When it comes to the running back position, determining their value in fantasy football rests on a few things. Their own talent, role in the passing game, scoring opportunities, competition in the backfield, and strength of the offensive line should all be taken into consideration. So, when monitoring the NFL Draft, there is plenty to keep an eye on as it relates to the value of already established running backs across the league.
With that said, there are inevitably fantasy football winners and losers as a result of the NFL Draft. Of course certain rookies have it better than others based on their landing spot. The purpose of this piece, however, is to discuss which current NFL players’ fantasy values will feel the effects, whether good or bad. With the NFL Draft behind us, the 2022 fantasy football season is that much closer. So, let’s see which running backs we should be getting excited about and who we may feel a bit nervous for ahead of this year.
Fantasy Football Running Back Winner and Losers Following the NFL Draft
Winners at Running Back
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
It’s still very much up in the air as to if Kamara will serve any sort of suspension as a result of the Pro Bowl weekend incident in Las Vegas back in February. Without having a concrete answer, whether or not the Saints added a running back, and when, in the NFL Draft would perhaps give us an idea as to Kamara’s situation. Well, the NFL Draft is now behind us, and none of their five picks were used on a running back.
In fact, with their second of two first-round picks, New Orleans added offensive tackle, Trevor Penning, from Northern Iowa. He is the replacement for Terron Armstead who chose to sign with the Miami Dolphins in free agency. With this addition, and a hopefully healthier line in 2022, Kamara should see a ton of volume, yet again, as the focal point of this offense, especially with quarterback, Jameis Winston, returning from an ACL injury. Kamara is a good bet for around 275 touches, with a fantasy-friendly amount of targets. As of now, fantasy managers with a late first-round pick may be able to get a steal in Kamara.
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
It’s a bittersweet role to have as the starting running back for the Buffalo Bills. One on hand, there are going to be plenty of opportunities in the red zone to score touchdowns. On the other, Josh Allen is averaging 111 rushing attempts of his own over the last three seasons. Last season, Singletary saw a career-high 222 touches, establishing himself as the lead back in Buffalo. Ahead of this NFL Draft, however, many thought the team might add more of a premier back with size, like Breece Hall, to elevate this offense.
Instead, Buffalo is adding James Cook with their second-round pick of the NFL Draft. This pick likely signifies the end of Zach Moss’ chances for significant touches in this backfield. Cook has only 230 total carries in four seasons at the University of Georgia. He’s also caught just 67 total passes in that same span. That said, he is more than likely a compliment to Singletary, especially for the 2022 season.
There’s a chance Cook develops into a feature back as soon as 2023 when Singletary enters free agency. With that in mind, Cook is a fringe top-1o dynasty rookie pick. For now, though, Singletary is the running back to roster for this upcoming fantasy football season. He should produce rock-solid RB2 numbers with potential for weekly RB1 finishes if he finds the end zone.
Losers at Running Back
Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks
It’s no secret that the Seattle Seahawks want to run the football. In the last four seasons, they’ve finished in the top-13 of rushing play percentage each season, leading the league in 2018. That was with Russell Wilson as their quarterback. Now, they’re set to enter the 2022 season with either Geno Smith or Drew Lock under center. The quarterback change is good news for Seattle running backs, but that now includes Kenneth Walker III, their third-round pick in the NFL Draft.
Rashaad Penny is coming off of a ridiculous finish to the 2021 season. In the final five games, he averaged 18.4 carries for 134.2 yards per game scoring six rushing touchdowns in that span. It’s far and away the best stretch of his injury-riddled career. It’s conceivable that Chris Carson gets released, or even retires, following the addition of Walker, as well as Carson’s season-ending neck injury from last year.
Adding Kenneth Walker to this backfield tells me that they want to get younger and healthier at the position. He is a top-three pick for any dynasty rookie drafts. As for the 2022 season, it’s going to be hard for any Seahawk running back to consistently produce if this offense struggles to move the ball and find the end zone, on top of splitting carries.
Michael Carter, New York Jets
Breece Hall is the newest addition to this young, up-and-coming New York Jets offense. He was the first running back to come off of the board in this year’s NFL Draft. For good reason, too. Hall is no stranger to a workhorse role. In his final two years at Iowa State, he carried the ball at least 253 times each season, adding an average of nearly 30 receptions, as well. On top of the volume, Breece Hall has a nose for the end zone, scoring 56 times in three collegiate seasons.
Breece Hall should be the clear-cut top pick in every dynasty draft. He has the best chance of any running back in this NFL Draft class to command RB1 volume. Michael Carter is still going to have a role in this offense. However, it’s lesser than expected following the NFL Draft and addition of Hall. Many will say that Carter is the “passing-down” back but Hall is a good enough blocker to stay on the field in a three-down role. Following the NFL Draft, I’m sliding Carter down from RB2 value to a week-to-week flex option.
Elijah Mitchell and Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan doesn’t care about our fantasy football teams. It’s evident in the fact that the 49ers spent a third-round pick on yet another running back, LSU’s Tyrion Davis-Price. He is the latest piece of this San Francisco running back committee following the NFL Draft.
Ahead of the 2021 season, it seemed as though Raheem Mostert was going to serve as the lead back as, then third-round pick, Trey Sermon, found his legs. However, Sermon was a Week 1 healthy scratch and, after a season-ending injury to Mostert, 2021 sixth-round pick, Elijah Mitchell, rose to the top of the depth chart. Now, Mostert is in Miami, and Mitchell, Sermon, and David-Price are likely to rotate in carrying the load.
I haven’t even mentioned the fact that wide receiver, Deebo Samuel, is still on the team. He logged a career-high 59 carries out of the backfield and set an NFL record of eight rushing touchdowns, the most for a wide receiver ever. There’s simply too much going on here to confidently label any of the aforementioned players as the clear-cut starter. Hopefully training camp will clear things up, but I foresee a headache for fantasy managers on a week-to-week basis trying to figure out this backfield.