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Fantasy football rankings 2022: Top 25 RBs in your draft

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Jonathan Taylor

If you have fantasy football championship aspirations, stocking up on reliable running backs is crucial.

That means you'll want to add running backs early and often in your fantasy football draft. If you miss out on the star running backs in the first few rounds, you'll struggle to keep pace with the owners in your league who drafted studs like Jonathan Taylor, Derrick Henry, or Austin Ekeler. Whether you're in a standard or PPR (points per reception) league, the teams with the best RBs usually come out on top.

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Sure, you can luck out by adding a breakout running back via the waiver wire or by swinging a blockbuster trade. You could even hit the jackpot with a "handcuff" running back late in the draft. But wouldn't you rather be safe than sorry?

If so, here are the top 25 RBs you'll want to monitor early in your 2022 fantasy football draft:

2022 Fantasy Football Top 25 Running Backs

1. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts (Bye Week: 14)

Taylor was a fantasy owner's dream in 2021. The 23-year-old had a whopping 42 carries inside the 10-yard line. To put that into perspective, the next-highest total in the NFL was New England Patriots running back Damien Harris' 30. Taylor ended up earning MVP consideration with a league-leading 1,811 rushing yards (5.5 yards per carry) and 18 touchdowns. He also caught 40 passes for 360 yards and two TDs. With guaranteed volume to go with his elite talent, Taylor should be a no-brainer for the No. 1 overall pick in your draft, regardless of the format.

 

Projected draft round: First

2. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (Bye Week: 13)

You know what you're getting with Christian McCaffrey at this point. You're spending a top-three pick on a potential league-winner who also has a high chance of derailing your season with an injury. We still think he's worth the investment, but be sure to grab Chuba Hubbard later on in your draft as an insurance policy.

Projected draft round: First

3. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers (Bye Week: 8)

If healthy, Ekeler is about as safe as a top-five draft pick as you can get in PPR formats. He racked up 70 receptions out of the backfield for 647 yards and eight TDs. He's no slouch in the running game either as he tallied 911 yards for another 12 TDs. In an offense that's expected to fire on all cylinders again in 2022, Ekeler will be given every opportunity to shine.

Projected draft round: First

4. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (Bye Week: 6)

Henry finished as the RB20 last season despite playing in only eight games due to injury. He led all running backs in PPR points per game (23.4) through those eight weeks. There's obvious injury concern heading into 2022, especially given his enormous workload, but Henry should be considered one of the best running back options on the board until proven otherwise.

Projected draft round: First

5. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings (Bye Week: 7)

Cook owners may have a bitter taste in their mouths heading into this year's draft. The three-time Pro Bowler saw his TD total dip from 17 in 2021 to six in 2022 and missed four games. That should be considered an anomaly. Cook averaged 22 touches per game and 15.2 fantasy points per game when healthy last season. Those numbers are worthy of an early first-round pick.

Projected draft round: First

6. Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers (Bye Week: 9)

We wouldn't be surprised to see Harris as the RB1 when the 2022 season concludes. The second-year running back led the league with 381 touches last season and finished as the RB4 in half-point PPR formats. The quarterback situation in Pittsburgh could hurt Harris' stock, but we'd bet on him being among the safer picks in Round 1.

Projected draft round: First

7. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (Bye Week: 10)

Mixon slipped to the second round in most fantasy drafts last year, but you won't want to risk waiting on him again this time around. The 26-year-old was a workhorse in 2021 with 334 total touches (third in NFL), 20.9 touches per game (sixth), and 16 goal-line carries (third). Behind an improved Bengals offensive line, Mixon is poised to be even better than a season ago when he finished as the RB3 in half-point PPR leagues.

Projected draft round: Late first/early second

8. D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions (Bye Week: 6)

Swift's injury history is the only reason to not take him in Round 1. The former Georgia star is a stellar receiver out of the backfield and led all running backs with 53 catches in 10 games played before his injury last season. Perhaps the third year is the charm as there's no doubt Swift has the talent to carry you to a fantasy championship.

Projected draft round: Late first/early second

9. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns (Bye Week: 9)

Chubb has earned a reputation as one of the best running backs in the league. The 26-year-old has averaged at least five yards per carry in each season since he entered the NFL in 2018. Still, there are a couple of reasons to be wary of selecting Chubb with your first pick. For one, he isn't great as a receiver out of the backfield, which makes him far less valuable in PPR formats. Secondly, Kareem Hunt is set to steal some carries and touchdowns as long as he's healthy. In what could be a dismal offense with Deshaun Watson suspended for the first 11 games, Chubb could disappoint some fantasy owners this season.

 

Projected draft round: Late first/early second

10. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (Bye Week: 14)

Jones should be the heart and soul of the Packers offense with Davante Adams out of the picture. The 27-year-old caught 52 passes out of the backfield last season for 391 yards and six TDs. When Adams has missed time for Green Bay, Jones has averaged 23 PPR points per game. That'll do.

Projected draft round: Late first/early second

11. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (Bye Week: 14)

Kamara has been ol' reliable for fantasy owners since his 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. It should be no different in 2022, even with head coach Sean Payton out of the picture and Jameis Winston under center. The days of overall RB1 production in PPR leagues may be behind him, but Kamara is as safe of an option as any early in your draft.

Projected draft round: Second

12. Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos (Bye Week: 9)

Javonte Williams owners got to see glimpses of his elite fantasy football potential last season, but the presence of Melvin Gordon in the backfield prevented a true breakout campaign. The Broncos signed Gordon to a one-year deal this offseason, meaning it may be more of the same for Williams in 2022. He still managed to finish 13th in touches last season, so he could still turn in RB1-caliber numbers if that workload sees an uptick.

Projected draft round: Second

13. Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bye Week: 11)

Fournette returns to Tampa on a three-year deal, and that should come as no surprise considering his rapport with quarterback Tom Brady. The 27-year-old reeled in 69 catches for 454 yards and two TDs with the Bucs last season while rushing for 812 yards and eight TDs. As the clear-cut starter in a potent offense, Fournette should enjoy another season as an elite fantasy running back.

Projected draft round: Late second/early third

14. David Montgomery, Chicago Bears (Bye Week: 14)

Montgomery once again should expect plenty of volume in a Bears offense that desperately needs receiving help. He was targeted 4.75 times per game with Justin Fields at quarterback last season. As long as his usage rate continues, Montgomery projects as a strong RB2.

Projected draft round: Third

 

15. James Conner, Arizona Cardinals (Bye Week: 13)

Conner's first season in Arizona was a success as the former Steeler totaled 18 touchdowns. He could produce even better numbers in 2022 with Chase Edmonds headed to the Miami Dolphins. It isn't the sexiest pick, but he could be an absolute steal if you can snag him in Round 3.

Projected draft round: Third

16. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (Bye Week: 9)

Barkley just hasn't been able to stay healthy so far in his NFL career. He's a no-brainer Round 1 talent, but his inability to stay on the field has most owners taking him in Round 3 this year. He could prove to be a steal if he stays healthy and if the revamped Giants offensive line lives up to expectations, but both of those are huge ifs.

Projected draft round: Third

17. Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams (Bye Week: 7)

Akers may have scared fantasy owners with his 2.4 yards per carry after returning from an Achilles injury last season. Don't let that keep you from picking him at his Round 4 ADP (average draft position), though. He should be the top running back on Sean McVay's depth chart, and that spot usually is a lucrative one for fantasy football owners. A healthy Akers could prove to be one of the most valuable picks in drafts this season.

Projected draft round: Late third/early fourth

18. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (Bye Week: 9)

If rushing for 1,002 yards and totaling 12 TDs is considered a down season, you're doing something right. It's also fair to say Elliott's days as an elite fantasy running back could be over. Tony Pollard has proven to be the more efficient option for the Cowboys and could eat into Elliott's workload even more in 2022. Those drafting Elliott as their RB2 should be pleased with their pick, but there's certainly a chance it could backfire.

Projected draft round: Late third/early fourth

19. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders (Bye Week: 6)

The Raiders offense should be much-improved in 2022 with Davante Adams in the mix and Josh McDaniels as head coach. That should boost Jacobs' fantasy value as he'll be given more scoring opportunities as the team's go-to red-zone option out of the backfield.

Projected draft round: Fourth

20. Breece Hall, New York Jets (Bye Week: 10)

Hall is the consensus top rookie running back in fantasy drafts this season. The Jets' second-round pick should get a ton of volume in his debut NFL season as a true dual-threat out of the backfield. That alone makes him an intriguing pick and a potential steal in Round 4, though there's reason to be skeptical of his ceiling in the Jets offense.

Projected draft round: Fourth

21. J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens (Bye Week: 10)

Dobbins showed flashes of brilliance in his 2020 rookie season, rushing for 805 yards and nine TDs. Fantasy owners still may be reluctant to draft the Ohio State standout not only due to his ACL tear in 2021, but also because of his lack of effectiveness in the passing game. If you're selecting Dobbins, you're betting on his TD total to outweigh his lack of volume and involvement as a receiver.

Projected draft round: Late fourth/early fifth

22. Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers (Bye Week: 9)

Mitchell emerged as the 49ers' primary back last season and took full advantage of the opportunity, totaling 963 rushing yards and six TDs. That resulted in him finishing as the RB14 in fantasy points per game, though fantasy owners should be skeptical of a repeat season in 2022. San Francisco is known to mix things up at the running back position, ultimately capping Mitchell's ceiling.

 

Projected draft round: Late fourth/early fifth

23. Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars (Bye Week: 11)

Etienne was a star at Clemson and expected to be an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate before missing the entire 2021 season with a Lisfranc injury. Barring any surprises, he should be the lead back in the Jaguars offense this time around and pick up where he left off with Trevor Lawrence as his quarterback.

Projected draft round: Late fourth/early fifth

24. Damien Harris, New England Patriots (Bye Week: 10)

The Patriots selected two running backs on Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft and Rhamondre Stevenson figures to be a major part of the offense this season. Those are solid arguments against selecting Harris in fantasy drafts, especially in PPR formats, but Harris is no slouch. The Alabama product had the second-most carries inside the 10-yard line last season and finished with 15 touchdowns. If he's used the same way in 2022, there's no reason to believe he can't be a rock-solid RB2/flex in all fantasy leagues.

Projected draft round: Fifth

25. Antonio Gibson, Washington Commanders (Bye Week:14)

Gibson topped 1,000 rushing yards for Washington last season and totaled 10 touchdowns. The issue is his lack of ball security. He tied Ezekiel Elliott for the most fumbles (six) among running backs. His value in PPR leagues also isn't as high with J.D. McKissic returning to the Commanders' backfield -- especially with rookie Brian Robinson Jr. emerging as a potential contributor. We could see a down year for Gibson in 2022.

Projected draft round: Late fifth/early sixth

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