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Rookie Running Back Rankings & Player Notes (2022 Fantasy Football)

Aug 14, 2022
Ken Walker III

It may be an uphill battle for Ken Walker III to be a reliable fantasy option in his rookie year.

While rookies are the hot topic this time of year, there are always plenty of second-year NFL players ready to either break out or continue the hot start to their professional career. Let’s take a look at redraft-relevant 2022 rookies, including rankings and player notes.

Player rankings based on our redraft Expert Consensus Rankings for half-PPR leagues.

Rookie Running Back Rankings & Player Notes

Breece Hall (NYJ): RB19
My highest-ranked rookie running back is Breece Hall. The Jets selected the Iowa State product at the top of Round 2, signifying his status as the team’s locked-in RB1 for the foreseeable future. Hall’s three-down skill set suggests he never has to come off the field, and the sheer volume he garners will vault him into redraft top-20 running back territory. The Iowa State product totaled over 4,500 yards from scrimmage, 50 touchdowns, and 80 catches over three seasons in the college ranks. A workload of approximately 240 touches – based on ESPN fantasy analyst Mike Clay’s projections and how many touches the cumulative Jets RB1 earned last season – would place Hall inside the top-15 considering every running back last season that hit that threshold finished inside that ranking.2021 fourth-rounder Michael Carter had his moments as a rookie, but the Jets know he’s just a No. 2 running back. Anticipate Hall to shoulder 15-20 touches per game based on the workload that Carter received last season when Tevin Coleman missed time. From Weeks 7-9 with Coleman sidelined, Carter averaged 19 touches per game and a 66% snap share. Upon Coleman’s return from injury in Week 10, Carter averaged 14 touches per game and a 55% snap share in the games they played together.

Kenneth Walker (SEA): RB37
Even if Walker can carve out a first-year workload similar to that of Chris Carson circa 2020 – 16.4 touches per game, 56% snaps share when healthy – it’s still going to be a massive uphill battle for him to be a fantasy producer in Year 1.

Pete Carroll has a stable of backs including Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas who all figure to work in at some point despite Walker’s Round 2 draft capital.
Again, even when Carson was the RB1, he was splitting snaps.

Penny was brought back on a one-year deal for $5 million (12tth-highest cap hit), Chris Carson – if healthy – is due $6.1 million (10th-highest cap hit) and Homer/Dallas have routinely worked as pass-catchers out of the backfield.

Seattle also finished dead-last in targets to the RB position last season, creating serious doubt that Walker will be used in that fashion in any capacity as a rookie. Part of that is on Russell Wilson’s lack of juice in the screen game, but the offense itself doesn’t predicate much RB pass-game usage. Geno Smith posted a meager 12% RB target rate (three per game) in his three starts last season. Drew Lock was at 17%.

The Seahawks have the chance to be a running back by committee and dumpster fire on offense this season for all the reasons I’ve laid out, which is why I am adamantly against paying the premium for Walker. If this team falls behind in games, there’s no telling which RB will even be on the field.

James Cook (BUF): RB38
Rookie running back James Cook has immediate sleeper fantasy appeal across all PPR formats based on his second-round draft capital, pass-catching prowess, explosiveness, and offensive situation. The 5-foot-11, 199-pound running back has more than enough heft to manage a decent workload, especially as a receiver out of the backfield. The 5-foot-7, 203-pound Devin Singletary was the RB3 over the last six weeks of the regular season when the Bills entrenched him as the featured guy. Cook with an ECR of RB44 seems priced closer to their floor than his ceiling considering Round 2 running backs have finished as top-36 running backs more than half the time (55%) since 2013.

Isaiah Spiller (LAC): RB46
The Chargers are no strangers to taking shots on bigger but unathletic running backs on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. Joshua Kelley was the guy in 2020 and Larry Rountree was the guy in 2021. Isaiah Spiller represents the latest rehash of the Chargers trying to find an appropriate thunder to Austin Ekeler‘s lightning, and I for one think Spiller is already the best bet currently on the roster. The former Texas A&M running back has the capacity for three-down spot start duties with an all-encompassing skill set and desirable size – 6-feet and 217 pounds. Spiller should be a solid producer for the Chargers if given the opportunity although his lack of top-notch speed could keep him from being elite. He had only eight carries of 20-plus yards in 2021. But I’d be hard-pressed to ignore his impressive age-adjusted production as one of his most encouraging traits. Since Day 1 at Texas A&M, Spiller has been the lead dog for the Aggies. As a true freshman in 2019, he scored 10 rushing touchdowns and finished 16th in the nation in yards after contact per attempt en route to a 22% dominator rating. The power running back capped off his first year in impressive fashion with back-to-back seasons of 1,000 rushing yards and 100 missed tackles. Spiller also displayed receiving prowess, commanding at least an 8% target share and an average of 25 receptions per season. With Justin Jackson still an unsigned free agent, Spiller looks slated for instant impact in Year 1.

Dameon Pierce (HOU): RB47
If you liked Dameon Pierce before the NFL Draft, then you should be thrilled about his landing spot in Houston. There’s a chance that PFF’s highest-graded running back from the FBS (92.0) in 2021 carves out a role on early downs even though the team added Marlon Mack this offseason. News flash, people – Mack signed a one-year, $two-million deal with Houston, and it’s less than the team is paying Rex Burkhead..1 million of Burkhead’s $2.35 million contract is fully guaranteed. We could easily see Mack released as much as we could see Pierce become the team’s starting running back. Although my one reservation with Pierce is that traditionally New England has been very stingy about featuring rookie running backs historically – especially ones drafted late. During Nick Caserio’s tenure with the Patriots, Stevan Ridley’s 87 carries were the most for any non-first-round rookie running back. It was until Caserio left New England for Houston, that Rhamondre Stevenson broke that mark with 133 carries in 2021. Not to mention, there’s clearly an affinity with veteran running backs that Texans can’t seem to quit. They force-fed David Johnson and Mark Ingram II among other veterans last season, despite having some younger players they could give reps to. Caserio’s post-draft press conference cited Pierce as someone that needs to earn a role and be a factor on special teams. So pump the brakes on Pierce RB1 szn ever so slightly. The fact Pierce never fully took over Florida’s backfield does raise red flags. His 12% career dominator rating is eerily similar to Trey Sermon (12%) from last season, and Sermon struggled to separate himself from the pack in his rookie campaign. Even during his breakout senior season, the 5-foot-10 and 218-pound running back earned just a 22% dominator rating while sharing the backfield alongside fellow draft-eligible running back Malik Davis. However, I am willing to offer some benefit of the doubt after Pierce never topped 106 carries in college. There may have been some underlying issue with former Gators head coach Dan Mullen that prevented Pierce from seeing a more featured role. Case in point: Pierce only had two games with double-digit carries in 2021, both of which came after Mullen was fired toward the end of the season. Pierce’s lackluster dominator rating doesn’t capture his coach’s potential ineptitude. The fact Pierce competed with NFL talent like Jordan Scarlett and La’Mical Perine very early in his college career paints a better picture of how his impact will be felt in years to come. But from the get-go, I doubt we see Pierce be a major fantasy factor to start the 2022 season.

Tyler Allgeier (ATL): RB53
Tyler Allgeier has been tossed into a backfield with aging and unimpressive parts, where he could ultimately take over the lead role. Allgeier closed out his career at BYU with a pummeling 275 carry season that he turned into 1,611 rushing yards. Allgeier shined with 4.16 yards after contact, ranking tenth among all FBS running backs with 100 or more carries last season (per PFF). Sadly he bombed his athletic testing and fell in the draft before Atlanta scooped him up. Atlanta may lean on this young volume rusher, but it’s also conceivable that Patterson and Damien Williams eat into the rushing pie enough to render Allgeier an afterthought.

Rachaad White (TB): RB55
Despite inking Leonard Fournette to a new three-year deal, re-signing Giovani Bernard, and still having incumbent Ke’Shawn Vaughn on the roster, the team spent a third-round draft pick on Rachaad White. White followed up his final season at Arizona State, where he racked up 3.38 yards after contact per attempt and 2.25 yards per route run (ninth, minimum 20 targets per PFF) by blowing up the combine. White finished with an 84th percentile speed score and 87th percentile burst score. This looks like a crowded backfield on paper, but the team has shown the willingness to utilize one back as a do-it-all rusher and receiver. This would leave White as the Uncle Len backup plan with workhorse upside if the injury bug bit Fournette.

Brian Robinson (WAS): RB60
The dependable 6’2″ 224 lb Brian Robinson lands in Washington via the third round of the NFL Draft. Robinson bided his time behind a plethora of talented backs at Alabama before finally taking over in 2021 as the lead guy. He responded by ranking fourth in missed tackles and eighth in ten plus yard runs last year (per PFF). Robinson might not wow people, but he’s s battle-tested and sure-handed depth piece who can take over if Antonio Gibson gets hurt or continues to fumble away opportunities.

Zamir White (LV): RB62
After declining Josh Jacobs‘ fifth-year option, the Raiders could enter 2023 with only Zamir White and Brandon Bolden as the only running backs under contract. With fourth-round draft capital, White is worth taking a shot on in the middle rounds of rookie drafts and later in startups. With the profile of an early-down grinder which isn’t nearly as elusive as his former five-star prospect status would have you believe, I wouldn’t be aggressively trading up for him. He’s a dart throw back who could see the field if injuries strike but easily be replaced in 2023 if the team falls in love with a running back prospect.

Tyrion Davis-Price (SF): RB70
If it’s not Elijah Mitchell taking back the reigns, then it’s equally viable Tyrion Davis-Price could be that dude. After the team burnt a third-round pick the year before on bench warmer extraordinaire Trey Sermon, the hesitation to invest in this backfield is real. Davis-Price performed well in his athletic testing with a 77th percentile 40-yard dash and 73rd percentile 10-yard split time. Since 2020 the 49ers are fifth in neutral rushing rate (47%). There’s volume to support multiple rushers as matchup or flex players or one rusher that could easily be a weekly top 20 option.

Other 2022 rookie running backs:

FantasyPros Staff Consensus 2022 Redraft Fantasy Football Rankings

2022 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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