The TRUTH: Top-10 RBs in 2022 (Fantasy Football)

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The Ballers took a look at the top-10 RBs from the 2022 fantasy season on the January 26th episode of the podcast, looking closer at exactly how much these backs really helped fantasy managers.

 

Before we get to the top-10 list, here’s a look at how the TRUTH Data algorithm considers performances from the season using a half-point PPR scoring format:

  • Great Games are more than 21 points
  • Good Games are more than 12 points
  • Bust Games are fewer than 7 points
  • Missed Games don’t count against consistency score

In the annual 25 RB Statistics from the 2022 Season, Kyle Borgognoni notes that, like fantasy QB scoring, RB scoring took a dip in 2022. The Borg attributes some of that decline to the lowest RB receiving yards in a decade, but rushing attempts for RBs were also down from 2021 as well.

Let’s dive into the top-10 RBs with a dash of the Ballers’ thoughts they brought up during the episode.

1 Austin Ekeler | Chargers

2022 Consistency Rank: 3

1st Half: 4 / 2nd Half: 8

17 games- 204/915/13 rushing – 127 targets for 107/722/5 receiving
ADP: 1.05/RB4
Defenses: -6.93 vs Top-16
Home/Road Split: -0.72 at home

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Great Games Good Games Bust Games
29% 71% 6%

Awesome Excellent lived up to the name yet again in 2022, following up his 2021 finish of RB2 overall with his first fantasy RB crown. The story all off-season was the TD regression that was sure to come Ekeler’s way after 20 total TDs in 2021, but dropping to 18 total TDs isn’t what anybody had in mind. The start of the season saw Ekeler finish outside of the top 24 in two of three weeks, but he never failed to reach RB2 status the rest of the season, finishing inside the top 10 in 10 of 13 games to end the year.

Ekeler was hyper-involved in the Chargers’ offense, especially when they got into the red zone, leading all RBs in touches inside the 20. Over the last two seasons, Ekeler has more red zone TDs than Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb COMBINED. Add on top that Ekeler saw a target on 27.3% of his routes run, and it’s easy to see how he got to the top of the list.

Maybe the only concern going forward for the Ekeler will be how the Chargers choose to address their backup RB situation. Strong draft capital toward a new rookie could be a cause for concern that Ekeler’s workload would lessen in the future.

2 Christian McCaffrey | Panthers/49ers

2022 Consistency Rank: 1

1st Half: 5 / 2nd Half: 2

17 games- 244/1139/8 rushing – 108 targets for 85/741/5 receiving *Traded to 49ers after Week 6
ADP: 1.02/RB2
Defenses: +4.86 vs Top-16
Home/Road Split: -6 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
35% 88% 12%

Believe it or not, Christian McCaffrey hasn’t finished inside the top 30 RBs since the 2019 season, so it’s good to see CMC back in the elite ranks at RB2. McCaffrey was as steady as RBs come and he was even more consistent when he was traded after six weeks to the 49ers. After joining San Francisco, CMC only had two weeks where he scored less than 12 points and ended the season with top-10 RB finishes in five of six games.

Basically, when CMC is on the field, he’s been elite over the last four years. Since 2019, when McCaffrey has played at least 40% of snaps, he’s averaging 22.6 fantasy points per game and is a top-12 RB 80% of the time. If what fantasy managers have seen of CMC in the Bay Area is any indication, returning to the consensus 1.01 come draft season seems likely.

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3 Josh Jacobs | Raiders

2022 Consistency Rank: 7

1st Half: 13 / 2nd Half: 6

17 games- 340/1653/12 rushing – 64 targets for 53/400/0 receiving
ADP: 4.11/RB21
Defenses: -4.76 vs Top-16
Home/Road Split: +0.08 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
24% 65% 18%

The Footie Award Winner for “RB of the Year” comes in as the RB3 on the season. Josh Jacobs was one of the best values at the RB position this season, slipping into the late fourth round as the RB21, mainly due to the mixed signals the Raiders were giving off after not picking up his fifth-year option. Nevertheless, Jacobs helped carry fantasy teams in stretches this season with gigantic performances strung together from Weeks 4-6 and again in Weeks 10-14. From Week 9 on, Jacobs was the RB1, which doesn’t include two RB1 finishes from earlier in the year.

The future for Jacobs isn’t any clearer heading into the 2023 off-season. With no contract currently, Jacobs could be headed for the open market but could be hit with the franchise tag to stay in Las Vegas for another season. If Jacobs sticks with the Raiders, a new starting QB may be the only certainty in the Raiders’ offense for 2023.

4 Derrick Henry | Titans

2022 Consistency Rank: 2

1st Half: 1 / 2nd Half: 5

16 games- 349/1538/13 rushing – 41 targets for 33/398/0
ADP: 1.03/RB3
Defenses: -3.17 vs Top-16
Home/Road Split: -4.59 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
44% 75% 6%

It may not feel like it, but Derrick Henry still found his way into another top-5 RB finish. Despite seemingly endless injuries to the Titans’ offense, Henry remained the centerpiece in Tennessee, producing 39.6% of the team’s yards and TDs in 2022. What’s more, Henry was finally a part of the Titans’ passing attack, leading all RBs in yards per reception and yards per route run.

The future is a bit hazy for Henry in the fantasy landscape. Henry is approaching the RB age cliff at 29 and there’s not a clear picture of what the Titans’ offense will look like for 2023. After moving on from Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing (possibly addition by subtraction) Tennessee has plenty of work to do to improve PFF’s 32nd-ranked offensive line, especially if Henry is going to continue to be a valuable fantasy asset.

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5 Nick Chubb | Browns

2022 Consistency Rank: 6

1st Half: 2 / 2nd Half: 11

17 games- 302/1525/12 rushing – 37 targets for 27/239/1 receiving
ADP: 2.04/RB10
Defenses: -0.1 vs Top-16
Home/Road Split: +5 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
18% 65% 6%

Nick Chubb’s RB5 finish in 2022 feels a bit “meh” after an extremely slow finish down the stretch. Through the first eight weeks of the season, Chubb was the RB1 on the year, only finishing lower than RB14 once. Through the last nine games, Chubb only hit that mark three times.

Obviously, the return of Deshaun Watson had an impact on Chubb’s fantasy output, but he still saw the same number of opportunities with Voldemort under center. Still, it didn’t translate to fantasy production since he averaged nearly seven points per game fewer after Watson’s return, so there should be plenty of concern about Chubb’s actual fantasy value heading into 2023.

6 Saquon Barkley | Giants

2022 Consistency Rank: 5

1st Half: 3 / 2nd Half: 10

16 games- 295/1312/10 rushing – 76 targets for 57/338/0 receiving
ADP: 2.06/RB11
Defenses: +3.86 vs Top-16
Home/Road Split: +2.8 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
19% 75% 19%

It was refreshing to see some vintage Saquon Barkley in 2022 after his RB32 finish in 2021. The Giants leaned heavily on Barkley, getting him the ball 352 times this season, the same number of touches he saw when he finished as the RB2 in 2018. Barkley was extremely steady for fantasy managers, finishing only behind Christian McCaffrey in the percentage of “good” games on the season.

New York’s offense is bound to add more offensive weapons to the passing game, which may affect Barkley’s high-end workload that fantasy managers saw this year. If Daniel Jones doesn’t return as the Giants’ starter, there may be some uncertainty surrounding exactly what New York’s offense will be capable of, but Barkley is sure to continue being a centerpiece going forward.

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7 Tony Pollard | Cowboys

2022 Consistency Rank: 11

1st Half: 24 / 2nd Half: 7

16 games- 193/1007/9 – 55 targets 39/371/3
ADP: 7.12/RB33
Defenses: -9.22 vs Top-16
Home/Road Split: -2.7 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
20% 53% 27%

Talking about a Cowboys RB in the top 10 not named Ezekiel Elliott isn’t what many fantasy managers would have expected to start the year. Tony Pollard emerged as one of the best draft values in fantasy football, well outperforming his RB33 draft price. Pollard showed his ability to make big plays consistently, finishing third in the league in runs over 15 yards. While neither Pollard nor Elliott was ever a true workhorse for Dallas, there were seven weeks this season where both players finished inside the top-24 RBs. 

Obviously, Pollard’s fractured fibula in their playoff loss to San Francisco complicates his pending free agency a bit, but it could increase the likelihood that he returns to Dallas in a much more known situation for fantasy managers.

8 Jamaal Williams | Lions

2022 Consistency Rank: 20

1st Half: 16 / 2nd Half: 23

17 games- 262/1066/17 – 16 targets 12/73/0
ADP: 13.09/RB51
Defenses: -7.58 vs Top-16
Home/Road Split: +1 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
29% 41% 35%

After what looked to be the D’Andre Swift backfield through two weeks, Jamaal Williams turned out a huge fantasy season behind 17 rushing TDs. Only three of Williams’ TDs came from outside the 5-yard line, and just one was scored outside the red zone. In fact, Williams’ 30 rushes inside the 5-yard line this season is the most since the NFL started tracking that stat in 1994. All that said, outside of Williams falling into the end zone a few times on a given week he was very difficult to rely on. There was only one game this season that he finished inside the top-24 RBs when he didn’t score a TD, so there was plenty of volatility to go around.

Moving forward, the question in Detroit’s offense for fantasy purposes revolves around what in the world they’re doing with D’Andre Swift. After returning from injury in Week 8, Swift was used sporadically by the Lions, only seeing double-digit carries twice. Unless something changes in Detroit, putting much trust in either Williams or Swift may be difficult for fantasy managers in 2023.

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9 Aaron Jones | Packers

2022 Consistency Rank: 17

1st Half: 20 / 2nd Half: 15

17 games – 213/1121/2 – 72 targets 59/395/5
ADP: 2.06/RB12
Defenses: -0.72 vs Top-16
Home/Road Split: +3.2 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
18% 47% 29%

Aaron Jones was the beneficiary of the void left by Davante Adams in Green Bay’s offense for 2022. Jones saw a career-high in targets, seeing a ball thrown his way on 22.8% of routes run. The frustration for fantasy managers with Jones came with the lack of consistency from week to week, with a 29% “bust” rate according to the TRUTH Data algorithm. Jones’ lack of rushing TDs based on his production could be a contributing factor. His two rushing TDs are the fewest for a top-10 fantasy RB since Darren Sproles in 2011.

AJ Dillon being thrown into the mix for the Packers’ backfield certainly complicated things for Jones. Dillon came on strong down the stretch for Green Bay. After Week 12, Jones and Dillon both finished inside the top-24 RBs in the same week three different times. Fantasy managers will have to hope that could signal something to build on for 2023.

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10 Dalvin Cook | Vikings

2022 Consistency Rank: 10

1st Half: 6 / 2nd Half: 29

17 games- 264/1173/8 rushing – 56 targets for 39/295/2
ADP: 1.06/RB5
Defenses: +1.65 vs Top-16
Home/Road Split: +5.3 at Home

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
24% 53% 24%

Rounding out the top-10 RBs is Dalvin Cook. Cook had the same percentage of “great” games as the RB3, Josh Jacobs. The difference between the two is that Cook also had a “bust” game nearly a quarter of the time. For the first time in his career, Cook played in every game of the season, but he also wasn’t the centerpiece of the offense like he has been in the past for Minnesota.

It’s possible that Cook could be nearing the end of his top-tier RB shelf life. Since 2019, Cook’s yards per touch have declined every season and in 2022 he finished with the most rush attempts gaining zero or negative yards among RBs in the NFL. With the Vikings’ offense being run through Justin Jefferson going forward, it may be hard to put an appropriate price tag on Cook’s draft value heading into 2023.

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