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Austin Ekeler

The RB1 in fantasy football is tough to predict. In 2022 I am taking an under the radar candidate to light it up in fantasy football. (Sparks/Sporting News)

Who Is the Top Fantasy Running Back In 2022?

Austin Ekeler
The RB1 in fantasy football is tough to predict. In 2022, I am taking an under the radar candidate to light it up in fantasy football. (Sparks/Sporting News)

The RB1 — the top running back in fantasy football. Every year, whoever manages to get their hands on the top guy will inevitably find an easy way into the fantasy playoffs. It’s such a leg up on your league mates that it’s too invaluable to not try and predict the top guy. In 2022, who is that player you should be taking with your number one pick?

Jonathan Taylor

The rushing yards leader from last year and top fantasy running back is the clear choice to be the RB1 in 2022. I’m not going to tell you to avoid drafting Jonathan Taylor, he’s a great running back in a run-first offense. I will point out that finishing as the best fantasy running back twice in a row has occurred twice since 2006. Don’t get me wrong, it’s possible Taylor has another great season and is the best running back in fantasy football, but players do regress towards the mean. Who knows what the new Indianapolis offense will look like with Matt Ryan at the helm? Will the newly acquired former Pro Bowler Phillip Lindsay steal more carries than expected? All I’m saying is to keep an open mind because there’s a lot that can change between seasons, especially with this Colts offense.

Christian McCaffrey

The 2020 fantasy RB1 is coming off an injury-riddled season and into a bottom-tier offense. Why should you be drafting him? Well, assuming health, no one in the NFL will get schemed into open space than McCaffrey. The Panthers and Matt Rhule rely on him entirely to get their offense going. In his two fully healthy games to start the season, CMC touched the ball 30 times. That number alone is absurd, but also consider the influx of talent the Panthers got this off season. Drafting top run-blocking lineman Ikem Ekwonu will only benefit the run game for Carolina. McCaffrey will be touching the ball every other play in this offense. Along with him being absolutely electric with the ball in his hands, I like CMC’s odds to finish as the RB1. Additionally, who knows what rookie Matt Corral may bring to this offense.

Austin Ekeler

Austin Ekeler may come as a surprise candidate for the RB1 spot in 2022. But I think it’s well within the realm of possibilities. First and foremost, the high-octane Chargers offense will present plenty of red zone opportunities. In fact, Austin Ekeler had the second-most red zone rushing attempts in the NFL last season, trailing only Jonathan Taylor. That doesn’t even consider the receiving prowess Ekeler possesses over other elite running backs such as Taylor. After garnering 9.24 yards per reception on 94 targets last season, Ekeler will be one of the main beneficiaries in a likely improved Chargers passing offense. Justin Herbert is the current favorite to win the MVP. Herbert and young offensive line improvements in Zion Johnson and Rashawn Slater will help their offense significantly. I like Ekeler as a top 3 running back in fantasy football with the ceiling of being the RB1.

Dalvin Cook

Now, the next couple of players are more dark horse candidates to finish as the RB1 in 2022, but don’t be discouraged if they fall to you in your fantasy drafts. Not only do I like Dalvin Cook because of his talent as an elite NFL running back, but because of the offense he is in. The Vikings have the potential to blow up for 30 points any given week. A solid offensive line and explosive pass-catchers in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen will put Minnesota in scoring position more often than not. Touchdowns are key in fantasy football. Following the points means drafting Dalvin Cook. You cannot go wrong with this playmaker.

Najee Harris

Unlike Dalvin Cook, Najee Harris finds himself in a less ideal situation with his surroundings. The offensive line is porous, and the pass catchers are young and unproven. While touchdowns may be key, volume is king, and no one is guaranteed volume like Najee Harris is. The Steelers gave the ball to Harris an astounding 381 times last season, 74 being receptions. Quarterbacks Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky will be inclined to keep the short passes going in Matt Canada’s offense. This means a likely repeat of Harris’s 94 targets in 2021. While Harris is the running back on this list I expect least likely to finish as the RB1, his floor is top 10.

The Verdict

The five aforementioned running backs will be first-round picks and stud fantasy football options in 2022. I like Christian McCaffrey to average the most points per game, but I have to consider his struggles to remain healthy. I don’t know if I want to bet on Matt Ryan and the Colts to hand the ball off to Taylor 332 times again, but I can’t argue with the idea of this being an improved offense. If you like JT to be the RB1 this year, I have no qualms with it. But I do consider him as regressing towards the mean and not having a repeat of 2021. Personally, I am coming around to the idea of Austin Ekeler lighting it up for the Chargers this year. Chasing the points and investing in the LA offense is a good idea, and I like Ekeler to receive plenty of rushing attempts and targets in 2022. Give me All the Austin Ekeler shares in 2022.

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