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2022 Fantasy Football RB Sleepers, Handcuffs: Tony Pollard, Kareem Hunt, AJ Dillon, More Upside Backups

2022 Fantasy Football RB Sleepers, Handcuffs: Tony Pollard, Kareem Hunt, AJ Dillon, More Upside Backups article feature image
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Getty Images. Tony Pollard (left), Kareem Hunt (center) and A.J. Dillon.

Drafting potential sleepers isn’t as simple as targeting backups of the highest-profile fantasy running backs.

To find the best values, I created my RB Upside Ratings, which are designed to identify RBs whose upside isn’t being fully factored into their average draft position (ADP).

Before we dive in, though, there are a couple clarifications we need to make:

These ratings — i.e. the letter grades assigned to each team’s primary backup in the tables below — are based on the following:

  1. Each backup’s projected season-long ranking in their present role.
  2. Their upside (aka their projected ranking) if their team’s starter were to suffer an injury, otherwise miss time, or be leapfrogged by said backup.
  3. The backup’s ADP relative to their upside.

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The following ratings, projections and analysis of every running back featured (backup or otherwise) are based on information we have as of early August — and is not only subject to change between now and Week 1, but guaranteed to evolve through training camp and preseason games. So, while I won’t be updating the analysis of each backfield, I will be updating the second table below in real-time over the next two months so you can consult it for the latest ratings.

Now let’s quickly run through the full ratings, then take a closer look at the situations in all 32 backfields.

Note: All blurbs below are from my initial rankings, which came out on Aug. 5.


Undervalued Upside Ratings Methodology

As I mentioned above, these ratings are based on discrepancies that I’ve identified between a backup’s ceiling and their current ADP, but here are the exact factors I weighed when projecting their ceilings:

  • The backup’s current role. (You can read my full definitions of each role here.)
  • The role of the projected Week 1 starter.
  • The health of the projected Week 1 starter.
  • My projected chance the projected Week 1 starter maintains his RB1 duties when healthy.
  • My projected chance the backup leapfrogs the Week 1 starter when both RBs are healthy.

2022 RB Handcuff Upside Ratings

Blurbs as of Aug. 5.

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DAL | DEN | DET | GBHOU | INDJAXKC
LV | LACLARMIAMINNENONYG
NYJPHIPITSEA | SF | TB | TEN | WAS

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Arizona Cardinals

Chase Edmonds signed with Miami, which means James Conner will be more of a workhorse back in 2022. In the five games Edmonds missed last season, Conner averaged 21 fantasy points in 0.5-PPR, which was higher than RB1 overall Jonathan Taylor’s 20.8 points per game.

One of the reasons Conner saw such massive workloads without Edmonds in the lineup was due to the Cardinals’ running back depth being extremely thin. To replace Edmonds, the Cardinals brought in Darrell Williams, who could inherit a similar role.

When Conner is healthy, Williams likely won’t see enough touches to carry fantasy value. However, if Conner was to miss any time, Williams could provide RB3/Flex value. Considering Conner has missed at least two games in each of his first five NFL seasons, it seems likely that Williams will have a spot start at some point this season.

The Cardinals also drafted Keaontay Ingram (USC) in the sixth round, and I think he has enough talent to become the RB3 or even push Williams for the main backup role. He’s not worth drafting outside of deeper/dynasty formats, but he’s someone to keep an eye on.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Darrell Williams
  • Upside Rating: C+

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Atlanta Falcons

Patterson didn’t break out until his ninth season, when he played for his fifth team. It makes it very tricky to project Patterson entering what will be his age 31 season.

Patterson likely won’t have a full workload, but he’s a very efficient player who will be very involved in the passing game. He offers value at his current ADP, but I’m afraid his upside is fairly limited. 2021 will go down as his best season.

Damien Williams may be the No. 2 back to at least begin the season, but his skill set overlaps with Patterson. That might make it difficult for him to see enough snaps to offer any fantasy value.

Tyler Allgeier (BYU) was the Falcons fifth-round pick and is much more of a grinder who gives off James Conner vibes. He seems like an obvious replacement for the Mike Davis role from a year ago.

Considering the Falcons have a below-average offensive line and will likely be involved in a ton of trailing game scripts, I’m not sure he has much upside when everyone is healthy.

If Patterson was to miss time, Allgeier could sneak into the RB3/Flex discussion, but Williams will likely limit his upside. The only appeal to Allgeier’s upside is that he could ascend to more of a workhorse role if he plays well; he doesn’t necessarily need an injury to become a RB3/Flex. The odds of the sky parting like that for him seem fairly low.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Tyler Allgeier
  • Upside Rating: C-

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Baltimore Ravens

J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards suffered season-ending knee injuries before the 2021 season began. It forced the Ravens to sign several free agents, and they failed to establish a stable backfield.

Heading into 2022, it looks like Dobbins/Edwards are already iffy for Week 1, or they’ll be limited if they can suit up. It’s a situation that already lacks a ton of upside because A) Lamar Jackson is their most effective running option, and B) Jackson doesn’t target the backfield much, limiting the receiving upside they can offer.

Mike Davis would likely draw the start if Dobbins and Edwards are out in Week 1. However, we would see some RBBC involving Justice Hill and/or sixth-round rookie Tyler Badie. I can’t see myself ranking any of those backs RB35 or higher in the event both Dobbins and Edwards are ruled out.

Once Gus Edwards is 100% recovered from his knee injury (which may never happen this season), he could provide enough upside to warrant his ADP of RB53. I don’t see enough upside to draft in that range or stash him on the bench. This backfield seems like a mess, and I’m probably going to avoid it for the most part.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Gus Edwards
  • Upside Rating: C-
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Buffalo Bills

The Bills’ RB situation with Devin Singletary and Zack Moss has been very volatile the past two seasons. However, from Weeks 15-18 last season, the Bills decided to let Singletary be a true bellcow. He thrived in the role and finished as the RB2 overall during those four weeks.

However, with second-round James Cook entering the mix, we could see this become a true 50/50 backfield where Singletary handles early downs while Cook sees action as the pass-catching back. Cook comes into the league as a polished option in the passing game who is talented enough to line up in the slot, which creates a path to more playing time even when Singletary is healthy.

I already have Cook ranked slightly ahead of ADP even when Devin Singletary is healthy, and he would likely offer RB3/Flex value most weeks. Those two factors are key to high upside RBs I like to invest in.

However, the only knock on Cook is that his upside is limited, considering he’s probably not able to handle a full workload. If Singletary was to ever miss any time, I would consider Cook a low-end RB2 with added value in PPR formats.

There is also a slight chance that Cook will be good enough as a rookie to leapfrog Singletary (another aspect that makes a backup RB valuable in fantasy). While I see the chances of that happening as less than 50/50, I do see a role similar to Cordarrelle Patterson in Atlanta last season in his range of outcomes.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: James Cook
  • Upside Rating: B+

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Carolina Panthers

Chrisitan McCaffrey remains one of the top RBs in fantasy when healthy. However, injuries have plagued CMC recently, and he has missed 23 games over the past two seasons. Mike Davis in 2020 and Chuba Hubbard in ‘21 have been able to capitalize when McCaffrey has missed time.

It seems unlikely that the Panthers backup will be needed to step up as the lead back for 10 or more games for a third-straight season. Also, the situation without McCaffrey is a bit murkier in 2022. D’Onta Foreman would likely handle most of the early down work if he misses time, with Hubbard mixing in and handling third-down duties.

It’s not a situation I’m too interested in investing in. Neither backup will offer value unless McCaffrey misses time. Even in the event of a CMC injury, it’s likely going to be more of a committee than we have seen the past couple of seasons, which limits the upside of both backups.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: D’Onta Foreman
  • Upside Rating: C-

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Chicago Bears

David Montgomery is the clear workhorse back in this offense and Khalil Herbert is his direct backup.

Herbert will be nothing more than a change-of-pace back when Montgomery is healthy. In the event of a Montgomery injury, though, he’d provide low-end RB2 value. When Montogmery missed four games last year, Herbert stepped up in his place and posted the RB16 score from Weeks 5-8.

Herbert reminds me of a discount Alexander Mattison. He is purely a handcuff, but if/when he does get a chance at a spot start, he will likely become a low-end RB2.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Khalil Herbert
  • Upside Rating: B+

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Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon is the clear workhorse back in this offense, and Samaje Perine is the favorite to be his direct backup again this season, although Chris Evans is expected to compete with Perine for the backup role.

Neither backup will provide fantasy value as long as Mixon is healthy. Even in the event of a Mixon injury, we could see more of a RBBC in his absence. I’m projecting Perine to be the lead back in that scenario and offer RB3/Flex value. His main appeal is that he is one of the cheapest handcuffs, but part of the discount comes from the uncertainty that he will be Mixon’s direct backup again this season.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Samaje Perine
  • Upside Rating: C+

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Cleveland Browns

Nick Chubb’s ceiling is lowered by Kareem Hunt’s presence. However, it also makes him one of the few RB1/2 backs who has built-in injury upside if his backup was ever to miss time. Chubb averaged 16 points per in the seven games Kareem Hunt missed due to injury last season, which was good for RB7 over that stretch. RB7 is right about where I would rank Chubb if Hunt were ever to miss time, giving him mid-range RB1 upside for a back that’s going as the RB13.

Hunt is the very definition of the type of RB I love to target in fantasy. He will offer low-end RB2/Flex value when Chubb is healthy but offers top-10 upside if Chubb ever misses time. Hunt was the RB5 through five weeks last season, even with Chubb active!

The fact that Hunt is going as the RB33 in ADP is a head-scratcher. He should outperform his ADP, even if Chubb was to play all 17 games this season, while also offering league-winning upside even if Chubb were to miss an extended period of time.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Kareem Hunt
  • Upside Rating: A+

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Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys backfield is similar to the Browns, where both the starter and backup have built-in upside. Ezekiel Elliott will be the lead back as long as he stays healthy.

I agree that Tony Pollard is probably the better back at this point in his career, but there are $90 million reasons why Zeke will see the bulk of carries in 2022. Elliott offers mid-range RB2 value because Pollard’s presence limits his upside. However, if Pollard ever missed time, Elliott would likely offer low-end RB1 value. Zeke, like Chubb, offers sneaky upside at ADP because he does carry some injury upside, which is less common for a starting RB.

Pollard is similar to Hunt, where he should be able to offer RB3/Flex value even when Elliott is healthy but offers top-10 upside if Zeke were ever to miss time. The only game Elliott has missed over the past two seasons was in Week 15 (2020), and in his spot start, Pollard rushed for a 12/69/2 line on the ground and 6/63/0 through the air, which was good for RB2 on the week.

Pollard goes just a bit earlier than Kareem Hunt, who I see as equal in value, but he is one of my favorite RBs to target heading into 2022. He should be able to return value at ADP even if Elliott plays all 17 games again this season. However, Pollard offers built-in RB1 upside behind a RB whose six seasons of wear and tear may start to catch up to him. Sign me up.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Tony Pollard
  • Upside Rating: A+

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Denver Broncos

Javonte Williams was able to post RB17 numbers last season despite being in a true 50/50 committee with Melvin Gordon. He’s expected to have a larger role entering Year 2, and the offense should be much better with Russell Wilson under center.

The injury upside Williams carries is massive, and he would likely be a top-five back if Gordon were ever able to miss time. He posted 23/102/0 and 6/76/1 rushing and receiving numbers in Week 13 (RB1 overall that week) when Gordon was inactive. That sort of mouth-watering upside makes Williams a no-brainer target at ADP.

Gordon is a sneaky mid/late-round pick. He has a similar role to Hunt and Pollard, where he should be able to eke out RB3/Flex most weeks when Williams is healthy. However, Gordon would be in the RB1/2 range if Javonte ever missed time. That’s the ideal combination of value for the ideal backup RB to target and is an excellent fallback option if you fail to land either Hunt or Pollard.

The Browns, Cowboys and Broncos backfields are the best teams to target because their starters and backups offer built-in injury upside at ADP. My optimal draft would have me walking away with Williams, Hunt and Pollard as my top-three backs. You could, in theory, end up with three every-week RB1s at times during the season.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Melvin Gordon
  • Upside Rating: A-

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Detroit Lions

D’Andre Swift has top-five upside if he can ever stay healthy. Unfortunately, he’s missed seven games between his first two seasons, oftentimes playing through injuries that have limited his playing time. He’s entering the season at 100% health and has added muscle to improve his durability. Swift is worth his RB8 ADP.

Jamaal Williams could offer RB4/Flex value when you are in a pinch due to bye weeks and/or injuries, even when Swift is healthy. He’d offer RB3/Flex value in the event Swift misses time. It might not be league-winning upside, but Williams is one of the better backs in the RB55 range.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Jamaal Williams
  • Upside Rating: B-

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Green Bay Packers

The Packers backfield is similar to the Browns, Cowboys and Broncos, where both the starter and backup offer a nice floor/ceiling combo.

Aaron Jones may get out-rushed by backup A.J. Dillon in 2022, but he offers massive upside in the passing game with Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling leaving behind 224 targets from a season ago. Jones is going to be more of a low-end RB1 option as long as Dillion is healthy, but he’d become a mid-range RB1 option if Dillon misses time.

Dillon, meanwhile, should see his role expand in 2022. I’m expecting the Packers to lean on their running game even more without Davante Adams, and that could involve Dillon seeing 11-13 carries a game, even when Jones is healthy. If Jones misses time, he’d provide low-end RB2 value in that role but would become a low-end RB1.

Dillon is an excellent target at ADP, and the reason he should be a bit earlier than Hunt or Pollard is because Dillon will offer the most value when his starting RB is healthy.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: A.J. Dillon
  • Upside Rating: A

    vikings-vs-packers-odds-nfl-picks-predictions-a-same-game-parlay-to-bet-for-sunday-night-football
    Quinn Harris/Getty Images. Pictured: Packers’ A.J. Dillon.

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Houston Texans

There is no way to sugarcoat it: The Texans backfield is an absolute dumpster fire heading into 2022.

It’s entering the season as a very murky three-way RBBC and let’s face it, if any one of those backs were to emerge as a workhorse back, what’s their realistic upside in this offense? A low-end RB3/Flex?

If I had to guess, Marlon Mack will open the season as the Week 1 “starter” with Rex Burkhead and fourth-round rookie Dameon Pierce mixing in. Pierce would likely be able to leapfrog Mack either by Week 1 or the end of the season to eventually become the team’s lead back. Even in that likely scenario, Pierce’s value will probably top out at RB30.

You’re probably better off ignoring the Texans completely, and if any backfield deserves an F grade, it’s this one.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Dameon Pierce
  • Upside Rating: F

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Indianapolis Colts

Jonathan Taylor is already ranked as my No. 1 RB, so his value can’t get any higher if either of his backups misses any time.

Nyheim Hines’ receiving ability allows him to offer RB3/Flex value in PPR formats at times, even when Taylor is healthy. Taylor has a fairly high floor despite backing up the best and most durable RB in the league.

If Taylor ever missed time, Hines could offer low-end RB2 value. In that scenario, Phillip Lindsay being in the mix for touches does lower Hines’ ceiling a bit. He’s not the type of back who could handle a full workload. He’s a decent value in PPR formats but is the type of player who can help raise your team’s floor rather than be a true “league winner.”

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Nyheim Hines
  • Upside Rating: B-

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Travis Etienne missed his entire rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury. He’s expected to be 100% heading into the season and will be a low-end RB2 when James Robinson is healthy. He’ll also offer mid-range RB2 value whenever Robinson is out or limited. Considering Robinson is iffy for Week 1 in his recovery from a late-season Achilles tear, Etienne could be the workhorse back for the first couple of weeks.

Robinson can command enough touches to be an emergency RB3/Flex option when healthy. He also carries low-end RB2 upside if Etienne were ever to miss time. However, considering Robinson is returning from an Achilles injury, which is devastating for a RBs value, I would expect his upside to be more in the RB3/Flex range.

Snoop Conner, a fifth-round pick out of Ole Miss, might be able to command a RBBC situation with James Robinson if Etienne misses time.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: James Robinson
  • Upside Rating: C+

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Kansas City Chiefs

Clyde Edwards-Helaire has yet to live up to his first-round draft capital through two seasons, and it’s going to be even tougher for him to break out in Year 3 with Ronald Jones added to the mix.

Jones himself has a wide range of outcomes on the Chiefs. There is a chance he can outperform Edwards-Helaire and take over as the Chiefs’ lead back. There is also a chance Jones is left off the 53-man roster in an attempt to clear up some cap space. The uncertainty around Jones makes the Chiefs backfield a tricky one to forecast at the moment.

Right now, the most likely outcome is that Edwards-Helaire will provide low-end RB2 value, even if he’s conceding some early down work to Jones. He would have mid-range RB2 value if Jones ends up being left off the final roster. Therefore, he already has a non-injury path to providing solid value at his current ADP of RB26.

If Edwards-Helaire was to miss time, there’s a chance Jerick McKinnon would inherit much of his role and split time with Jones. Because of this, Jones’ upside does seem fairly limited. Also considering there is a slight chance he doesn’t make the team, he’s not a backup I’m getting too much exposure to.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Ronald Jones
  • Upside Rating: C+

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Los Angeles Chargers

Austin Ekeler’s volume is already maxed out as the Chargers like to limit his rush attempts in the 12-17 range. Therefore, his value is already topped out as the #3 RB, and his backups have 0 impact on his projections.

Isaiah Spiller was drafted in the fourth round and should beat out Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree as the No. 2 back. He would essentially be inheriting the role left behind by Justin Jackson, and it’s unlikely he will see enough volume when Ekeler is healthy to produce RB3/Flex value.

Spiller would likely be able to provide mid/low-end RB2 value if Ekeler ever missed time. That’s why his ADP of RB40 seems kind of steep. I would be much more comfortable getting him in the RB45-55 range because he will need Ekeler to miss time to provide any fantasy value.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Isaiah Spiller
  • Upside Rating: C+

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Los Angeles Rams

Cam Akers made a miraculous late-season return from the Achillies tear he suffered just a couple months before the season started. Therefore it’s fair to forgive him for the dreadful 2.6 yards per attempt he had in the playoffs. However, Achilles injuries are devastating for RBs, and there is a chance Akers doesn’t return to his pre-injury form this season.

Akers’ path to upside in 2022 is his TD potential. The Rams threw at a league-high rate of 64% inside the 5-yard line last season but will likely run it more in that range in 2022, with Akers seeing most of the goal line work.

Darrell Henderson ended up getting leapfrogged by Sony Michel last season, which is not a good sign for his value going forward. He will be Akers primary backup, and his path to getting touches with Akers healthy is through third-down usage. However, the Rams drafted Kyren Williams, one of the draft’s top pass-catching backs. He could eat into Henderson’s role enough to make him only relevant whenever Akers misses time and, even in that scenario, could cap his upside.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Darrell Henderson
  • Upside Rating: C+

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Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders declined Josh Jacobs fifth-year option, which means this likely will be his last season in Vegas. The new coaching staff selected Zamir White in the fourth round as his long-term replacement.

Considering new head coach Josh McDaniels comes from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, the Raiders may use a 2-3 running back by committee when everyone is healthy. This makes Jacobs a fairly risky RB2/3, but he carries high-end RB2 upside if either of his backups misses time.

If Jacobs was ever to miss time, Kenyan Drake and White might form a true 50/50 committee, limiting both players’ upside. The Raiders look like a tricky backfield to project this year, and it’s not one I’m looking to invest in too heavily.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Kenyan Drake
  • Upside Rating: C-

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Miami Dolphins

Chase Edmonds signed a two-year, $12.1 million contract to join the Dolphins, and he’ll likely have the first crack at lead-back duties. He will have stiff competition with Sony Michel and Raheem Mostert for touches.

It’s a situation that could prove to be very volatile and difficult to project. That’s normally a reason to fade whichever RB is being drafted the earliest, but Edmonds’ RB34 ADP seems like it’s worth the risk in spots. If either of his backups misses time, it could be enough to put him in the RB2/3 range.

The Dolphins scheme will change under new head coach Mike McDaniel, who is coming over from the 49ers. He will likely implement the wide zone run scheme that has been fantasy friendly for RBs, and a scheme Raheem Mostert has thrived in. As long as Mostert stays healthy, he should be a threat to out-carry Edmonds at times this season. He would likely need Edmonds or Michel to miss time ever to be trusted as a RB3/Flex option.

The same goes for Michel, who could play well enough to become the lead back, even if everyone is healthy. But he would also likely need an injury within the depth chart to provide RB3/Flex value.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Raheem Mostert
  • Upside Rating: C

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Minnesota Vikings

Despite having a brand new coaching staff, the Vikings running back situation should be very straightforward.

When Dalvin Cook is healthy, he will be a top-five back, and it’s unlikely Alexander Mattison will see enough touches to generate RB3/Flex value weekly. However, if Cook misses any time, Mattison would likely post low-end RB1 value.

Mattison is a priority target in the RB40-45 range, presenting the highest injury upside. Ultimately, the only way backs like Mattison hit is if their starting RB ends up missing two or more games in the upcoming season, something that all comes down to luck.

Backs like Hunt and Pollard warrant an A+ grade because they will be playable as RB3/Flex options, even when their starter is healthy. Mattison’s reliance on Cook’s health is why he gets knocked down to an A-.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Alexander Mattison
  • Upside Rating: A-

    alexander-mattison-dalvin-cook-justin-jefferson-najee-harris-have-most-popular-thursday-night-football-player-props-for-steelers-vs-vikings
    Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Alexander Mattison.

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New England Patriots

Damien Harris will likely be the Week 1 starter for the Patriots. However, his grip on the job may be loosening as there is some buzz about Rhamondre Stevenson potentially leapfrogging him as the team’s RB1.

I have always thought that Stevenson is capable of becoming a workhorse back if called upon. He’s a much better pass-catching back than Damien Harris, and when he is on the field, it doesn’t tip off the defense that it’s a run or pass play.

Stevenson is an intriguing option in the RB35 range because he will likely offer weekly RB3/Flex value in his “backup” role. However, he can play his way into a low-end RB2 role if he plays well and doesn’t necessarily need an injury to become the starter. That allows him an extra path to crushing his ADP that other backups don’t have.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Rhamondre Stevenson
  • Upside Rating: A-

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New Orleans Saints

There is still a ton of uncertainty regarding Alvin Kamara’s legal situation. His court hearing was postponed for 60 days in early August, which increases the chances of his potential suspension getting pushed back to next season. It also means Kamara could receive a suspension later in the season.

Kamara has a wide range of outcomes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his ADP of RB14 starts to creep up after this latest hearing delay.

If Kamara receives a suspension or gets injured, Mark Ingram would likely get the first crack to be the lead back. However, at 32 years old, there’s a chance he will be unable to hold off Malcolm Brown, Tony Jones or even Abram Smith. Any one of those backs would be capable of stepping up in Kamara’s absence.

However, I think Ingram is a decent flier at RB61. Most backs in this range only offer RB3/Flex value if their team’s starter ever misses time due to injury. In Ingram’s case, though, he has an additional path to hitting that upside via a Kamara suspension.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Mark Ingram
  • Upside Rating: B-

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New York Giants

Saquon Barkley will be looking to bounce back after an injury-plagued 2021 season. He has top-five upside as long as he can stay healthy. Being able to get him around RB13 for the upcoming season could end up being a steal.

Matt Breida would be the back who steps up in the event Barkley ever misses time. He’s already familiar with Daboll’s scheme and would likely be able to provide RB3/Flex value in Barkley’s absence. Matt Breida is appealing at his current ADP of RB77. He’s free at that price. Instead of drafting a K or DEF, you could stash Breida as a potential injury-upside flier up until Week 1 begins.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Matt Breida
  • Upside Rating: B

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New York Jets

Breece Hall is my favorite back of the 2022 class. He reminds me of a blend between Joe Mixon and Kareem Hunt. I think he could be that good.

However, I was not a fan of the landing spot since the Jets already have Michael Carter. We could see this backfield begin the season as a frustrating two-way committee. Eventually, though, I think Hall will become a workhorse back sooner rather than later.

Carter is good enough to command a role big enough to provide RB3/Flex value early in the season and would be able to post low-end RB2 numbers if Hall misses time. It would be unwise just to dismiss Carter heading into 2022, and he’s worth taking in spots at his ADP of RB40.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Michael Carter
  • Upside Rating: C+

    nfl props-marvin jones-michael carter-unders-expert-picks-sunday-week-16-2021
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images. Pictured: Michael Carter.

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Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles’ running back situation is always difficult to project, and 2022 is no different.

Miles Sanders is the heavy favorite to be the Week 1 starter and will likely have a firm grip on the job for at least one more season. However, Kenneth Gainwell may be ready to step into a more prominent role in his second season. He will certainly be a factor on passing downs but could find himself eating into Sanders’ rushing share a bit more this season.

Gainwell might be able to offer RB3/Flex value, even when Sanders is healthy. However, even if Sanders was to miss any time, Gainwell’s upside could be capped due to his inability to handle a full workload. He would likely split work with Boston Scott and might not see enough added volume to post low-end RB2 value.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Kenneth Gainwell
  • Upside Rating: C

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Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers backfield is one of the easiest to project. Najee Harris will see enough volume to be a top-five RB as long as he can stay healthy.

Benny Snell, Jeremy McNichols and Anthony McFarland will fight over the scraps left behind by Harris when he’s healthy. No running back will be able to offer any fantasy value unless Harris were to miss time. In that scenario, Benny Snell would be the current favorite to take over as lead back, but it would likely be a 2-3 way committee.

Snell would probably offer low-end RB3/Flex upside, which isn’t bad considering you can typically get him outside of the top 80. Most backs in that range would need two or more injuries even to sniff value, whereas Snell would only need one.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Benny Snell
  • Upside Rating: C+

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Seattle Seahawks

Rashaad Penny ran away with the starting job starting in Week 13 last season and posted the RB1 overall score over the final 6 weeks. His home run-hitting ability makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the field.

However, the Seahawks offense will take a huge step back following the Russell Wilson trade. For this reason, I’m not interested in either back at ADP.

Neither Penny nor rookie Kenneth Walker offers much receiving upside. That could become an issue with the Seahawks likely involved in mostly negative game scripts in 2022. That means we could see both backs split early down work with DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer factoring in on passing downs. It’s a situation where either Penny or Walker will have to miss time for the other back to offer low-end RB2 value.

Hunt and Pollard offer a much higher floor/ceiling combo in the RB30-35 range than either Seahawks back.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Kenneth Walker
  • Upside Rating: C

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San Francisco 49ers

Typically, the 49ers backfield is impossible to predict. Over the past few seasons, the top 49ers back in fantasy was the one we least expected:

2018: Matt Brieda
2019: Raheem Mostert
2020: Jeff Wilson
2021: Elijah Mitchell

If there were ever a back who could buck this trend, it would be Mitchell. His 13 points per game ranked 19th at the position, and he is set to be the lead back again in 2022.

The one back who could play spoiler is third-round pick Tyrion Davis-Price, who has a great first cut and good speed. Both things are essential to have in Kyle Shanahan’s wide zone running scheme. He will be a player to monitor in camp/preseason as he could become a serious threat to Mitchell’s starting role.

Trey Sermon might be the back we least expect to lead the 49ers backfield, which based on the past few seasons puts him in play. He shouldn’t be drafted in most formats, but I have always felt that he was drafted to be the back who is paired with Trey Lance under center.

Sermon may be a better fit for a zone-read type of offense, in which you would want the back to run up the middle quite a bit. With Lance set to take over as the team’s Week 1 starter, I would keep an eye on Sermon.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Tyrion Davis-Price
  • Upside Rating: C+

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Leonard Fournette was the RB5 before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury. He was able to return for the NFC Championship game against the Rams, against whom he went off for 13/51/2 rushing and 9/56/0 receiving. He’ll operate as the Buccaneers’ workhorse back again in 2022.

Rachaad White is a talented third-round rookie out of Arizona State. It will be difficult for him to offer any fantasy value as long as Fournette is active. However, he would be capable of inheriting much of Fournette’s role if he ever missed time and offer low-end RB2 value in that scenario.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Rachaad White
  • Upside Rating: C+

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Tennessee Titans

The Titans are the easiest backfield to project when Derrick Henry is healthy. He’ll command a massive workload but leave the field on third down, leaving third-down back (likely Dontrell Hilliard in 2022) with 3-4 targets a game.

Hassan Haskins will likely be the Derrick Henry replacement if he were ever to miss time. D’Onta Foreman was able to post the RB20 score from Weeks 10-18 in that role last year. Haskins isn’t as talented as Foreman, so I expect him to provide value in the RB25-30 range as the team’s starter. Haskins is one of the cheapest handcuffs heading into 2022.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: Hassan Haskins
  • Upside Rating: B-

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Washington Commanders

Antonio Gibson finished as the RB10 last season, proving he can be a true workhorse. However, he is in danger of being sandwiched between pass-catching specialist J.D. McKissic and 3rd-round rookie Brian Robinson who might factor in around the goal-line. If that ends up being the case, it means Gibson is dicey at his current ADP. He would jump back into the mid-range RB2 discussion if either of his backups ever miss time.

J.D. McKissic and Brian Robinson would likely form a true 50/50 committee if Gibson were out of the lineup. Both would offer similar upside and be able to offer low-end RB2 upside based on the matchup. If the Commanders are the favorite in the game, Robinson would be ranked higher, and if they are underdogs, McKissic would be ranked higher. I prefer McKissic of the two backups because he would be able to provide RB3/Flex value in PPR formats, even when Gibson is healthy. Robinson might see spiked weeks when he finds the end zone but would be too inconsistent to trust sans any injuries.

  • Backup with the most injury upside: J.D. McKissic
  • Upside Rating: B-

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