Top 60 Fantasy Football Running Backs for 2022

Erik Smith ranks his top running backs for fantasy football drafts ahead of the 2022 season.

Tier 5

 

41. James Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars) – It’s possible I’m too low on Robinson and he needs to be up in Tier 4. He’s shown good progress returning from last year’s Achilles injury, and has at least avoided being placed on the PUP list in camp, meaning that he isn’t guaranteed to miss time to start the season. But he’s still not fully cleared to return from the injury, and there’s still a chance that he misses time to start the year and is eased back in coming off of this major injury.

Robinson now has to play catch up to Travis Etienne Jr., who is shining in camp, and Robinson will likely be pegged as the early down back on a team that doesn’t project to win many games. Maybe Trevor Lawrence breaks out and Robinson comes along for the ride, but Lawrence has a long way to go to just become competent after last year’s disastrous offensive performance. This coaching staff has no ties to Robinson, and I tend to bet against players returning from major injuries like this. I hope Robinson the best, but I won’t be drafting him in 2022.

 

42. Alexander Mattison (Minnesota Vikings) – We are now in elite handcuff territory, as Mattison has excelled when filling in for Dalvin Cook in the past. Cook is getting up to the scary age for a running back, so the handcuff role is alive and well for Mattison this year. And with a whole new coaching staff, there’s always the chance that Cook is used a bit less and Mattison rotates in for more work than in the past. Mattison started four games last year filling in for Cook and totaled 32, 32, 25, and 16 touches in those games. He’s a nice bench stash with upside.

 

43. Rachaad White (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – 84th percentile speed score. 19% college target share. Third-round draft capital. Tom Brady offense. It’s very easy to see the path to an explosive season for the rookie White, as Leonard Fournette is getting up there in age and pounds, and an injury would leave a gaping hole in one of the league’s best offenses. Ronald Jones II is gone and the rest of the backfield consists of Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who the Buccaneers keep pushing down the depth chart, Giovani Bernard, who is nearly 31 and coming off an injury-plagued season, and Kenjon Barner. That’s it in Tampa Bay.

I’d be higher on White if the bar wasn’t so high to see work on passing downs in a Brady-led offense, and the receiving corps is suddenly stocked with options again. But if you were looking for a true breakout candidate this late (ADP 160), this is your guy. And we should be shooting for upside late in drafts, so do your best to get White on your roster in 2022.

 

44. Tyrion Davis-Price (San Francisco 49ers) – This is a shot at the insanity that is a Kyle Shanahan backfield, and Davis-Price is cheap and young, so let’s roll the dice here. I’ve been drafting him a bunch at the end of drafts, and I think he’s being drafted about three rounds too low. With a 90th percentile Speed Score and third-round draft capital, Davis-Price checks some boxes we should be looking for late, and I’m not impressed with the rest of the 49ers backfield.

Beyond Elijah Mitchell, who battled injuries all year in 2021, the depth chart is Trey Sermon, who the 49ers seem to have no intention of playing, Jeff Wilson, a trusted veteran but a former special-teamer that has struggled to stay healthy, and Jamycal Hasty, a third-year former UDFA with 85 career touches. If something were to happen to Mitchell, Davis-Price has a real shot to be… well, this year’s Elijah Mitchell. Stash Davis-Price on your roster and see what happens here in San Francisco.

 

Tier 6

 

45. Khalil Herbert (Chicago Bears) – Herbert impressed us fantasy managers as he filled in for the injured David Montgomery last year, and the rest of the depth chart is thin at running back in Chicago. Herbert would be instantly playable any week that Montgomery was to miss, and who knows, the new coaching staff may not want to use Montgomery as much as the previous regime did. Maybe Herbert carves out a role as the season progresses.

 

46. Isaiah Spiller (Los Angeles Chargers) – Spiller is getting hype in camp, looks like the handcuff to Austin Ekeler, and may even work into a goalline-type role to give Ekeler some breathers in 2022. I feel like we’ve been here before with camp hype from the Chargers’ backup running backs, so I’m not all the way in on Spiller yet. But Josh Kelley and Larry Rountree III certainly aren’t the answer, so Spiller is worth a shot late to hold down the end of your bench.

 

47. Michael Carter (New York Jets) – Maybe I’m too low on Carter, who looked good as a rookie in 2021. But with second-round pick Breece Hall coming in to likely dominate work, Carter may be reduced to a 3rd down role, and the Jets have plenty of options in the passing game. If this was likely to be a better offense I might be in, but I don’t know if the upside is there to payoff wasting a roster spot on the Jets’ backup running back.

 

48. Darrel Williams (Arizona Cardinals) – We just saw James Conner score a career’s worth of touchdowns last year in this Cardinals offense, and Williams has been trusted in Kansas City on the ground and in the passing game. Chase Edmonds is gone, and Williams may have a role even with Conner around. An injury to Arizona’s lead back could open Williams up to be a weekly RB2. It’s worth at least putting him on your watch list.

 

49. Marlon Mack (Houston Texans) – Who is the lead back in Houston? Mack? Dameon Pierce? Rex Burkhead? I probably need to have a Texans running back ranked higher than RB49, but there’s very little way of knowing who the primary option is right now. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see this as a relatively useless committee all season. This is a situation we will know more about in a few weeks, but if I’m drafting now I just don’t want to waste the roster spot on an unknown in a below-average offense.

 

50. Sony Michel (Miami Dolphins) – I’ve been drafting Michel in nearly every draft with my last pick. Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, and Myles Gaskin all profile as pass-catching running backs, so unless Salvon Ahmed beats out Michel I could see a real role here in an intriguing Dolphins offense. At worst we could get some touchdowns from Michel, at best he’s in a split backfield with Edmonds and is a low-end flex option. Mostert is 30 and too injury-prone for me to see him as a real threat, so I’m drafting Michel like crazy to see if this Miami rushing attack has some juice to it.

 

51. Tyler Allgeier (Atlanta Falcons) – Allgeier has a real shot at playing time in Atlanta alongside Cordarrelle Patterson, so he is worth a flier late. Betting on fifth-round rookies in bad offenses is usually not a winning formula, however, so he’s more of a watch-list player for me right now, but he’s definitely worth a pick in deep leagues.

 

52. Dameon Pierce (Houston Texans) – Maybe Pierce is the running back to roster in Houston? His athletic profile isn’t all that impressive coming out of Florida and he was a fourth-round pick, so much like Allgeier, betting on this late of a pick in a bad offense usually isn’t worth it. If we hear Houston commit to him as the starter, however, he would jump into the top 40, so go get him if you believe that this is his backfield.

 

53. Gus Edwards (Baltimore Ravens) – I was ready to draft Edwards early in the offseason, as it seemed he would be ahead of J.K. Dobbins in his ACL recovery. But now we hear he is questionable for Week 1, currently on the PUP, and possibly behind Dobbins in his timeline for return. I still think Edwards could be valuable at some point in the season, but you can probably just wait to grab him on waivers when the time is right.

 

54. Ronald Jones II (Kansas City Chiefs) – We are now entering the “pick a Chief that could steal work from Clyde Edward-Helaire” range of the rankings. Jones might not even make the team, so I’m not drafting him often. But he’s a talented pure rusher on a good offense so he’s worth a second glance on your wire. Unfortunately, Jones is a near zero in the passing game and that’s likely a problem in Kansas City.

 

55. Isiah Pacheco (Kansas City Chiefs) – A seventh-round rookie with a 98th percentile Speed Score, he’s getting hype in camp and mixing in with the starting unit. These camp stories tend to be nothing, so don’t go overboard here. But a dart throw at a muddled backfield behind CEH is worth a shot in this explosive offense.

 

56. Jerick McKinnon (Kansas City Chiefs) – McKinnon really took over the backfield in the playoffs last year, playing on 70% or more of the snaps in all three playoff games after failing to reach 40% of the snaps in any game during the regular season. McKinnon may have some playable weeks over the course of the season, but the odds of the 30-year-old holding up long enough to make a difference on your season are slim.

 

57. Brian Robinson Jr. (Washington Commanders) – Robinson has more promise than this as ranking would indicate as a third-round rookie, but I don’t anticipate rostering him to start the season. I don’t see Washington’s offense as all that exciting, and he still has Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic to take snaps from. Keep an eye on him as a waiver pickup as he starts to earn more work, however, because the Commanders haven’t seemed all that high on Gibson as of late.

 

58. Nyheim Hines (Indianapolis Colts) – This late in the draft, I’m likely planning to drop this player for the first hot thing on waivers. While Hines is an excellent real-life player, I see very few paths to a big season, so we are drafting him to hold and play during bye weeks. He’s topped out at 12 PPR points per game over the past three years during his Philip Rivers experience, and do we really think Matt Ryan is going to get another level out of him? Even if Jonathan Taylor goes down, Hines isn’t going to suddenly become a bell cow.

 

59. J.D. McKissic (Washington Commanders) – Same idea as with Hines above. You don’t need a player like McKissic to start early in the season when your roster is healthy, and he has no upside for a breakout. Use the roster spot on a muddled backfield, and pick up McKissic off of waivers in Week 9 when you need him. At the end of the day, he’s a 29-year-old pass-catching specialist who has topped out at 12 PPR points per game.

 

60. Kenyan Drake (Las Vegas Raiders) – I have no idea how this Raiders backfield will shake out behind Josh Jacobs, and there is a chance that Josh McDaniels goes to more of a committee in his first year with the Raiders. Maybe Drake steals some of that work and catches a few passes from Derek Carr in a high-volume passing offense.

 

 

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

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