Fantasy Football Running Back Preview: Sleepers, Breakouts, Busts, Projections, Zero-RB targets and more

This 12 months, more than I can ever bear in mind, the way you view the operating again place has to do with the way you view upside, flooring, and damage danger. That dialogue begins at choose 1.01.

Jonathan Taylor led all operating backs in Fantasy factors in 2021 and continues to be simply 23 years outdated. So it makes excellent sense why he is the consensus No. 1 general choose. Just do not take consensus to imply undisputed. Because there are not less than two backs with a declare to more upside.

For one factor, Derrick Henry outscored Taylor by 1.6 FPPG final 12 months. And Christian McCaffrey averaged six more Fantasy factors per recreation from 2019-2020 than Henry did in 2021. Henry will flip 29 earlier than Taylor turns 24, and McCaffrey has solely performed 10 video games up to now two seasons mixed. It’s not onerous to craft an argument towards both. But it’s essential be clear that whenever you do, you are making a flooring argument, not an upside argument. And upside is what wins Fantasy Football leagues.

The reality is, we simply aren’t excellent at assessing how doubtless an damage is to occur. Some say it is more doubtless for guys who had a ton of touches final 12 months, others will say the fellows who obtained harm in earlier years are the backs to draw back from. I say, at greatest it needs to be used as a tiebreaker, and in most situations, you would be higher off ignoring it.

So I’ve Henry and McCaffrey forward of Taylor proper? Not precisely. McCaffrey does undertaking for more PPR Fantasy factors within the projections beneath, Taylor continues to be technically ranked first on our rankings web page. The key for me in deciding between the 2 is the kind of league I’m in. In bigger tournaments or high-stakes leagues, I favor McCaffrey. He’s on my Scott Fish Bowl roster and he is the suitable choose in case you’re swinging huge. I’d use the identical technique in a house league, assuming you realize more and attempt tougher than many of the groups in your leagues. But in an ordinary 12-team league the place six groups make the playoffs and most everyone seems to be aggressive, I do worth the perceived security of Taylor sufficient to rank him No. 1.

Running Back draft technique

Once you get previous 1.01, the dialogue stays the identical, simply with totally different gamers. How scared are you of Dalvin Cook’s damage historical past or Alvin Kamara’s suspension odds? Do you shoot for the moon with younger potential stars JK Dobbins, Travis Etienne, and Cam Akers as they work their manner again from main accidents? Will Kyle Shanahan lastly persist with one operating again? Will Josh McDaniels let his characteristic again catch passes?

My basic positional technique is fairly agnostic. I’ve seven backs in my first spherical and 15 within the first two. I really feel more safe after I draft a operating again within the first two rounds, however I will not draw back from a begin that features a combo like Justin Jefferson and Mark Andrews. If I have not taken a again within the first two rounds, that can most likely change in Round 3, as a result of David Montgomery is nearly all the time there. If he isn’t, we could also be going Zero-RB.

There are loads of mid-range backs who’re interesting this 12 months, which actually places the useless zone to the check. If you find yourself drafting backs in Rounds 4-6, make them younger backs, ideally with pass-catching chops and three-down upside.

Miles Sanders and Clyde Edwards-Helaire are potential starters who fall previous Round 6 in some drafts; scoop them up in the event that they do. After that time, you ought to be considering nearly solely of potential upside. You want an elevator pitch as to how a again turns into a top-12 possibility or it’s essential strongly think about taking them off your draft board. As for backups, bear in mind it is more doubtless for a again behind a mediocre starter to return revenue than one behind a first-round choose, even when that sounds counterintuitive.

Now let’s get into the sleepers, breakouts, and busts on the place:

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Numbers to know

4.5 — Ezekiel Elliott has averaged 4.5 yards per contact for the reason that begin of the 2020 season. Tony Pollard has averaged 5.7 in the identical stretch.
67 — James Cook caught 67 passes in his 4 years at Georgia. He will cap Devin Singletary’s upside if he earns a job.
134 — Rashaad Penny averaged 134 speeding yards per recreation in his last 5 video games of 2021. He has league-winning upside if he can keep wholesome.
0 — Miles Sanders didn’t rating a speeding landing final 12 months even though the Eagles led the NFL with 25 speeding touchdowns.
26 — Aaron Jones noticed 26 targets in 4 video games with out Davante Adams in 2019. He’s a darkish horse to guide operating backs in catches this 12 months.
27 — Current Giants’ operating backs not named Saquon Barkley mixed for 27 carries within the NFL final 12 months.
18.3 — Cardinals’ operating backs have averaged 18.3 touchdowns per 12 months over the previous three seasons.
309 — The Texans have 309 operating again alternatives to interchange from final 12 months., the second-most within the league.
146 — Falcons’ operating backs led the NFL with 146 targets final 12 months.

Zero-RB targets

I’ll replace this record as ADP solidifies, however for now, there isn’t any scarcity of operating backs accessible if you wish to concentrate on quarterbacks and cross catchers within the first five-plus rounds. I attempted to incorporate mixture of flooring and upside guys as a result of I wish to have some pass-catching backs to start out whereas I await the backups to realize jobs. For this model, I’m utilizing Fantasy Pros PPR ADP. For probably the most half, the steered spherical is a spherical sooner than the participant is definitely being drafted. You cannot be too cute getting your guys at operating again in case you punt on the early rounds.

Round 6 – Miles Sanders, Kareem Hunt, Tony Pollard
Round 7 – Chase Edmonds, Kenneth Walker
Round 8 – Michael Carter, Rhamondre Stevenson
Round 9 – James Cook, Nyheim Hines
Round 10 – Dameon Pierce, Tyler Allgeier, Alexander Mattison
Round 11 – Mark Ingram, Isaiah Spiller
Round 12 or later – Khalil Herbert, Rachaad White, Kenneth Gainwell, D’Onta Foreman, Marlon Mack

Handcuff rankings

Below are the highest 10 PPR handcuffs to draft on Draft Day. Obviously, Kareem Hunt is way more than a handcuff, however the motive he is on this record, and not somebody like Giovani Bernard is the truth that Hunt may very well be a league-winner within the occasion Nick Chubb will get harm. Bernard’s function would not doubtless change. So, whereas Hunt generally is a flex in a PPR league even with out an damage, he is additionally the No. 1 handcuff. I do not historically draft handcuffs to my starters, however I do not thoughts taking another person’s. Also, in case you’re in a non-PPR league, guys like Trey Sermon, AJ Dillon, and Gus Edwards deserve a lift.

1. Kareem Hunt
2. AJ Dillon
3. Tony Pollard
4. Kenneth Walker
5. Rhamondre Stevenson
6. Melvin Gordon
7. Michael Carter
8. Mark Ingram
9. Alexander Mattison
10. Khalil Herbert

Tiers

Projections

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