EARLY Must Draft Running Backs in 2022 Fantasy Football
We’re about mid-way through the NFL off-season, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start preparing for the 2022 fantasy football season. In fact, now is the perfect time to start getting an idea of what your draft is going to look like so that you’re fully prepared in late August. In this article we’ll go through my early must draft running backs, I have these players well above consensus in my 2022 running back rankings.
We’ll cover it at length throughout the preseason but this years crop of running backs are tough to figure out. It’s a little difficult to get excited about players considering how much the wide receiver position dominated in 2021. Finding stud running backs in the mid to late rounds of your draft will be crucial this year more than any other.
Miles Sanders (PHI)
Consensus Rank: RB27 | My Rank: RB18
It’s June, so perhaps we see a significant change in Sanders’ ADP come September. But if I’m getting him in the mid 6th round of my drafts, he may be on every single one of my teams. This is an egregious misstep by consensus and anyone drafting fantasy football teams right now. Let’s get into the why.
Let’s start with the running back room, which features Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott and Kennedy Brooks. Many expected the team to invest some draft capital in the position but all that was added was Brooks as a UDFA. Despite plenty of injuries to the running back position in Philadelphia first year back Kenneth Gainwell did little to impress or impose himself on Sanders RB1 role.
Last season, the Eagles were a tale of two teams, struggling in the first 7 weeks and then going on a run in weeks 8-18 to make the playoffs. What happened was a significant change in scheme that led to the highest rushing volume in the league. Jalen Hurts proved to be incapable of performing at a high enough level in pass happy game scripts.
The elephant in the room is how the addition of AJ Brown impacts this team but I don’t see it having a major effect on their rushing volume. Brown is going to help the passing game be more efficient when they do throw the ball, not force them to throw the ball more. We saw that play out for Brown in Tennessee, who were consistently bottom-3 in passing play percentage since he entered the league.
Does Sanders have the upside to be a top-5 fantasy running back? I’m not sure that’s possible with Hurts rushing ability and tendency to steal goal line scores. But their 391 running back rushing attempts last season was still amongst the league’s highest. The competition is scarce and if Sanders stays healthy he’ll have no problem meeting and exceeding my ranking of him.
Cordarrelle Patterson (ATL)
Consensus Rank: RB35 | My Rank: RB27
The unsung hero of the 2021 fantasy football season has re-signed with the Falcons in 2022. The question many people are going to have is, was this just lightning in a bottle or can his fantasy success continue this season? Patterson was the RB18 in 2021 and as you can see is being drafted as the RB35 this coming season with an average draft position of 7.03.
The easiest place to start for Patterson’s case as a must draft running back is the depth chart. It is a barren wasteland. Marcus Mariota is set to be the starting quarterback, Kyle Pitts at tight end, rookie Drake London is already the WR1, followed by Olamide Zaccheaus and Bryan Edwards. At running back you” find Damien Williams and Tyler Allgeier behind him.
in Mariota’s last season as a full-time starter he ranked 23rd in average depth of target at 7.9 yards and 5th in completion percentage at 68.9%. This isn’t a quarterback that’s going to stretch the field for Arthur Smith, there is going to be plenty of short yardage passing work for Patterson to get involved in. Especially so when they’ll be playing behind the worst offensive line in football.
Not much has changed for this offense in 2022, other then the quarterback. I can’t see any reason why Arthur Smith would go away from putting the ball in Patterson’s hands. He was 2nd to Austin Ekeler in receiving yards thanks to 10.5 yards per reception in 2021. I’m not afraid to take him ahead of consensus considering he’s going in the 8th round.
Cam Akers (LAR)
Consensus Rank: RB 16 | My Rank: RB17
Now I may not be blowing past consensus in terms of where I have Akers ranked, but I like his average draft position late in the third round. Considering the talent at the top end of the wide receiver position I’d still be happy if he was my RB1 for the season. The lead running back in Sean McVay’s offense is plenty valuable to fantasy managers.
As many know, the Rams 2020 second round pick was able to return from a torn achilles in less than 6 months. Just in time for Los Angeles’ Super Bowl run. The results weren’t pretty though, Akers averaged 2.4 yards per carry from week 18 until the Super Bowl. The criticism to me is a little unfair, three of those five games were against the league’s elite run defenses. And again, he RETURNED IN 6 MONTHS FROM A TORN ACHILLES.
Cam Akers didn't take a vacation this offseason and has been at the Rams' facility every day at 8 a.m.
You could say he's a little motivated https://t.co/mGqnN5FmWJ
— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) June 15, 2022
It’s clear McVay has no concern in running it back with Akers as Darrell Henderson and Jake Funk will fill out the running back depth chart again. This is going to be a top scoring offense in the NFL again and one that gives it’s running backs valuable fantasy opportunities. Sony Michel was 12th in rushing attempts last season but 4th in red zone rushing attempts. With Henderson adding another 26 attempts on top of Michel’s 46.
It would be naïve to think that Akers efficiency in last years playoffs will leak over into 2022. It’s clear the organization loves him and getting a piece of this offense is going to be very valuable in fantasy football. He is undoubtedly an early must draft running back this season.