- You need to hit on your early round running backs in fantasy football
- Austin Ekeler and Jonathan Taylor won people fantasy leagues last season
- Check out these two league winning running backs in 2022 fantasy football
The early parts of fantasy football drafts contain some incredibly high end talent, as well as high level opportunity share. But identifying the right players that end up combining the best of those two attributes, will help you cash in your early round pick. These are the league winning running backs each and every fantasy season. We’ve got to find the Austin Ekeler’s or Jonathan Taylor’s of last season.
The best way to find that player to me is looking for receiving upside. Najee Harris, Austin Ekeler and Leonard Fournette made up the top-3 in running back receptions last season, they all far exceeded their ADP and finished top-6 overall at the position. So what I’ll be doing is looking for a player I think can combine 150+ rushing attempts with 60+ receptions, because in the last four seasons those players had excellent finishes.
- 2021: Austin Ekeler (RB2), Najee Harris (RB3), Leonard Fournette (RB6), D’Andre Swift (RB15)
- 2020: Alvin Kamara (RB1)
- 2019: Christian McCaffrey (RB1), Kamara (RB7), Fournette (RB9), Bell (RB16)
- 2018: Saquon Barkley (RB1), Christian McCaffrey (RB2), Alvin Kamara (RB4), Ezekiel Elliott (RB5)
What makes this stat even more impressive is the fact that Fournette in 2019 had only 3 TD’s, Bell in 2019 had just 4 TD’s and Swift in 2021 missed 4 regular season games. So with better TD luck or just playing a few extra games their finishes would have improved even further.
Now that we’ve mapped out how to find these league winning backs, let’s look for the best players that could meet this metric while also having enough value at their current ADP to exceed expectations.
D’Andre Swift (RB) – Detroit Lions
ADP: 2.01 (RB8)
The Lions running back is one of my favorite players this fantasy football season, he is my RB4 in my running back rankings. Last season he finished as the RB15, but he was the RB8 in points per game. He recorded 16.1 fantasy points per game on 11.6 rushing attempts and 4.8 receptions per game.
Swift is an excellent pass catcher who will benefit from a scheme that heavily targets running backs in the passing game. Jared Goff targeted the position at a 23.5% rate last season, which was the second most in the NFL. Fantasy managers shouldn’t expect that to change after Swift was 1st in yards created per touch in 2021.
He found the end zone seven times last season, a respectable number for a guy who played just 13 games. But in order to convert as a top-5 back this season, he will need to find pay dirt a bit more often. What should help him with that is the fact that Detroit has the 5th easiest strength of schedule based on Vegas win totals.
Swift finished 4th in receptions last season, but if he was able to play a full season he would have eclipsed 80 receptions on the year. He’s a league winner in PPR fantasy football leagues in 2022.
Travis Etienne (RB) – Jacksonville Jaguars
ADP: 4.07 (RB20)
The Jaguars are getting a much needed new chapter in Jacksonville with the arrival of Doug Pederson at head coach. With the work he did with Carson Wentz in Philadelphia I am very high on what he can do with Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence was considered a generational talent coming out of Clemson and dealt with way too many off-field distractions last season.
Etienne was one of the most efficient backs in college football and his familiarity with Lawrence can’t be understated. In his final season at Clemson in 2020 he averaged 4 receptions per game from T-Law. But in his first season without Etienne, Lawrence targeted running backs at the 6th lowest rate in the NFL. I think this is indicative of his relationship and rapport with James Robinson not coming to fruition.
Speaking of Robinson, he’s been at training camp and avoided the PUP list after tearing his achilles back in December of last season. This is an injury that typically takes 12-14 months to recover from. Sure it’s a good sign he’s back and ready to play but I can’t see him being anywhere near 100%. I think this gives Etienne a really good chance to claim a high opportunity share in this offense.
With the Jaguars lack of game breaking options in the receiving game and Etienne’s history of success with Lawrence I see him being able to meet that 60 reception threshold we talked about earlier. I’m taking him as much as I can as a backend RB2 as he has the upside to be an RB1 in 2022 fantasy football.