With less than 50 days left until NFL kickoff, fantasy managers across the world are getting ready for fantasy football season. With most leagues drafting in a few weeks, I thought I’d take a look at the top overall RB1 candidates for the 2022 season, outside of the obvious contenders and based on the recent trends.
- The RB1 from the previous season has not repeated since 2007 (sorry, JT)
- The last nine RB1 finishers were 25 years or younger
- The last time a running back over 27 years old finished better than RB6 was Mark Ingram in 2017
- Only one RB1 since 2000 had a draft capital of round four or later
- Since 2013, the RB1 has averaged 272 carries and 103 targets
THE RB1 ADVANTAGE
Having the overall RB1 in fantasy is a major advantage. Fun fact: having that player has been giving managers a five-point per game advantage over the RB2 all time.
NAJEE HARRIS (24, PIT, UNDERDOG FANTASY ADP: 10.3)
Najee Harris finished as the RB3 in PPR scoring last season behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Volume is a major key when identifying the RB1 and Harris is on a team that historically feeds its top running backs. Since 2013, Pittsburgh’s leading rusher has averaged 22.1 touches per game.
The Steelers may have improved its quarterback situation by bringing in former first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky and drafting Kenny Pickett in the first round. Last season, the Steelers led the league in pass attempts, while Harris had 34 check-down receptions. If Trubisky is behind center, Harris should see a similar target share as former Bears running back Tarik Cohen had 79 receptions in 2019 with Trubisky.
After 381 touches as a rookie, Mike Tomlin reiterated another workhorse season for Harris via The Pivot Podcast. “He’s gonna have to be a bell cow for us,” Tomlin said.
Harris will continue to see monstrous volume and have the potential to be the RB1 this season as he fits every criterion heading into the 2022 NFL season.
Harris is RB7 on The Wolf’s 2022 Rankings and he projects him to finish as the RB7 with 207 half PPR points.
D’ANDRE SWIFT (23, DET, ADP: 14.7)
Before his injury last season, Swift was breaking out with an average of 17.6 PPR points per game. Following his return, Swift didn’t perform to the same standard and left fantasy owners wanting more. It looks as though the Lions have improved their offense, adding DJ Chark and Jameson Williams on the perimeter, and will have one of the top offensive lines in the league, per PFF.
Swift was a PPR machine finishing last season with 62 receptions on 78 targets. The downside to Swift has been the lack of touchdowns in a poor offense and his rushing volume. However, Swift was on pace for 323 touches prior to his injury which would put him in consideration to finish as the RB1.
Swift sits at RB10 in The Wolf’s 2022 Rankings and projects to finish as the RB13 with 221.5 half PPR points.
JAVONTE WILLIAMS (22, DEN, ADP: 22.9)
The Williams hype train continues to chug along as he enters his sophomore season. Although he’ll, unfortunately, share the backfield with veteran Melvin Gordon III, the Broncos brought in superstar quarterback Russell Wilson and hired former Packers’ OC Nathaniel Hackett as their new head coach.
The main reason I have Williams on this list is because of the new-look offense that Hackett will bring to Denver, along with the much-needed boost at quarterback. Williams finished last season as the RB17 on 246 touches and he’s been learning all of the route concepts for the Broncos offense, which should lead to an increase in targets and receptions.
Williams’ RB17 finish is also impressive as he shared the backfield with Gordon all season and had one of the worst quarterback rooms in the league running the offense. With only seven total touchdowns last season, we should see some positive regression in that category with Wilson under center.
Overall, Williams exudes talent when given the opportunity and if he can become the clear 1A in this backfield, there’s no doubt he’ll finish in the top-five with RB1 upside.
Williams sits at RB11 in The Wolf’s 2022 Rankings and is projected to finish as the RB11 with 241.1 half PPR points.
DALVIN COOK (27, MIN, ADP: 9.1)
Dalvin Cook doesn’t fit the criteria and his ADP is inside the top 10. But, we can’t get enough of this Vikings offense in every fantasy format. New head coach Kevin O’Connell has fantasy owners chomping at the bit to unleash the three wide receiver sets and create more holes for Cook.
As our own Wolf has been pointing out all offseason, Cooks’ closest comp in this McVay-like offense is Todd Gurley, a former RB1 and fantasy beast. Cook has battled with injuries nearly every year but has never finished outside of the top-six when he’s played 14 or more games. Cook will be 27 to start the season and has a chance to break the age barrier that has stopped running backs in the past.
Cook sits at RB4 in The Wolf’s 2022 Rankings and he projects to finish even higher — the overall RB1 with 319.3 fantasy points.
SAQUON BARKLEY (25, NYG, ADP: 18.1)
We haven’t seen Saquon Barkley in elite form since his fantasy RB1 season in 2018. Barkley looked good to start the 2021 season, but a freak ankle injury derailed his season. Saquon is poised to replicate his 2018 season with an offensive mastermind head coach, a revamped offensive line, and two years removed from his ACL injury.
Last season, Barkley saw an uptick in touches and snaps through four weeks of the season, with his best finish being 27.1 points and ending the week as the RB3. But, the unfortunate rolled ankle against the Cowboys derailed yet another season for the stud running back.
Similarily to Najee Harris, volume is king, and Barkley has no competition at his position with only Matt Breida and a bunch of no-names behind him.
Barkley sits at RB9 on The Wolf’s 2022 Rankings and is projected to finish at RB8 with 249.4 fantasy points.
Pro tip: Take advantage of Barkley’s 18 overall ADP on Underdog Fantasy. Download the Underdog Fantasy app, use promo code RSJ or click the link, get a 100% first deposit match up to $100, and dominate their season-long best ball tournaments.