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2022 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings & Tiers — McFarland

Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) rushes with the ball during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Texans’ running back Dameon Pierce is the starter in Houston and could carve out passing-down work before long.

Miami Dolphins’ running back Chase Edmonds moves up a tier and is a priority target in Rounds 6 and 7 of drafts.

Buffalo Bills running back James Cook moves down one tier but remains an upside option to target.

Washington Commanders running bac  Brian Robinson Jr. moves up one tier, but the ADP hype might be too much.


Ranking players by position is an integral part of fantasy football preparation, but grouping them into tiers is crucial to identifying the value you might be leaving on the draft board.

For example, if you're on the clock and looking at several running backs in the same tier, it could make sense to wait until the next round — someone equally as worthy will probably be available with your next pick.

Tiers can also help group players with similar expectations based on upside and floor.

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There are eight primary criteria used to create running back tiers:

  • Rushing pedigree: Recent attempt shares and short-down-distance (SDD) which provides a larger sample size than attempts inside the 5 but correlates strongly (excludes games missed)
  • Rushing performance peripherals: PFF rushing grade, missed tackles forced per attempt, yards after contact per attempt and explosive rush rate (10-plus-yard attempts)
  • Target pedigree: Recent adjusted routes per dropback and targets per route run
  • Receiving performance peripherals: PFF receiving grade, yards per route run and explosive play rate (15-plus-yard receptions)
  • Offense quality: Projected team wins (winning teams typically score more and passing YPA correlates strongly to wins)
  • Rushing volume: Projected team rush attempts per game (excludes overtime)
  • Attempt and target competition: Number of teammates with a significant ADP (running backs with a top-48 ADP; wide receivers with a top-36 ADP plus tight ends with a top-12 ADP)
  • Player average draft position (ADP)

Pedigree focuses on a player’s ability to generate rushing attempts or targets, while the performance peripherals are all about how well they maximize those touches. Offensive quality, rushing volume and competition are all designed to tease out the team environment.

The ultimate options are running backs who play on all downs, create on their own and reside on high-quality offenses. After that, every tier is some variation of strengths vs. weaknesses in the profile. ADP is a final check against the current market sentiment that helps us extract maximum value from our selections.

The first table is a quick view of the complete tiers and rankings, and a more detailed heat map is included below as we break down each tier.

ADP = includes ESPN, RTSports, Fantrax and Sleeper PPR data per Fantasy Pros

FFPC ADP = Football Guys Players championship; tight end premium data per Fantasy Mojo

Last Updated: Aug. 26, 2022
Tier Rank Pos ADP Overall ADP FFPC Pos ADP FFPC Overall ADP Player Team
1A 1 2 2 1 2 Christian McCaffrey Panthers
1A 2 1 1 2 2 Jonathan Taylor Colts
1B 3 3 3 3 5 Austin Ekeler Chargers
1C 4 5 7 4 9 Dalvin Cook Vikings
1C 5 4 5 5 10 Derrick Henry Titans
1D 6 14 25 8 15 Saquon Barkley Giants
1D 7 6 8 6 11 Najee Harris Steelers
1D 8 7 11 9 15 Joe Mixon Bengals
2A 9 8 14 7 13 D'Andre Swift Lions
2A 10 11 20 11 20 Aaron Jones Packers
2A 11 9 15 10 18 Alvin Kamara Saints
2A 12 12 21 12 21 Javonte Williams Broncos
2B 13 13 23 13 24 Leonard Fournette Buccaneers
2B 14 15 28 15 31 James Conner Cardinals
2C 15 10 18 14 28 Nick Chubb Browns
2C 16 20 44 16 35 Travis Etienne Jaguars
2C 17 19 43 18 43 Breece Hall Jets
2D 18 16 31 19 53 Cam Akers Rams
2D 19 17 34 17 38 Ezekiel Elliott Cowboys
2D 20 18 36 21 56 David Montgomery Bears
3A 21 33 92 28 74 Chase Edmonds Dolphins
3A 22 41 119 27 74 Dameon Pierce Texans
3A 23 22 54 23 69 Elijah Mitchell 49ers
3B 24 26 71 20 56 A.J. Dillon Packers
3B 25 23 59 22 57 J.K. Dobbins Ravens
3B 26 25 69 26 74 Clyde Edwards-Helaire Chiefs
3B 27 28 74 32 92 Miles Sanders Eagles
3C 28 32 86 24 73 Tony Pollard Cowboys
3C 29 31 83 31 91 Kareem Hunt Browns
3C 30 29 79 33 93 Cordarrelle Patterson Falcons
4A 31 30 80 34 94 Devin Singletary Bills
4A 32 21 48 25 73 Josh Jacobs Raiders
4A 33 36 97 29 79 Rhamondre Stevenson Patriots
4A 34 27 73 35 99 Damien Harris Patriots
4A 35 34 93 30 91 Rashaad Penny Seahawks
4A 36 44 135 39 108 Brian Robinson Jr. Commanders
4B 37 38 111 36 99 James Cook Bills
4B 38 24 61 37 101 Antonio Gibson Commanders
4B 39 43 129 42 113 Nyheim Hines Colts
4C 40 35 96 38 107 Kenneth Walker III Seahawks
4C 41 37 108 43 114 Melvin Gordon III Broncos
4C 42 45 137 45 118 Darrell Henderson Rams
4C 43 42 125 48 123 Alexander Mattison Vikings
4C 44 54 178 41 113 Isiah Pacheco Chiefs
4C 45 39 114 46 120 Michael Carter Jets
4C 46 50 160 52 144 Jamaal Williams Lions
4C 47 53 176 49 132 Khalil Herbert Bears
4C 48 40 117 47 122 James Robinson Jaguars
4C 49 48 153 40 112 Kenneth Gainwell Eagles
5A 50 56 185 44 115 Rachaad White Buccaneers
5A 51 63 225 51 142 Zamir White Raiders
5A 52 46 139 53 147 Isaiah Spiller Chargers
5A 53 61 217 55 155 Tyrion Davis-Price 49ers
5B 54 47 144 54 151 J.D. McKissic Commanders
5C 55 51 165 50 136 Tyler Allgeier Falcons
5C 56 49 159 56 160 Raheem Mostert Dolphins
5C 57 58 203 63 187 Darrel Williams Cardinals
5C 58 80 288 68 195 Mike Davis Ravens
6A 59 71 265 70 197 Jeff Wilson Jr. 49ers
6A 60 60 212 59 178 D'Onta Foreman Panthers
6A 61 79 283 57 165 Eno Benjamin Cardinals
6A 62 65 230 76 205 Hassan Haskins Titans
6A 63 77 278 67 194 Ameer Abdullah Raiders
6A 64 69 260 64 191 D'Ernest Johnson Browns
6A 65 52 171 65 192 Marlon Mack Texans
6A 66 57 195 60 181 Mark Ingram II Saints
6A 67 62 222 74 205 Sony Michel Dolphins
6A 68 78 282 58 173 Jerick McKinnon Chiefs
6A 69 73 271 84 216 Damien Williams Falcons
6A 70 72 269 79 209 Samaje Perine Bengals
6A 71 67 254 69 197 Chris Evans Bengals
6B 72 74 272 73 204 Trey Sermon 49ers
6B 73 59 204 80 209 Gus Edwards Ravens
6B 74 75 275 72 203 Dontrell Hilliard Titans
6B 75 100 374 93 235 Rex Burkhead Texans
6B 76 115 413 82 211 Ty Montgomery Patriots
6B 77 81 289 89 223 Tyler Badie Ravens
6B 78 91 335 71 202 Kyren Williams Rams
6B 79 105 386 75 205 Joshua Kelley Chargers
6B 80 55 180 78 207 Ronald Jones Chiefs
6B 81 96 362 77 206 Zack Moss Bills
6B 82 64 229 0 0 Kenyan Drake Free Agent
6B 83 76 277 85 216 Boston Scott Eagles
6B 84 89 324 0 0 Pierre Strong Jr. Patriots
6B 85 0 0 83 214 Benny Snell Jr. Steelers
6B 86 84 299 0 0 Ke'Shawn Vaughn Buccaneers
6B 87 121 421 81 211 Jaylen Warren Raiders
6B 88 0 0 0 0 Trestan Ebner Bears
6B 89 82 295 91 230 Matt Breida Giants
6B 90 66 251 86 218 Chuba Hubbard Panthers
6B 91 93 341 95 235 Snoop Conner Jaguars
6B 92 83 297 66 192 Phillip Lindsay Colts
6B 93 70 263 62 181 Keaontay Ingram Cardinals

TIER 1 RUNNING BACKS

RBsTIER 1A: EXPLOSIVE YOUNG STUDS

Christian McCaffrey eclipsed the 50% snap threshold in four healthy games in 2021 — where he finished as the RB1, RB3, RB4 and RB3. His insane targets per route run (TPRR) of 34% and 2.91 yards per route run (YPRR) tell us CMC still has it in the passing game.

McCaffrey’s injury-prone label isn’t warranted, and he carries league-breaking upside, which isn’t easy to do as the No. 2 player off the board in FFPC drafts. Since 2011 we have seen 34 players eclipse 22 points per game (PPR), and 68% of them have come from the running back position. If we push the point barrier to 25, the backs represent 80% of the cohort.

So, if we believe McCaffrey’s injury history is noise, and we know running backs carry higher ceilings, it makes sense for the 26-year-old to go No. 1 or No. 2 overall. McCaffrey also gets an upgrade at quarterback thanks to a trade for Baker Mayfield. If healthy, he will outscore Taylor in PPR formats.

Jonathan Taylor finished as the RB1 in PPR formats and averaged 22.2 points per game. Unfortunately, he doesn't get elite passing-game utilization (9% target share) like some of his peers due to Nyheim Hineswho could be more active in 2022. However, the Colts ran the ball more than the NFL average in leading (+4%) and trailing (+3%) game scripts in 2021, providing Taylor with the runway to show off the elite skills that helped earn him the No. 2 PFF rush grade (minimum 150 attempts).

Taylor vs. three-year NFL average in underlying efficiency metrics
Missed Tackles Forced per Attempt Yards After Contact per Attempt Explosive Rush % (10-plus yards)
20% (+3%) 3.83 (+0.90) 15% (+4.5%)

A reduction in leading game scripts — where Indianapolis ranked fourth last year — could lead to more weekly variance in 2022, but at age 24, Taylor still has a leg up on the competition.

TIER 1B: PPR STUDS

Austin Ekeler obliterated his career-high in rushing share (53%) and expanded his role to include carries inside the 5-yard line (73%). Those developments, paired with a high-quality offensive environment, led to a boon in rushing touchdowns (12).

The Chargers added Isaiah Spiller in Round 4 of the NFL Draft, but Ekeler likely retains a similar role in his age-27 season. The Chargers project for the third-most 50-plus game totals thanks to a schedule packed with quality offensive opponents.

Ekeler is a great option in the middle of the first round.

TIER 1C: UPSIDE WITH QUESTIONS

Derrick Henry was the No. 1 RB in PPR points per game (23.4) and still carries immense upside in an offense committed to the run more than any other. In 2021, the Titans ran the ball more than the NFL average in all game scripts:

  • Trailing by four or more: +10%
  • Within three points: +7%
  • Leading by four or more: +3%

The primary concern for Henry is age and cumulative workload. He will be 28 this season and is past the 1,500-carry threshold where we have historically seen production drop-offs. In addition, the veteran's underlying efficiency metrics are already showing signs of wear and tear.

2019 2020 2021
Missed Tackles Forced per Attempt 19% 20% 15%
Yards After Contact per Attempt 4.2 3.9 3.2
Explosive Rush % (10-plus yards) 14% 13% 9%

Henry is the fifth back off the board in FFPC drafts and the fourth option on Underdog. While rank and ADP align, Henry carries enough bust potential to consider wide receiver options in PPR formats.

Dalvin Cook registered 21.2 and 24.1 points per game in the two campaigns leading up to a 16 per game in 2021. However, Cook battled an ankle injury early in the season that caused him to miss two games, and his annual shoulder issue surfaced in December. In games where Cook was healthy enough to register 70% of the snaps, he delivered 19.1 points per game.

Cook isn’t a downfield threat in the receiving game, but he is an excellent option in space around the line of scrimmage. He has a 23% TPRR season on the resume making him a candidate to finish as high as third on the team in targets.

Kevin O’Connell’s (Rams) version of this offense will likely mirror what we saw in 2021 from a play volume and run-pass split perspective. However, we could see more mismatch opportunities with less heavy personnel groupings.

TIER 1D: BIG VOLUME

Najee Harris handled 76% of the Steelers’ rushing attempts and garnered a 14% target share on his way to a top-three fantasy finish in 2021. Given Pittsburgh’s depth chart at running back, he appears set for a similar workload in 2022.

The second-year back is the favorite to lead all running backs in touches, but his upside is questionable due to three factors:

  • A below-average explosive rush rate (10-plus yards) of 9%
  • An offense that is likely to run fewer plays in 2022
  • Quarterback questions

Henry and Cook have proven a 22-point-per-game upside that remains a question for Harris but offers a great floor when he slides to the end of the first round.

Saquon Barkley could challenge Harris for the largest workload in 2022 but goes in the middle of the second round rather than the mid-first. Many will fade Barkley, but his explosiveness could return now that he is almost two years removed from ACL and meniscus surgery.

The fantasy medical community is buying in on Barkley’s recovery, and he was starting to heat up last year before an unfortunate post-whistle ankle injury.

Barkley is a priority option in Round 2 of all formats, which will challenge for a top-three ranking if his explosiveness is back. You could argue Barkley belongs in the tier with Austin Ekeler as a PPR stud.

Joe Mixon doesn’t profile for an every-down role like Harris or Barkley, but he dominates over 70% of the rushing attempts. Mixon bogarted over 80% of the carries inside the 5-yard line in his last two healthy seasons. Before last season his career-high in rushing touchdowns was eight, which he surpassed by five (13) in an improved Bengals’ offense.

Mixon needs the touchdowns to payoff his early-second-round ADP, and his path to the upside is clouded by the Bengals’ commitment to Samaje Perine on passing downs and his lackluster big-play ability. Currently, I am underweight on Mixon due to the opportunity costs. Barkley offers a better path to league-winning upside thanks to his passing game prowess.

Leonard Fournette was the RB4 in PPR points per game (18.3) thanks to handling much of the passing-down work down the stretch, and the Buccaneers rewarded him with a new three-year deal worth $21 million. The veteran back is below average in the missed tackles forced (16%) and explosive-rush rate (8%) but above average in yards after contact (3.15). He has shined the most in the passing game, where he has garnered a 20% TPRR in his five seasons.

Tampa Bay brought back Giovani Bernard and added Rachaad White in the third round of the NFL draft, so there is a chance Fournette cedes some of his passing-down work to White. We likely won’t see the 80% snap rates we saw for a slight stretch last season, but the 27-year-old’s track record suggests 60-70% is achievable. Playing in an elite offense, the bruising back gets some insulation from a lighter workload with the upside for more scoring.

Fournette is currently going in the late second round of FFPC contests, making him a value.

TIER 2 RUNNING BACKS

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