Fantasy Football running back primer: Rankings, tiers, rookies, strength of schedule, big questions and more

Like most seasons, the highest decide in nearly all Fantasy Football drafts this season goes to be a running back. As of Sunday evening, there have been 388 drafts in National Fantasy Championship drafts, and Jonathan Taylor has a mean draft place of 1.12.

And Taylor clearly will not be alone. In ADP, seven of the primary 12 gamers are running backs and 14 of the highest 24, too. And historical past suggests these might be good picks – between 2016 and 2020, running backs picked within the first spherical had 300-plus PPR factors in 12 of 30 seasons, with 12 out of 30 reaching at the very least 200; 13 out of 23 had 200-plus within the second spherical, as properly.

This week is all about running backs on the CBS Sports Fantasy Football Draft Prep web page, as a complete Fantasy Football Today group might be breaking the place down from each doable angle to ensure you’re able to draft what could also be a very powerful place in Fantasy. And that begins at this time within the publication, as I’m going to try the state of the place getting into 2022 and sort out some of the largest questions dealing with Fantasy gamers this season.

Adam Aizer and I talked about a number of of these big questions in Monday’s episode Fantasy Football Today in 5, so verify that out for Aizer’s takes on the Broncos backfields, Ezekiel Elliott’s reported demise, and the rookie running back class. I’ll have more in-depth ideas on all of these matters this week, and we’ll wrap it up Friday with an RB cheat sheet with all the pieces you must know, together with our newest rankings.

For now, let’s get to know the running back place earlier than we dive deeper. You can begin with the next hyperlinks from the FFT group:

The state of the running back place

So, how does the running back look heading into 2022? Interestingly, whereas it appears like there’s a sense amongst most Fantasy analysts that running back is the deepest place on the high of drafts, solely seven running backs are going within the top-12 in ADP on NFC proper now, matching with 2019 for the bottom quantity since 2017.

That might truly be seen as an announcement on the relative depth of the place, for what it is value; with seemingly so few influence vast receivers and tight ends out there, getting a distinction maker like Travis Kelce, Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, or Ja’Marr Chase would possibly truly be a much bigger precedence, realizing you may look forward to the likes of Aaron Jones, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette, or Nick Chubb, all of whom are between the 18th and twenty fourth gamers taken in NFC drafts on common.

Of course, you would possibly take a look at that listing and ponder whether the place is sort of as deep as we’re making it out to be. Each of these gamers has some fairly vital query marks, from availability (Kamara, Barkley) to position (Jones, Fournette) to upside (Chubb). Of course, in case you do not find yourself with one of these guys as your No. 1 RB, you are then left with the Cam Akers/James Conner/Breece Hall/Travis Etienne crewwho’ve huge query marks of their very own with their third-round ADPs.

Those two teams are a great instance of why I stay a proponent of the Hero-RB technique, which principally simply means taking one of the studs within the first two rounds. What spot within the draft you find yourself with will clearly affect the way you assault any technique, however usually talking, if I can find yourself with one of my top-five running backs – anyone of the highest three tiers right here – I’m content material to fill out the remaining of my positions earlier than I search for my No. 2 and 3 choices.

Mostly as a result of I’m making an attempt to keep away from the RB Dead Zone, one of these Fantasy buzz phrases that I’m a real believer in. The thought is that you simply attain a degree in drafts yearly the place running backs are inclined to change into actually dangerous investments. Historically, that is been across the thirteenth running back taken, across the third spherical and particularly after. From 2016 by way of 2020, running backs drafted within the third spherical received to 300 PPR factors 5% of the time and 200-plus 40% of the time; within the fourth and fifth, zero of 35 received to 300-plus factors and simply 23% even reached 200.

That’s the place you have a tendency to seek out the reaches on the place, clearly. It’s the place the younger guys with unsure roles and unproven observe data and the mediocre veterans with restricted actual upside however presumed “secure” roles find yourself being pushed as much as. If you are searching for examples of the Dead Zone RB archetypes, Etienne, JK Dobbins, Antonio Gibson, Elijah Mitchell, and AJ Dillon all match within the former class, whereas Ezekiel Elliott, Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire match the invoice for the latter.

That’s to not say you should not draft any of these gamers; it is not even to say I will not draft any of these gamers. I even like a number of of them – although I’ll admit to feeling a bit like Tobias Funke going “But it would work for us …” each time I draft Jacobs or Elliott. But it’s to say that, if you are going to make a degree of investing within the RB Dead Zone, simply know that the chances aren’t in your favor.

Suppose you are going to skip the elite running backs and the Dead Zone running backs. In that case, meaning you are going with a Zero-RB construct, which suggests you must be searching for a combination of potential early-season ground performs (I like Rashaad Penny, Chase Edmonds, and Cordarrelle Patterson for that half) and upside picks, like Rachaad White, Kenneth Gainwell, and Tyler Allgeier. The attrition price at running back is so excessive – I’d estimate someplace round 50% of anticipated running backs in Week 1 aren’t in that position by Week 8 most seasons – that you simply’re betting which you can safe excessive weekly upside at each different place whereas positioning your self to chase the inevitable backs who pop up on the waiver wire yearly.

It’s a dangerous technique, however the factor to remember is… nearly all running backs are dangers. They are inherently harm inclined and, as a result of a lot of their worth relies on issues out of their management – teaching decisions, offensive scheme, the competence of their teammates – they in the end find yourself being fairly unpredictable.

If you are new to Fantasy Football, possibly that is the largest factor it’s best to take away from this: No matter how sturdy or weak the running back seems to be, both as a complete or in your group, it’s best to wager on it wanting drastically totally different within the not-so-distant future.

Five big questions about running backs

We’ll be going deeper on every of these questions and numerous others the remaining of the week, and the remaining of the FFT group might be giving their very own solutions sooner or later – ensure you’re subscribed to the podcast in case you aren’t t already for some bizarre motive, as they start place previews this week.

But listed below are my fast ideas on 5 big questions to kick off RB preview week:

Is Zero-RB or Hero-RB nonetheless a viable technique?

I simply went over it a bit, however completely! Zero-RB and Hero-RB (or “modified Zero-RB” or no matter you wish to name it) are ideas based mostly on historic traits which were confirmed yr in and yr out. Heath Cummings might be writing about his Zero-RB targets later within the week, however you may take a look at this piece from final yr the place he goes over the fundamentals of the technique in case you are not acquainted, it principally comes right down to what I wrote about earlier: Running backs are the last word danger.

I feel the Hero-RB technique more precisely displays the fact, as a result of within the first couple of rounds, running backs do not are typically a lot riskier than another place, and they have a tendency to have a bit more upside (particularly on the highest finish). However, the factor you wish to keep in mind is, in case you do find yourself beginning a league with, say, Travis Kelce, Mike Evans, and AJ Brown, you should not really feel obliged to show round a double up on running backs together with your subsequent two picks to make up for lacking out on the excessive finish. You missed out on the excessive finish, you are not going to make up for it in a while.

I’m not a dogmatic adherent to both Zero- or Hero-RB – I doubled up on Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara in a latest draft that I wrote about final week – however I’m a agency believer within the ideas behind them. Avoiding the RB Dead Zone is one of the surest methods you may safe an edge in your competitors. It is not assured to work out, however the odds are in your favor.

Should anybody however Jonathan Taylor be the No. 1 RB?

Yes, Christian McCaffrey! Next query!

Okay, I acknowledge I’m within the minority on this one. Neither Jamey, Dave, nor Heath agrees with me, and solely 21 out of 144 specialists on FantasyProfessionals.com have McCaffrey because the No. 1 RB. There are dozens of us – dozens!

But I feel McCaffrey is the very best upside participant in Fantasy, and whereas his harm historical past is clearly regarding if I’m ranging from the idea that each one running backs have a comparatively excessive likelihood of getting harm, I’m simply not going to place a lot worth into “security.” Is McCaffrey more probably than Taylor to get harm? Yeah, most likely. But it’s under no circumstances a certainty, and McCaffrey is virtually a lock for 24-plus PPR factors when he is wholesome. I do not move that up.

Is Javonte Williams able to be The Guy?

The running joke on FFT final season was that each week was Javonte Williams Week. There was a great month-long stretch the place one analyst or one other predicted every week could be the week the Broncos lastly turned issues over to Williams forward of Melvin Gordon, and they have been by no means actually proper. There was the one recreation the place Gordon was out and Williams was a famous person, racking up 178 yards, six catches, and a landing in Week 13, however Gordon returned the next week, began every of the ultimate 5 video games, and truly had more carries than Williams in that stretch.

Of course, we have got a brand new teaching employees in Denver, with Nathaniel Hackett taking on as head coach after spending three years because the … Packers offensive coordinator. The Packers, who famously contain a number of running backs each week, a lot to Fantasy gamers’ everlasting consternation.

That’s to not say Williams is ticketed for a cut up position once more, and even when he’s, I think it’s going to be more like a 60-40 cut up. But, it’s to say that his RB9/15.4 total ADP is inviting an terrible lot of danger. There’s upside, too, to make certain, sufficient that I’ve taken Williams as my No. 1, however I’m ready to be let down.

Will any of the rookies be a must-start for Fantasy?

History means that at the very least one will: A rookie has completed as a top-15 RB 10 straight years and as a top-10 RB 9 of the previous 10 years. And who am I to go in opposition to historical past?

Well, I’ve received Hall ranked down at RB22, so I suppose I’m going in opposition to historical past. The Jets ranked twenty second in PPR factors by running backs final season, and whereas 64% of their total passes have been thrown by Zach Wilson, simply 52% of the passes thrown to running backs got here from Wilson. We’re hoping the Jets offense will take a step ahead this season, however that’s under no circumstances a assure, and at the very least from what we noticed final season, there’s an opportunity Wilson considerably limits the upside of the running backs on this offense by not searching for them within the passing recreation.

Maybe that modifications with Hall. Or, possibly he is such a dynamic playmaker that it simply does not matter; it does not matter that Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor do not catch passes. Hall is expert sufficient to be an element within the passing recreation, for what it is value, but it surely’s additionally unfair to count on him to be pretty much as good as both Taylor or Henry, or wherever shut. He does not need to be a must-start, however I simply do not love the circumstances he landed in and I feel he’ll be a irritating RB2 who could share touches on an offense that insisted on splitting issues up final season, too.

Which backups have essentially the most upside?

Again, we’ll have a deeper dive on this later within the week from Dave Richard, however this is a fast listing of my favourite running backs with upside to focus on after the a centesimal decide in ADP: Rhamondre Stevenson, Isaiah Spiller, Alexander Mattison (clearly ), Rachaad White, James Robinson, Kenneth Gainwell, Tyrion Davis-Price, Chris Evans, Trey Sermon, Tyler Badie.

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