There has been a lot of debate surrounding the RB1 in dynasty fantasy football. Some fantasy gamers advocate for Ken Walker as their RB1.
Others, at one time or another, have argued for Breece Hall to be mentioned in that conversation. In this article, we examine those two running backs.
The Tale of the Tape
Breece Hall and Ken Walker are both entering their second season and are consensus top-five dynasty fantasy football running backs. Each has a strong collegiate profile and were second-round selections in the 2022 NFL Draft. The comparisons don’t stop there either as they started off the 2022 season playing behind incumbent starters before eventually taking over.
In one corner there is Hall who is one of the best running back prospects this past decade, however, he is coming off an ACL tear that ended his 2022 season. While in the other corner, there is Ken Walker, who doesn’t have near the pedigree, but is a prolific rusher in his own right and is in a great situation in Seattle.
Hall was an outstanding prospect coming into the NFL Draft with over 1700 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns in his final year at Iowa State. He is one of the more complete backs in recent memory as well with an elite athletic profile and a strong pass-catching resume. This led to him being selected with the No. 36 overall pick by the New York Jets in last year’s NFL Draft.
Hall was productive from the start at Iowa State totaling 4,675 scrimmage yards and 56 touchdowns in three seasons. He had outstanding vision and contact balance, with a strong pass-catching profile. Combined with his size, Hall was going to be able to handle high volume and have three down upside.
His elite status was eventually cemented at the NFL Combine where he was electric. His 96th-percentile 40-yard dash, 98th-percentile Speed Score, and 94th-percentile Burst Score made him one of the more athletic running backs to enter the draft in recent memory.
After being selected by the New York Jets, Hall immediately entered a questionable offensive situation with Zach Wilson under center. Michael Carter also had a successful rookie campaign which would provide him with the immediate competition.
While Hall played sparingly the first two games of the season, he began to take over starting in Week 3. He ultimately lived up to the billing finishing as a top 15 fantasy running back on five straight occasions before tearing his ACL in Week 7.
The Six Game Sample Size
Although fantasy managers only saw Hall in six games in 2022, his talent was evident. He scored 16.8 fantasy points per game and was No. 1 in yards per touch among running backs. This production was driven by his strong role in the passing game (13.1-percent target share) where he immediately made an impact.
Additionally, while Hall only received double-digit rushing attempts in three games, his efficiency metrics were off the charts. He was No.3 in True Yards Per Carry, No.1 in Juke Rate, and No.5 in Production Premium. Hall was impossible to tackle and continually made plays that few other running backs could make.
Breece Hall’s Injury Status
Matthew Betz from The Fantasy Footballers wrote an outstanding article last off-season analyzing how ACL tears affect running backs. The conclusion was that running backs are much less efficient following an ACL tear when compared to their previous season. Betz also found that running backs improve dramatically two years removed from ACL surgery as well.
Hall is a fantastic asset still in dynasty football leagues, however, he will start the 2023 season less than 100-percent. We saw what can happen in 2022 when the Ravens attempted to rush J.K. Dobbins back from his injury. He ultimately suffered a setback and missed further time as a result.
However, he did finish as a top-30 fantasy running back in three of his final four games. Hall could still be a top-10 fantasy running back in 2022, but that production won’t come till the second half of the season.
Breece Hall is my No. 2 ranked running back in dynasty fantasy football leagues and still has a bright future. Nonetheless, he won’t be a target of mine in redraft leagues at his top-10 running back price tag. While he has RB1 overall potential, it’s too risky for a player who won’t return to full strength till October or November.
Ken Walker didn’t come in with near the college accolades as Hall, but he had a prolific final season at Michigan State. After two productive years at Wake Forest, he broke out with the Spartans accumulating 1,636 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. His junior year proved enough and he was selected shortly after Hall with the No. 41 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Walker began his collegiate career at Wake Forest where he played sparingly as a freshman before taking over the following season. His 2020 campaign was shortened by COVID-19, nonetheless, he rushed for 579 yards and 13 touchdowns across seven games. The following off-season, he transferred to Michigan State where he became a Heisman trophy candidate in 2022.
Walker was spectacular on his way to over 1700 scrimmage yards and 19 touchdowns. He was one of the best pure rushers in the nation with a compact frame that gave him the ability to fight through would-be tacklers. Walker is outstanding in tight areas as well, giving him the ability to change direction quickly and turn nothing into a home run.
The following April the Seattle Seahawks selected him with the No. 41 overall pick. Immediately thrusting him into a backfield with the very talented, but oft-injured, Rashaad Penny. Walker played second fiddle to Penny to start the season before the latter ultimately suffered a season-ending injury in Week 5. It was wheels up for Walker from that point and he was the RB10 in fantasy points per game the rest of the year.
Ken Walker’s Breakout Rookie Campaign
Walker’s fantasy football success in 2022 came in different ways than Breece Hall‘s. Following Penny’s injury in Week 5, he received over 18 rush attempts seven times and had five 100-yard rushing performances. While Hall was very efficient, Walker’s production came through volume and breaking off big gains.
In fact, Walker was No. 8 in Breakaway Run Rate, however, the vast majority of his yardage came in those big plays. He was only No. 38 in True Yards Per Carry which factors out runs over 10 yards (Breakaway runs). When Walker ran the ball the outcome was boom and bust for the most part, and he didn’t have the receiving game to elevate his efficiency (No. 29 in yards per touch).
Ken Walker’s Pass-Catching Ability
Walker’s pass-catching ability has been questioned by fantasy managers dating back to before the NFL Draft. While it is true that he didn’t have much of a receiving role in college (19 receptions in 3 seasons), it’s not impossible for him to develop these skills. He wasn’t a poor pass catcher or inept route runner, he simply didn’t get any opportunities.
Fast forward to his rookie season and Walker displayed solid growth as a receiver. In his final 10 games, he had over a 40-percent route participation on all but two occasions. While he only had a 7.2-percent target share, Walker did have a game with eight targets and six receptions. It will never be a huge part of his game, however, the Seattle Seahawks clearly believe he can continue to develop.
Kenneth Walker is one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL and is in a great place for his fantasy value with Seattle. There were too many times where he would only have one or two big runs in a game. Nonetheless, Walker has all the physical ability to excel on a more consistent basis if he begins to read his blocks better.
Walker’s route participation also showed he isn’t a liability in the passing game. His lack of receiving work will keep him out of the top five running backs in 2023, but he has RB1 overall upside if he were to make modest improvements. Walker is my No. 3-ranked dynasty fantasy football running back and a top-18 pick in redraft leagues.
The Final Round
It’s been an even fight so far and each of these players ranks among my top three dynasty fantasy football running backs. While Walker is one of the best pure rushers in the NFL, Hall’s added ability in the passing game and superior vision were the deciding factors.
The reason this was close was because of the risk surrounding Hall’s ACL tear. Running backs have a mixed history returning from these injuries, but younger players have a much better chance of success. Walker is my preference in redraft formats though because Hall won’t start the season at 100-percent.
However, Hall was a phenomenal prospect and the metrics showed that before his injury. In dynasty formats, Hall is behind only Bijan Robinson in my running back rankings and will be right back in the RB1 conversation in 2024.