Each year heading into draft season, we start to settle upon players we love and players we hate, relative to ADP. This article will dive into the former portion, my fantasy football running back targets. Every year there are players that outperform their ADP. Identifying these players can significantly help you win your leagues. Here are three running backs to target in fantasy football for 2022.
Fantasy Football Running Back Targets for 2022
Before we get into these fantasy football targets, I want to preface this by saying that all of these are relative to ADP. These are three guys that go later in drafts than they should. Additionally, they represent excellent values in fantasy football drafts right now. These are all based on Fantasypros PPR ADP data as of this writing.
1. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Saquon Barkley’s stock has fallen off from where it used to be. He used to be considered as early as the first pick overall. After a ridiculous rookie season in 2018 in which he was tied with Christian McCaffrey at 24.1 points per game in full PPR formats, Barkley has been plagued by injuries the past three seasons. In 2019 he missed three games due to a high ankle sprain. In 2020, he missed nearly the entire season due to tears to his ACL, MCL, and meniscus.
After returning last year, he tweaked his ankle and missed four games. Even after returning, he wasn’t completely right and it hampered his explosiveness. Many people have slapped the dreaded “injury-prone” label on him at this point and even those who haven’t might be wondering if he can still be the same guy we saw in his rookie season or if the injuries have just sapped too much of his explosiveness at this point. Spoiler alert: they haven’t.
RB – Saquon Barkley
We don’t often gain access to a 25-year old with an every-down role. Barkley is almost two years removed from a gruesome knee injury. An ankle injury derailed 2022. If healthy, his floor is Najee Harris and his ceiling is CMC. Don’t draft scared.
— Dwain McFarland (@dwainmcfarland) August 11, 2022
Heading into 2022, Barkley will be nearly two years removed from the major knee surgery. It is pretty typical of players coming off a major surgery to fully bounce back in the second year removed from it, especially for players like Barkley that rely on being shifty and explosive. There is also more reason for optimism around the New York Giants offense as a whole this year after they got rid of Joe Judge and Jason Garrett and hired Brian Daboll. Daboll had incredible success improving Josh Allen and the hope is that he can do the same for Daniel Jones.
If that happens, it increases the ceiling of every skill player on the Giants. Barkley’s current ADP of 24th overall as the 13th running back off the board is simply too low as I’ve recently moved him up to my RB5 and a top-12 overall player. There is no reason that players like Nick Chubb, Javonte Williams, Deebo Samuel, or Josh Allen should be going ahead of him. Barkley is a great running back to target in 2022, especially in full PPR.
2. Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Leonard Fournette turned out to be one of the biggest steals in fantasy football drafts in 2021. Going as the 33rd running back off the board and 79th overall player on average, he finished as the RB4 in full PPR points per game. Building off a strong finish and playoff run to the 2020 season, Fournette averaged 18.3 points per game in his 2021 campaign. This was due to heavy involvement in the passing game. Fournette finished with 84 targets and 69 receptions.
Only Najee Harris and Austin Ekeler had more targets and receptions among running backs and both played at least two more games. Fournette was nothing special as a pass-catcher by any means but when a player has Tom Brady’s trust, that player will be on the field in most of those situations.
Heading into 2022, there is no reason to expect Fournette’s role to change. Ronald Jones is now in Kansas City and the only running back brought in was Rachaad White. White is a promising young player, but he’s still just a third-round rookie so we shouldn’t expect him to usurp Fournette, especially when it comes to the passing game with Brady.
Even still, fantasy managers don’t seem eager to buy into what they saw from Fournette last season. He is currently still going as just the 14th running back (25th player overall) off the board, often slipping into the third round, despite the RB4 finish last year. This is too low as he’s a borderline top-10 running back for me who I’m very comfortable using a second-round pick on. There is no reason he should be going behind running backs like Nick Chubb or Javonte Williams who have workload questions, especially Chubb in the passing game. He should also be drafted ahead of guys like Josh Allen and Tyreek Hill. Whether you call him “Fat Lenny”, “Uncle Lenny”, or “Playoff Lenny”, you can call Fournette one of the best fantasy football running back targets in 2022 drafts.
3. Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
From a former Jacksonville Jaguar to a current one, Travis Etienne is looking to break out this year after a rookie season lost to injury last year. Etienne missed the entire 2021 season after suffering a Linsfranc injury in the preseason. It would be a bit more worrisome but by the time the regular season starts, he’ll be more than a full year removed from the injury. In addition to that, his backfield mate, James Robinson, tore his Achilles in Week 16 of last season so he won’t be a full year removed from that major injury until the end of the 2022 season. Achilles tears are known to be one of the most devastating injuries for skill players because it saps explosiveness so much. Robinson has been a good running back so far but isn’t exactly known for his explosiveness. He’s ahead of schedule, according to reports so far, but Etienne should be in line to handle a heavy workload, at least early in the season for the Jaguars.
Travis Etienne and Breece Hall are 2 of the 12 RB’s to earn a 90+ grade from Next Gen Stats
The other 10 RB’s to earn a 90+ grade have all had a Top 12 finish in Fantasy
— Alex Caruso (@AlexCaruso) August 9, 2022
Etienne was an elite prospect coming out of college. He finished his career at Clemson with over 6,000 total yards, more than 100 receptions, and 78 total touchdowns. All the athletic measurables were high end and he has the ideal size and speed for the position. The most common player comparisons were players like Alvin Kamara and D’Andre Swift. Like both of those players, Etienne profiles as an especially gifted receiver. That is crucial considering how valuable those targets and receptions are (three times more valuable than a carry).
If Etienne can secure a massive role in the passing game, he won’t even need to be a full workhorse once (if?) Robinson is back to full speed to be a great fantasy player. Let’s not forget how good Kamara was even with Mark Ingram getting a big workload as well. There’s upside for even more too for Etienne if Robinson has any sort of setback or doesn’t look the same or if Etienne simply plays too well to take off the field. Right now Etienne is being taken as the 21st running back, and 47th overall player, off the board. That is way too low for a player with this archetype. I have Etienne as my 12th-ranked running back. He’s an easy third-round pick making him one of my favorite running back targets for 2022 in full PPR formats.