2022 Fantasy Football Running Back Shuffle Up: Jonathan Taylor reigns supreme

·Fantasy Analyst
·8 min read

Ah, the running backs. The one fantasy position that usually matters the most. Get this position right, and you probably rule the world. Get it wrong, and you're in for a frustrating four months. The dollar values you'll see below are unscientific in nature but reflect how I see the clusters of talent at the running back position. My number is on the left; the number on the right is what the player commanded in the recent Vegas Flex salary cap league, which ran its draft earlier this week.

Assume a half-point PPR format as you peruse this list. ("Add" means that player was added post-draft in the Vegas league; "FA" denotes a player who is currently unrostered in that pool.)

Have some disagreements? Good, that’s why we have a game. I welcome your reasoned disagreement over at Twitter: @scott_pianowski.

More Shuffles are on the way, with the tight ends and wide receivers later this week.

The Big Tickets

$48 Jonathan Taylor ($50)

$46 Christian McCaffrey ($41)

$46 Austin Ekeler ($37)

$44 Dalvin Cook ($37)

$42 Najee Harris ($39)

$39 Derrick Henry ($37)

I understand the McCaffrey supporters who would take him first overall. I side with Taylor because he's younger, tied to a better team and quarterback, and working behind a stronger offensive line. But I certainly see the plausible case for a healthy McCaffrey to dominate the position again . . . I think we're foolish to think we can predict coming injuries with a great degree of accuracy, but I think it's also a mistake to act like they're 100 percent random. I'm always going to care about age and career arc, workload volume and workload style. That's all part of why I have the lukewarm salary on Henry, concerned about the pounding he's accrued to this point in his career, and mindful that when he does carry the ball, he's usually tackled by the heaviest defenders on the other side. I wish the Titans would make a legitimate effort to let Henry catch 50 passes or so a season, something I'm confident he could do if the team would merely ask.

Legitimate Building Blocks

$36 Aaron Jones ($32)

$34 Nick Chubb ($32)

$34 Joe Mixon ($29)

$31 D'Andre Swift ($27)

$29 Saquon Barkley ($31)

$26 Leonard Fournette ($23)

$24 Travis Etienne Jr. ($25)

$24 Javonte Williams ($23)

$24 Ezekiel Elliott ($23)

$23 Alvin Kamara ($23)

$22 Breece Hall ($21)

$21 James Conner ($21)

I view Jones as a perfect second-round pick, an experienced player who's sure to have a heavy and versatile workload. And although the Packers receiver group is hard to trust, I can't imagine Aaron Rodgers steering a bad offense. AJ Dillon is also talented and will surely carve out a notable role, but there should be plenty of work for both backs. And don't forget that when the Packers were in the playoffs and fighting for their lives, it was a healthy-again Jones who carried the load (21 touches, 170 total yards) while Dillon did little (7-25 rushing, one touchdown, zero catches). It's not that I dislike Dillon; in fact, I'll probably draft into him. But Jones is the alpha here . . . Elliott's efficiency has dropped two straight seasons and he's now in his seventh year, a danger area for a running back. More troublesome is the presence of Tony Pollard, who was easily Dallas' best back last year. Perhaps Elliott will be saved by the stubborn Dallas brain trust, who is likely to steer work to the name player who already has the big contract. It's a reminder of how backward the Cowboys so often do things. I can't draft into Zeke proactively . . .

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When considering the Broncos backfield, it's important to remember that Melvin Gordon not only returns, but he was good last year. Williams is unlikely to shove Gordon out of the way. But if one back here is going to explode and have a career year, you'd always want to bet on the second-year, ascending talent. The term "league winner" is thrown around fairly cheaply in fantasy circles and I suspect the amount of true league-winning candidates is far smaller than it's commonly held, but I'm willing to put Williams on that potential list. You just can't pony up like he's a sure thing . . .

Javonte Williams #33 of the Denver Broncos is a fantasy enigma
Will Javonte Williams end up the fantasy league winner many of us want him to be? (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

It's convenient to compare Hall to David Montgomery since they both attended Iowa State. Just be mindful that Hall is better than Montgomery in every measuring thing, and Montgomery is certainly not a bad player. The Jets seemed to fix their offensive line in the spring and Zach Wilson, like most sophomore quarterbacks, deserves a mulligan season. Hall is one of my green-light RB targets . . . Conner surely won't enjoy the same touchdown deodorant as last year, and I don't completely trust an offense helmed by Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. The Cardinals were the last team to lose in the NFL last year, racing out to a 7-0 start. I think they'll probably win about seven games, total, in 2022.

Talk them up, talk them down

$19 Eli Mitchell ($20)

$17 Cam Akers ($19)

$17 David Montgomery ($19)

$16 J.K. Dobbins ($19)

$16 AJ Dillon ($18)

$14 Damien Harris ($17)

$13 Josh Jacobs ($15)

$13 Antonio Gibson ($11)

$11 Devin Singletary ($14)

$11 Chase Edmonds ($12)

$11 Rashaad Penny ($12)

$10 Miles Sanders ($11)

$9 Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($9)

$8 Rhamondre Stevenson ($10)

$8 Kenneth Walker III ($9)

$8 Tony Pollard ($8)

Jacobs is a likely bet to lose receptions under a new coaching staff (and with new backfield competition), and the Vegas offensive line is going to be one of the worst run-blocking groups in the league. I won't go anywhere near Jacobs at my draft tables . . . Sanders somehow handled 163 touches last year and never scored a touchdown, a nifty parlor trick. But Jalen Hurts is still here to steal a bunch of rushing production, and Kenneth Gainwell could turn into this team's third-down back. Sanders isn't likely to be the goal-line man, either. So even if the touchdown column sees some correction — there's nowhere to go but up, right? — we might be talking about five touchdowns or fewer. Much like Gibson in Washington, I like the player but the situation pushes me away . . .

Shuffle Up Salary Cap Draft Values: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends

The Chiefs have a deep running-back room and that speaks to the fact that CEH hasn't popped as a first-round pick. I hope my salary offer is enough to make it clear I don't want you to pick CEH this year; if not, take it down a few bucks. Playing for Andy Reid and with Patrick Mahomes is a wonderful tonic, but it can't make up for ordinary ability.

Some plausible upside

$7 Melvin Gordon III ($5)

$5 Kareem Hunt ($9)

$5 Kenneth Gainwell ($1)

$4 Isaiah Spiller ($4)

$4 Dameon Pierce ($2)

$4 James Cook ($3)

$4 Darrell Henderson Jr. ($2)

$3 Rachaad White ($3)

$3 Alexander Mattison ($3)

$3 Cordarrelle Patterson ($2)

$3 James Robinson ($2)

$3 Nyheim Hines ($2)

$2 Ronald Jones II ($3)

$2 Michael Carter ($3)

$2 Tyler Allgeier ($3)

Hunt could be a double-digit back on a different roster, but it won't be in Cleveland unless Chubb gets hurt. And I think the Browns are wise to realize that D'Ernest Johnson is ready to be a No. 2 runner. I think it's a little pointless to wish-cast possible Hunt trading partners; if Cleveland is ultimately going to deal him, it's likely to a contending team that suffers a major running back injury in August or September . . . Mattison is always a popular lottery-ticket play, but it's hard to see him having value without a Cook injury. If he had stand-alone value, you'd probably double his offer . . . Patterson was useful as a receiver who occasionally ran the ball last year, and then ordinary at best when the Falcons pushed him into a more standard rushing role. His breakout also happened very late in his career, the type of thing you're reluctant to chase. I suspect the Falcons offense would be better with Patterson going back to more of a receiver or slash role, and perhaps the interesting Allgeier becoming the featured back.

Bargain Bin

$1 Tyler Badie ($1)

$1 Khalil Herbert ($1)

$1 Tyrion Davis-Price ($1)

$1 Gus Edwards ($1)

$1 Isiah Pacheco (Add)

$1 D'Ernest Johnson (Add)

$1 J.D. McKissic (FA)

$0 Raheem Mostert ($1)

$0 Marlon Mack ($1)

$0 Brian Robinson Jr. ($1)

$0 Zamir White ($1)

$0 Jamaal Williams ($1)

$0 Mark Ingram (FA)

$0 Sony Michel (FA)

$0 D'Onta Foreman (FA)

$0 Trey Sermon (FA)

$0 Jerick McKinnon (FA)

$0 Chris Evans (FA)

$0 Jeff Wilson Jr. (FA)

$0 Samaje Perine (FA)

$0 Boston Scott (FA)

$0 Rex Burkhead (FA)

$0 Eno Benjamin (FA)

$0 Matt Breida (FA)

Previous Shuffles: Quarterback (8/5)

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