Over the past few seasons, the second running back position tends to rank below the second-tier wideouts in PPR formats. Yet, despite that premise, fantasy drafters know the best teams in fantasy football need strength and depth at running back. In 2022, the RB2 options have a blend of steady veteran players, possible traps and future stars. Here are the top choices for each category:
Travis Etienne, Jaguars
Once the lights go on for preseason games for the Jaguars, the cat will be out of the bag on the explosive upside of Etienne. His training camp reports have been exceptional, tempting some early drafters to fight for him in the second round. Etienne has three-down upside even with James Robinson having a high-enough floor to steal plenty of touches. I view him as a target and a player that will be a difference maker in 2022.
Breece Hall, Jets
The Jets will undoubtedly rotate two backs this year, creating a more favorable buying point. He has the tools to reach RB1 status as early as this season, but Hall needs Zach Wilson to develop into a capable upper-echelon quarterback in his sophomore season. He brings scoring upside with a solid foundation in pass-catching, and New York has the tools to be a much better team offensively this season.
Nick Chubb, Browns
With stability now expected at quarterback for the Browns for 11 of their 17 games, Chubb should start to draw more attention in drafts. Kareem Hunt will get in his way, and his value in the passing game is well below the top pass-catching backs in the league. On the positive side, scoring for Cleveland should increase and Chubb has the wheels to churn out big plays and deliver plenty of touchdowns.
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
Elliott was on my fade list in the early draft season due to poor play in 2021 and the potential of Tony Pollard. His training camp reports have been positive while receiving support from upper management. I sense Elliott will help fantasy teams over the long haul, but his best days may come over the first half of the season. At the very least, his price point is the most favorable of his career.
James Conner, Cardinals
The drawing card for Conner in 2022 is a shining 18 touchdowns on his stat sheet. Despite his success, he gained only 3.7 yards per rush. Kyler Murray should be more active in the run game while sniping his share of scores. Conner has never played an entire season of his career. The sum of his parts grades well, but building off of last year may not go as well.
Elijah Mitchell, 49ers
After coming out of nowhere in his rookie season, Mitchell looks to have multiple players pulling at his possible opportunity in 2022. Trey Lance is a running quarterback and Deebo Samuel was a beast with the ball in his hands in the run game. The 49ers will rotate in a second back, leading to fewer chances than most would expect. Mitchell doesn’t have the foundation skill set to be a high-volume pass catcher, which is another area of concern.
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Surfing through the RB3 options, playability and ceiling are critical factors when making draft day decisions. An early-down runner with scoring ability can sometimes deliver winning scores, but game flow can lead to many empty weeks. On the other hand, a running back with four catches in a game has a much better chance of filling a void in a fantasy lineup in PPR leagues.
AJ Dillon, Packers
The Packers must rebuild their options at wide receiver and tight end, pointing Green Bay to feature their top two running backs this season. Dillon is a bruising back with an early-down skill set. He projects well in scoring while doing much better in catches in his third season (34/313/2) with Green Bay. His next step in his fantasy growth is improved scoring. Dillon is a player I will target as my RB3 this year with the hopes of him reaching RB1 status for a few games late in the year.
Tony Pollard, Cowboys
The Cowboys will give Pollard plenty of chance to shine this year, but he will still come off the bench. His explosiveness and value in the passing game give him cheat RB2 status despite ranking outside the top 24 backs in the early draft season. If Elliott has an injury, Pollard will become a frontline back.
Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots
There is a lot to like about Stevenson coming into his sophomore season in the NFL. He plays behind an early-down runner (Damien Harris), with his best asset in 2021 coming in scoring. The Patriots will give him double-digit touches, with some coming in the passing game. I expect him to work well as a rotational RB3 this year while bringing a higher ceiling with one injury.
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James Cook, Bills
The Bills have one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league. Cook has the feel of a change-of-pace back with home run ability. Buffalo wants to get him involved in the passing game, helping his potential floor.
Rachaad White, Buccaneers
If Leonard Fournette misses any time, White should be rewarded handsomely in touches. White has a pass-catching background, giving him a chance to seize the RB2 role for the Bucs in August. His resume is relatively short in college, but he checks many boxes with a favorable price point.
Isaiah Spiller, Chargers
Spiller should gradually move up the running back rankings as the draft season moves through August. The Chargers may give him one-third of their running back snaps, with value on all three downs. He ranks as a backend RB3 with a much higher ceiling if Austin Ekeler has any issues this season.
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