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McFarland: 2022 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings & Tiers

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) runs the ball in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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. Most importantly, we don't want to pay more than the next drafter for a similar player.

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 rush 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 target 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): Positional rank based on FFPC best ball slim data from Fantasy Mojo

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.

Last Updated: 2 p.m. June 1

Tier Rank FFPC Pos ADP UD Pos ADP Player Team
1A 1 1 1 Jonathan Taylor Colts
1B 2 2 2 Christian McCaffrey Panthers
1B 3 3 4 Austin Ekeler Chargers
1B 4 4 5 Najee Harris Steelers
1C 5 6 3 Derrick Henry Titans
1C 6 5 6 Dalvin Cook Vikings
1C 7 7 7 Joe Mixon Bengals
1C 8 12 9 Alvin Kamara Saints
2A 9 8 8 D'Andre Swift Lions
2A 10 13 12 Javonte Williams Broncos
2B 11 9 13 Leonard Fournette Buccaneers
2B 12 10 10 Aaron Jones Packers
2B 13 11 14 Saquon Barkley Giants
2B 14 15 15 James Conner Cardinals
2C 15 14 11 Nick Chubb Browns
2C 16 17 18 Breece Hall Jets
2D 17 16 19 David Montgomery Bears
2D 18 18 16 Cam Akers Rams
3A 19 19 21 Travis Etienne Jaguars
3A 20 24 24 Elijah Mitchell 49ers
3A 21 21 20 J.K. Dobbins Ravens
3A 22 22 22 Antonio Gibson Commanders
3A 23 27 29 Kenneth Walker III Seahawks
3B 24 20 17 Ezekiel Elliott Cowboys
3B 25 25 27 Clyde Edwards-Helaire Chiefs
3B 26 26 26 Miles Sanders Eagles
3B 27 23 23 Josh Jacobs Raiders
3B 28 31 31 Damien Harris Patriots
3C 29 28 25 A.J. Dillon Packers
3C 30 30 30 Tony Pollard Cowboys
3D 31 35 35 Chase Edmonds Dolphins
3D 32 32 28 Cordarrelle Patterson Falcons
3D 33 33 32 Kareem Hunt Browns
3D 34 34 34 James Cook Bills
4A 35 39 38 Dameon Pierce Texans
4A 36 42 39 Rhamondre Stevenson Patriots
4A 37 47 45 Tyler Allgeier Falcons
4B 38 29 33 Devin Singletary Bills
4B 39 37 37 Rashaad Penny Seahawks
4B 40 36 36 Melvin Gordon III Broncos
4B 41 38 41 Ronald Jones Chiefs
4C 42 40 40 Alexander Mattison Vikings
4C 43 44 44 Michael Carter Jets
4C 44 41 42 Rachaad White Buccaneers
4C 45 45 43 Isaiah Spiller Chargers
4C 46 43 46 Darrell Henderson Rams
4C 47 49 51 Khalil Herbert Bears
4C 48 50 52 Tyrion Davis-Price 49ers
4C 49 60 60 Hassan Haskins Titans
5A 50 59 50 Gus Edwards Ravens
5A 51 57 54 Jamaal Williams Lions
5A 52 51 47 James Robinson Jaguars
5A 53 55 61 Darrel Williams Cardinals
5A 54 52 53 Raheem Mostert Dolphins
5A 55 53 55 Marlon Mack Texans
5B 56 46 48 Nyheim Hines Colts
5B 57 48 49 Kenneth Gainwell Eagles
5B 58 54 57 J.D. McKissic Commanders
6A 59 56 56 Brian Robinson Jr. Commanders
6A 60 58 59 D'Onta Foreman Panthers
6A 61 63 58 Keaontay Ingram Cardinals
6A 62 61 62 Sony Michel Dolphins
6A 63 62 63 Zamir White Raiders
6A 64 70 78 Snoop Conner Jaguars
6A 66 84 77 Pierre Strong Jr. Patriots
6A 66 64 64 Mark Ingram II Saints
6A 67 73 98 Kennedy Brooks Eagles
6B 68 65 65 Kenyan Drake Raiders
6B 69 71 67 James White Patriots
6B 70 68 71 Matt Breida Giants
6B 71 74 74 Kyren Williams Rams
6B 72 72 73 Damien Williams Falcons
6B 73 82 83 Tyler Badie Ravens
6B 74 87 80 Boston Scott Eagles
6B 75 91 87 Dontrell Hilliard Titans
6C 76 80 81 Chris Carson Seahawks
6C 77 90 124 Mike Davis Falcons
6C 78 82 Myles Gaskin Dolphins
6C 79 81 68 Chuba Hubbard Panthers
6C 80 83 89 Rex Burkhead Texans
6C 82 76 70 Trey Sermon 49ers
6C 83 75 91 Phillip Lindsay Colts
6C 84 95 Benny Snell Jr. Steelers
6C 85 86 85 Ke'Shawn Vaughn Buccaneers
6C 86 77 76 Isaih Pacheco Chiefs

TIER 1 RUNNING BACKS

TIER 1A – EXPLOSIVE YOUNG STUDS

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 Hines. 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 his 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

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. If he can remain healthy, he has a shot at overall RB1 and should be a priority when he slips past his current FFPC ADP of 1.3.

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