RB3’s with RB1 Upside in 2022 Fantasy Football
It’s a dream scenario, you draft a running back outside the first five rounds of your fantasy football draft and he ends the season as a top-12 player at the position. Leonard Fournette and James Conner are prime examples of how that can happen, as both were being drafted at the RB36 and RB38 respectively. So where are the RB3’s with RB1 upside this season?
Those two running backs made it happen by being the primary scoring option for their team. Conner was 2nd in the NFL in carries inside the 5-yard line while Fournette was 8th. Fournette was also invaluable in PPR formats as he finished 3rd in running back receptions with 69 in 2021.
There are some running backs that I am excited about that are currently considered RB3’s, I have them ahead of their ADP in my running back rankings. Miles Sanders is one I’m especially excited about. But what leaves him off this list is his quarterback, Jalen Hurts will siphon red-zone touchdowns away from him. That limits his upside to being a true top-12 back in 2022.
Running Back ADP
Let’s take a look at the running backs who’s current ADP are outside of the top-24 at the position right now.
We’ll take a look at two players that fit the mold of RB3’s with RB1 upside, projecting a similar path to James Conner and Leonard Fournette from last season. Keep in mind that even though these running backs have high upside, their fantasy finish can be volatile with a potentially low floor. But the best fantasy football draft strategy has to include taking risk, as these are the types of players that can win you your league.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB) – Kansas City Chiefs
Yes, this guy again. If you’ve drafted the former LSU running back before you may not be willing to do it again. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy for one and his efficiency hasn’t been good enough. But yet again he finds himself in a position to be a valuable fantasy asset. Maybe my outlook on him is too rosy but let me show you the path to a top-12 finish.
The RB depth chart features Ronald Jones, Jerrick McKinnon and Edwards-Helaire. So there is an outcome where Jones steals goal-line work and McKinnon takes over the passing downs. But the key here is that neither one of these ancillary options can do both. Clyde can in fact do both and that is what gives him significant upside.
Advanced stats for Clyde Edwards-Helaire & Ronald Jones (2020-2021).
Edwards-Helaire dealt w/ injuries, which impacted the advanced stats. Meanwhile, Jones lost opportunities w/ 16.7 in 2020 versus 7.1 in 2021 due to Leonard Fournette's dominance.
— Corbin (@corbin_young21) July 15, 2022
There is massive opportunity for a Chiefs running back to succeed in this offense under Patrick Mahomes. With Mahomes ability as a passer and capability burn opposing defenses downfield the RB has an advantage. 50% of their rushing attempts came against a light box, that was the third highest rate in the NFL last season.
This narrative isn’t just exciting as a runner, but as a pass catcher too. Opposing defenses have been playing a lot of drop-8 coverages to put a cap on Kansas City’s offense. As a result, the Chiefs were 8th in the NFL in running back targets at 108. Receiving volume plus the opportunity for efficient rushing attempts is so valuable to fantasy football managers.
Edwards-Helaire isn’t quite a must draft running back, but the range of outcomes for him does include a top-12 running back finish. It’s up to you whether you want to take the chance on him in the middle of your draft. The Chiefs have had a number of weapons change in the offense, so the former 1st round pick has the advantage of experience in the offense.
AJ Dillon (RB) – Green Bay Packers
I’ve talked about Dillon already in a recent article, labelling him as one of my bust proof running backs in 2022. I would compare Clyde’s upside to Fournette’s, while Dillon’s upside can easily be traced back to the James Conner’s 2021 season. Dillon is a bowling ball who’s proven that he can barrel through contact at the NFL level.
Despite taking some time to earn a fantasy relevant snap share, Dillon ended the season with more carries than Aaron Jones. He also ended up having more red-zone touches than Jones. With Davante Adams out of the fold, the Packers will be looking to run the ball more inside the 20 yard line. Adams scored 11 times inside the red-zone last season. Leaving a lot to be scooped up by replacements.
Unlike Edwards-Helaire I don’t see a low floor for the Packers third year back. He’s got the profile to score at the goal-line with a healthy 5.1 yards per carry against stacked run fronts last season. We could see Dillon finding the end-zone a ton this season, exploding his fantasy finish to the top-12 at the position.
In PPR formats it’s not enough to just be the lead ball carrier, unless your name is Derrick Henry. Dillon added 34 receptions and 313 receiving yards as well last season. He’s in line to see 230+ touches but in a high scoring offense his explosion comes in those touchdowns, much like James Conner last season.