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Pat Fitzmaurice’s Running Back Tiers, Draft Rankings, & Notes (2022 Fantasy Football)

Aug 16, 2022
Jonathan Taylor

You love fantasy rankings, but you really love tiers. We get it:  Tiers give rankings texture and can be a big help when you’re actually drafting. Here are my first few running back tiers, rankings and player notes for 2022.

You can find my full tiered rankings and notes here.

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Tier 1

Welcome to the elite tier.

Jonathan Taylor is the consensus 1.01 after finishing as the RB1 last year by a wide margin. He’s a rare physical specimen who blends power with speed. Taylor runs behind a strong offensive line and is getting a QB upgrade with Matt Ryan replacing Carson Wentz.

Taylor isn’t a unanimous 1.01; some prefer Christian McCaffrey. I’m not quite there, but I do think McCaffrey and Taylor belong on the same tier, and I would happily draft CMC in the 1.02 spot. Many people don’t have the stomach for McCaffrey after being burned by his injuries. He’s played 10 games in the last two years. The appeal is that CMC is an absolute machine when healthy. Since 2018, McCaffrey has averaged 22.3 fantasy points per game (0.5 PPR). Taylor has averaged 18.4 FPPG over his first two seasons.

Tier 2

All of the players on this tier are worthy first-round picks.

As with McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook comes with injury concerns. But like CMC, Cook produces big fantasy numbers when healthy. He’s averaged 112.8 scrimmage yards and 17.2 fantasy points (0.5 PPR) per game over his five NFL seasons.

Najee Harris had a league-high 381 touches as a rookie. The Steelers have talked about trying to lighten his load, but they haven’t made any significant additions at RB. Harris is a versatile performer with serious pass-catching chops. The only thing not to like here is Pittsburgh’s problematic offensive line.

Austin Ekeler probably isn’t going to repeat his 20 TD performance from 2021, and his carry total could dip below 200 if rookie Isaiah Spiller becomes a reliable early-down option. Still, Ekeler is a prolific pass catcher who’s averaged 96.2 yards from scrimmage per game over the last three years. It also helps that Ekeler plays in one of the NFL’s better offenses.

Derrick Henry has been a fantasy powerhouse the last three years, though a foot injury cut short his 2021 fantasy season. I don’t necessarily consider Henry an injury risk, but I can’t get any higher than RB6 for a 28-year-old running back who doesn’t catch many passes.

Joe Mixon hit career highs in nearly every stat category last season, finishing as the RB3. He catches passes and plays in a strong offense that got a substantial offensive line upgrade in the offseason.

D’Andre Swift is already one of the top pass-catching RBs in the league and has only scratched the surface of his potential.

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Tier 3

This is a fascinating and important tier. Draft decisions involving players on this tier will have enormous consequences. All of these guys have obvious appeal, but each comes with at least one concern.

There’s no denying how talented Javonte Williams is. But will he continue to split work nearly 50/50 with Melvin Gordon, or will the Broncos give Williams more of a lead role? In either case, Denver’s QB upgrade to Russell Wilson is a plus.

Nick Chubb is one of the NFL’s best pure runners and lines up behind an excellent offensive line, but he doesn’t catch many passes, and he shares snaps with Kareem Hunt.

Aaron Jones has fared well in games Davante Adams missed for the Packers. With Adams gone, Jones becomes more consistently involved in the passing game. But Jones will share the backfield with A.J. Dillon, who became the Packers’ preferred goal-line back late last season.

I’m probably higher on Cam Akers than you are. That Sean McVay handed Akers the key to the Rams’ backfield for last season’s playoffs six months after Akers tore his Achilles bodes well for his 2022 role in a perennially strong offense.

Jets rookie Breece Hall tested off the charts at the combine and had a terrific career at Iowa State. His workload and the overall competence of the Jets’ offense are unknown, but Hall could be special from Day One.

This is the cheapest Saquon Bakley has ever been in fantasy football. The question is whether he’s still the same unicorn athlete after enduring some significant lower-body injuries. We haven’t seen Barkley look special since 2019, but if he’s back to normal this year, you’ll be kicking yourself if you didn’t take advantage of the discount.

Leonard Fournette inherited a fantasy windfall last season after Giovani Bernard got hurt, and the Buccaneers’ brain trust determined that they couldn’t trust Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn to make substantial contributions. Fournette averaged 12.9 carries and 4.9 catches a game, finishing RB7 in fantasy points per game (0.5 PPR). Now well into his 40s, QB Tom Brady is anxious to avoid hits and eager to check down. The Buccaneers have a strong overall offense and should see a lot of run-friendly game scripts. The question is whether the Bucs continue to work Fournette so hard or give the now-healthy Bernard and/or rookie Rachaad White significant playing time.

Alvin Kamara remains a dazzling playmaker and one of the best pass-catching running backs in the game. Still, he’ll likely receive a suspension after being arrested for battery in Las Vegas the night before the Pro Bowl. Kamara’s efficiency as a runner nose-dived last year in the first season of the post-Drew Brees era.

James Conner was a one-dimensional TD machine early last year, then started posting huge fantasy numbers as a dual run-catch threat after Chase Edmonds got hurt. Edmonds is gone, but it’s unclear whether the Cardinals will use Conner in a lead role or rotate him with newcomer Darrel Williams and perhaps others.

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 Waiver Wire Assistant, which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.

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