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Fantasy Football: Top 10 Running Back Rankings

Fantasy Football: Top 10 Running Back Rankings

The 2022 NFL season is right around the corner, and August is the peak of fantasy football drafting as well. In the spirit of this, I will be doing my top 10 Running Back rankings for redraft leagues, with a full breakdown of each player. While we’re only covering 10 today, this will hopefully help you make some tough decisions in those first couple of rounds. These rankings will be based on PPR formats so adjust accordingly to your league type.

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RB1- Jonathan Taylor

Rush Yds: 1811 | Rec Yds: 360| Fantasy PPG: 22.0

The reigning fantasy RB1 should be the clear favorite to do so again in 2022. Considering his clear workhorse role and clean bill of health, he also has by far the safest floor of any player on this list. He led the NFL in total yards last year with 2,171 and tied for the league lead with 20 touchdowns. Furthermore, Taylor had the most rush yards over expected outcome as well with 481 (CBS). It was an all-time great season, and Taylor should be in the conversation for being the best pure rusher in the NFL going forward.

Teams were also able to load the box and play close to the line of scrimmage last year, daring Carson Wentz to throw the football. However, with Matt Ryan under center, teams should have to respect the passing game more which should only help Taylor going forward. The only downside is the potential of Nyheim Hines taking significant passing down work. While this is concerning and caps his upside, Taylor will still be a league leader in touches. Similar to Derrick Henry, he provides enough upside as a rusher alone to justify his ADP. He’s no slouch though in the receiving department, averaging 38 receptions over his first two NFL seasons. If he were to take on a higher role in the passing game, he’ll carry your team to a championship.

RB2- Christian McCaffrey

(2019) Rush Yds: 1387 | Rec Yds: 1005 | Fantasy PPG: 29.39

It’s tough to put CMC here after back-to-back injury plagues seasons, but the upside is too much to ignore. When healthy, he’s a league winner, and there is no player with a higher fantasy football ceiling in 2022. You could absolutely take him number one overall, but it would be a big risk. He’s played in 10 games over the last two years, and couldn’t seem to make it through a game healthy last season. The Panthers have already stated that they don’t intend to play him in the preseason, and it’s likely he receives a more limited workload compared to the past. So Carolina seems to be fairly concerned considering they are actively planning ways to preserve CMC for later in the year.

Why would you consider McCaffrey this highly in a draft then? Because of the statline listed above in his last fully healthy season. He had 2,392 all-purpose yards, and essentially was two fantasy starters averaging nearly 30 PPG. It was an outstanding year, and there is no other player in the NFL capable of that besides him. He did all this with Kyle Allen as his starter as well. Say what you will about Baker Mayfield, but CMC has produced with far worse. Although I’m not drafting McCaffrey in dynasty formats, the league-winning potential is worth the risk in redraft.

RB3- Austin Ekeler

Rush Yds: 911 | Rec Yds: 647 | Fantasy PPG: 21.5

Ekeler is another outstanding receiving back but unlike McCaffrey, he is in a fantastic situation in Los Angeles. He has benefited from playing with Justin Herbert the last two seasons, garnering significantly high target and touchdown volume. Last season, for example, Ekeler ranked third among Running Backs in targets, and also scored 20 touchdowns. This is everything we are looking for in a PPR RB1, and nothing figures to change too much in 2022. The offense will once again be fantastic, which will give Ekeler a very high fantasy ceiling.

The opportunity in this offense and the massive PPR upside give him an advantage over those lower on this list. Los Angeles figures to be a much better offensive team than the Steelers (Najee Harris) and Lions (D’andre Swift). While he’s going to be catching a lot more passes than players like Joe Mixon or Derrick Henry. He should be fantastic this season, and I could absolutely understand someone taking him over McCaffrey due to the injury concerns.

RB4- Joe Mixon

Rush Yds: 1205 | Rec Yds: 314 | Fantasy PPG: 18.0

Mixon is one of my favorite players going into the 2022 season at his current ADP of RB7 on Fantasy Pros. While workload or the offense as a whole can be a concern for many on this list, neither should be for Mixon. The Bengal’s offense should be one of the best as they arguably have the most talented group of skill position players in the NFL. This will ensure that Mixon is both on the field for a high volume of plays and that he has scoring opportunities. When investing significant capital in a Running Back you want one with a high ceiling, which is what volume and touchdowns provide.

Chris Evans shouldn’t be a serious threat to Mixon’s role either despite recent camp reports. Evans figures to play a good bit on passing downs, but Mixon has never been a high-volume receiving back. Nonetheless, he had a career-high in targets last season, and the talent is certainly there for a larger role. Like Taylor, Mixon will be great without significant receiving work but could be a massive value if that were to change.

RB5- Derrick Henry

(8 games) Rush Yds: 937 | Rec Yds: 154 | Fantasy PPG: 24.35

It feels a bit disrespectful to put Henry all the down at RB6 considering he averaged the most PPG among any Running Back in the league last year. However, we are entering uncharted territory for both the Titans and himself. Tennessee appears to be entering a bit of a transition period. They don’t appear to be sold on Tannehill being a long-term answer at Quarterback, and they also traded away star receiver AJ Brown. While the offense should be solid, a drop in production can be expected compared to previous years. Opposing defenses will likely commit to stopping Derrick Henry, and dare the Tannehill to win his arm. With touchdowns having a big impact on RB1 production, I prefer the offensive situation of some of the players I have in front of him.

Furthermore, Henry recently turned 28 years old, which is well past the recent apex age for the position. Only Mark Ingram, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Mike Davis over the last three seasons have finished as an RB1 at 27 years or older. It’s a brutal position, and Running Backs are no longer able to hold up for ten years like a Erik Dickerson. I usually don’t factor in age too much into my redraft/best ball rankings. Considering his injury last season though it’s at least mildly concerning. I’m right alongside ADP, but I won’t be overexposing myself to Henry in 2022.

RB6- Dalvin Cook

Rush Yds: 1159 | Rec Yds: 224 | Fantasy PPG: 15.9

Cook is in a similar position as Henry as far as concerns about his longevity. Still, if he remains healthy he will be locked into a bell cow role in what figures to be one of the better offenses in the league. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen make up an outstanding receiving core, and Kirk Cousins is continually an underrated Quarterback. New Head Coach Kevin O’Connell figures to modernize the offense too after spending three years with Sean McVay. Former coach Mike Zimmer drew criticism for a lack of creativity on the offensive side of the ball. That figures to change in 2022, and that is great for Cook’s fantasy prospects.

While the new coaching staff has stated they want to become a pass-first offense, this should be welcomed by Cook owners. The slight decrease in rushing attempts could easily be made up by an increase in efficiency. Reports are that Cook is likely to see an increase in passing targets from 49 last season (26th). He’s shown that he’s capable of a higher target volume as well with 63 targets and 519 yards in 2019. Furthermore, he only scored 6 touchdowns in 2021. As long as he remains healthy there is almost no chance that number doesn’t increase this year. If people are fading Cook in their Running Back rankings due to injury concerns, snag him with confidence in your upcoming draft.

RB7- Najee Harris

Rush Yds: 1200 | Rec Yds: 467 | Fantasy PPG: 17.7

Harris is coming off of a prolific rookie season that saw him finish as the RB3 in PPR formats. He exceeded all the expectations that came with his high draft capital and should be a locked-in RB1 again this season. What drove Harris’s production was high volume though as he ran the ball 307 times in 2021. He also received 94 targets, and was particularly outstanding in PPR formats, including one game with 102 yards on 14 receptions. This isn’t likely sustainable as Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 605 times. Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett won’t be asked to throw this much, which is a reason I have him ranked four spots lower than last year.

Nonetheless, a positive is that he could see even more rushing attempts in an offense where he should be the focal point. Many critics point to his lack of efficiency and his 3.91 yards per carry. However, it would be difficult for any Running Back considering the offensive situation in 2021. The offensive line wasn’t very good, and Ben Roethlisberger was a mess. Defenses were able to focus on stopping Harris and got to him quickly given the poor offensive line. Unfortunately for Harris, neither position group is likely to improve this season. Given he could lead the league in rushing attempts though, it’s hard to put him much lower in my Running Back rankings.

RB8- D’andre Swift

Rush Yds: 617 | Rec Yds: 452 | Fantasy PPG: 16.1

Swift began to emerge as an elite back last season, but injuries derailed his breakout. After averaging 16.86 PPR points during the first 11 weeks of the season, Swift injured his shoulder in week 12. This effectively ended his fantasy season as he didn’t return until week 17, and played sparingly. Swift is poised to lead the Lions backfield once again though and should be an RB1 in 2022 as long as he remains healthy. Although he missed significant time, Swift still finished 4th in the NFL in terms of Running Back targets. He could do so once again this season, which gives him particularly high value in PPR formats.

Additionally, the Lions should be one of the most improved offenses in the NFL. Detroit added DJ Chark and Jameson Williams this off-season to a unit that already included Swift, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and TJ Hockenson. As long as Goff can remain an average starter, the Lions should be a respectable team in 2022. This will increase the number of plays Swift is on the field, as well as his opportunities in the red zone.

RB9- Javonte Williams

Rush Yds: 903 | Rec Yds: 316 | Fantasy PPG: 12.1

Despite the re-signing of Melvin Gordon, Williams remains high in my Running Back rankings. He is simply one of the most talented backs in the league, and I’m taking the gamble that the Broncos recognize that this season. Despite significantly less volume compared to others he forced 63 missed tackles, ranking 2nd in the NFL. With defenses stacking the box with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, he still managed 4.45 yards per carry as well. He figures to be even better in 2022, and I expect Gordon to continue to lose work to Williams going forward.

On top of that, I can’t talk about it enough, but Running Backs in great offenses should be targeted in drafts. The Broncos’ offense figures to be vastly improved with Russell Wilson as the signal caller. This will create the volume and scoring opportunities that you look for in a fantasy RB1. While Wilson figures to throw the ball more than ever potentially, he has always operated with a strong running game too. Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett has experience running a balanced attack in Green Bay and should use Williams more effectively than the previous regime. Enjoy the current discount on Williams, as I believe people are fading him way too far in Running Back rankings.

RB10- Aaron Jones

Rush Yds: 799 | Rec Yds: 391 Fantasy PPG: 15.3

Rounding out the top 10 is the Green Bay Running Back who should be one of the most targeted Running Backs in the league next year. Jones is also coming off of three straight seasons ranking in the top 15 in receptions for Runnings Backs. On top of everything, Rodger’s top receiving weapons include Allen Lazard, Christian Watson, Sammy Watkins, and Robert Tonyan. This is a receiving group that is severely lacking in talent and Jones figures to be the main beneficiary.

Furthermore, Kyle Borgognoni from The Fantasy Footballers wrote an excellent article detailing how vacated targets go disproportionally to the Running Back position in most cases. This bodes well for Jones, particularly in PPR formats. The only reason he isn’t ranked higher is the expected emergence of AJ Dillon. In an effort to keep Jones healthy, Dillon will likely receive a healthy amount of opportunities to the detriment of Jones’ owners. This should hopefully preserve him for fantasy owners too though, as he clearly struggled to remain healthy all the way through games in 2021.

Thank you for checking out my Running Back rankings everyone and I hope you enjoyed it. Keep an eye out for more articles coming soon including top 10 Quarterback redraft rankings.

Assistant Editor- Sports Gambling Podcast Network Fantasy Writer- 5 Yard Rush Content Creator- The Fantasy Coaches Podcast