone in that range who can reward managers with league-winning potential the way Penny can. ”
Rich Piazza (Fantasy Shed)

Isaiah Spiller (LAC): Consensus ADP – RB46 | 122nd Overall
“The lower the average draft position, the bigger the reward. Right now, Isaiah Spiller is ranked 48th and going 143rd overall. Spiller could offer stand-alone value if he gets the goal line work in this offense — an offense that was fifth in red zone scoring percentage last year. Spiller could be a weekly RB3 with RB2 upside, and you are paying RB5 prices. If Austin Ekeler were to miss time, Spiller could easily be an RB1.”
David Heilman (Sports Gambling Podcast)


Thanks to the experts for sharing their advice! For more of their insight, be sure to follow each pundit on Twitter (click their names above) and visit their respective sites.

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