Is there a greater sporting event that doesn't consist of a sport actually occurring than the NFL Draft? If there is, I've yet to see it. The 2022 NFL Draft felt like it took eons to get here and it was gone in the blink of an eye. In this article, we're going to look at the 2022 Fantasy Football Rookie RB.
The running back position has lost a bit of its luster over the years as teams are willing to wait and find somewhat equal value in later rounds of the draft. This year showed just that, as the top back wasn't selected until the second round, at pick 36 when the New York Jets selected Breece Hall from Iowa State. It just makes sense to wait on that position. There are so many late-round picks and undrafted free agents who end up being very solid running backs in the NFL.
However, from a fantasy standpoint, an impact running back is still vital to a successful season. There are so few bell cow backs in the NFL now so it is extremely important to grab one early if the opportunity presents itself. With that being said, let's get into the rookie running back fantasy outlook for the upcoming 2022-23 NFL season.
2022 Fantasy Football Rookie RB Analysis
Do Not Draft
In total, 22 running backs were selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. Out of those 22 draftees, I can eliminate 10 right off the bat due to the depth chart.
Potential Mid-Season Pickups
The Las Vegas Raiders selected two running backs. Zamir White with the 122nd pick, and Brittain Brown with the 250th pick. I see Brown having a hard time making the roster. With White, I think he is a lock to make the team, however, he is behind two proven, capable backs in Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake. White is someone I would keep an eye on as a mid-season pickup, however.
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Snoop Conner from Ole Miss and he immediately slots in as RB3 on their roster. Like White, he could be someone that could be worth a mid-season pickup if James Robinson or Travis Etienne Jr. go down with an injury.
The defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams selected Kyren Williams to be their third-string running back. However, not many carries should be expected for him behind Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr.
Hopeful to Make a Roster
Bill Belichick sure loves his running back by committee approach. The New England Patriots, despite having Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, and James White still on the roster, drafted two running backs, Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris. I wouldn't touch either of those two with a 10-foot pole.
There are four more backs that I wouldn't draft, and each one is because they are buried on their team's depth chart. Ty Chandler will be the third-string for the Minnesota Vikings. Tyler Badie will enter as the fourth string back for the Baltimore Ravens. Trestan Ebner is behind David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert for the Chicago Bears. Lastly, Isaih Pacheco is the third-string back for the Kansas City Chiefs and his path to playing time or even making the roster is very narrow.
Rookie Running Back Fantasy Outlook: Late Round Fliers
Early(ish) NFL Draft Selections
Of the eleven remaining rookie running backs, I would take a flier in the late rounds on eight of them. We're going to start with the highest picked of those eight. Kenneth Walker III was the second running back selected as the Seattle Seahawks used a second-round pick on him. As it's currently slotted, he is third on their depth chart behind two solid backs in Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson. However, Carson very rarely stays healthy.
Penny is hardly a shoo-in to hold Walker off as the starter in Seattle. For his career, Penny has 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns. I think if Walker is there in one of the final two rounds, he's worth taking a shot on. The rookie from Michigan State had an incredible 2021-22 season in East Lansing. He ran for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns. I also find it hard to believe that Seattle would use a second-round pick on a player they don't intend on playing.
The San Francisco 49ers selected LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price and he slots behind Elijah Mitchell and Jeff Wilson Jr. Both of those guys are very capable backs, however, Mitchell can't stay healthy and again, I find it hard to believe the 49ers would use a third-round selection on a guy they don't intend to play.
The same can be said for Brian Robinson Jr. with the Washington Commanders. Antonio Gibson is the unquestioned starter and J.D. McKissic is the change of pace and third-down back, however, if Gibson struggles to remain healthy, Robinson Jr. may very well become the hammer.
Isaiah Spiller has the chance to be the backup to Austin Ekeler for the Los Angeles Chargers. I like his odds of beating out Joshua Kelley for that spot. Ekeler has also shown a propensity for picking up minor dings here and there, causing him to miss a few starts. Spiller could be in line for some spot starts if everything falls right for him.
Potential Third-Down Back
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used a third-round pick on Rachaad White. White is essentially the replacement for Ronald Jones Jr., who is off to Kansas City. The former Arizona State Sun Devil is a great pass catcher and might be Tampa's third-down back already. Leonard Fournette is the unquestioned starter but Tom Brady loves using running backs in the check-down game. In his final season in Tempe, White caught 43 passes for 456 yards and ran for 1,000 yards on 182 carries.
The Tennessee Titans still employ the alien impersonating a human, Derrick Henry. They also used a mid-round draft pick on former Michigan Wolverine Hassan Haskins. It's a well-known fact that if Derrick Henry is healthy, he will get a ton of carries. He eclipsed 300 carries in each of the two seasons prior to his injury-plagued 2021.
However, Haskins will enter camp as the backup. He is one injury away from being the guy in an offense that is very run-oriented. He may well be worth a selection in the last round of your draft.
Like the Titans with Henry, the Atlanta Falcons have a very good football player lining up behind their quarterback in Cordarrelle Patterson. Again, like the Titans, and Haskins, Tyler Allgeier should enter camp as the de facto number two back. He is one injury to Patterson away from being the guy in an offense that has very few proven playmakers. Meaning, he'll get touches.
The last injury-dependent flier you might consider is Keontay Ingram with the Arizona Cardinals. Ingram will likely enter camp as the third-string tailback in the dessert behind James Conner and Eno Benjamin. However, his path to playing time is similar to that of Isaiah Spiller with the Chargers. I don't see as clear a path to becoming the number two guy with Ingram as I do with Spiller, however, if Conner goes down, Ingram will likely be the hammer as Benjamin is more of a pass-catcher.
The Cleveland Browns made a selection for the future when they took Jerome Ford in the fifth round. Ford will enter camp as the fourth-string running back, however, I expect him to make the roster. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt make up the two-headed monster in Cleveland and D'Ernest Johnson showed last season he is capable of filling in. Hunt and Johnson may not be long for Cleveland as they are in the last year of their deals. If you're in a dynasty league, Ford might make a great last pick, but I don't expect him to have much of an impact this season.
Mid to Late-Round Worthy
I've got two backs as mid-round worthy in fantasy this season. First, let's look no further than James Cook with the Buffalo Bills. Cook will likely enter the season as the number two back to Devin Singletary, but I do believe he will eventually take over as the starter. Cook will likely start the season as the third-down back in a very pass-oriented offense. In four seasons with the Georgia Bulldogs, Cook caught 67 balls for 730 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Singletary is a solid pass catcher in his own right. In three seasons in the NFL, he has 107 catches for 691 yards. However, Cook is a better receiving back than Singletary and the Bills made Cook the third running back off the board at pick 63. He is going to play and he's going to get touches.
Next up is the 107th selection from the 2022 NFL Draft; Dameon Pierce. Pierce will enter camp with the Houston Texans as the number two back. He will be behind Marlon Mack, who is coming off of a ruptured Achilles in 2020 and then was buried on the Colt's depth chart while Jonathan Taylor ran wild. In six games last season, Mack totaled 28 carries for 101 yards.
Before getting injured, Mack had two very respectable seasons. However, going essentially two seasons without much run can make it tough to perform. I think Pierce is someone you could take without hesitation in or around round 10 in most formats.
Rookie Running Back Fantasy Outlook: Early Round Lock
As I come to the conclusion of the rookie running back fantasy outlook, I have one early round lock; Breece Hall. I think Hall has a chance to be an RB1 in 12-team leagues this season. He was the first running back selected in the 2022 NFL Draft and he will be battling Michael Carter for touches.
Carter had a great season last year for an anemic Jets offense. However, his 4.3 yards per carry is pretty discouraging from a long-term outlook. Carter, is, however, a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield. He had 36 catches last season in 14 games.
I think early in the season you'll see a closer to 50-50 split between Hall and Carter. As the season wears on, I think that split will widen and Hall will start getting the majority of touches out of the backfield. He is a very good pass-catcher in his own right. Hall had 36 catches for 302 yards and 3 touchdowns last season to go along with 1,472 yards and a whopping 20 touchdowns on the ground.
The Jets also added some weapons this season to surround second-year quarterback Zach Wilson with, which in turn will make it easier for Hall as well. Take Hall within the first four rounds, and feel confident with that selection. He has RB1 written all over him.
Check out our 2022 Fantasy Football Round 1 Rookie WR Analysis!