2022 Fantasy Football Strategy for Drafting Running Backs

by Daniel Johnson
2022 Fantasy Football Strategy for Drafting Running Backs

The draft tactics series of our offseason Draft Kit here at F6P churns on today with the 2022 Fantasy Football Strategy for Drafting Running Backs walkthrough. And I couldn't be more stoked.

Boy, what a season it's slated to be for tailbacks and their fantasy production. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about this position's potential top-to-bottom on the draft board. It's a veritable treasure trove.

So begone, you Zero-RB warriors; you and your Anchor-RB counterparts will find no solace here. The pendulum has swung back. My 2022 approach to redraft leagues will smack of the Robust-RB strategies from yesteryear, though it won't be exactly so.

You're going to notice my running back ranks don't cleave too closely to the more common rankings you'll see out and about. I've got guys I want this year, and plenty of highly-ranked guys I'm fading.

Let's bloat our rosters with thick thighs and wheel routes out of the backfield together, shall we?

2022 Fantasy Football Strategy for Drafting Running Backs

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Rounds 1-3

Usually, it's the middle rounds of drafts and in-season waivers where I believe Fantasy Football championships are won and lost. This year, not so much.

I think you can win your league if you target pass-catching running backs in the first three rounds. As I've said many times in previous articles: Fantasy Football, anymore, is about receptions and touchdowns. Who better, then, to build your team around than guys who can fall into the endzone with good hands?

Round 1

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In its purest form, a Robust-RB strategy would see you draft a running back confidently in each of these three rounds. That way, your flex position would be occupied by a, likely, top-20 RB.

While I can't say I'll be doing that in every draft, I think these rounds are a powder keg of RB-scoring power ready to blow. I'm big fan of drafting players with their ceilings in mind, not their floors. Every pick is a risk, anyways, so you might as well structure your team around the aggregate of its highest potential.

The way I see it, there are a whopping eight running backs I would take in the first round of a twelve-team league, listed below in the order I've ranked them:

It's not hard to string a line through these studs and establish what they have in common: catching passes out of the backfield. Henry and Mixon are a bit more of a mixed bag in that regard, but both of their passing workloads have increased over the last few years.

I love Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, and Ja'Marr Chase—don't get me wrong. But I don't know if, this year, I'm ever going to let myself leave the first round without one of these guys as my RB1, regardless of draft position. I'm not sure you should, either.

Round 2

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I think Henry and Mixon are on the cusp of the first and second rounds for me, but I'd be willing to bet you'll see Henry fly way off the board before where I've ranked him. Still, I think there's a shot you could end up with Mixon if you've got an early-second round pick. Take him if he's there.

Here are the other RBs I have ranked within the top-24 overall players, listed below in the order I've ranked them:

You'll immediately notice that I'm all-in on Barkley returning to elite form this year. I think you should have absolutely no problem jumping for him right around the fifteenth-overall pick. The way most drafts are going, I think you'll easily get him there, too.

If I'm honest, when it comes to both Jones and Williams, I'm pinching my nose if I'm drafting either one this high. Try to let your other leaguemates overvalue them. Aaron Jones is the RBA1 on a notoriously slow-paced offense, with RBA2 A.J. Dillon lurking right behind him. And, frankly, I want nothing to do with the Broncos at all this year.

Having said that, the only wide receivers I'm excited about drafting in this round, really, are Tee Higgins and Deebo Samuel. Maybe Mike Evans. Travis Kelce will leave the board in the second round, too. Nick Chubb will probably go around here, too, but I'm fading him.

If you don't end up with Barkley, Kamara, or Fournette, I'm okay with drafting Chubb or a pass-catcher. But I'd be gobsmacked if you can't walk away anywhere in round 2 with Barkley sitting pretty in your RB2 slot.

Round 3

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Welcome, value shoppers. Round 3 is a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of galactic upside. It's also, in my opinion, possibly the most vital round for a successful running back draft in 2022, no matter your overall approach. There are some guys here who could easily end up in the top-15 at the position.

But beware. This is probably around the time your other leaguemates who've been investing in pass-catchers and jumping for Josh Allen too early are going to pressure themselves into jumping for running backs. That's why I've got a guy on my draft board who, I think, others will happily pass on this early.

I've got five backs I'm comfortably, excitedly targeting in this round. They're listed below in the order I've ranked them:

You're going to see plenty of people targeting David Montgomery in this round. Why? The Bears are a joke. He's not a fun player to have on your team, simply because his offense will make him so frustrating.

I'm not alone in this, but I sincerely think Etienne is your key to the city this year. I'm all in on the hype. And, just as I was confident Barkley will be around for you in the second round, so too do I feel strongly that Etienne should be available for you to snatch up anywhere in the third.

All of these guys, though, could easily post high-RB2 numbers from your flex position. Except for Chubb, they all catch passes, too. That's why I might not leave the third round of any draft without one of these guys, especially Etienne.

If I've managed to navigate the first three rounds the way I want, I'm leaving with Ekeler, Barkley, and Etienne.

Rounds 4-8

This about gets us through the top-100 picks. If you've followed my first-three-rounds-RB-rounds (working title) strategy, this is where you'll want to evaluate the quarterbacks on the board to see if one of the top-five remain.

If not, go all-in on pass catchers. Snatch up Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks, Chris Godwin, Jaylen Waddle, Hunter Renfrow, and Juju Smith-Schuster with confidence.

If you didn't leave the first three rounds with three running backs, though, you'll need some starting-caliber talent at the position. Here are some guys I'm targeting in rounds four-through-eight.

Rounds 4-6

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Listed below in the order I've ranked them (note: some of these guys are not ranked next to each other, and have several RBs ranked between them; this is just how they are ranked relative to each other):

Common denominator here? Volume. Whether you need to draft a running back to fill your RB2 or flex position during these rounds, the security blanket of a bankable workload should be your north star, here.

I'm really not sure what to make of the whole Raiders/Jacobs thing, so I'm choosing to ignore it for now. Note that Penny is, as of this writing, dealing with a groin issue. If that proves to linger, make sure to fade him here. Otherwise, I love him at this price.

I know I'm high on Hall, and I know the Duane Brown band-aid might not heal their offensive line. I'm just willing to take the risk. I believe the Jets have no reason not to run him into the ground.

Rounds 7-8

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It's getting a bit barren out there, isn't it? A touch wasteland-y, no?

Hopefully, by now, you've got your starting running backs squared away. You damn sure better. These are the rounds where I'm licking my lips to snatch up some rookies and some second-year studs to bejewel my bench.

Listed below in the order I've ranked them, relative to each other:

All four of these guys could easily wind up posting flex-value numbers, despite most of their roles/situations being a bit murky as of this writing.

I'm not going to stop banging the Allgeier drum. He could be a league-winner. If you end up with him on your bench, I think you've caught lightning in a bottle.

Rounds 9 and on

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Now we're talking about handcuffs and dart-throws. We're approaching sleeper territory.

Here are the guys that you should be thrilled about drafting for your bench during the second half of your drafts. Listed below in the order I've ranked them, relative to each other:

Spiller and Mattison are the two most-valuable handcuffs in the league; it's like you could see them fly off the board to the Ekeler/Cook owners a round or two before this. But I like Spiller to carve out his own role this year, even when Ekeler is healthy.

Hines and McKissic will always be catching passes. They should be universally owned. Don't overlook the flex value they pose.

White and Pacheco remain in a deep slumber when it comes to their sleeper value. But they're great grabs in the 12th-round and beyond.

2022 Fantasy Football Strategy for Drafting Running Backs: Bottom Line

If I had my druthers, you'll gorge yourself on those glorious undervalued running backs in the second and third rounds after taking a stud in the first. There's just too much talent there. And we know, every year, breakout wide receivers surface in from the middle rounds, and from the waiver wire.

Also, let's get in on these rookies together, yeah? The youth movement is real when it comes to elite-level RB production. I want to get in on the ground floor this year.

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