Best Ball Rankings: RBs to Take a Stance On in 2022 (Fantasy Football)

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Last week, I kicked off my “Players to Take a Stance On in Best Ball” series with the QB position. You can find that article here.

This week, we’re turning our attention to the RB position and trying to identify players that we have ranked higher than the consensus according to ADP in our Best Ball Rankings. To get access to these rankings and the Best Ball Primer, be sure to check out the UDK+!

Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

Underdog ADP: RB9
Consensus Best Ball Ranking: RB7

When best ball season opened a couple of months ago, Aaron Jones was going in Round 3 on Underdog, making him one of the best early season values. Since then, drafters have come around to the idea that Jones can pop off for a huge season, as he’s now consistently going in Round 2. Even so, we still feel like he’s undervalued at his current ADP.

Davante Adams vacates over 30% of Green Bay’s touchdowns, receiving yards and targets, creating massive opportunity for one of Green Bay’s playmakers to have a career year. While it may seem logical to try to identify the WR(s) that could fill the Adams void, we know through Kyle’s research that vacated targets actually go to the running back position more often than not. With a pass catching back like Jones who has excelled in the receiving game throughout his career, it makes all the sense in the world that Jones could set career bests in receiving while also being a focal point of the offense in 2022.

Aaron Jones has played 8 games without Adams in his career, and in those games, he averages nearly 23 PPR points per game. A year ago, Jones was consistently going at the 1/2 turn in best ball, and now his opportunity got even better. For a back who saw the 5th most targets at the position last year and who’s averaged 5.6 yards per touch in his career, the path to fantasy football success is clear as day.

Bonus – AJ Dillon: While we’re extremely bullish on Aaron Jones‘ opportunity and love him in the 2nd round of best ball, we’re also in on A.J. Dillon at his current RB25 price tag. Dillon is a unique best ball player given that he not only has stand-alone value, but in the event Aaron Jones misses time, Dillon would be a top-5 fantasy option at the position in every week Jones is out. Historically speaking, the hit rate for backs like Jones and Dillon are extremely favorable. Over the last decade, two RBs on the same team both eclipsed 200+ touches seven different times, and every time both backs finished inside the top-24 at the position. More specifically, the 2nd RB taken in these backfields outperformed their ADP every single time. If playing in best ball tournaments, we’d recommend taking Jones OR Dillon to try to maximize upside, but both of these guys are rock solid selections in 2022.

Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Underdog ADP: RB11
Consensus Best Ball Ranking: RB10

Uncle Lenny aka Playoff Lenny aka Lombardi Lenny was left for dead a few years ago after his career went south in Jacksonville, but he’s found the fountain of youth with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. Fournette missed Weeks 16 and 17 with an injury but prior to that, he was elite for fantasy. It wasn’t until Week 4 that Fournette really took control of the Tampa backfield, but when he did, he was incredible. Len was the RB3 from Week 4-15 and had one of, if not the, best roles of any running back in the league.

In that time frame, Fournette averaged nearly 70% of the snaps, 20.5 total opportunities per game, 99.7 total yards per game, and 0.9 total TD per game. Fournette’s stranglehold on the pass-catching role with Tom Brady is secure as his current competition for touches is 3rd round rookie Rachaad White, declining veteran Giovani Bernard, and depth chart roster clogger Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Playing for one of the league’s most pass-friendly offenses that just lost Rob Gronkowski and with Chris Godwin likely to miss multiple regular-season games as he recovers from ACL surgery, it’s possible Fournette’s receiving role is somehow even better than it was a year ago when he was 3rd in the league at the position in receptions.

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In addition to the passing down role in this Tom Brady-led offense, Fournette’s red zone usage also suggests his ceiling is massive in 2022. A year ago, Fournette’s 54 red zone touches ranked 3rd at the position and his 25 carries from inside the 10-yard line ranked was tied for 6th most. It’s difficult to find backs who have legitimate top-3 fantasy ceiling, who will play on all three downs, and who have the definitive goal-line role on a top-5 projected offense. It doesn’t hurt that PFF ranked the Bucs’ O-line 4th in their pre-season rankings.

Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

Underdog ADP:ย 

  • Williams: RB14
  • Gordon: RB33

Consensus Best Ball Ranking:

  • Williams: RB11
  • Gordon: RB33

Much like the Green Bay Packers backfield, the answer to which Denver Broncos RB you want on your best ball roster is “Yes.” Of course, when trying to maximize upside for our rosters, we wouldn’t recommend drafting both on the same team, but there’s contingent upside forย both backs if their teammate should miss any time. In other words, if Gordon goes down for a few weeks, Javonte Williams is undervalued, and should Williams miss time due to injury, Melvin Gordon would be severely undervalued. Of course, it’s difficult to predict either scenario, but getting heavy exposure to both Denver backs is a great way to hedge while also shooting for extreme upside.

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A year ago, only Jonathan Taylor (66) forced more missed tackles than Javonte Williams (63), yet Williams carried the ball 129 fewer times than JT. We saw Williams have extreme success in the lone game Melvin Gordon missed last season in Week 13. Williams played 78% of the snaps, saw 32 combined opportunities for 136 yards from scrimmage and a score, good for the overall RB1 on the week and 26.8 half PPR points.

With Russell Wilson now under center, a more aggressive offensive coaching staff, and talent all over the depth chart, this offense projects to be top-10 in the NFL, and being attached to an offense that’s going to score a lot of touchdowns is never a bad thing for best ball. Both RBs are likely to see work in 2022, which helps to keep the ADP down for two players who could prove to be elite win rate guys come season’s end should either get a Lion’s share of the touches.

Additionally, there’s a good chance that even if both backs stay healthy, both can be beneficial for fantasy and give us useable weeks in best ball. As mentioned above, over the last decade, two RBs on the same team both eclipsed 200+ touches seven different times, and every time both backs finished inside the top-24 at the position. One of those backfields in that sample was the 2021 Denver Broncos, which featured these two RBs. If the split is a clear 50/50 as it was a season ago, it seems Melvin Gordon is significantly undervalued at RB33 off the board.

Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots

Underdog ADP: RB38
Consensus Best Ball Ranking: RB37

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Investing in a Patriots running back always feels scary given the history of the committee approach. While that can be very frustrating in managed leagues, we should not be afraid to take shots in best ball where we don’t have to predict these spiked weeks – enter Rhamondre Stevenson, who we think has an excellent chance to outperform his current RB38 price tag, and potentially outperform his teammate, Damien Harris.

Brandon Bolden is now in Las Vegas and James White’s 2022 outlook could not be more uncertain after he suffered a serious hip injury last season. In fact, ESPN’s NFL Nation Reporter, Mike Reiss, left James White off his early 53-man roster projection. Why do I bring these two names up? These two backs operated as New England’s primary pass-catching backs last season. Given Damien Harris‘ player archetype as an early-down grinder, Stevenson emerging as the Patriots’ shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially given that rookie Pierre Strong is operating primarily as a kick returner in OTAs and mini-camp.

Last year, Damien Harris scored a ridiculous 15 rushing TD on the back of 202 carries, suggesting regression in the TD department is possible, or even likely. Should Stevenson start to emerge as the Patriots’ lead back as this report suggests, Harris’ TD regression should open up more opportunity for Stevenson to emerge after an impressive rookie season. He’s one of six rookie RBs since 2013 with multiple games of 100+ rushing yards & two TDs, so we’ve already seen that upside. Among backs who saw at least 50 carries, he was PFF’s 13th highest-graded running back and ranked 10th in elusive rating and 8th in yards per route run (1.66) all while operating in a committee. Like other backs mentioned in this article, Stevenson has massive upside potential should Damien Harris go down for any reason this year.

Running behind PFF’s #7 ranked offensive line heading into the 2022 season for one of the league’s most run-heavy schemes, Stevenson has a great chance to be a win-rate guy at his current 10th-round ADP, especially if he emerges as the primary pass-catching option for this team in 2022. We love him as your RB3 or RB4.

Priority High Upside RB Insurance Archetypes to Target After Round 10

These players make for the perfect RB4 or later on your roster in the double-digit rounds – you aren’t relying on their scores weekly but if the starters in front of them on the depth chart go down, you have a player who’s guaranteed to operate as the lead back and help significantly improve win rates.

Alexander Mattison (ADP: RB39) – Has averaged 24.7 total opportunities and 20.4 PPR points per game in 6 career games sans Dalvin.

Isaiah Spiller (ADP: RB44) – We’ve seen Justin Jackson have success as the backup to Austin Ekeler whenever Ekeler has missed time. Spiller wasn’t the top RB prospect in this class, but playing in arguably the league’s most complete offense with Justin Herbert at the helm and good offensive line, it might not matter. If Ekeler is out for any reason, Spiller would project for a near every-down role for the Bolts.

Khalil Herbert (ADP: RB50) – Averaged 22 total opportunities and 97 total yards per game in 4 games without David Montgomery last season.

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