If you’re new to Fantasy Football welcome. You’ll learn quickly that this is the MOST important position that you may want to pay attention to for draft purposes. Alright on to the rankings but first let’s take a quick highlight of your RB needs. Here is your early Top 10 Running Back rankings for 2022 Fantasy Football!
- Rankings considered between PPR and STD scoring
- Jonathan Taylor took the crown for the MOST points scored by a Running Back in the 2021 season. Whether you played in a Standard, Half-Point, or Full-Point PPR league he’s still number one!
- The most touches? Najee Harris with 381 touches led the NFL’s Running Backs.
- Jonathan Taylor led all Running Backs with 18 Rushing Touchdowns in the 2021 season. Just food for thought.
- Our rankings: Love them? Hate them? Let us know!
- As always these opinions reflect solely on the research from the Baseline Times staff
- Every week until the end of August you can expect to find us ranking other positions and full coverage of the NFL 2022 Fantasy Football season
ADP 1 – Jonathan Taylor – Indianapolis Colts
We keep hearing about this guy at least five times before we started ranking right? You bet he’s pretty important. Here are some quick things to consider about Mr. Taylor. His Offensive Line did wonders to allow him to run 1,811 yards on 332 Rushing Attempts in the 2021 season. He’s trending up as one of the most prolific runners in the NFL.
He does have a new Quarterback he will line up behind this season. That being Matt Ryan however, does it really matter with Taylor slaying on the ground? NOPE! JT has shown as a Rookie he can handle the running load scoring about 250 points in 2020 depending on your scoring league’s scoring. Last season’s full point PPR tally was 373.1 for the frame of reference. He’s a clear RB1 in any league these days but temper your expectations on him being a pass-catching RB. His 51 targets as a receiver were not even top 10 amongst all RBs last season. This is proof his scoring comes from truly the running game. Further proof you shouldn’t be too concerned with Matt Ryan in town.
ADP 2 – Austin Ekeler – Los Angeles Chargers
Look out Fantasy Football Managers. Your draft queue should always consider some of the top-tier talents in the league and some of those players are falling with the Chargers too often. We ranked Justin Herbert as the QB2 for the 2022 Season. Ekeler is a beneficiary of the young Quarterback’s talent. A huge plus side for Ekeler is that he’s targeted quite a lot as a receiver. In fact, in the 2021 season, his 94 targets as a receiver were tied with Najee Harris.
Let’s pack in why Ekeler maintains his ranking here though. Of the 94 times he was targeted as a receiver last season he caught 70 passes and converted them into a LEAGUE high 647 as a Running Back. That is the tea we leave you to consider him as your star in that RB slot this season. Ekeler shared a workload with Justin Jackson towards the end of the 2021 regular season. This was a concern for Fantasy Managers who most in the playoffs at that point of the season would be livid. Ekeler’s ankle was the blame but as it seems should he stay healthy the touches are his.
ADP 3 – Christian McCaffery – Carolina Panthers
Oh, this is touchy! How many of us have been burned by Mr. McCaffery’s inability to stay healthy the past couple of seasons? *Raises hand shamefully*. What we can say is that the rankings you’re seeing check out. CMC is one of the most unique Fantasy Football gems ever. For those in PPR leagues, in 2018 he played every game and scored 385.5 points. In 2019 he played in every game and scored a league-high 471.2 PPR points. Do we want to justify and sell you on taking McCaffery even if you’re not comfortable? No, obviously draft CMC within the top five range of a redraft league at your own risk.
The positives to point out last season is that CMC played 7 games and averaged about 18 points a game between an STD and PPR scoring leagues. The dumbest thing we can write out to you is yes, healthy CMC is the best option for a stud RB. Despite Cam Newton, Sam Darnold, or various backup Quarterbacks taking snaps for the Panthers, we find McCaffery as the perfect pass-catching Running Back Fantasy Football has come across. The last thing to sell you on is to consider that CMC’s workload and injury last season wasn’t season-ending or required major surgery. It would appear the Panthers knew their faith was sold weeks before the season’s end and decided to shut him down.
ADP 4 – Najee Harris – Pittsburg Steelers
All we have is ONE Rookie season to go by, unfortunately. However, Harris still checks out to be one of the top Running Backs to consider especially if you’re drafting late in the first round. Here is where the success lies for Harris. As mentioned above he tied Austin Ekeler in targets out of all the other Running Backs in the league. The flip side is he only turned those receptions into 467 yards. I mean if you’re really doing the math, whether you’re playing in an STD or PPR scoring that’s an easy 46.7 points of yardage beyond his running game (your league scoring could make it for better).
wHat aBoUt a soPhoMoRe sLuMp? Well, the tea there is this, the Steelers plan to reduce Harris’ workload and he seems to be down for that as well per himself. Does this mean he will have a huge drop-off? Probably not but do consider this if you’re licking your chops with a top-five pick in a redraft league. You may want to lean towards the first three mentioned or a stud WR. The good news is Harris is a proven back that can catch and run or just take a handoff and give you what you need. Given his high targeting as a pass-catching RB, he stays in the Top 10 but is perhaps a late first-round pick in redraft leagues.
ADP 5 – Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans
It’s incredible that Henry has to fall this low when speaking on the Running Backs for fantasy purposes however, not surprising. In a newly minted 17-game schedule we were robbed of Henry in about half of those. He was hurt in Week 8 and did not play in the rest of the regular season. When drafting Henry yes, the workload and injury last year could make you consider passing on him this year. However, consider for once the athlete and talent you’re drafting over the rest of the field after him. You’ll get nobody like Henry.
What is really intriguing about Henry in 2021 is his pass-catching. He was trending for career highs in receptions and receiving yards. In the eight 2021 games, he was targeted 20 times as a receiver and caught 18 of those passes. This resulted in 153 receiving yards before his injury. His previous career-high was in 2019 when he caught 18 passes that resulted in 206 yards (in 15 games).
Of course, the tables slightly turn where Henry’s reliance could amp up that A.J. Brown and Julio Jones are no longer on the team. Newcomer WR Robert Woods is the other distraction for defenses against the Titans and Ryan Tannehill‘s other option besides Henry. Beyond just Henry’s health do some homework on the Titans’ Offense Line periodically if you do decide to take Henry. Blocking is going to be huge to allow him to run through gaps that don’t require him beating his body through defensive lines.
ADP 6 – Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals
We promise we’re not doing this on purpose but it is ironic that Joe Burrow also finished ADP 6 among Quarterbacks in our Early Top 10 Quarterback Rankings. This isn’t on purpose but Mixon also falls within the same window here too. If you’re a total score watcher well consider this, Mixon can land you an easy 250 points overall in PPR scoring when he’s playing each game in the season.
Here is the tea of the other Joe in Cincinnati, he’s the 3rd highest Running Back in the NFL when it came to touches in 2021. He finished 3rd overall (16 TDs) among Running Backs in scoring Touchdowns overall. There aren’t any signs or worries that the Bengals plan to split touches or reduce his touches either. The only concern is how often the Bengals will target Ja’Marr Chase now that Burrow and he are on the same page.
ADP 7 – Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings
The tale of injury-prone Running Backs comes also with Cook in mind. Despite his pure talent to delight fantasy owners with scoring from the passing or running game he somehow misses games. In his five seasons, he has yet to play more than 14 games. Oh, the NFL adding another Week makes it even worse right? Why does all of the internet of Fantasy Football advice list this guy in their Top 10 yearly?! I know we asked the same question but let’s make a justification.
The NFL’s RB talent starts to drop off after the Top 7-10 Running Backs fall come off the board. Cook is the one exception to not allowing yourself to miss out on a guy who can bring you some serious Running Back points but probably will get injured. If that is the case, the best draft tea is to plan accordingly and draft another quality RB in the second round by default. The shortest best answer to why he’s this high always is: he just scores points.
Examples? Sure! In the 2020 season while playing 14 out of 16 games he scored 337.8 points in a full-point PPR setting. In short, if you can live with missing Cook for a couple of games beyond his Bye Week then, you can certainly start him no questions when healthy to expect above-average RB scoring. He will still bring you a solid average per game and overall score better than what’s left after his ADP.
ADP 8 – Javonte Williams – Denver Broncos
This is how we’re thinking. The Denver Broncos bring in Russell Wilson a guy who will probably throw more often than hand-off to an RB? The Broncos Running Back duo of Williams and Melvin Gordon III DOMINATED the touches in 2021 with not the greatest QB room. Top three in total touches in 2021 for Denver? Williams – 246, Gordon III – 231, and Noah Fant – 68. Um, Houston we have a problem if the tides change for a more focused air attack now that Wilson is at QB. To make this a strong point, realize that Noah Fant is no longer with the team (he’s in Seattle) and he was the TIGHT END!
It’s fair to say the Broncos trusted their dynamic duo of RBs to lead the way in 2021 but 2022 brings on a whole new Head Coach and Offense/Defense Coordinators. This screams red flags but wait. Williams is the clear upgrade over Gordon III and the favorite to receive the majority of RB touches. Williams might see fewer touches so his ability to catch and run or run for more yardage this season will be the key to having him be an exploding Fantasy Football season.
As we mentioned above with Dalvin Cook, we’re going to see RBs this season become more average across the board as we get outside of the Top 10. Williams rushed for 903 yards but can he finally become more efficient and go for 1000-plus in 2022? His 7 Touchdowns overall were nice in 2021. Can he score 10 or more TDs in 2022? Those are the questions we can’t answer and why his BEST ranking is this high.
ADP 9 – Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers
Speaking of touches, here is a talented RB that might start to see the trickle-down of no Davante Adams almost immediately. He’s arguable the next best talent on the Packers roster when it comes to the offense. What CAN NOT be ignored, however, is that Jones saw 223 touches in 2021. He also only played in 15 games vs the 17 available to play in. Adams was the winner of touches right? NOPE, he only saw 123 touches which are equal to his 123 receptions in 2021 (and yes in our WR rankings you’ll find out Adams is just one hell of an efficient WR talent for fantasy purposes).
A good way to put this is that Jones’ reliance is heavy already and the Packers would be operating very similar as they had been. The air attack with Rodgers is going to be slightly different without Adams but in short, the last thing to worry about is the health of Jones. Because his touches are so high on the team if it increases it only gets better to draft Jones late in the first round of a redraft league. In fact, it’s sort of disrespectful that he’s outside of the Top 10 as some ADP rankings are listing 13 at best for Jones. We say you don’t shy away from Jones just because he missed two games last season.
The Packers could tame his usage with A.J. Dillon but that’s not where the talent in their offense is going to rely on unless Jones is indeed hurt at some point in the season. Jones has played in 45 of the 49 games since 2019. His usage rate is a no-brainer he can maintain the touches and come out mostly healthy from season to season.
ADP 10 – Leonard Fournette – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sorry, we have to do it. Tom Brady is back that is all. Fournette hasn’t had the BEST health record in the last three seasons but he also hasn’t been disappointing when he’s available to play. Also, Fournette is getting some wild ADP rankings for 2022. Some have Fourtnette at the bottom of the Top 10 while the average seems to be about 12-13th ADP ranking. We’ve got to say that Fournette’s health shouldn’t be a factor as his 2020 season is starting to look like a fluke. He was cut from the Jaguars right before preseason and the Buccaneers took him in. He only started three games in 2020 for Tampa but his resurgence in the 2020 Super Bowl run told the story for 2021 (and the Bucs choosing Ronald Jones Jr. for most of the 2020 season over him played a factor).
Last season the starting RB role was clearly his. Despite playing in only 14 of the 17 games he’s still worth looking at strongly this season. The Buccaneers will start the season potentially without Chris Godwin and the starting RB role is Fournette’s by a long stretch. Forunette finished where James Conner and Ezekiel Elliot finish in terms of PPR scoring in 2021. The real tea is Mr. Fournette finished with 84 targets as a receiver in 2021 which was 3rd overall among RBs. Who is the guy throwing him the ball again in 2022? Oh yeah, that one guy that they say is a GOAT.
Fournette’s clear role in the Buccaneers’ offense has been determined and set in stone. Expect another elite season for Fournette. Don’t let 2020 fools gold shy you away from one of the MOST targeted RBs as a pass-catcher. If you’re considering D’Andre Swift instead tame expectations that the Lions are not going to snap the ball as many times as Fournette will with Brady in Tampa Bay.
Right on the bubble
- D’Andre Swift
- Ezekiel Elliot
- Alvin Kamara (still awaiting a decision if he will be suspended)
- Nick Chubb
- James Conner