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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Optimal approach for picking RBs in 2022

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne (1) fakes taking a handoff from Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) during first quarter action. The Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the Cleveland Browns for their only home preseason game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida Saturday night, August 14, 2021. The Browns led at the half 13 to 0. Jki 081421 Jagsvsbrowns 52

Depending on your league size, rules and scoring format, there are several roster construction strategies that can lead to a successful fantasy football draft.

Today, we will examine the 2022 fantasy football running back landscape, along with when — and why — we should draft certain players at certain points in the draft.

STRATEGY OVERVIEW

I have placed highly in major season-long re-draft tournaments using them all: zero RB, anchor RB, hyper-fragile, taking an early quarterback, waiting on a quarterback, taking an early tight end, waiting on tight end… the list goes on and on.

Every season is different, and every draft is a dynamic, living organism. The sooner we trap ourselves into one strategy, the quicker we expose ourselves when other drafters have the same idea and foil our plans.

This article is about creating flexibility by identifying market inefficiencies — think of it as solving a puzzle backward. By understanding which positions provide value based on average draft position (ADP), we can formulate an adaptable if-then strategy.

Whether you start RB-RB, RB-WR or WR-WR, you will know who your targets are round-by-round, so you know when to wait for value and when to get aggressive.

Note: Based on 12-team PPR using Fantasy Pros average ADP (ESPN, RTSports, Fantrax and Sleeper). Adjust accordingly for eight and 10-team formats.

RUNNING BACK ADP OVERVIEW

  • There are enough high-end options to start with three backs in the first three rounds if things fall right — something that wasn’t the case in 2021.
  • We must get selective in Rounds 4 and 5 — only three out of 10 backs are desirable selections; this means we probably want at least one back in the first three rounds.
  • In Rounds 7 through 11, there are four explosive pass-catching backs who could provide RB2/RB3 help if starting heavy at other positions.
  • In Rounds 7 through 11, there are four RB4s from potent offenses that could have larger roles than we think and carry immense injury-contingency value; we also have one PPR filler.
  • In Rounds 12 and beyond, there are four RB4s from high-quality offenses, an RB5 in a similar situation, plus a PPR placeholder.

EARLY ROUNDS (1-2)

First-round ADP backs: Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, Derrick Henry, Najee Harris, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon

Second-round ADP backs: D’Andre Swift, Alvin Kamara, Javonte Williams, Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette, Aaron Jones, Saquon Barkley

Optimal Strategy: Draft one anchor running back and pair them with an elite wide receiver or tight end.

Backup Strategies: Start RB/RB if you can pair Swift, Jones or Barkley with one of the top three options from Round 1 OR start WR/WR and reserve a Round 3 or 4 pick for RB.

Early position: Taylor, McCaffrey and Ekeler make up my first two tiers and are typically the first three options off the board.

If you want to start with a Tier 1A receiver like Cooper Kupp or Justin Jefferson, you can circle back to Barkley, Jones or Fournette in Round 2.

Middle position: Ekeler sometimes slides into this range and can be paired with CeeDee Lamb in the second round. Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase are pivot options if you want to go receiver and grab Williams or Barkley in the second round.

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