2022 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Back Analysis

by Daniel Johnson

The 2022 Fantasy Football Draft Kit here at F6P beats on this morning with some 2022 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Back Analysis. We've got you covered on everything from rankings and sleepers to walkthroughs on how to throw the perfect draft party. You stick with us, we'll ensure you crush it out there.

You may have noticed: running back value has been all about youth in recent years. According to ESPN's Mike Clay, the average age of a top-15 running back over the past five years is 24.1 years old. That's what makes evaluating each year's rookie class of running backs both so much fun, and downright imperative.

There was a time when fading rookie running backs in decent situations was a reliably safe strategy, but we're long past that era. It happens all the time these days, and you can set your watch to it: at least one or two rookie running backs will break out, and either justify or transcend their draft values.

Last year, we saw Najee Harris defy all concerns about workload, and completely validate his lofty draft cost. Javonte Williams and Elijah Williams showed legit promise. Rhamondre Stevenson bowled over everyone in his path when he stayed on the field.

This year, we've got some obvious names in juicy situations. We've also got a lovely smattering of freshman tailbacks who'll be looking to carve out regular-season opportunities after showing out in training camp.

Let's evaluate those most worthy of consideration in redraft leagues headed into the season.

Note: ADP/ECR figures are based on FantasyPros PPR drafts, and are up-to-date as of 7/28.

2022 Fantasy Football Rookie Running Back Analysis

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Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets (ADP: RB22, Overall 44th)

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Hall is the premier rookie halfback headed into the 2022 Fantasy Football season, as evidenced by both his ADP and his pedigree as an all-around workhorse at Iowa State. He is also my highest-ranked rookie at any skill position.

His build has drawn comparisons to that of Jonathan Taylor and Saquon Barkley, and given that the Jets traded up to draft him, they're banking on riding that kind of athleticism to some very real production this year. Perhaps more accurately, though, we can take a look at former Cyclone David Montgomery as a direct athletic comparison. Hall clocks in at 5' 11" and 217 pounds.

Each year at Iowa State, his target share increased, capping at 9.9% with 44 total targets in 2021. He caught 36 of those balls, and translated them into 302 receiving yards.

This is the paramount reason we're all-in on Hall this year as a legit RB2 with RB1 upside: he's got receiving chops that, at the very least, rival current Jets running back Michael Carter's. There is some concern that Carter will eat into his passing down snaps, and that's fair. But don't forget the Jets traded up to get Hall. This should give us enough confidence that he'll overtake Carter's role in most situations.

I like Hall about half a round more than his current ADP. I've got him ranked at RB17, and 36th-overall in PPR leagues. The Jets have an extremely favorable schedule this year, and I think people are undervaluing him just because of the team name on the front of his jersey. People will let him fall into the mid-40s overall. I think you should jump for him.

I value him over guys like Terry McLaurin, Jaylen Waddle, James Conner, and Kyle Pitts, who all fall around his current ADP range.

Travis Etienne, Jr., RB, Jacksonville Jaguars* (RB22, Overall 45th)

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Asterisk necessary, here, as Etienne was technically a rookie last year, but he never played a regular season snap because of a brutal preseason injury that sidelined him for all of 2021.

But, man, do I wish there was a bit more of a post-hype affect to his draft value this year. Get this--prior to his injury, in 2021 drafts, he was being drafted at anywhere between 45th-58th overall, depending on the platform for and format of your league. And, as you can see above, he's being drafted at about the high-end of that range so far this year (45.0 exactly).

All to say, there'll be no dip at which to buy him. So, riddle us this: Coming off a major injury, and with so much having changed in Jacksonville this offseason, what hasn't changed about the way we value Etienne in redraft leagues?

We must not forget he had 48 receptions (thrown to him by his current QB, Trevor Lawrence) in a COVID-shortened senior season at Clemson, 12 more than Breece Hall caught in 2021 for Iowa State. And it's entirely likely that the so many changes Jacksonville made to its coaching staff and culture this offseason will benefit Etienne, even if he ends up in a time-share with James Robinson. This offense has gotten better, and that's good for Etienne.

Also notable: according to PFF, Trevor Lawrence checked down on 11.3% of his pass attempts, good for first in the league by a wide margin (Derek Carr was second, with a 9.5% checkdown rate). This will regulate a bit. Nonetheless, I'm banking that Etienne is going to catch right around 40-45 balls this year.

Of the running backs listed here, I have Etienne ranked highest by a lot. He's my RB14, and 32nd-ranked player on the board overall. You should have zero hesitation in snatching him in the early third round, before the running back dead zone sneaks up on you too quickly.

Ken Walker III, RB, Seattle Seahawks (RB34, Overall 91st)

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Let me start by saying this: I think Ken Walker III is an extremely talented athlete, and loved watching him shred for Sparty. But, when it comes to your fantasy teams this year, I think you'd be better off without him at this price.

Things have changed in the recent days a bit, with Chris Carson retiring from the NFL with a neck injury. But the Seahawks backfield still projects to be, at the very least, two-headed: Rashaad Penny lingers.

We've yet to see a full healthy season from Penny, but he led the league in rushing efficiency in the ten games he played last year, with a 6.3 YPC. While I acknowledge YPC isn't, in a vacuum, a great stat for evaluating running back performance and potential, it still suggests production. The Seahawks know this, and they like Penny. They've already come out saying they're going to give him 20-plus touches per game.

If situation isn't enough a reason to avoid Walker in drafts, let's consider how meager a receiving profile he had as the bell cow at Michigan State. In his most productive year as a receiver, he commanded only a 5.0% target share. This was for a grand total of 19 targets, 13 of which he caught.

Put simply: he will be getting the minority share of touches in the backfield of a bad offense, and likely won't be involved in the passing game much, if at all.

Somehow, he's being valued at an ADP around the following guys I'd rather have on my team: Elijah Moore, Rashod Bateman, Chase Edmonds, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Matthew Stafford. I've got him ranked as my RB42, at 116th-overall.

James Cook, RB, Buffalo Bills (RB39, Overall 105th)

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We're in the mid-round RB wasteland, now, but rookies like Cook might just prove to be an oasis of value.

Reports from Bills camp get better and better each day about James Cook's usage in the passing game. Fingers crossed that his ADP remains steady, as I think there's great value here.

More and more these days, Fantasy Football seems to be about receptions and touchdowns. And that's what you're going to get, even in a two-headed backfield, with Cook. In his final year at Georgia in 2021, he commanded a 7.9% target share, caught 27 of those 32 targets, and converted them into 284 yards and four TDs.

I simply do not think Zack Moss is going to be a major factor in the Buffalo Bills backfield this season. So that means, when I ranked him as my RB34 at 94th-overall, I was only considering Singletary a threat to Cook's potential volume.

His college YPC of 6.6 was good enough for the 86th-percentile. As a recruit, he scored 85 with 4 stars. That's almost the exact same score as his older brother, Dalvin, who scored 87 with 4 stars. The team situation is different, of course, but the explosiveness is much the same, here.

Take Cook, at the very least, before you take Ken Walker III. You'll be buying a potential lightning-strike share in one of the league's best offenses.

Isaiah Spiller, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (RB47, Overall 122nd)

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Let's just go ahead and throw those injury-riddled combine numbers out the window, shall we?

I guarantee some of your leaguemates will refuse to do so, and will fade Spiller rather overzealously. There might be the guy who drafted Austin Ekeler who is especially eager to handcuff himself to this backfield. But everyone else, in this range, will probably pass on Spiller because of his offseason woes.

Don't buy into it. Consider that, across his entire career at A&M, Spiller commanded and average of 9.7% target share, good for the 76th-percentile of all college backs. Consider also that, when Justin Jackson filled in for an injured Austin Ekeler last season, Jackson played over 70% of snaps and finished as the RB1 that week.

He is in contention for the most valuable handcuff in Fantasy Football right now, neck-and-neck with Alexander Mattison. I've got Spiller ranked as my RB39 (Mattison is my RB41), at 102nd-overall. I like him over Walker III.

He's a must-draft if you snagged Ekeler in the first round, but I think he's more than just a handcuff, and there's standalone value here. Take the gamble in the ninth round.

Tyler Allgeier, RB, Atlanta Falcons (RB53, Overall 162nd)

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How fun was this guy to watch at BYU last year? He ran over everybody. With his mammoth, clutch runs, he made BYU betting darlings week-in-and-week-out. He finished the year tied for the lead for most rushing TDs by any running back, with 23 total.

As has been widely reported everywhere the last few days, Steve Wyche of NFL Network has said the Falcons have massive expectations for Allgeier's potential in their offense. I don't think this is just hot air. Cordarrelle Patterson can't play every snap, and he doesn't have Matt Ryan looking for him through the air anymore.

The Falcons signed Mike Davis last year with the hopes that he'd be the bell cow, which spectacularly failed. But I'm willing to bet they're serious about Allgeier taking some snaps on first-and-second downs, especially given that veteran Damien Williams is his only other competition for volume.

He can catch the ball, too: in his final year at BYU, he commanded a 10% target share, good for 28 receptions and 199 yards.

Call me crazy, but I think there's legit RB2 upside here. I ranked Allgeier as my RB40, at 108th-overall. I think this could be a steal. His ADP might continue to rise parallel to the buzz he generates at camp. Take him over Mattison when your turn comes around in the ninth/tenth rounds.

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