One of humanity’s great underappreciated evolutions is the hip socket. Humanity evolving into a bidepal species allowed them to run and carry things at the same time, and running and carrying things begat additional intelligence, and made for humanity’s rapid ascent to the top of the food chain. Some think that running and carrying things doesn’t matter in fantasy football. For some of you, this is an exercise in knowing who to avoid. Alas, ZeroRB’s promulgation has made it uncool to try to get a top-twelve running back onto your roster. But, I still think that it’s time we give some respect to the RB1s going into 2022 fantasy football leagues!
RB1: Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Jonathan Taylor is the prohibitive RB1 if injuries make you itchy, and two years of injuries to Christian McCaffrey and a foot break to Derrick Henry both do, in fact, make me itchy. People forget that Taylor started the year on a not-great run, getting about 80 yards per game before going thermonuclear. Jonathan Taylor is the best bet to top 2,000 total yards, 20 total touchdowns, and if the Colts continue to sideline Nyheim Hines, he could kick in 50 catches, as well. The sky’s truly the limit as Taylor enters his age 23 season.
RB2: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
CMC has absolutely dominated in his last two seasons, when healthy, notching 67 rushing yards and 49 receiving yards per game, and scoring four touchdowns every five contests. The only problem? He’s played ten games in the last two years. McCaffrey, who had workload concerns before he started to shake apart. I have faith that he can play more than five games this year, but the actual question of how many games is too much for me to take him with the first pick off of the board in my fantasy football leagues.
RB3: Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
Derrick Henry’s foot injury was inevitable, as he was on pace for over 500 touches over the course of a seventeen-game season. You can say that injury-prone isn’t a thing, but football is an unnatural act, and every repetition of an unnatural act makes the odds you get hurt higher. Putting that aside, Henry absolutely dominated the NFL over the last three seasons, averaging 1,658 total yards and 15 touchdowns. If his foot injury can prove to be a one-off problem, then getting Derrick Henry as the RB3 could be the steal of the draft.
RB4: Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Austin Ekeler answered the haters when they said “that man will never get goal line carries because he’s never had them before.” Well, Ekeler finished the year fourth in running back carries inside the five. So, shockingly, he just got goal line carries and suddenly, he was good! Crazy how that works! Ekeler is tied to a potent and ascending offense, shook the injury bug label, and has nobody coming for his job (sorry Justin Jackson).
RB5: Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a ton of question marks surrounding their offense heading into 2022. Their offensive line is a mess, JuJu Smith-Schuster is a free agent, and Ben Roethlisberger retired. There’s one constant to the Steelers, however: a bell-cow running back. Najee Harris led the league in touches last year and is likely to do that again this year. Harris is old for a sophomore (he turns 24 in March) but that’s a dynasty problem, not a redraft problem.
RB6: Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Traditionally, Dalvin Cook dominates except when he’s hurt. Last year wasn’t much of an exception. Cook missed four games and averaged over 100 yards per game with six touchdowns in 13 games. Cook lost about 30 yards per game from his 137.0 yards per game from 2020, but that was predictable. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Vikings, as they will have a new head coach, a new general manager, and they might just have a new quarterback in 2022. I’m still slotting Dalvin in as a first-round pick, but not one I feel particularly good about.
RB7: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton’s retirement and the looming Saints’ cap hell buried Kamara for me. While Kamara is still a very good football player, his situation has rapidly devolved around him. He’s facing no Sean Payton, but with Taysom Hill in 2022. He also might not have a second-best player on this offense worth his salt. I still believe in Kamara’s talent, but his situation is looking increasingly dire by the day.
RB8: Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
I yield. Joe Mixon’s volume and offense more than makeup for the fact that he isn’t one of the most efficient running backs around. But, he is a lock for about 20 touches per game in what will be a high-powered Cincinnati Bengals offense. Mixon also seems to have shaken his injury bug, missing just one game in 2021 while being one of eight running backs to average more than 20 touches per game.
RB9: Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
There’s a universe where for whatever reason, Kareem Hunt gets sidelined and Nick Chubb rips off 20 touchdowns and becomes a top-three running back. Unfortunately, we live in this plane of existence where Hunt is likely to be a major factor in this running game. Still, Chubb ranked second in rushing yards last season, and third in juke rate. The man is just a monster. His one bugaboo? Five goal line carries.
RB10: D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
D’Andre Swift is really good at football, but people invent reasons to not like him. Myself, I had him at 11, behind Antonio Gibson. But that was before I remember that Gibson and Swift have both been in the league for two years, and Swift has averaged more points per game in both seasons. The Lions should be better next year, which will only benefit Swift.
Antonio Gibson, Washington; Javonte Williams, Denver; Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco; Aaron Jones, Green Bay