The Fantasy Footballers’ RB Rankings For 2022 – Part 2
It’s (almost) football time!
Welcome to part two of the Footballers’ RB rankings, which covers Andy, Mike, and Jason’s consensus rankings for RBs #11 through 20.
In case you missed it, check out the first part here (featuring the always awesome Austin Ekeler!) or read the recap by Julia Papworth to see who made their top-10. Please note that all points and rankings are based on 0.5 PPR, which is the “Ballers’ Preferred” scoring format.
Now, let’s see who the guys have chosen as their #11 to 20 RBs for the 2022 season:
11. Ezekiel Elliott | Dallas Cowboys
Andy 8 | Jason 15 | Mike8
2021 stat line: 17 games — 237/1002/10 rushing + 47/287/2 on 65 targets (RB6 Fantasy Finish)
302. 315. 372. 399. 280. 362.
No, that’s not Leonard Fournette‘s weight every offseason. They’re the number of opportunities (rushing attempts + targets) Ezekiel Elliott‘s seen each year he’s been in the league. That’s insane. The only time his seasonal usage dipped under 300 was in 2017 when he was suspended for 6 games for non-medical reasons. This man is indestructible. But Father Time is undefeated, and perhaps this will finally be the year it all comes crashing down.
We got a glimpse of this inevitability when Zeke suffered a PCL injury in October of last year. While he didn’t miss a single game, it was clear that something was amiss:
|Weeks 1-6||Weeks 8-18|
|Touches per Game||19.7||15.1|
|Rush Yards per Game||86.8||43.7|
|Yards per Touch||5.3||4|
|Touches per TD||19.7||27.7|
Our injury expert Matthew Betz is confident in Zeke’s PCL recovery, so we should expect to see a clean bill of health in 2022. And with a plethora of vacated targets from a depleted WR room, there’s a good chance he’ll see an uptick in targets… although he’s only targeted on 15% of his routes (while Tony Pollard is nipping at his heels at 13%). But this is the latest ADP Elliott has ever had, making him a valuable starter for your roster, especially if you can grab him in the 3rd+ round.
12. Leonard Fournette | Tampa Bay Buccanneers
Andy 9 | Jason 10 | Mike 13
2021 stat line: 14 games — 180/811/8 rushing + 84 targets for 69/454/2 (RB7 Fantasy Finish)
Leonard Fournette is a man in constant fluctuation. Besides the tired weight jokes (including mine above), he’s ping-ponged his whole career in fantasy finishes as the RB8, RB40, RB9, RB38, and most recently as the RB7. It’s clear Tom Brady trusts him, meaning he’ll remain a fixture on the offense. He’ll see more targets than normal (averaged 5 receptions per game) with the departures of Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski, not to mention a recovering Chris Godwin, oft-injured Mike Evans, and freshly injured Russell Gage. Unfortunately, he’ll have a tougher time this year with Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen AND his replacement Robert Hainsey out with knee/leg injuries, although there’s hope that Hainsey merely suffered cramps. He’ll also face what is projected to be the second HARDEST strength of schedule for RBs.
13. D’Andre Swift | Detroit Lions
Andy 13 | Jason 8 | Mike 11
2021 stat line: 13 games– 151/617/5 rushing + 78 targets for 62/452/2 (RB19 Fantasy Finish)
Snub alert! D’Andre Swift has the highest ADP on this list, which will inevitably rise even higher thanks to the “Hard Knocks” bump. Sure, he’s never finished a season as an overall RB1, but it’s not for lack of trying. His efficiency last year was off the charts, boasting the 2nd most yards created per touch among all RBs. He was fantasy’s RB7 until he busted his shoulder in Week 12. And sure, as lovable as the Lions are, it’s undeniable that they were and probably will continue to be a bad team.
But like the Rock says, “it doesn’t matter,” because Swift is essentially matchup-proof thanks to his receiving prowess. He ended 2021 with the 4th MOST receptions (62) despite missing four games and being injured in another. Prior to his injury, he was on a 17-game pace for 114 targets and 90 receptions. He’ll also be behind one of the best offensive lines in football. If you’re in any form of a PPR league, do yourself a favor and reach for Swift before the hype gets out of control.
14. Nick Chubb | Cleveland Browns
Andy 14 | Jason 14 | Mike 16
2021 stat line: 14 games – 228/1259/8 rushing + 25 targets for 20/174/1 (RB11 Fantasy Finish)
We already know the story with Nick Chubb: one of the best pure runners in the NFL, but doesn’t get enough targets to warrant a top pick. Chubb finished the 2021 season with the 2nd most rushing yards (1,259) via the 4th most evaded tackles (23) per PFR despite missing three games. But he needed to be efficient because he was barely used in the passing game, being out-targeted by his counterpart Kareem Hunt (25 vs 27 targets) who only played in 8 games. Chubb was also surprisingly boom-bust last year. He had as many weeks in the top-10 (7) as he had as an RB27 or worse (7). There’s also the ongoing Deshaun Watson debacle which could affect his number of scoring opportunities as a Jacoby Brissett-led offense may not make many trips to the red zone.
15. Javonte Williams | Denver Broncos
Andy 18 | Jason 13 | Mike 14
2021 stat line: 17 games — 203/903/4 rushing + 53 targets for 43/316/3 (RB17 Fantasy Finish)
All aboard the Javonte Williams hype train! As a rookie, Williams flashed with over 1,200 all-purpose (AP) yards and 7 TDs from 256 opportunities en route to an impressive RB17 finish. As content manager Kyle Borgognoni discovered, that puts him in a great position for his sophomore year:
Looked at all the 2nd Year RBs in their Age 22 season since 2000.
The ones that saw AT LEAST 240 opportunities (what Javonte Williams had last year) averaged 17.4 fppg (which would’ve been RB4 last year)
Yes, Javonte is in the cross-section of everything awesome for fantasy. pic.twitter.com/lEQdwZi3Ba
— Kyle Borgognoni (@kyle_borg) April 12, 2022
However, he was in a nearly dead-even split with veteran RB (and my 2020 “My Guy”) Melvin Gordon, who re-signed with the team and will certainly remain a roadblock to Williams’ impending breakout. In fact, the coaching staff has already proclaimed that both backs will be on a pitch count. But the upside is clearly there for Williams. He led the league in broken tackles (31) and tied for 9th most yards after contact (460). Should anything happen to Gordon, then there will be nothing left to hold back Williams who will become a bona fide league winner.
16. Saquon Barkley | New York Giants
Andy 15 | Jason 17 | Mike 15
2021 stat line: 13 games — 162/593/2 rushing + 57 targets for 41/263/2 (RB32 Fantasy Finish)
Look, we know Saquon Barkley is talented. He’ll either make a huge splash play or be stuck behind a middling o-line. He’ll definitely get the work as he’s never averaged less than 18 opportunities per game in his entire career. There’s no real competition threatening his usage. He gets a shiny new coach in Brian Daboll who is coming off a red-hot Bills offense (2nd in plays per game), which will be a massive improvement over the Giants’ last regime (24th). Betz has given the green light as the data supports a return to form in production for RBs in year two off of ACL surgery:
Data in the rehab world is conclusive: Athletes perform better in year 2 after ACL injury compared to year 1
Saquon was being drafted at the 1/2 turn last year despite having ACL + meniscus surgery on Oct. 30, 2020. Now he goes Round 2/3 because of a fluke ankle sprain in Week 5 pic.twitter.com/01p8pLlVfV
— Matthew Betz (@TheFantasyPT) July 11, 2022
So why are the Ballers so low on Barkley? Because he’s still on a dysfunctional team with a gross QB in Daniel Jones, he won’t feast on those glorious Eli Manning check-downs to boost his final stat line, and most importantly, he’s been injury-prone ever since his phenomenal rookie season four years ago. It’s in the realm of possibilities that Barkley could reemerge as a fantasy darling. He was on a 17-game pace for 1,343 yards from scrimmage and nearly 13 TDs before his freak ankle injury in Week 5, which would’ve made him the RB5 in total fantasy points (240.6). Are you willing to roll the dice on Saquad?
17. David Montgomery | Chicago Bears
Andy 16| Jason 18 | Mike 21
2021 stat line: 13 games — 225/849/7 rushing + 51 targets for 42/301/0 (RB21 Fantasy Finish)
In fantasy football, volume is king. We’re all familiar with this mantra and keep it in our minds during draft day. Yet, we continue to fade David Montgomery, a bruiser who consistently sees elite usage. After being placed on IR due to a left knee strain early in the 2021 season, he was immediately thrust back into a starring role and finished with 86% of the team’s RB rushing attempts and 74% of the RB targets. He saw the 5th most red zone touches (51) despite missing four games. He had four weeks of 20+ fantasy points, which is one more than homer pick James Conner. He’s also projected to have the 2nd EASIEST strength of schedule. But, like Saquon Barkley, he’s on an even worse team with an incredibly green QB in Justin Fields, who may siphon some Mopportunity in the end zone. He also has Khalil Herbert threatening to take away from the lopsided timeshare.
18. Josh Jacobs | Las Vegas Raiders
Andy 17 | Jason 24 | Mike 17
2021 stat line: 15 games — 217/872/9 rushing + 64 targets for 54/348/0 (RB14 Fantasy Finish)
Fourth-year RB and Andy’s former “My Guy” Josh Jacobs has been nothing if not consistent throughout his career, finishing thus far as the RB18, RB8, and RB14. He only had one bust game last year — same as Joe Mixon and this year’s 1.01, Jonathan Taylor. He also ended the year with the 5th most RB receptions (54) and tied for the 6th most evaded tackles (20) while missing two games. He’s also heavily featured near the goalline, seeing 45 red zone opportunities in 2021 and having the second MOST red zone rushing attempts since 2019 (145).
However, now that Josh McDaniels is in charge, the word on the streets is that he’ll deploy a similar committee approach as the Patriots do. The signs all point to an RBBC after Jacobs’ fifth-year option was declined and Georgia product Zamir White was drafted. Last week’s Hall of Fame game didn’t help Jacobs’ case as he was shockingly involved and overshadowed by White.
19. Breece Hall | New York Jets
Andy 21 | Jason 16 | Mike 23
2021 stat line: N/A (rookie)
Can talent and draft capital outweigh landing spot? That’s the question you’ll need to answer when staring down rookie Breece Hall on your draft board. The Iowa State phenom was the first RB drafted in 2022, placing him in esteemed company. Over the last decade, rookie RBs with ADPs within the top-5 rounds have averaged 18.5 touches per game and 8.8 total TDs, with 64% outperforming their ADP. Day-2 RBs with elite college production profiles and early-declare statuses also enjoy an improved breakout hit rate (75%). Hall checks all these boxes and there’s a clear path for him to finish inside the top-24, which historically has happened for at least two rookie RBs each season.
But — in what’s becoming a common theme — he’ll need to do so on a weak offense that was 31st in offensive plays per game whenever Zach Wilson threw the ball. There’s also Michael Carter lingering in the distance to steal looks. Plus, offensive tackle Mekhi Becton was just ruled out for the season. Jason loves Breece Lightning this year (as do I), but it’s understandably tough betting on the Jets.
20. Antonio Gibson | Washington Commanders
Andy 19 | Jason 19 | Mike 26
2021 stat line: 16 games — 258/1037/7 rushing + 52 targets for 42/294/3 (RB10 Fantasy Finish)
Don’t look now, but Commanders RB and Mike’s former champion Antonio Gibson has now had back-to-back seasons as a fantasy RB1. He’s done so by racking up 1,000+ scrimmage yards and 10+ TDs each year, and tying (with Joe Mixon) for the 2nd most 1st downs among RBs. However, his TD rate has massively regressed, scoring every 15 carries in 2020 to every 37 carries in 2021. He also led all RBs in fumbles (6), which may open the door for newly drafted Brian Robinson to vulture some downs, particularly near the end zone.
The biggest roadblock is third-down back J.D. McKissic as he frequently steals targets from Gibson. When both guys were active, Gibson only averaged 2.7 targets per game (34% RB target share). After McKissic’s season-ending concussion in Week 12, Gibson’s target average nearly doubled to 5 per game (73%). McKissic is back, but such isn’t the case for first-team All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff, who is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Plus, he’ll be handed the ball from yet another new/lackluster QB in Carson Wentz, who — to be fair — didn’t seem to affect last year’s RB1 Jonathan Taylor. Gibson is a tough gamble who I’m personally avoiding. I’d much rather take a chance on AJ Dillon and Elijah Mitchell, or even post-injury lottery tickets Travis Etienne Jr., Cam Akers, and maybe even J.K. Dobbins, all of whom are ranked lower by the Ballers (but that’s just like my opinion, man).