The Top Five Values at Running Back for 2022

The best way to find fantasy success is to draft well. That’s easier said than done, but with enough research you can find some guys that will present great value to your team later in the draft. Of course, there are just some things you can’t plan for like poor coaching decisions or injuries- but for the most part there are some signs to look for. For running backs, you want to find guys that either get volume, are on a good team, or are just plain talented. In 2021, people threw darts at running backs such as Rhamondre Stevenson, Elijah Mitchell, and Cordarrelle Patterson and found success. There will be more running backs that will be draft day or waiver wire steals in 2022. Without further ado, here’s a list of five values at running back for the 2022 fantasy football season.

5. Tony Pollard

Start-Up ADP: 88

Redraft ADP: 88

2022 Dynasty Ranking: RB26

Best Season Average: Tony Pollard averaged 10.8 PPG as the backup RB in 2021.

I wrote that Ezekiel Elliot is a running back to avoid in 2022, so as a result Tony Pollard is a running back I think should be targeted. Here’s why it’s a good time to look Pollard’s way instead of Elliot’s.

Elliot finished last year as RB7 which was fantastic considering he was unproductive last season. He was No. 31 in fantasy points per opportunity, No. 32 in breakaway runs, No. 45 in breakaway run rate, and No. 39 in true yards per carry. His season was propped up by 12 touchdowns and tons of volume. He had the No. 7 most carries, No. 7 most targets, and the No. 6 most touchdowns among running backs last season. He did this while maintaining a 65.9-percent snap share. Things will be different in 2022 as Tony Pollard is knocking on the door.

In 2022, Tony Pollard’s 33.7-percent snap share needs to go up, and he’s earned it. While he was No. 60 in snap share, he finished as the RB28 in 2021. Pollard was efficient as it gets- finishing No. 2 in yards per touch, No. 3 in breakaway run rate, and No. 2 in expected points added. He plays behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, and is backing up a running back who is showing signs of regression. The Cowboys will have no choice but to give Pollard the ball more sooner rather than later. He is on his contract year, so Pollard has to prove himself. For these reasons, Pollard presents fantasy gamers as one of the better values at running back for the 2022 fantasy football season.

4. James Conner

Start-Up ADP: 71.2

Redraft ADP: 37

2022 Dynasty Ranking: RB30

Best Season Average: James Conner averaged 21.2 PPG in 2018, the 7th highest average.

Not often does a running back finish top five in a season and then move all the way down to the RB2 and RB3 range to start the next season. This is the case for James Conner. Conner finished 2021 as RB5 on the heels of 18 touchdowns and earned himself a three-year, $21 million contract with the Cardinals. The Cardinals were so convinced by Conner’s production they also let Chase Edmonds test free agency. Now his competition is Darrel Williams and sixth round rookie Keaontay Ingram. Williams and Ingram may handle some change of pace and passing work. Both of these guys could become valuable if Conner goes down, but for the most part Conner should have a handle on this backfield.

The injury concern is raised because Conner has never played a full season. He missed four games in 2017, three games in 2018, six games in 2019, three games in 2020, and two games last year. So, plan accordingly, but at his cost- Conner presents plenty of upside. The Cardinals offense should still remain efficient in 2022 and that should still lead to plenty of redzone and goal line work for Conner. Expect some touchdown regression, but even low end RB1 production would present us with one of the better values at running back for 2022. Connor is also one of the better values at running back for dynasty.

3. Melvin Gordon

Start-Up ADP: 140.85

Redraft ADP: 101

2022 Dynasty Ranking: RB47

Best Season Average: Melvin Gordon averaged 22.6 PPG over 12 games in 2018, which was the 5th best average.

In 2021, Melvin Gordon split the Broncos backfield with Javonte Williams. Both RBs had exactly 203 carries, and both took those carries for a little over 900 yards. Williams finished the year as RB16 and Gordon finished as RB17. A new head coach is coming to Denver, but Nathaniel Hackett was the Packers offensive coordinator. Hackett used both A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones in Green Bay. Hackett has also already said he doesn’t plan to deviate from the split that was so successful in 2021. Gordon and Williams also say they like the split and all that matters is winning. Obviously Williams is the better dynasty asset because of Gordon’s age, but Gordon should still be fantasy relevant in 2022.

In terms of value, it doesn’t get much better than Gordon. Williams is valued at RB5 in dynasty and has a redraft ADP of 15. It makes sense that Williams snap share will increase from 49.9-percent, but not enough to explain the vast difference in value between the two backs. The Broncos offense as a whole should get better with Russell Wilson joining the team, meaning there should be plenty of opportunity for Gordon too. There are plenty of examples of teams with two fantasy relevant RBs, in the Broncos case- why not take the one that costs pennies in any format? Gordon figures to be one of the better values at the running back position.

2. Cordarrelle Patterson

Start-Up ADP: 124.07

Redraft ADP: 84

2022 Dynasty Ranking: RB55

Best Season Average: Cordarrelle Patterson averaged 14.7 PPG in 2021 with only a 48.1% snap share, which was the 16th best average.

One of the biggest surprises in 2021 was the breakout campaign of Cordarrelle Patterson. In his ninth year in the NFL, a team finally utilized him in the best way possible. With the No. 34 lowest snap share in the NFL, Patterson finished as RB12. Among running backs, Patterson was top five in targets, receiving yards, fantasy points per opportunity, yards per reception, and production premium. Patterson also faced the highest stacked front carry rate and the most average defenders in the box. Despite that, he still scored 11 times on one of the league’s worst offenses.

In 2022, Patterson has a bit more competition for targets but should own the backfield. At the very least his snap share of 48.15-percent should go up. The other running backs on the roster are Tyler Allgeier, Damien Williams, and Qadree Ollison. Patterson should see plenty of work as a running back and as a receiver. He is 31, but he didn’t receive much usage during his career so it’s not like he’s out of tread. He signed a two-year deal with the Falcons, showing both parties commitment to each other. He should be a consistent volume option in 2022, and it doesn’t get much better at such a low ADP.

1. Kenneth Walker

Start-Up ADP: 37

Redraft ADP: 90

2022 Dynasty Ranking: RB21

Best Season Average: Kenneth Walker is a rookie, but in his senior year he ran for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns.

One backfield that has struggled to find an identity the past few years is the Seahawks backfield. Chris Carson has been solid when healthy, and Rashaad Penny has barely been healthy. Carson was not present at the Seahawks mandatory minicamp and is still battling a neck injury he sustained last year. Pete Carroll has hinted that Carson may retire due to the injury, but it is still unclear. Penny was fantastic when he returned from injury last season with three top five performances in the last five weeks of the season. If he continues that way, then the Seahawks first round pick of Penny may finally work out.

However, the Seahawks are definitely concerned with Penny’s injury history. And while they had quarterback concerns to address in the draft, they instead took Kenneth Walker with the 41st pick. As mentioned with Melvin Gordon, there are plenty of backfields that produce two fantast relevant running backs. If Penny remains healthy, then both Walker and Penny should see plenty of playing time as they will likely be leaned on with Drew Lock or Geno Smith at QB. And if Penny doesn’t stay healthy, Walker is immediately one of the highest volume backs in the league. He has a 98th-percentile 40-yard dash, 96th-percentile speed score, and a 99th percentile college dominator rating. At some point in 2022, Walker will be the Seahawks bell cow. At cost, he presents one of the highest upsides in dynasty with Penny on the last year on his rookie contract.