Rookie RB production has been a key to fantasy football for years now. Most recently, Najee Harris burst onto the scene and had a very productive rookie year that ended with a huge performance in the fantasy playoffs. I was not shy about recommending Harris in re-draft leagues last year, and hopefully that advice helped you win your league.
The 2022 NFL Draft is just under two weeks away, and mock draft season is in full swing. This year’s RB class features some explosive runners, including a couple of potential first-round picks. Breece Hall is the consensus RB1, and it will be very interesting to see where he lands in the draft.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the top landing spots for drafted RBs in terms of projected fantasy value. The factors included in the projection include opportunity, offensive line skill, and projected overall offensive potency.
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Top Landing Spots for Rookie RBs
1. Buffalo Bills
The Bills pick 25th overall in the first round and have built a solid roster around Josh Allen. Buffalo has not shown a willingness to invest a high pick in the RB position, and for good reason. I ultimately expect them to spend their second-rounder on an RB and use their first on a CB or offensive lineman. However, as fantasy players, we should be rooting hard for the Bills to take an RB.
I cannot endorse a team using a first-round pick on an RB from a real football perspective in today’s NFL, but if there were ever a situation I could be convinced of, it would be this year’s Bills. They have a solid roster otherwise, pick late, and undoubtedly want to take some carries away from their star QB. Whichever RB they draft would be put into an explosive offense with a good offensive line. The only issue could be Josh Allen vulturing some goal-line work, but an RB upgrade might make them run Allen less too. Breece Hall at No. 25 would have massive fantasy implications. He’d be a borderline first-round pick in 12-team re-draft leagues. That’s how good he is.
Read my profile on Breece Hall here.
2. Houston Texans
Simply put, the Texans will offer a great opportunity for a young RB to get a ton of work. They have JAG Marlon Mack and aging backs on the roster and are in search of an offensive identity. Davis Mills also has the potential to take a Year-Two leap and help the offense become more potent. PFF ranked Houston’s run-blocking dead last in 2021, but they retained Laremy Tunsil and added AJ Cann. I also expect them to address OL in the draft. At the end of the day, opportunity is king in fantasy football and a highly drafted rookie would be projected for a monster workload in Houston.
I’ve never been a big Miles Sanders guy, and Kenneth Gainwell looks like a role player at best in Philadelphia’s offense. Assuming Sanders hits free agency, the Eagles could be looking at their contingency plan for 2023 in this year’s draft. With PFF’s fifth-rated run-blocking offensive line and a dual-threat at QB, this is a prime spot for an RB breakout, even if that might come in 2023. With five picks in the first three rounds, the Eagles would be a great landing spot for a rookie back. Isaiah Spiller in the third or Rachaad White on Day 3 makes sense.
Read my profile on Isaiah Spiller here.
4.New York Jets
The Jets like Michael Carter, but he doesn’t have a workhorse build and was a fourth-round pick last year. He could be a pass-catching role player going forward, especially if they choose to use a top-three-round draft pick on an RB this year. A guy like Kenneth Walker III or Brian Robinson would make sense as a complement to Carter. I expect any drafted rookie to be given the first crack at goalline duties in an offense that is hoping for a Year-Two leap from Zach Wilson. The Jets also have good pieces along the offensive line and will definitely address that position with a bunch of picks in this year’s draft. NC State’s Ickey Ekwonu or Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum are two possibilities to add on to Alijah Vera-Tucker upfront.
Read my profile on Kenneth Walker III here.
5.New Orleans Saints
Alvin Kamara has legal question marks, and the Saints have always preferred to keep his touches in check anyway. They are clearly in the market for a 1B back, preferably one with more size and ability between the tackles. Zamir White, Brian Robinson, or Tyler Algeier make sense as the thunder to Alvin Kamara’s lightning.
6.New York Giants
Saquon Barkley probably doesn’t have a future in New York beyond this season, and there’s also a chance he’s a surprise draft-day trade. If any team on this list adds Barkley, his fantasy value of him will increase. That means either this year or next, the Giants will have a ton of opportunities to give a young RB. Like the Jets, I expect the Giants to add an offensive lineman or two in this year’s draft, which should help their run blocking improve. They should also get an upgrade at their disastrous QB position, whether that is with a healthy Daniel Jones, the capable Tyrod Taylor, or a new draft pick down the road.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
Austin Ekeler is dynamic, but the Chargers would probably prefer to have their diminutive star RB split carries with a bigger body. Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, and Larry Rountree III have been underwhelming in a complementary role, so it’s entirely possible the Bolts use a third-round pick to bolster their running game. This ranking is more speculative, as it’s also possible they simply decline to address the position and just roll with Ekeler and the JAGs.
James Conner is back in Arizona after a fantastic year and will resume lead-back duties once again. However, Conner has an injury history and his durability will surely be tested after so much work last year. Chase Edmonds is in Miami, which opens up the RB2 spot in a hopefully explosive offense. Long term, I question Kliff Kingsbury’s fit with Kyler Murray, so there’s a chance this landing spot won’t be as productive as maybe the talent suggests. A pass-catcher like James Cook is a possibility in the third round, and his fantasy value would be huge if Conner ever went down.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan will always be a great offensive coordinator for fantasy value, and the 49ers boasted the second-ranked run-blocking offensive line last season. Raheem Mostert is gone and Elijah Mitchell was a sixth-round pick who, while productive last season, could possibly be upgraded. Trey Sermon seems like a whiff, so it wouldn’t shock me to see the 49ers take an RB at some point in this draft. An issue for any incoming back would be the presence of wide-back Deebo Samuel, but there’s a small possibility he’s traded. If that happens, San Fran would vault to a top-five landing spot for a back, possibly a pass-catcher like James Cook, who was actually used similarly to Deebo Samuel at Georgia.
10. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons roster is a mess, but they have a gaping hole at RB next to Cordarrelle Patterson and a theoretically dual-threat QB. They also quietly had the sixth-best run-blocking offensive line last year, per PFF. From a team-building timeline standpoint, it wouldn’t make much sense to draft a rookie RB without a future QB or any WRs to speak of, but they do have two seconds and two thirds. Arthur Smith has also been a successful run-game coach. There’s a path to early fantasy value here.
Finally, it’s the Seahawks, who have mismanaged this roster for almost a decade since Russell Wilson was drafted. The offensive line is still a huge issue and without a QB, it’s hard to envision this offense being any good next season. We do know Pete Carroll loves running the ball, and Chris Carson has major injury concerns (after they foolishly gave him a huge contract), so drafting an RB is definitely a possibility. Rashaad Penny is back after an awesome finish to last year, but he’s constantly injured as well. The Seahawks have allocated way too many resources to the least important positions in football in recent years (S, LB, RB, TE), so it would be very on-brand for them to waste a high pick on an RB. It would not be an ideal landing spot, but there’s a chance Penny gets hurt and a massive opportunity emerges for a new rookie.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more draft content in the coming days.
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